the ‘rexia’ series:
I stumbled across the term “liarexia” while perusing (what else?) a celebrity gossip magazine. The term was used to describe the eating habits of celebrities photographed eating fatty foods. Cheeseburgers, fries, bagels, milkshakes, you know, the stuff normal people eat every freaking day. So, why is it such a big deal when celebrities do it?
Well, quite frankly, it’s because they’re usually stick thin, and if they were eating that way every meal of every day, they wouldn’t look like that. Ergo, the idea is that they’re “lying” about what they eat throughout the day.
Um, duh. They also all probably have personal trainers that work out with them at their homes 7 days a week. But that’s another blog post entirely.
“Liarexia” is something that I find to be a bit of a redundancy; people who struggle with eating disorders tend to lie a lot because, hello, their eating habits are not normal. Even ED sufferers know this. It’s really rare to find someone placing an order at Starbucks saying, “Please give me a small cup of black coffee. Yes, that’s it. No cream or sugar, please. I’m trying to keep my daily caloric intake under 300 because I’m irrationally fearful of weight gain. Thanks.”
No. That’s not normal, and when people do things like that, it raises red flags. Red flags, by the way, are the eternal enemy of all eating disorders. Red flags demand explanations, which can sometimes lead to something awful. Like therapy or (gasp!) recovery.
I’m a pretty terrible liar. I’ve always known that. But I didn’t know just how bad of a liar I was until a group of my sorority sisters showed me that I wasn’t fooling anyone concerning my eating disorder.
Here I am in early 2006, about a year before being diagnosed. Where are my arms? I don’t know. But I can tell you that I was probably really hungry when this picture was taken.
Back in 2006, a group of my sorority sisters and I got together for some sort of event. I don’t remember the specifics of the event, but I do remember that we all went to Village Inn afterward.
(See? This is the real tragedy of the eating disordered individual. Food runs their life. So much so, that they can’t even focus on the great, happy, fun times they experience. Living turns into merely existing in a world where the only thing that matters to them is food, whether or not they’re going to eat it, where they’re going to eat it, how much of it they’re going to eat, etc.)
So. We went to Village Inn. When the waitress came around and asked for our drink orders, I went with water. This isn’t suspicious, I thought, because I’m a poor college kid and water is free. But while the waitress was gone, my mind was racing a million miles a second trying to come up with a logical explanation for why I wasn’t going to order any food. Normally I’d go with my staple, “Oh, I already ate dinner, I’m still full.” However, since I’d been spending time with my sisters all afternoon, I knew that wasn’t going to fly.
When the waitress came back to our table, in a last ditch effort to come up with an out, I told her to come to me last. As each girl ordered their food, my time dwindled away, and I was still without a reasonable excuse. So I panicked. When the waitress got to me, I just closed the menu and said, “Oh, I’m not eating, but thanks.”
For a split second, I thought it worked. But then, the silence surrounding me was shattered by my sisters erupting in a burst of exasperated protestation.
“What? Why aren’t you eating?”
“Lindsay, this is getting ridiculous.”
“You are skinny enough, stop doing this!”
And an assortment of other exclamations about my strange eating habits and surprisingly evident obsession with my weight.
My face burst aflame with embarrassment and horror. They knew. All of them knew. I didn’t know what to say, so I said the first thing that came to my mind:
“But I’ve already eaten too much today.”
A big, fat, stinking lie. A lie so obvious, it might as well have been tap dancing on the table. A lie so big, it could only be conjured up in an effort to cover up another palpable fallacy.
They didn’t fall for it.
I can’t tell you how revolted that conversation left me. I felt attacked, exposed, raw, and hopeless. But those feelings were only (relatively) temporary, as they were the product of a conversation that would be the catalyst to me eventually seeking help for my disorder.
So thank you, sisters. Thanks for not buying my crap. Thanks for being brave enough to call me out on a lie.
And here is my message to anyone who currently knows they’re being lied to about something like this: I know it’s scary, but please. Speak up. Yes, it will hurt. Yes, it will be uncomfortable. But you may save someone’s life.