How Eating 500 Calories a Day Saved My Life: Part One

Excerpt from journal:

September 25th, 2011-

Last night Chris and I ordered sushi and brought it back to my house. I SO badly miss my Orange Crush Roll, but I can't eat the rice...or anything, really. I ordered the Sashimi Salad with dressing on the side and when we got the food back to my house, I found they had put the dressing ON the salad. "I CAN'T EAT THIS!" I screamed. Chris tried to tell me that the dressing was okay, to which I shouted, "DO YOU WANT ME TO GAIN ALL THIS WEIGHT BACK???" In a way, I wish Chris had said, "yes". But he just stood there, silent. As usual. I could feel the tears coming and out they poured onto the kitchen floor. Is this it for me? Am I going to cry over dressing on a salad for the rest of my life? I ate the salad, but felt guilty. It was too late to go to the gym so I made Chris have sex with me...hoping to burn off the calories in the dressing. But who was I kidding? I'm never able to get my heart rate high enough to do that...I've tried. I don't know what to do. I've kept this weight off for almost three months. I cannot gain that weight back. I won't. I won't...

In April of 2011, I decided I would go on just ONE more diet. But it couldn't be like any of the diets I'd already tried since the age of twelve; it needed to be the next best thing to gastric bypass surgery. And I found it. (I've chosen not to disclose the name of this regimen, for ethical reasons, but as I describe it, you're more than welcome to look it up. No shame. Okay?)

The entire diet was 101 days long and the protocol went like this: Days 1&2 I was to eat EVERYTHING. These were called "Loading" days. I ate and ate and ate and ate...bagels, lox, cream cheese, avocados, peanut butter, SUSHI, and I think even a Big Mac. Anyway, I was sick by the end of those two days. Days 3-40 were known as VLCD; Very Low Calorie Diet, where I ate *exactly* 500 calories a day and drank over a gallon of water. I was required to weigh myself every morning and weigh my food at each meal. I was restricted to a list of about fifteen "acceptable" foods and I was not allowed to exercise, though I had a lot of sex with my then boyfriend, not because I enjoyed it, but because it distracted me from food.

At the end of the 40 days, I would go on "Maintenance", which meant I could go back to eating "normally", but had to follow 3 rules: NO sugar, NO starch, NO second helpings. But by the time I was allowed to eat normally (meaning 1200 calories/day), I couldn't. I was afraid to break 900 calories. It's almost common knowledge that it doesn't matter what diet you go on, everyone gains the weight back (plus more) when the diet is over. I wanted to prove them wrong. So I made it my mission to stay ahead of my own weight loss curve and think about nothing else than to keep the weight off...but started to come back.

Watching myself gain weight at such a rapid rate was devastating, but INCREDIBLY fascinating. It was like a magic trick, an optical illusion I wished I was seeing on someone else's body. I think I've hit rock bottom, I remember saying to myself, as I lay crying on my bed one afternoon, struggling to pull my "size 2" jeans up over my thighs. I need help. So, like any good twenty-something Jewish gal would do...I found a therapist and made an appointment.

cool story, erica! What's your point?

It's a proven fact, in my opinion, that the first thing you lose when you go on a diet is brain matter. I've tried twenty-seven diets in the almost twenty-nine years I've been alive, so you can imagine the marbles I'm missing...probably.

I am NOT suggesting that one tries this diet in favor of having a revelation. PLEASE don't misunderstand me. I've built my entire life and career around never dieting again. But I am saying over these last few years in my personal and professional life, I now see that I needed to try that absurd and dangerous diet. I needed to hit bottom. Ultimately, I needed to starve myself, in order to discover what I was truly hungry for. This can be said about any eating disorder, a sex/drug/rock & roll addiction, issues with infidelity, whatever. Everything has an end date. Everything has a beginning and an end, a high and a low, a top and a bottom. It's up to us to thank those choices for being the (sometimes) gift they were intended to be, so you could become the incredible human being you always knew you are...with or without dressing on the side.


Have you experienced a "bottom"? What was it?



Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?


