The Skinny; My Messy Hopeful Fight for Full Recovery from Anorexia, A (decently comical) Memoir
By Sheri Segal Glick
The following is an excerpt from the book The Skinny, by Glebe resident Sheri Segal Glick, recounting her struggles with the eating disorder anorexia.
One morning last week, my almost-teenage son was yelling at me to help him find something before leaving for school, “Mom!” “Mom!” “Mom!” “MOOOOOOOM.” I was in my bathroom, drying my hair in my bra and underwear. Exasperated, I ran downstairs (passing my husband who was standing. right. there.), handed my son the thing he was looking for – apparently invisible to everyone but me – and headed back up the stairs.
“Mommy?” I stop, wondering if this is the day I’ve only heard about and seen in TV movies – the day he actually thanks me for something. I turn to face him.
“Mommy, you are gaining weight. Sorry if this sounds rude, but you are.”
I quickly walk up the rest of the stairs.
I finish drying my hair, get dressed, and walk my youngest to school.
I smile at people at school drop-off and bump into a friend and talk and laugh for a minute and then walk in the opposite direction of her house, and mine.
I want to run as fast and long as I can, until I can’t feel the hurt and the shame, but as I’m in winter boots and a parka and have a session with Emily in just over an hour, I settle on an illicit walk.
This kid doesn’t notice anything. Our house could be painted an entirely different color tomorrow, and there is only a fifty percent chance he’d notice. Our cat could go missing, and he wouldn’t notice. I could replace one of his sisters with a stunt double, and he wouldn’t notice.
But he noticed that my body has changed.
I text Kirsten, and she initially thinks it’s funny (we don’t always have the same sense of humour, I’ve also stopped sending her TikToks). Then she realizes how upset I am.
She reminds me that the body he is used to seeing isn’t a healthy one, and that a sick, starving body shouldn’t be his standard of female attractiveness. She tells me that I’m doing a service to his future partners (and I can’t help but wonder about all of the ways in which I’ve already failed those same partners. I don’t think he’s ever hung up a jacket, or made his bed, except under duress).
Cali says mostly the same things but without using the words heteronormative assumptions.
They are both really kind, and say smart, insightful things. But I need someone to feel sad with me. I want someone to acknowledge how much this hurts.
I tell Emily about it on our call, and she blames me for not having told him what I’m doing. I try to explain to her that he’s twelve and wouldn’t understand, and that he would tell everyone about this thing he doesn’t understand. She tells me that it’s my job to help him understand.
Her frustration is palpable. Of course my body is changing, that’s the point. If it wasn’t, nothing else could be changing. And of course my kid is going to notice, and if I don’t tell him what’s going on, well that’s on me. And if I’m ashamed to tell people about why I’m gaining weight, that’s also on me. I am supposed to be gaining weight. I can’t gain all the life things without gaining weight. Why can’t I understand that?
I get it. Isn’t it better for my children to have a mother who can teach them it’s possible to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles than a mother who fits into the tiniest size of pants?
Isn’t it more important to have a mother who can model healthy, balanced attitudes around food and exercise than one who acts like exercise is more important than all other things?
Isn’t it more important to have a mother who is present, who can go for spontaneous ice cream, and who can happily stay in all day and watch movies on the couch, than it is to have a mother whose body never changes?
Then why didn’t my kid say he notices that I eat dinner with him now? Or that we no longer have to walk absolutely everywhere? Or that because I’m no longer exercising at crazy o’clock every morning I’m now joining him downstairs for breakfast?
Maybe the extra weight is the only thing that he can see.
I’d like to think that recovery is making me more available, more open, more empathetic, more honest, less afraid, less rigid.
But right now, I feel more distracted, more self-conscious, more anxious, more self-critical and more alone than I’ve ever felt.
It doesn’t feel worth it.
Does my son really care about the way my body looks? Maybe he only mentioned I was gaining weight because he was so excited that he finally noticed something. But his words really hurt me. I’m still getting used to my changing body, and this was a stark reminder that other people can see the changes too. And I don’t know if I’m ready for that.
Sheri Segal Glick’s The Skinny; My Messy Hopeful Fight for Full Recovery from Anorexia, A (decently comical) Memoir, will be released on June 20 and is available for preorder at Indigo, Amazon and locally at Octopus Books.
Sheri Glick Segal is a writer, lawyer and GNAG board member.