This year for Halloween I decided to go as Danaerys Targaryen. Not just Dany, Mother of Dragons, but I wanted to go as her pivotal character moment from the entire series; when she emerges from the fires of her dead husband, naked and unburnt, newly born dragons clinging to her body. It’s an absolutely badass moment and perfect for a Halloween costume. But it would require me to wear a body stocking. A painted body stocking, but still a stocking. There was a time in which I would have done several things on the days leading up to these Halloween party in order to look skinny in the stocking. Not ‘good’, mind you. Or present. Not even healthy. Just skinny. It involves a lot of cardio and barely eating anything of substance until the party…in which I would binge my brains out and fall asleep on a couch from a food coma. I was a riot at parties during this stage.
You guys heard me confess that I had relapsed last year. You also have heard me talk about how I was at a not-so-happy weight this past spring which was due to a combination of factors dealing with hormones and other unhealthy habits. Not disordered habits, mind you, but my body was off.
I’m here today to talk about how I’m doing. I’m doing it now because this is the middle of my semester, and this is normally the time in which I lose my mind and dive back into supremely bad habits. That hasn’t happened at all, and I want to document it. But first, let me take you back a bit.
When I started losing weight at 202 pounds, I had a goal number on the scale as a lot of dieters do. By September of 2006 I had gotten myself down to 156 pounds by eating healthier and generally trying to stay more active. That’s a perfectly fine weight for a lot of people, but I was still dealing with some binging issues and most of that weight was visceral fat carried in my stomach and hips, so I had a bit more weight to lose. It also didn’t help when I came back to school and one of my acting teachers, after telling me I looked beautiful, took a look at my body and added “You could lose even more in your hips.” Note to all drama teachers out there – NEVER DO THIS.
Then, in the summer of that year I came down with mono and ended up getting down to 147 pounds – one pound down from my original goal weight – due to, you know, sleeping for two weeks and not eating anything more solid than bananas. But I managed to keep this weight loss for a solid two months even after I got better because I wasn’t eating as much, and when I was it was healthy foods, and I was working out sensibly. Which is interesting when you think about it.
Then, I started reacting to my stressors and immediately gained a ton of weight back, which looking back isn’t so surprising – I was binging like crazy and then trying to work it all off. That horrible feeling when you feel like your stomach is going to rip open? That was me nearly every day.
Now let me clarify something quickly…I’m petite, and 156 pounds on my frame is not the same as that amount of pounds on yours. Nor was it 156 pounds of muscle. It felt like I was carrying around an extra 10 pounds of luggage.
In April 2009, I moved to New York and joined a gym.
I ended up losing about 20 pounds in three or four months and got down to around 128. Remember how I said at 155 that I wasn’t quite done with getting that extraneous weight off? Well, at 128 I was beyond done. When you’re passing out in restaurants, you are not at the right weight. Doesn’t matter if everyone is telling you you’re so skinny; “holy shit, you’re so skinny” isn’t always a compliment. I didn’t spend any time on my brain or intelligence or trying to be a better person or doing any of that interior growth you’re supposed to do when getting “healthy.” I just wanted to be thin. At whatever cost. Because isn’t taking care of your body and making it look good part of being an actress? Isn’t that the point of it?
My body was literally screaming at me every single day to stop what I was doing. It’s amazing how tone-deaf you can be when your goal is so off.
This is such a gross picture, but I’m putting it here because you deserve to see what I looked like at my lowest weight. This was in December 2009.
|Taken in my bestie Chelsea’s apartment. Hey girl hey, I’m sorry I took thinspiration photos in your guest bedroom. Although I cannot find those boots for the life of me and I MISS THEM. COME BACK TO ME, BOOTS.|
After one too many incidents in which I passed out, and after one too many people were looking at me with a quizzical or teasing expression and asking me things like “Are you eating?” I decided that this skinny thing just wasn’t worth it. I felt terrible. My hair was falling out, I was constantly cold, my skin was so dry my knuckles bled constantly, and and I missed being able to eat a sandwich without putting it on fiber bread that tasted like garbage and wrecked my stomach up.
