No, thank you. I’m full.

Eating Disorders: Thanksgiving’s least favorite side dish

I was scrolling through something, Facebook or Twitter, and there it was. Some crazy fact on a picture, letting us know how much the average American eats on Thanksgiving. There’s no source for this information. No link back to research done to back this claim. I’ll admit, the American holiday season is focused on gluttony and commercialism. I agree that we should be mindful of what we eat, and and to eat in moderation. But that’s not what that message said to me. For me, it says eat as little as possible.

Food has, and maybe always will be, something I have a tenuous relationship with. Growing up, it was all about gaining weight. I was a 00, eating spoonfuls of peanut butter with my brother because our doctors needed us to gain weight. That was before — before I was even aware of body image issues, societal pressures, what I thought a girl should look like. This was when white eyeshadow the 8th grade girls wore was what I considered cool and needed to replicate ASAP.

Things were “fine.” I was skinny, but not in shape. My knee socks for my school uniform sometimes fell down because my calves were non-existent. It was something I took for granted, a thought that I now know is unhealthy. I had my mother’s perfect cheek bones, a mix of Italian and Russian coloring. Editorial beautiful, someone called me. And it was a compliment I’d take over being cover girl pretty any day.

Something changed along the way. An unhappy relationship, two part time jobs, and an endless supply to carbs thanks to one of my jobs left me suddenly gaining weight. And then a depression medication, post break-up, left me not wanting food at all. By 2010, I was back to weighing what I was in high school. And again in 2013, when my husband left for basic training. In 2016, I had two traumatic falls that had me on limited exercise and a hole in me only food seemed to be able to fill.

My weight ended up topping out 13 pounds higher than I’d ever weighed before in my life.

It devastated me.

First, I tried going to vegetarian, adding in as many vegan dishes as possible. The idea was eating healthier, eating clean while coming to terms with my own ethics about animals and industrial farming. Instead of losing weight, I gained it. The soy in my meat-free meals made my hypothyroidism worse, not better. Slowly, minimally, I added meat back into my diet. Diet, and a lot of exercise.

I spent the summer working on losing weight. I was running, doing yoga, or riding horses almost every day. Days off felt weird to the point I had to at least do something, like clean the house or do laundry to make sure I was earning the meals I was going to make. And I was losing weight — it took the whole summer to lose half the weight I had put on the year before. But winter weather is here, and running outside is less than ideal when there’s black ice on the ground. So now, more than ever, I’m nervous about what and how much I’m eating. I’m petrified of sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, dessert, and leftovers. I can’t have the scale move anymore.

This year I’m not bringing a dish to pass, or a vegetarian holiday roll to cook and top off with meatless gravy (even though I highly recommend them). I’m going to be too worried about how many calories are in what, if I burned off enough this week to justify over-eating (which is to say, eating enough). I’ll be bringing me and a small bottle of Xanax because sometimes it’s have a panic attack and not eat, or take the pill and eat. And live.

And I really, really want to live.