Just kidding just kidding.

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Grub is actually on hiatus. I’ll be back when things calm down.

Actually, just kidding.

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I have something that would make for some proper Grub, but I’m not quite ready to share it. So I’ve got a big fat nothing for now, sorry. I refuse to call this a break, though, so I’ll keep directing you to Grub Media (where I post links of other work I’ve written).

It’s not writer’s block… it’s I-don’t-want-to-share-block. Hopefully it’ll be over soon.

Oy!

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That oy! was for my sparser-than-sparse posting in recent weeks. I’m sorry to have neglected this here Grub. I’ve been focusing instead on posting on Grub Media (see link on the right), trying to get some of my favorite work up on the site. I’ve also been writing lots for Livestrong, trying to bank some cash and start paying off my student loans. Eek!

I hope to check in and get something up here in the coming days. Thanks for your patience!

An alternate “Grubuniverse”

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At the behest of my dear old dad, I’ve created another site (“Grub Media,” a brilliant name if there ever was one) to post articles I’ve written for the Examiner, Livestrong, the Sophian, etc. In other words, nothing personal. This new site is more of a professional site, if you will, with the hope that some internet-browsing graduate school admissions officer might stumble upon it and decide that Sarah B., the prolific writer, deserves a place in their Nutrition Science Masters program. Here is the link.

In that vein, I have heard back from two schools and got into both! U. of Delaware and Rhode Island. Still waiting on the rest…

Where it all begins, nobody knows.

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Yet I do know.

Sort of.

How my issues with food and body started, that is.

I was 3 or 4, standing in the kitchen after a lazy summer’s dinner on our screened-in porch. My sister was still a baby, my dad the breadwinner, and my mom a happy and (so I’d like to think) fulfilled stay-at-home mother, catering to the needs and attention spans of the ever-jolly Hannah, age 2, and myself, soft-spoken and introverted.

I stood then in the kitchen, bare feet planted on the linoleum floor that never quite shone, watching as mom and dad went through the motions of putting away the remainder of the meal. Potatoes, fresh corn, steamed broccoli, chicken– it was a typical weekday meal, a medley of wholesome flavors and textures heightened with a shake of the garlic salt my parents couldn’t do without.

Hands at my side, wearing my summer uniform of cotton T-shirt and shorts, I experienced suddenly a feeling more painful than any I had felt before. The feeling was not a physical pain, not the stabbing hurt of a skinned knee or a stubbed toe, but rather something deeper. It was, I imagine, in a way akin to a newborn crying out for nourishment or for warmth; an integral need presenting without warning.

I felt this hurt as it spread from finger to finger, from limb to limb. It coursed powerfully through me as I stood there, paralyzed by its resolve.

In that moment, I understood what I had hitherto not known– that I, Sarah, was an ugly, awful being. “Fat” had yet to be incorporated into my vocabulary, but I felt at once too much. Experiencing in that moment the sensation of my flesh and body, I felt profoundly too “too”– too big, too wide, too expansive.

I was at the time of normal size, having grown from a narrow 5-lb. baby to a round toddler, all cheeks and thighs, and subsequently into a gangly child with long, tapering fingers and toes. This revelation of being “too much” held little basis, it would seem, in reality. I was tall, yes, for my age, but neither my height nor weight would have met with anything more than a “normal” rating from my pediatrician.

Still, I experienced in that moment that painful “too”-ness, and desired suddenly to be small and helpless, once again at the mercy of my mother and father for all manners of care.

I remember looking then to my sister, absorbed in her play, and wishing to be like her. Two years, one month and eleven days younger than me, little Hannah was still dependent on my parents for most things. While mom and dad might still have prepared meals and outfits for me, Hannah remained the baby of the family, living in the perpetual land of “not knowing better.” I, I realized, did “know better,” and would from then on be counted on to apply maturity and learned wisdom to daily tasks. I had crossed the threshold from toddler to child, and there would be no turning back. I was a little adult now, for better or for worse, and I hated this.

