AJ, my non-binary progeny, has had what you might call “difficulties” coming to terms with being a boy trapped in a girl’s body and has written about that on this blog. (“Toy Retreat,” October 8, 2021; “Dinner With Mom and Dad,” December 20, 2021; “Clothes Make the Man-Child,” January 14, 2022; and “Non-Binary Tennis,” August 31, 2022.) Today AJ continues to guest blog about perhaps the most difficult part of that journey–his struggle with body image, food, and the lapse in mental and physical health that made it clear that some critical life decisions were necessary. Here is the fourth part of AJ’s essay:
My “very healthy” dieting was making me HUNGRY. I needed to be around FOOD. Going to grocery stores became a secret pastime. I ogled all the food that one could buy. I got addicted to just being in food’s presence and basking in it. There was so much…aisles and aisles to peruse and even touch. So illicit. And trust me, it did not escape me that walking around in grocery stores meant that I was actually spending calories which made this form of voyeurism doubly attractive.
There were other motives to going to grocery stores. Food at home was not safe. It was too easy to eat. But at the store, it was different. In grocery stores there were……samples! Moreover, samples were only weekend treats since stores would make the most business on those days, but that was perfect for me because it was a form of portion control right there. I quickly learned which stores had the best delicacies, so I could easily map out my weekend rounds.
Then one day I lost control and ate half a jar of Biscoff spread, many many handfuls of trail mix, cheese cubes, and finally bread with marinara sauce right in the middle of one of those stores. I walked out with my head hung in shame and my belly protruding, but I wanted more! I was afraid of being called out as a weirdo sample hoarder, but, well, I was a weirdo sample hoarder!
Even I knew that I couldn’t keep this up. Grocery stores entered the category of “feared ones.” I thought about stealing from stores. In my fantasies, I wouldn’t put things in my pocket, but rather, I would just open boxes and eat stuff in the store and walk out. I thought/hoped I’d get away with it because I didn’t look homeless or criminal-like (yes, cuz I looked like a girl…I’m so sexist). I never actually built up the courage to do it. Not that I’m having a proud moment right now. I was just too afraid of getting caught. (I was always a fraidy cat about rule-breaking.)
I decided I needed to find a more inconspicuous target. And there was the answer: Target. Shamefacedly, yet electrified, I made trips to Target around the holidays when candy was on special display because kids (I assume kids) would go and bust open packages of bulk candies and eat some. I figured if they were already open, they were fair game because they couldn’t be sold damaged. So, I’d go pilfer candy. Worse, I’d go to just drive myself more insane because I knew candy was so bad for me and such a devil’s food (mmm, devil’s food cake!). I’d go and literally stare and pace around an innocent, lone, loose snack-sized KitKat bar that had been dislodged from its KitKat kolony and engage in a battle with myself about whether it was ok to pocket this mini Kat for energy and life or would it destroy me by adding to my stomach wombum bumpum? Control and rational thought were in short supply. And conveniently, it gave me more reason to hate myself.
Some epic binges (not stolen but acquired through some legitimate means): I ate an entire jar of peanut butter; six chocolate croissants and two donuts I found on the street; an entire tray of Italian cookies; a giant Tupperware full of venison (yes, venison of all things); an entire box of Russell Stover’s chocolates (duh). These were not my finest moments. Sometimes I ate leftover food that was supposed to last for days, and sometimes I ate all of these things with some chips on the side! I couldn’t even do the math anymore on the number of calories I consumed during a binge because I went into zombie mode while eating and lost count of what I ate in the blur of movement from hand to mouth.
Even with the binging, I had lost 35 pounds in 8 months. However, it was becoming clearer that I was losing my mind, my body, and ummm, my hair. My hair—one of the few bodily aspects of myself that I was ok with.
Of course, my body cried out in other ways to tell me to end its punishment. My nails grew fragile; I was pasty white; and all of my muscles were breaking down. Though I still worked out all the time, I never gained any muscle, only lost it. My joints started cracking. I stopped being able to use the elliptical; it took too much effort. Most things took too much effort…even thinking. I was getting light-headed, and my thoughts were muddled and confused—even more so than usual. I couldn’t make decisions, but I could still muster a fake public smile, and an inward smile when I felt my hipbones jutting out.
I was becoming very, very shaky. I felt rattled physically and mentally. All that joint clicking and clacking echoed the rattle. I had no energy. After I walked to work (3.4 miles, but who’s counting?), I would plunk down in my chair and barely be able to move. Getting up literally started to hurt. My joints were coming apart. It became a production to walk to someone else’s desk or to the bathroom. When I returned home and freed myself from my work clothes, I would wobble and wave around pretending to do my exercises (think: air dancer a.k.a wacky inflatable waving guys in front of car dealerships), and for dinner eat my ration of canned veggies or black beans. Sometimes I added ketchup because I love ketchup and I needed some extra sugar, but I justified ketchup because it contains lycopene, and I felt more grown up “seasoning” my veggies. I took a look at myself and saw that my bones were protruding. I was becoming a skeleton, weeeeeee.
(concluded October 19)