The Guilty Confessions of a Sub-radical Writer

It’s a balancing act, really, between interrogation and compliance within the system of eating disorders.

I’ve moved back on to campus this week and find myself yet again surrounded by brilliant, innovative, passionate, radical minds, which, though exciting, has made me anxious. I’m a college student at a liberal New England university (it’s almost cliche now, isn’t it?) and it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I’m a “lefter” (lingo courtesy of my Republican uncle). So what you might expect are culturo-political rants about societal body control, the embodiment of the patriarchy, and racialized diet politics and food fads. Lots of heated vocabulary to describe what I’m passionate about, essentially. So where are the rants?

Scan my blog and you’ll find a dearth of well-developed, scholarly critiques, which is something I feel more than a bit guilty about, particularly as a sociologist. A significant part of me wants to dedicate this blog to my own impassioned soliloquies about the cultural construction of eating disorders. But, generally speaking, I don’t. With a fair few exceptions, you’ll find that this blog lingers at the surface, touching mostly on individual experiences, pointers and inspiration, and thought-driving questions that only begin to probe at underlying elements.

If you’re anything like me you’re probably wondering, “What’s up, Anna? Why stay at the surface when that’s nearly all that appears in mainstream media, anyways?” I’ll take a moment to explain the apparent “sub-radicality” of my blog thus far.

In having and recovering from eating disorders, I’ve found that it’s always a challenge and occasionally impossible to clear the angry, food-fearing voices in my head. It’s like a constant, obsessive, addicted buzzing (You’re fat, stop eating, stop bingeing, you need to exercise, you’re worthless) which takes constant effort to subdue. It’s exhausting, and unfortunately a familiar story for a lot of folks with eating disorders and disordered eating. At the peaks of my eating disorders, I felt totally unable to contemplate the gendered politics of eating disorders. I was, frankly, far more focused on getting through another meal.

That’s why I’m staying (mostly) at the surface. I want folks who are drowning in their eating disorders and disordered eating, or who are struggling with recovery, to find this site hopeful, if not helpful, and eye-opening in a secondary fashion. Take my last post, for example: Post-Binge Tips. I’m not going anywhere near the historical meanings of bingeing and starving, though I’ll admit it would be fun. I’m staying in the moment that feels, for lots of people, the most unbearable. I’m staying on the surface because that’s where recovery started for me. Problematic? Probably.

To be sure, you’ll find plenty of material slipping through where I can’t help but pull apart systemic diagnosis and the medicalization of eating. I can’t avoid it– it’s my field of study. But I’m making a concerted effort to at least balance it with whatever I think might be helpful for folks in crisis moments of disorder or recovery.

Some would argue that I should always interrogate the systems of illness and disorder, gender and body, and that posts like “Post-Binge Tips” are missing the point. Essentially, I am in agreement with that. But I also need to reconcile that fact with the knowledge that reading others’ post-binge tips helped me many times over the years feel less isolated and better able to cope with disordered eating. It’s a balancing act, really, between interrogation and compliance within the system of eating disorders. Hopefully I’m striking the right one. What do you think?

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