If any of you have logged onto the Tracy Anderson Method Facebook page this week, no doubt you read the vitriolic drama lodged against Tracy and fans of the Method by Team Crossfit, a bunch of anti-Tracy nut jobs who posted doctored photos of anorexic women on Tracy's FB page and links to articles about how Gwyneth Paltrow's diet and exercise program are to blame for her bone density issues. But what was far crueler, was taking pictures of actual TAM'ers from the public page and bashing girls for looking too thin or unhealthy.
An old modeling proof with my favorite appetite suppressant
In some ways, I inherited my eating disorder, like I inherited high cheekbones from my mother’s side of the family and height from my father’s side of the family. My mother has always had anorectic tendencies-- -that coupled with chemical depression that went untreated for most of my childhood created a sad, painfully thin woman who was fragile physically and emotionally. She never starved herself the way I did, but when she was depressed, she didn’t eat; while I was growing up, that was most of the time. I remember being seven years old and sitting on her bed. She stood undressed, in front of a full length mirror, so thin that her tail bone protruded out from her backside.
“Look how fat I am,” she said, disgusted. My parents were going through a divorce. On weekends with Dad I made sure to call her, reminding her to eat, pleading for her to just eat something.
It wasn’t until college that I was introduced to the inner circle of eating disordered young women. I joined a sorority my first semester freshman year. We were all former Beauty Queens or Homecoming Queens lost without our courts. Sorority life saturated me with a new physical ideal. I learned the secret handshake—and then I learned the secret to staying thin. All-you-can-eat Dining Hall buffets took on new meaning… junk food regret could be taken away with the “pull of the trigger.” I learned how to chug diet soda before binges so the food came up in violent waves. I mastered the art of the silent puke--- so no one could hear my post-dinner purge. Instead of beer pong matches and drinking games, my dorm suite mates and I had our own competition: Who could lose the most weight. By the end of the year, we were all shells of our former selves, and proud of it.
When I left college to go to Los Angeles, my eating disorder was ruling my life. I began mixing diet drugs—creating dangerous cocktails of Dexatrim, Ripped Fuel and cold medicine with Pseudoephedrine. That combined with nicotine and caffeine kept me running on fumes for days. I also picked up a modeling tip—it was simple: Take a bite and spit it out. The chew/spit compulsion is a less spoken about disorder—I used to wonder why no eating disorder self-help books talked about the “chewing food and spitting it out” habit. I alternated between all out binging and chewing/spitting … The latter seemed the lesser of two evils.
Sunken Cheeks and Starving (circa 1998)
I left LA and the Valley of Anorexics in 2000 to take my first on-camera job with a small cable news station in the Bronx. After an exhausting and stressful two months on the job, I was horrified to discover that my skinny Levis wouldn’t budge over my thighs! I stared down at the soft flesh that covered my once angular hip bone. How did I get fat? How could I have let this happen?
I thought back to all my late nights in the newsroom, living off Skittles and Snickers from the vending machine. Overwhelmed and overtired, I had struggled to get out of bed to work out at the gym, so I just didn’t. My body was also changing—I was getting older. I didn’t want to admit that my hips were no longer the narrow 12 year-old-boy variety.
I punished myself with a two day binge. I blew my meager budget, spending money I didn’t have on a cartload of groceries: frozen pizzas, brownie mix, ice cream and bags of chips. When $150 was literally flushed down the toilet, I tore through the late night drive-thrus, shoveling food in faster than I could taste it.
I will never forget being parked in a McDonald’s parking lot at midnight, looking up from my gluttonous rampage to see the horrified looks of a couple who had pulled up next to me. Grinding the car into gear, I sped out of the parking lot, spilling fries and half-eaten burgers. My narcissism took hold, jolting me from my food coma: What if those people recognized me from the news? I made a rule to never look in the mirror when I was binging. I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear-view mirror—a bloated face with swollen eyes stared back, grease and ketchup running down my chin.
It was like looking at a monster. And that is what I had become.
