Generations Of Dysfunctional Body Image Ends With Me

Originally Published on Bustle in 2/2015

When you think of the phrase “eating disorder,” who do you picture? Young girls with visible ribs poking out of their barely-there pubescent bodies? Teenagers with their heads dangling in a toilet bowl?

Most likely, you don’t picture someone who looks like me. From a young age, I was praised for being a “good eater,” meaning I was open to all different types of foods, and my weight was always “healthy”.

Eating was a popular pastime in my family growing up, but cooking was left out of the equation. My mother’s goal each night was to serve a meal without using the oven, because she thought it made the house too hot. We ate packaged food covered in butter or cheese. Our proteins consisted of any meat my father could put on the grill, which oscillated between cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and pork loin.

At some point during my childhood, food became the reward. When my parents would have a major fight, or when my mom was sick in the hospital, my dad would bring me to a fast food place to eat. Over a Taco Bell Mexican pizza, he would promise me that things would get better, and that we would be a happy family one day. For a brief moment over that cheesy meal, I felt safe.

My mom had her first heart attack when I was twelve years old, and required an emergency quadruple bypass at age 43. That was the catalyst for other health issues, including several strokes, severe depression, and anxiety. It was a rare moment when my parents weren’t fighting over her health, the inability to pay bills, or even how I was being raised.

My self-image, like most young girls, became skewed around the fifth grade. Not only did I want to look like the models on my WB shows or in my CosmoGirl magazine —  I wanted to look good enough for my family to be happy. During fall semester of my junior year, I began restricting myself to eating only kidney beans. My college roommates would beg me to eat something else. When I called home to lament to my mother about their negative overreactions, she only fueled the fire. “They’re just bitter you’re losing weight. Keep it up,” she reassured me over the phone.

My mother’s weight yo-yo’ed throughout my childhood, and my father would belittle her for not being the size 8 she had once been. At night, I would sit at the kitchen table, watching her pop diet pills; each month, she’d try try a different brand that promised even better results. Sometimes, she would skip meals, but then, late at night, I would come down to find her binge-eating a container of cookies.

My mother never talked about exercise or eating in moderation. She never once considered signing up for a gym, or even walking around our neighborhood. After she became chronically ill when I was entering my teen years, she pushed her own looks to the side — and began to zone in on my appearance instead.

“We need to get you thinner, without that horrible stomach,” she’d say to me as a 17-year old. “You’re just not that kind of thin girl like [insert skinny friend’s name],” she’d point out.

For years, every time I left the house, I would ask her, ”Do I look pretty, do I look skinny?”

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25 Lessons I’ve Learned in the Past 25 Years

After being alive for a quarter of a century, I’ve picked up a few useful pieces of information. The most valuable tidbits being the ones that I have learned the hard way. An activity on my list of 365 things to do in 365 days was to put together a list of 25 life lessons I’ve learned over the past 25 years. Honestly, this was a lot harder than I thought. Most of it is silly, some of isn’t rocket science, but it’s all gems of wisdom I now can share because of personal experience.

