Four months before my wedding I gained ten pounds. That might not sound like a lot — but when you’re a relatively small person, ten pounds doesn’t go unnoticed. Trust me. Plus, I’m the type of person whose face completely changes when she retains a few pre-menstrual ounces of water weight.
Only this wasn’t water weight. It was pasta weight. Pasta doesn’t sweat out of your pores after 20 minutes in the steam room (I know this because I tried).
Subsequently, I had just started a new antidepressant and it was working wonders. It was like I had been living in a room with thick blackout curtains that had suddenly been drawn open wide. All of this newfound light was pouring in.
All hopped up on serotonin and dopamine, I felt happy! And when I’m happy(!), I’m hungry. Really, really hungry! I had been sad-girl-skinny for the past eight or so years, and all of a sudden it was like I could really taste food again. I’d been born a savagely hungry girl but my appetite had gotten the hell out of Dodge fast when my major depressive disorder moved in.
And now ye ole’ appetite was back. Back with a vengeance. Purr. And she was starving after so many years of painful deprivation. Meow!
I went from gagging down a few nibbles of a protein bar at dinner to devouring massive bowls teeming with glorious pasta. I had forgotten how much I truly, madly, deeply loved food. Specifically Italian food. Even more specifically, fettucini alfredo. Sigh. One of the great loves of my life.
It had been my favorite dish as a kid before the demons of depression crept into my brain and snatched my taste-buds away. And now, suddenly as a bride-to-be, I couldn’t stop ordering fettucini alfredo. I dreamt about fettucini alfredo. I spent lulls in the workday fantasizing about ~beautiful~ fettucini alfredo. I fixated on gold-plated platters of olive-oil adorned, creamy, cheesy pasta from the moment I woke up until the second I went to sleep.
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For the past decade, I’ve been on and off depressed, and on and off f*cked in the head about my weight. I know it’s not evolved or cool to be f*cked up about your weight, so I’m sorry about that. Truly. I wish I could be the body-positive role model that everyone else on the internet seems to be, but I’m not. I came of age in the dark time of “heroin chic.” I was an actress as a teenager and had been told by balding male agents to drop weight from the time I was fifteen. I grew up worshipping at the altar of Kate Moss and Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder and all the other 90s’ manic pixie dream girl waifs that ruled the slacker generation.
I don’t know what came first, the eating disorder or the depression. I’m still not sure if feeling depressed and anxious made me skinny or if starving myself made me depressed and anxious. It’s probably a little bit of both. The truth is, depriving myself of the fabulous food I’d adored my whole life became effortless to me by the age of 21. I somehow lost touch with my body’s natural rhythms — I couldn’t ever sleep, I could hardly eat and didn’t have a regular period.
And then the magical new antidepressant came into my life! That mixed with being in a healthy, loving relationship, finishing a creative project that had been haunting me for years, and finally making peace with my past rendered me a real live girl in touch with a real live appetite. I began bleeding regularly. I began sleeping. I had never been so utterly happy before.
Then it was time for me to get married. I know most women obsessively diet before their wedding and I had planned on doing the same, but suddenly the wedding was two shy weeks away and dieting had completely slipped through the Zoloft-laden cracks in my mind.
Do you know how I really know if antidepressants are really working? I don’t give a shit if I put on weight when properly medicated.
“Why would I starve myself for love of all the things? It’s a wedding, not an audition!,” I would smugly say to anyone who would listen. No one knew what to say back to me, because anyone close to me (or who has read my articles over the past decade) knows that having a healthy body image is wildly out of character for me. No one mentioned my size two wedding dress lingering in the back of my mother’s closet, for no one wanted to be responsible for uttering the one innocent comment that tipped me over the edge and sent me spiraling into back into full-blown eating disorder again. Who wants to star in that essay?
It wasn’t until two weeks before the wedding when I went into my final fitting that things got uh, real, to say the least. It took three strong Armenian women to hoist me into my pale pink tulle number. If I wanted to avoid ripping the bodice of my wedding dress if I dared breathed — I had to lose weight. Fast. I spent a small fortune on that stunning dress there was no way I wasn’t fitting into it.
“I’ll go on a diet tomorrow.” I kept saying to my best friend Eduardo, before ordering us a round of the burrata and avocado appetizer and another bottle of wine.
Pretty soon the wedding was ten days away and I definitely had not shed a single pound. I could feel the horrors of self-loathing creeping into my brain like a little mouse tip-toeing toward a slice of deli meat on a bodega floor.
So I put myself on an extreme diet. Pure Barre workouts every single day, no carbs, restricted calories, and no booze. It was horrendous but the struggle was proving to be worth it. I was starting to look like my old self again.
“I can’t wait until this wedding is over and I can eat pasta again,” I would sing-song dreamily as I gazed into the future and stuck a meek forkful of naked salmon into my sad mouth.
Three nights before the wedding I did a little dress rehearsal for my mother. It was a tight squeeze into the gown but she fit.
“You can’t gain an ounce,” my mother schooled me, “or I won’t be able to zip it.”
“Oh, I’m living off water and carrots for the next three days. And working out twice a day. I just need to lose water weight.”