My TV career would take me from New York City to Connecticut and Maryland. With every new job, my eating disorder came with me---- baggage that I was never ready to unpack and put away for good. Bulimics are masters of disguise and I hid my disease well. In each city I moved to, I discovered the restaurants that had single stall bathrooms. I made sure I never came to work with red, puffy eyes from binges. I looked every bit the put-together “local celebrity,” with her own morning show. My self-hatred was veiled with MAC make-up and a made-for-TV smile.
By the time I accepted a job as a reporter in Atlanta, I felt like I had finally gotten things under control. I started my new job in “Hotlanta” with a renewed sense of self--- I was beginning to feel more confident and more comfortable with my figure. I went shopping for new suits and didn’t freak out when I had to return size 4 to the racks in exchange for size 6. But on the fourth day of work, I had a meltdown.
My cameraman Jim and I were waiting for our live report, killing time by watching TV in the news truck. A shot flashed on screen of a marathon runner crossing the finish line, her hands pumping the air triumphantly. Jim commented on how skinny she was and said, “I prefer big girls…My girlfriend is big.”
Then he looked me up and down and continued, “Well, she’s thinner than you are… I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you that you’re thick.” He laughed good-naturedly and turned the channel.
THICK?? The only thing I liked THICK were milkshakes-- -and I hadn’t had one of those since 1994!!!! THICK? I felt my face flush with embarrassment, as I nodded and mumbled “Uh huh.”
Later, at my apartment, I stood in front of the mirror and cried. I hated myself for letting one comment unhinge my confidence and sink my self esteem.
But I hated myself more for looking “thick.”
Two days later, in what felt like a cruel joke played on the “new girl,” another one of my co-workers told me that I’d be a hit with Southern men. “We like thick girls,” he said with a twang. “We’re not afraid of some curves!”
What was it with the South? A culture of thick grits, thick accents--- and apparently, thick women. I knew that both the guys from work were intending to compliment me, but it was time for some serious damage control.
My skinny Levis were in the back of my closet carefully folded with the rest of my Size 2 wardrobe. I hadn’t worn any of it in about five years, but I hadn’t been able to bring myself to give any of the clothes up yet—doing so would mean acknowledging my fuller body. Retiring my skinny Levis for permanent “fat pants” just didn’t seem like an option.
I ran my finger along the seam of the faded jeans as if touching them would somehow bring me back to my mini-me size. I stood in my closet and thought back to my former “skinny” self. I realized that the entire time I was that “perfect size” I was miserable trying to maintain it. What was the point of killing myself with deprivation when I never enjoyed the results?
I wish I could say, “And at that moment I decided to change! My bulimia is cured!”
But, it’s never that easy. I frequently read women’s accounts of overcoming their eating disorders, and so often, their story ends, neatly tied with a pretty bow… Recovered.
I will always be recovering.
I think that people with eating disorders have the most complicated and difficult addictions of all. We have to have our drug of choice every day to sustain us. That’s like telling an alcoholic to limit drinking to three cocktails a day; or making a compulsive gambler spend several hours in a casino every day without wagering a bet.
I have committed to making recovery a priority in my life instead of hiding my disease and ignoring my own needs. I hired a personal trainer to help me with an exercise program that both challenges and motivates me. I’m overcoming some of my body issues with our sessions--- I can’t exactly get through tough work-outs on “The 3 C’s Diet!”
I got rid of the Camel Lights and finally kicked my smoking habit. It wasn’t easy to give up my strongest appetite suppressant, but I’ve been smoke-free for over a year. I ordered several months of a food delivery service to re-teach myself portion control. I have always felt my appetite is cavernous; I’ve lived most of my life feeling either too famished or too full. For the first time, I am considering food the fuel I need to stay healthy.
There are still good days and bad days. I don’t remember the last time I threw up, but I still struggle to have a “normal” relationship with food. I get nervous at restaurants sometimes when there are too many choices, so I try to look on-line at menus and decide on a healthy entrée before I get there. I pack my meals and snacks before work so I feel comfortable with what and how much I’m eating during the day. I try not to count calories or obsess about the numbers on the scale. Today I weigh 30-35 lbs more than I did at my thinnest.
As for the skinny Levis, I decided it was finally time to retire them. In so many ways, they symbolized my disease and my commitment to bulimia. Tossing them into a bag of clothes to donate to Goodwill, I felt a huge weight lift from within.
It was the healthiest purge I ever experienced.