Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Starving For a Life

FX premiered an interesting sitcom featuring four compulsive eaters last week called "Starved." I laughed a little, but mostly it made me really sad...and I realized something I hadn't figured out after decades of battles with compulsive eating and bulimia: When you are addicted to something, your world gets very small. All the main characters say they want to have happy relationships, but the only thing they get close to is food.

I remember one of the first times I binged and purged. I was a sophomore in college and (believe it or not) I had learned to purge by reading an article in Glamour magazine. Because of the time it took to get rid of what I ate, I missed a concert on campus one evening -- the first time I had really not shown up for something I said I would attend. So, instead of focusing on meeting my friends at the theater or listening to a great performance, my life became about this eating obsession and it continued through much of my 20s. I became isolated, insecure, and frantic. Bulimia doesn't make you a more interesting person.

I think the 20-something years should be called the "stupid decade." I can't believe the bone-head decisions I made and the time I wasted. All the normal anxiety of life seems to be magnified because we lack the experience to be wise. Binging on something (alcohol, sex, food, gambling) is a powerful anesthetic that works (short-term) to block out the great big scary world.

On top of that, there's an element of self-involvement in addiction. It's hard to "grow up" and so much easier to stick with what you know. Since the world is "all about me" during high school and college, the addiction keeps the focus on you.


The other day I saw Oprah hammering on some woman who was struggling with her weight and I was really disappointed that Oprah seemed to have lost her compassion after struggling so hard on her own weight. So, I don't want to come off as too critical of the food addicts in "Starved," but throughout the show, I cringed at their obsession and wished they would pick up a book, go to a movie, volunteer for a good cause...do ANYTHING to get outside their own heads.

As the main character, Bobby, of Stephen Sondheim's musical "Company" pines for a deep relationship in the song "Being Alive," his friends urge him to "Want something, Robert. Want SOMETHING." That's what I wish for those characters...that they want something outside of themselves...a hobby, an interest, a passion, a friend, ANYTHING but the food, the booze, the cards. Look up from the table or the bed or the floor, take in the amazing variety of the world and find SOMETHING that needs you as much as you need it. Satisfy your appetite for life with something other than the addiction.

OK, that's enough blather about friggin' TV characters. Maybe I need to replace my addiction to TV with something else.


At 12:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear uniongrrrl,
thank you so much for your thoughts on it.
I am actually struggeling with my old binging habit again. And I feel like your words strung a chord within me. I am hiding from the world when I binge and I have lately cut most of my social contacts. Best thing I can imagine is eating crap all alone in front of some ER-season.
Sometimes I hate myself for being so dumb in spoiling my life and always getting fatter. Just to try franticly to lose weight if some perspective shows up.
It's not about food at all.
Thanks for reminding me of this.


At 7:00 AM, Blogger uniongrrl said...

Thanks for sharing your comment, Devinette. I finally realized that the issue behind my weight was "keeping and honoring commitments" and "being honest" -- all issues that my family had HUGE problems with.

So, the only way I finally got past the bulimia was that I had to realize that if I ate something, I had to live with what I had committed to. The purging was just another way to break my commitment to myself and to be dishonest about what I ate. When I looked at it like that, I started to break the habit. That's not to say I didn't have some miserable nights when my stomach was so full I had to lay down...

I know it's a struggle, but hopefully you will get to a point where it just doesn't work for you any more.

Good luck and thanks again for writing.


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