“Yeah, you’ll be fine. Just be careful the next few days, darling,” sweet mumsy said cheerily.
Two nights before my wedding my fiance’s family came to Florida (where the wedding was taking place) from New York (their hometown). They’re a rowdy, charismatic bunch, super fun to party with. And your girl loves to party. We decided that since they had never been to Sarasota, Florida that we would all go to dinner. Whatever, I thought, I”ll just have a few bites of ceviche and a treat myself to a vodka soda. That’s what all the models drink. (I know this because I’ve asked them).
“Zara, be careful drinking, you’ve been working out a lot,” my dad said, raising his brow, watching me, his eyes full of fatherly disapproval as I took a giant swing of my vodka soda.
“I’m fine, Dad,” I said, already feeling myself starting to slur. I’m a lightweight to begin with, but now with zero carbohydrate bird food and a hefty dose of antidepressants swishing through my system my tolerance was that of a spindly fourteen-year-old boy.
Also: You can not put me at a table full of rowdy boys and expect me not to get rowdy. I love rowdy boys and because I’m a lesbian who happens to work on an all-female team, I don’t get to hang with rowdy boys much. And these New York boys were bringing out the wild in both my brother (my best man) and me.
“You OK? Remember the rehearsal dinner is tomorrow night,” Meghan, my fiancee, whispered to me. She was spending the night at a hotel with her best friend, while I was going back to my parent’s house with my brother. “The boys want to go out. I really don’t think you should go.”
She was right. I knew it. Even in my buzzed state. “You’re right,” I said sheepishly. My brother and I responsibly slid into a cab and made our way home. As the cab pulled into my parent’s street, my eyes caught a glimpse of the local pub I’ve been dutifully getting plastered at since high school, literally just a few yards from my parent’s house.
“Let’s go in for one!” I said, feeling my eyes start to glitter. “Just a brother/sister drink before I’m a married woman.”
“That’s a great idea.” My brother’s eyes sparkled back at me.
Cut to two a.m. and I’m taking shots. Of tequila. Somehow my best friends Eduardo, Matty, Josh and Eric (all rowdy gay boys) have arrived. I suppose I had called up the gay boys and told them to come? I wasn’t quite sure. It was all getting very blurry in my brain. I have a flash of my friend Nick from high school arriving. Glasses clinking. I may or may not have made a tearful speech on a microphone?
All these fuzzy memories buzzed like lightning through my head as I woke up with a pounding heartbeat and a strange taste in my mouth. I touched my face. My eye make-up was still on. I looked down. There was smeared food all over my dress (I had slept in my clothes.) I stumbled out of bed and looked into the mirror. My face was about ten times its usual size. My fingers were so puffy my engagement ring pinched the tender skin it wrapped around. What had happened last night? I clumsily tripped down the stairs of and fell into the kitchen where my mother was primly stirring her tea.
“Well, well, well,” she purred twirling a golden lock of silk, naturally straight hair around her un-puffy finger. “I don’t suppose you remember getting home last night?”
Shame. Shame. Shame. An army of shame marched across my brain and shot off guns into my heart.
“You and your brother came in completely wasted. And you began to eat the entire box of bagels.” She took a sip of tea.
“What? Why didn’t you stop me?” I suddenly knew why my face was so goddamn puffy. Not eating carbs and then suddenly binging on carbs will inflate you like one of those huge pool floats you see on aspirational Instagram accounts.
“I tried,” my mother said a bemused look dancing upon her un-puffy face.
“You accused me of fat shaming you and then your lovely brother said I was going to give you an eating disorder. So I just let you eat the entire box of bagels.”
Oh god. I had pulled the “fat shaming” card on my poor mother who was only trying to protect me from the inevitable shame spiral that was going to destroy my soul the next morning. I needed to get out of media and get a reality check. Badly.
Not only that but I was looking a little rough around the edges. Blacking out in my makeup a few nights before my wedding hadn’t been my plan. I could feel revenge zits making their way across my oily, bloated face.
And then suddenly something came over me. I wasn’t going to let this slip up drag me down. An epiphany came over me, right there in my mother’s kitchen. I’ve been dieting my whole goddamn life. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that extreme diets only lead to dark shit. Like drunken binges and regretful entrances into your mother’s house and blackouts. I vowed to never to do that to my body or my spirit again. I was certain that deep down inside I had gotten wasted because I need a break from dieting. From the pressure of looking perfect. From the pressure of the wedding. From all of it! And I don’t want to get married under this negative attitude of pressure and deprivation anyway. So I let it go. And that’s how I really knew the meds were working. I binged before my wedding and was able to forgive myself and still feel beautiful.
And for the record — I did fit into my dress. Was it a tight squeeze? Hell yes. Were there marks peppered across my torso when I peeled it off — yes, bitch. Did I look fabulous? Hell yes, bitch. And not because I was skinny — I looked fabulous because I was a woman who was tired of treating her body like shit. And that kind of freedom permeates out of you and transfers as beauty. And more than I wanted to be skinny at my wedding, I wanted to be beautiful. And beauty only flourishes when you’re having a good goddamn time. And I don’t know about you, but I never have a good goddamn time when I’m hungry.
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