Ever since puberty turned me chunky, I’ve had an obsession with weight loss. According to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders, an estimated 24 million people in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder, but only 1 in 10 get treatment. I’m lucky that I got treatment, but I know that I will always struggle with food and must work hard to not relapse. Yep, I have an eating disorder and I am ok with admitting that publicly. Maybe you’re thinking: “WTF, Ash? This isn’t funny, this is dark!” Well, I have many sides. One of them is a recovering bulimic. I’m tired of the stigma and the hiding, and I want to do my small part to raise awareness about eating disorders. They’re common and they can still be funny. I mean, they’re not funny, but I’m a comedian and I’m determined that everything can be funny. It took me a couple years but I’m proud to say I finally have a standup joke about my eating disorder that gets laughs! Come to my shows if you want to see me make bulimia funny. And don’t do any of the things I list below. These are the four worst, unhealthiest, saddest ways to lose weight and though they work temporarily, they also leave you sick and weak and sad. And that ain’t funny. Unless you make a really good joke about it.
Falling in Love
The first time I fell in deep, soul-aching love, I lost 15 pounds in a month. I was classically lovesick, so swoony and distracted I was only semi-functional. One time on my way to work in Berkeley I accidentally drove over the Bay Bridge instead, making me 45 minutes late and forcing me to pay the $6 toll. Twice I got off at the wrong Bart stop. On my radio show, my co-host asked me a question and I realized I hadn’t heard anything for ten minutes because I was thinking about her. I was so happy and distracted and we were so caught up in our love bubble/sex bubble that I forgot to eat. It took me weeks to notice I had no appetite, and I didn’t mind once I did realize. But I don’t recommend it. You shouldn’t lose 15 pounds in a month. That’s just not good for you. Granted, it was nice that it didn’t take much effort, but that’s not healthy or sustainable. And I of course gained 10 of it back once we got into the sit-around-and-watch-Felicity-while-eating-gummy-bears phase of our relationship. Falling in love is nice and all, but try to eat something. You have to make up for the calories you burn from all the sex.
The Breakup Diet
The relationship I referenced above was bookended by unintentional weight loss. When we broke up after a year, I lost my appetite completely. I didn’t eat for two days. I forced myself to eat a burger on the third day and it made me feel sick. The next day it took me two hours to eat half a gluten-free muffin. I lost 5 pounds that first week, which was great, since I had gained back those 10. But seriously, it wasn’t great. It made it that much harder to take care of myself. It sucks to lose your appetite, but it’s also dangerous if you are in recovery from an eating disorder. It was easy for me to accept, and even welcome, my lack of appetite because it felt familiar. I wish I had forced myself to eat more. I was lucky that friends both cooked and bought me food, and I should’ve eaten more of it instead of letting it go bad in my fridge. If you have no appetite after a breakup, try to make yourself eat something. As my friend who was also going through a breakup at the time said, “Chewing is the worst. Make a smoothie. Use almond butter, because you’re a les. Peanut butter is too straight.” You use whatever butter you want, just get some food in you. My breakup diet of coffee, cigarettes and red wine wasn’t exactly what you’d call “good for me.”
Making Yourself Throw Up Your Food
Ah, this one is a classic, beloved by actresses and college students everywhere. Ok, that’s a stereotype, but that’s certainly what happened to me. In college, I developed a problem that many young actresses in New York encounter, where instead of studying I spent a little too much time on my knees, if you know what I mean. No, not blowing producers, but throwing up my food. I flirted with bulimia in high school then committed full-time in college. For years I made myself vomit up to 21 times a week. I lost a ton of weight and kept it off for a little while, then as soon as I went into recovery I gained it all back. My bulimia left me many gifts: a sensitive digestive system, cavities, and a little shame. If you’re struggling with bulimia, I feel your pain and I want us to work on freeing ourselves of the shame. There is help out there, and as sappy as this sounds, there is hope. Also, the great irony of throwing up all your food is that it’s wayyyyy more work than, you know, eating right and exercising.
My eating disorder took many forms but my biggest regret is that I was never a full-blown anorexic, I just had phases of starving myself. Just kidding, guys, anorexia is the mental illness with the highest mortality rate and it’s absolutely devastating for both body and mind. At some points in my life I had a fun combination of bulimia and anorexia, where I would starve myself for a day or two, then eat a little and throw it up. I wore a small pants size but my head throbbed, my stomach ached, my esophagus burned and I was as depressed as… well, as something or someone really depressed. You need food to live, and there are ways to eat that nourish your body and make you feel good. I wish I had known that when I was a teenager. If you’re struggling with starving yourself, reach out to a therapist, support group or friends. I’ve included resources below. Eating disorders can be horrific but they don’t define us and we do not need to be ashamed. Let’s all go kick ass at life, guys, and do it with full bellies.
If any of these rang true to you, there is help and there is hope. Check out the resources below. Eating disorders suck, I get it. You can even reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want. I like talking about this stuff, and I’m always down for a dialogue. Take care of yourself, lean on your friends, and lean on me if you need to.
Oakland/East Bay Resources
National & Online Resources