Bear in mind, my parents were very concerned about me, but I’m pretty sure my stubbornness overrode their good intentions. I remember getting force fed a glass of orange juice at a family dinner one time because I was so calorie deprived my eyes were rolling back in my head, and STILL thinking to myself, “This is too much sugar, this is too many calories.”
When your mother is yelling at you in a restaurant to drink a glass of orange juice, that is when something needs to shift.
It took about a year or so to fully shift, but I started graduate school and teaching and began to realize that all of this restricting I was doing wasn’t precisely the best choice when I had to, you know, stand in front of 22 students and talk for two hours and also sit in seminars and have to actively contribute. I started thinking about my future, and for once, it didn’t involve what ‘weight’ i needed to be at in order to make my dreams come true. My dreams were coming true in waves, and none of it was about what my butt looked like in white skinny jeans. It was all about what I could do in order to make myself into a better person, not a skinnier one.
It also isn’t a coincidence that I began dating my boyfriend during all of this change, and that the change accelerated at a lightening pace when we became a couple I could tell when I met him that A) he wasn’t one of those dudebros that would run at the very first sign of emotional vulnerability and B) he wouldn’t let me be less than the very best version of myself. It takes a strong and patient soul to love me, and I knew – pretty much from the first date – that he wouldn’t just tolerate me, he would make me better. Because of him, I’m better and I’m inspired to be better.
I started gaining a bit of weight, and ended up gaining a LOT. But it ended up being a good thing that I went a bit overboard with the gaining because it showed me that I really didn’t belong at 160 pounds. That’s a bit weight number for someone of my build, and I decided to do something about it this summer. I worked very hard, trying to keep myself active not just with sports and workouts but also with leisurely walks and bike rides. I did a lot of swimming, too. As far as the food goes, I didn’t deprive myself of anything. I basically just ate a bit less, and ate more plants. Like Michael Pollan says we should do.
The result of that work is, today I find myself at my goal weight. The exact goal weight I had thought was right for me all along. And I did it without illness, or starvation. I even did it while eating meat (!!??), some cheese every once and a while, and a good deal of Hershey Kisses. I credit my strict yoga practice, cardio, and eating whole food, and telling myself I can have as much of any sort of food as I want. When you let yourself have unlimited freedom, you generally don’t feel compulsions as strongly. At least, I don’t. I believe in being healthy but I also value being realistic. If I’m eating 100% healthy all the time, I feel like I’m on the shore watching all my friends boogie-board. On the same coin, if I eat a lot of junk food my face and stomach explode. I genuinely crave the way I feel when I eat a diet that’s full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean meats on occasion; I tried being vegan and my hair got more brittle than a Real Housewife’s face, so I operate better with some animal proteins in my diet. I eat chocolate. I drink Diet Coke. I eat skin-on chicken thighs. I eat tons of peanut butter. I’m WAY hooked on coffee and chocolate; the Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses are basically foil-wrapped meth. I don’t eat these things all the time but I consider these things to be part of a healthy diet, because it means I eat relatively free of guilt.
So when it came down to it, I didn’t feel the need to punish myself for a Halloween party when the whole reason to HAVE a Halloween party is to have a blast and drink and laugh at your friends who dressed like Robin Sparkles (yes that happened and it was incredible). I strapped on that bodysuit, ate about a pound of sushi, and had a grand old time. I didn’t get a single “You look so skinny” that night. But I got a hell of a lot of “That’s an AWESOME costume.” Which, duh.
|It was also 20 degrees outside, so after the pictures round was done I immediately put on sweatpants. I called that version of the costume “Gangsta’ Dany.”|
So, that’s how I’m doing. You can read it in this post, but I’d like to read it on my face in this photo.
How am I doing? I’m alive.
PS. You should know I typed this post while eating sweet potato pie and Cool Whip. If your diet plan doesn’t involve Cool Whip, I’m not interested.
PPS. This didn’t fit into my original post, but another reason I’m glad to be out of the ED pit of despair is that I am a straight up wreck when i allow myself to get too hungry. I don’t get angry hungry, I get “give me food right now or I will have a full scale 5150 psychotic break” hungry.