The Moment: Eat, Weigh, Love
The same brain that got me into Columbia was now calculating how many calories there were in a piece of cheese.
Right around the time I reached my goal weight, I met the man who would become my husband. I was living in New York and working in Los Angeles as a producer; he was my editor. My goal weight was just shy of 100 pounds, but I’m a former ballerina, so - different rules.
I looked fucking fabulous and while my holocaust bod might not have been the initial attraction, Hugh was smart, fun, and dreamy to boot. Nothing happened, but months after I returned to New York, we connected on Facebook. What began as sweet flirtation deepened into friendship. We spent hours on the phone. He did cute, romantic things. When I traveled to Chicago for work, he sent a bottle of wine to my hotel room. I came to depend on him, albeit long distance. When a close friend died, it was Hugh I called, in tears and nervousness before I went “onstage” to deliver the eulogy.
About a month in, Hugh asked me on an official date, and booked a trip to New York to take me to dinner. In the weeks leading up, I barely slept. It wasn’t love, though; I was starving.
This had nothing to do with Hugh. I had spent much of my adult life applying my star intelligence to the art of losing weight. The same brain that got me into Columbia was now calculating how many calories there were in a piece of cheese. It had become a way of life as routine as brushing my teeth and I was truly, at age 36, exactly where I wanted to be – excelling in my career, and weighing in under 100.
I loved a good anorexic joke. After a great dinner – “I’d better run home and throw this up.” We all laughed, my girlfriends said the same things. But I didn’t know if they, like me, were actually going home and doing it.
I made these jokes with Hugh too. (I was very concerned that if I ever got treatment I wouldn’t be able to make ano jokes anymore.)
Hugh spent the weekend with me in New York and three weeks later I was on a plane to see him in LA. He was unlike anyone I’d ever met – tender and expressive, but also tough and brave. Starkly honest about mistakes and imperfections in his own life and decisions he made to work through them. I had always wanted to be perfect right out of the gate; I thought asking for help, was weak. That true strength was taking care of everything yourself. It never occurred to me it could be the opposite.
When I returned from visiting Hugh, this was on my mind.
As I picked at my dinner of five baby carrots and hummus, I realized – This is a problem. My entire life revolved around not eating.
Again, I didn’t sleep. And at 5 the next morning I sat up in bed with sudden and stunning clarity: If I wanted any kind of relationship with Hugh, I’d better work this shit out.
I might as well have been cheating on him. I couldn’t be honest with him if I wasn’t truly being honest with myself.
I called my father right then. I was so afraid. He’s a little famous – kind of like the Francis Ford Coppola of the academic psychology world – and I didn’t want to embarrass him like a Godfather 3 Sofia. I told him everything and he was wonderful – loving, without judgment, and immediately began researching the best options for treatment.
I told my mother and sister, and later, close friends. It’s embarrassing. Eating disorders make everyone uncomfortable. It’s not badass like substance abuse.
And that same morning, I composed a very careful email to Hugh, who responded with love, care, and empathy that I didn’t know was possible. And I felt safe.
I was fortunate. Many of my friends, who have since surprised me revealing their own experiences, did not get help by choice. Their “moment” was collapse, hospitalization, a heart attack. Mine was falling in love.
What followed was fucking hard – and continues to be. But finally it’s out there. And I can sleep.