I wanted to be small, and I wanted to be held. To be nurtured, to be reassured that I deserved, even as I reached the age of 4, of 5, of 6, to be loved as I had been at age 2, at 1, at six months.

This feeling did not last forever, its “too”-ness evaporating after a few minutes, and I soon forgot about it.

But the feeling returned the following year, again without warning, and the year after that. Uncomfortable and just as painful as that first time on a summer’s evening, the feeling would then disappear from whence it came, leaving me to wonder when it would strike again.

The beginning, perhaps, of my self-criticism? My self-loathing?

That’s the theory so far, folks.

As always, to be continued.

And now for some Grub…

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I’ve always been a reader, so it makes sense in retrospect that when I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder and put on medical leave, I spent much of my newfound free time reading everything I could about my “condition.”

While I had always been interested in the etiology of eating disorders, having sensed I suppose my own vulnerability to them, I had at age 18 finally earned my place within the stories and academic inquiries into what it was that would induce a person to develop such behaviors and rituals.

I was, despite my frequent protest that I was simply experiencing a “quarter-life crisis,” an anorexic, leaning on starvation in times of crisis. Starvation afforded me an otherworldly calm that nothing before had, and I was proud of my ability to control tightly my stress by abstaining from food.

So I chose books from the local library that promised to shed light on us “fasting girls,” that might explain what I suspected to be the case– that starving was no different than heroin or alcohol abuse, offering me respite from negative thoughts and emotions.

I began with the early works on the subject– German psychoanalyst Hilde Bruch’s “The Golden Cage”, Steven Levenkron (notable, in addition to his scholarly work, for his work with client Karen Carpenter), then moving on to Joan Jacob Brumberg’s “Fasting Girls.” From there I sampled Geneen Roth’s collection on overcoming overeating and other eating disordered behaviors, seeing myself in the Geneen she described at my age; a person wholly consumed by her body and her hunger.

Perhaps I should have pushed further with this material, pushed myself to write my own version, because I emerged from this exercise in literary immersion not terribly changed than when I had begun. To be sure, I now understood just how pervasive these issues were, and that I was by no means alone in my struggle. But I took a great deal of (unhealthy) pleasure in these books. They fed the connection I did not yet wish to sever with my eating disorder, allowing me to fantasize about restrictive measures that might have been, had I not been stopped by family and the college health center.

I compared myself to the girls and women described by Bruch, Levenkron, Brumberg and so on, holding myself always to the dimensions that these women had reached prior to treatment. I had earned in my flirtation with anorexia the coveted size zero jeans, but many of these girls had met thresholds I never got a chance to pursue– double digits, lanugo*, hospital feeding tubes. I was a straight-A student, relentless in my pursuit of most things, yet the success I might have had as an anorexic had been stymied by college officials and policies. I had been prevented effectively, I later articulated to my nutritionist, from becoming the “best anorexic I could be.”

Learning by way of osmosis everything I could on the subject of anorexia, I was able au moins to eliminate some of the shame I felt regarding my behavior. I was still entirely unsure how to respond to classmates when asked where I had spent my first semester of college, but I had the makings of a vocabulary to describe what I had experienced in that time. A gain not simply in weight, but in self-awareness.

To be continued…

* lanugo= “the fine white hair that grows on anorexics when they have no body fat left to keep themselves warm” (eatingdisorderexpert.co.uk)

Mais alors…!

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Examiner piece on Vermont’s physical education standards available here.

Also, an interested article in U.S. Today here about American public schools and recess in the winter months. In other words, at what frigid temperature do schools pull kids indoors? I’m personally grateful I didn’t grow up in International Falls, Minnesota, where recess would have continued as per usual as long as temperatures didn’t dip below -20. Schools in Fairbanks, Alaska seem to have found a compromise, pushing kids inside in cold weather to walk laps in the halls. A nightmare for hallway aides, I’m sure, but at least the kids are moving.

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