" tell me now, and I won't ask again; Will you still love me tomorrow?" -The Shirelles

Almost unwilling, I peel my seventeen year-old half naked body off my twin-sized bed, dragging my feet in slow motion over to my ugly, cumbersome brown dresser. I reach  for my Wizard of Oz tin box and take my sweet time sifting through all my secrets; personal notes I passed in school, a mini bottle of vodka, a small bag of weed--but nothing to smoke it with, of course-- and condoms. 'I'm so bad', I think to myself. I rip one from the strip, like it's a ticket stub, and I can feel the thing slip-slide out of and around my fingers, from within the tiny square package. I bring it to him with uncertainty, as if to ask, "Is this what you need? Can I get anything else for you? Can I be anyone else for you?" He takes it from me and for the first time since our first kiss, he looks like he doesn't know what to do. Mostly, I don't know what to do. 

When I was seventeen, many of my friends and acquaintances had already been having sex and oddly, I got a lot of attention for still being a virgin. I felt proud, or relieved, or something. When people asked what I was waiting for, I usually responded with, "I just want to wait until I'm okay with the guy leaving right afterward, because, well, they always leave." Any psychologist will tell you this is a significant and dangerous belief for a young woman to have.

I watch him tear open the small wrapper like a Christmas present. I realize he's spending forever looking at this thing from all angles. Has he forgotten I'm right next to him? I want this to be the moment he asks me to be his girlfriend. I want to hear him say reassuring words. But all he does is grunt and struggle to put the condom on. Eventually he leans in for a kiss; a weird 'this-is-how-we're-supposed-to-start-I-think' kiss, and I don't realize my body has scooted away a few inches. Then a few more. Then a few more, until his body is practically chasing mine along my little-girl bed."You'll never catch me", I tell him with my eyes.

Despite friends trying to describe it to me, I didn't know what sex was supposed to feel like. But I guessed it wasn't having my skin shrink back from his, my stomach roll with panic and sadness, my head pound out this is wrong. And when my body acted like that, I felt confused. I kept reminding myself I want this...I want him. I kept trying to convince myself that on some level, he loved really liked me. Whether I really loved him wasn't the point; I just wanted to feel adored. Wanted. Desired. Not forgotten. Unforgettable.

For a moment, I stare wide-eyed where the wall meets the ugly popcorn ceiling as a familiar song starts humming in my head; "Will you still love me tomorrow", by The Shirelles. I suddenly acknowledge that this will eventually come to an end and it most likely won't be in my favor. He is going to leave afterward, no matter what choice I make, and he may never come back. I'll be left defeated, confused, uncertain and broken, like so many young women who find themselves in this situation are.  I somehow decide I'm too smart for this, though, and before I can turn my head to look into his big blue eyes, before I can tell him what I'm thinking, his unusually stern, annoyed voice startles me; "Erica! Yes or No?" I wish I could answer with confidence and not shame. I wish I could make him understand what I'm going through. I wish I could make him love me. But it doesn't matter, the answer will be the same..."No", I whisper. And I watch as he puts on his clothes, and leaves.

I keep digging and searching for the *exact* moment I learned that the act of sex and being left go hand in hand. Even though I waited until age twenty-three to have sex, in the confines of a committed relationship, I still didn't and don't find it easy to feel worthy, or special, or wanted, or cherished or loved by men. Each time I hear that Shirelles song on my iPod, tears well up in my eyes, time stands still, my chest turns red and I'm seventeen again; I'm right back on my twin-sized bed, wondering why it seems everyone else is so much easier to love than me.

As much as I adore my job, it's hard for me to go to work sometimes. It's hard for me to be surrounded by women with beautiful wedding rings and even more beautiful children. It's hard for me not to wonder what they have that I don't. What have they grasped that I cannot reach? Did they have to recognize their own worth before meeting their partners? Did they have to spend most of their twenties in therapy? How much work did they have to do on themselves before being a part of a healthy, joyful and unconditionally loving relationship? I'm no fool; I know that no one knows what a relationship really looks like behind closed doors. I'm just saying that I see a lot of present, attentive, loving, smiling Moms and Dads every day and I just want to be one of them. I want to feel worthy of being one of them.

Sometimes, I picture myself as a newborn. I imagine grownup me scooping up that sweet, round little baby Erica, holding her close and telling her she's worthy. I tell her she's deserving of a love that has little to do with sex and everything to do with intimacy. I want her to know the world is full of good men; that all men are not like the ones who'll hurt her. Most of all, I want to tell her that only when she unconditionally loves herself, when she truly takes herself to the next level and exists only as the highest, most incredible version of herself, can a relationship do the same. She needs to hear all that. And one day, she will meet a man who'll not only love her tomorrow, but always.