I want to take a moment to honor those men and women who have died from eating disorders. I want to lay a blanket of snow and fog over the world to stop everyone from moving, pushing their way forward with disregard to the harm we do to ourselves and to those around us by that constant movement. I want to sit and look into the eyes of the people around me, cup their chins, and ask that they really look at the people around them, to see them both as they are and as they wish to be seen. This discrepancy is not one we can ignore lightly. We are not a healthy people, with a Dr. Pepper in our hand and a scale beneath our feet. All of us build a wall between ourselves and the world, and sometimes that wall is made out of food or the absence of it.
I don’t have answers for eating disorders any more than anyone else does. It is not an easy or simple problem to fix. Food is too integral to our biology, our psychology, our social interactions, our cultures, to possibly be simple. Many people who have not experienced an eating disorder themselves or through someone they love simply don’t understand why someone can’t just eat more or less and let that more or less fix the problem.
I want to wander the streets of Austin and hand out fliers that say “People are dying from food, or the lack of it. You are not alone.” Both of these sentences are true, of course, on many levels beyond eating disorders. I can’t fix people’s pain, I wouldn’t even know where to begin, but maybe I can help people feel less isolated.
Today I am thinking of two women in particular and a whole group of them on the side.
One woman, a student of mine, slowly became aware that she had an eating disorder in my class. She just didn’t realize that most people did not binge and then vomit daily. She thought she was normal – or a close approximation thereof – she was not aware that another way of being existed.
The other woman was the fiance of a student of mine. She died from her eating disorder, late one night, wrapped in the arms of my student.
Several years ago I started The Belly Project with my friend and midwife Christy Tashjian. The women who have shared their bellies with us, along with a few very courageous ones who also shared their stories of eating disorders, stun me with their beauty. I am getting ready to start working on The Belly Project again. It is too important to let slowly go silent.