  1.                                                                          Cat’s like Spaghettios.                                                                                                                                                             200 (11)
  2. The knowledge gained at your first job will be much more valuable than anything learned during four years at college.   200 (1)      
  3. Interning makes a huge difference when applying to jobs. Skip the wine-tasting elective offered and apply for an internship or two.    200 (9)                                                                                                                                                                 
  4. When you only have $10 for food for an entire week before payday, McDonald’s Dollar Menu is a gift from God.      giphy (3)         
  5. Don’t listen to a nun who wears sneakers and marks your quiz wrong because you put Bill Clinton as an answer to the question ‘name a charismatic leader’ ,even if she lowers your grade.     200 (6)                                                                               
  6. When the car radio-presets are all screwed up, it does not mean a friend played an elaborate prank. Your car battery is about to die, so call a mechanic.         200                                                                                                                                    
  7. Eating seafood that has been marked down to clearance at the local Thriftway is never a good idea.      200 (2)                               
  8. Passion beats talent 95% of the time. A boss would rather have an employee with a great attitude that is teachable, rather than a skilled drone.   200 (8)                                                                                                                                                                     
  9. There’s no long term hurt that can come from going after a dream. The sting of rejection can be soften by the knowledge that at least you tried. And the payoff can be epic.     t8zvc                                                                                         
  10. Facebook stalking can lift up your spirits and make you feel inadequate in a matter of minutes.    facebooktwitter                                       
  11. Being cheap about something will only cost more money in the long run. Like that shitty $40 Ikea bed frame that is now propped against my wall used as a clothesline.          giphy (4)                                                                                                             
  12. It’s really terrifying to see your parents turning into a younger version of your grandparents.4OVLKQc                                                
  13. Friendship takes a lot of work after college.  giphy (5)                                                                                                                             
  14. Siri is not a friend to those of us who talk fast and have a strong ‘Northeast Philadelphia’ accent.    dImyJ                                      
  15. Finding the good bathroom at work is one of the most important things to do during the first week at a new job. bossy2                
  16. Fear of missing out and peer pressure isn’t always that bad. It all depends on the peers doing the pressuring.     I tried clean eating, and exercising because of the fear of missing out on the experience my coworkers were partaking in last year.                                                    giphy (1)                                                                                                                                        
  17. Cinnamon toothpaste is the most useless product created by the dental hygiene world.       200 (4)                                               
  18. Antidepressants only work half way, the user has to be willing to do the other half of the work to feel better.   btiffany                      
  19. Being in the good graces of your office’s administrative assistant, security team, janitor and cafeteria cook is more telling of your reputation than being in the good graces of the CEO.        tumblr_na0lx8bbpk1suzl23o1_500                                                                               
  20. Unit air conditioners get taken out of windows in the winter for a reason. Learning this hard way can result in getting a cold or freezing to death in your sleep.                                    200 (13)                                                                                               
  21. Your parents and/or your family’s way of life does not need to be how you live your life. Even if they tell you otherwise.  giphy (2)
  22. Motherly love can be appreciated at any age. And that doesn’t mean it has to come from your biological mother either.200 (12)   
  23. Never  be a jerk to someone who is apologizing. Even if you don’t accept it, give them the opportunity attempt.       giphy (18)         
  24. A person can actually overdose on vitamins. Especially Niacin, which I decided to take multiple times day to increase my happiness. My face was the color of an apple and I’m lucky my head didn’t explode.                  200_s (4)                                         
  25. Google is the reason why those reference books on my bookshelf at work are covered in dust. And has also encouraged my demand and expectations of instant gratification.200 (10)

101 Things That Happened in the Last 365 Days

Facebook now has a new app that will create a short video clip about the highlights of 2014. To be frank, 2014 can kick rocks. Most of the year was spent dealing with stress, unhappiness and grief. But somewhere in the middle of the emotional roller coaster of the year, I managed to do a whole bunch of cool things. 2014 can only be summed in one cliche, corny phrase- Life Goes On. 

Here’s a 101 memorable things that I did this year. Thank you for reading my ramblings, commenting on my essays, and/or being in my life this year.  I’m still wrapping my mind over some of the shit that went down over the past 365 days, so I won’t even try to guess what 2015 will hold. 

101 Things That Happened in the Last 365 Days

 Participated in a vegan chicken wing eating contest- This was a disaster, no one warned me that seitan expands once it’s wet. But it benefited Philly Roller Girls, so it was for a good cause!

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Participated in a cupcake eating contest.It was my first large amount of sugar after clean eating for 40 days, let’s just say that night I wanted to die

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Went on an upside roller coaster- I actually tried frantically to get off the Batman Coaster but the attendant didn’t hear me so I was stuck going through with it

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Went to Six Flags- We meant to go to Belmont Beach, but the signs for the safari seemed more exciting

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Had an article go viral- I was annoyed about how much online dating sucked, and wrote an article about it one night after work. Apparently people like that kind of thing.

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Got published on Bustle

Got published on Literally Darling

Found out I was a social introvert

Took photos on Citizen Bank Park’s field before a Phillies Game 

Missed a plane transfer

Had my article and face appear on Yahoo.com

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Flew to California

Put my feet in the Pacific Ocean

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Went in a hot tub under the stars at night in California

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Had my face appear on a HuffPo email 

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Snapshots of 2014- Part II

I take a lot of photos. And I mean thousands, each year. Before getting a point and shoot in 2004, I always had a disposable camera around. Now with cell phones, and my DSLR, my photo obsession as grown even more. Here are a few of my favorite personal shots from 2014. Even though it was a tough year, there were many memorable moments!

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