Eating Disorders, Adoption, and Why I’m a Semi-Happy Size 6

My binge eating disorder is this weird, omnipresent thing. It’s always lurking about in the shadows, but that doesn’t mean I’m binge eating every opportunity I get, but THAT doesn’t mean I don’t have it during the off-season. I mean, it’s like other mental illnesses in that way — I have clinical depression, but I’m not plagued with the sads and the “I-don’t-want-to-exist”s 24/7 (thank goodness).

So I guess that’s my way of explaining why I don’t discuss it all that much. I’m not ashamed of it so much as I’m either blissfully unaware that I’m in the throes of major binge eating till one night I’m laying in bed with the worst stomachache of life because I ate when I should have stopped five meals ago OR I’m eating just fine. Until I’m not.

Binge eating disorder is the one no one talks about and the majority of people don’t believe is a real issue (“You’re just eating because you’re bored,” “Everyone snacks before bed,” “You don’t look like you have an eating disorder”). Do we all binge from time to time? Totally. We have seratonin in our stomachs that reacts more strongly than the seratonin in our brains, and when carbs hit, we’re euphoric, and that feels awesome, so we have more. It’s not complicated. But the whole disorder — eating alone so others don’t see you, lying about what you’ve eaten, feeling such an incredible sense of shame nearly all of the time that you start to wonder if purging is actually as bad as it sounds. (I’ve never tried. I’m not one for throwing up.) It has nothing to do with the food — nothing at all.

Mine can be supposedly traced back to my days in the womb, little Fetus Mary just chilling in some amniotic fluid in the belly of a woman who starved herself to hide her pregnancy (which she successfully did all the way to the day of my birth, where I emerged feet first at 5 1/2 lbs.). As it was explained to me by both a Dietetics major and my psychologist, when I did get food — any food at all, which we can assume was infrequent and lacking in basic nutrition — I gobbled it up. I yearned for food, and when it arrived, I snatched up as much as I could because I knew it might be awhile before I got more. And my brain developed with the fear that perhaps the food wouldn’t come, that I had to eat what I could when opportunity arose, because it may be the last chance.

So here I am, 32 years old, with the occasional penchant to eating and eating and eating and eating and eating bread followed by chips followed by fruit followed by cheese followed by popcorn followed by a salad followed by a sandwich because deep down in my heart, I am afraid I won’t get another opportunity.

It’s perfectly illogical, so you’re preaching to the choir if you want to tell me all about that. I wish I didn’t have it. But when it is late at night, and there is a cookie in my pantry (or six or twelve or an entire package), there is nothing anyone can do or say that will fully convince me that it will still actually be there tomorrow. And then, because I am so stressed by my stress that I wanna up and vomit, I’ll eat some more to self-comfort. That I am not morbidly obese by now can only be chalked up to my Korean genetics, a strand of DNA that ensures I will never be fatter than around 140 lbs., even while binge eating, even while living a sedentary lifestyle. But please, whatever you do, don’t tell me I’m lucky because I’d take being fat over being mentally ill any day.

Lately I’ve been counting my calories in a non-obsessive, curiosity piqued sort of way through my Fitbit and exercising almost daily in hopes that at the end of the day, I will be able to have a small ice cream sundae or some McDonald’s fries or a glass of lemonade or some small treat — a reward, really — that tells me I’ve successfully achieved my daily goal of not overeating. Thus far, I’ve been able to indulge a little bit every night for the past week without going over a 500 calorie deficit except for this one night where I did, but I still ate less than I expended (and I’m very proud to inform you that I ordered a Medium fry at McDonald’s tonight, and I didn’t even finish it all). It’s been kind of liberating, taking charge of my eating habits rather than letting them take complete and utter control over me. I’ve been trying to make peace with the fact that I am no longer a rail-thin size 2/XS who can tuck her blouse into her pants and not look like sausage, that I am allowed to have new clothes, that I am allowed to look cute, and that it is perfectly acceptable for me to go up a size or two as needed because the clothes just look better (have you ever seen a woman who simultaneously muffin-topped and camel-toed? It’s tragic.). I am working on being happy. I mean, isn’t that all anyone wants? Just a general sense of happiness with his/her own physical, mental, and spiritual well-being?

But I know this may not last forever. We’re going on a cruise this Saturday, where an all-you-can-eat buffet and free room service will be my nemeses, where we won’t have internet service and I won’t want to log my calories anyhow because what a mood killer, and I’m a little worried that I’ll snap mid-way through and wake up one morning to make the unfortunate decision to have fifteen strips of bacon for breakfast, followed by hashbrowns, eggs, pancakes, toast, and fruit (I’ve done something similar, I really have, and yes I felt awful afterward). And I know, I know, I can start all over again and I shouldn’t consider it a failure as much as a lesson learned, but ideally I’ll just be a normal person who doesn’t lose her mind when presented with unlimited food. (Having my husband shooting me warning glances will probably help, and before you think, “Oh my gosh he’s a tyrant!”, know that he’s just doing what I need him to in order to survive through this life.) Ideally, there will be no self-loathing on this trip.

Perhaps even if my birthmother had been the peak of physical health and nutrition while she was pregnant with me, I still would have been struck with an eating disorder. It’s not really off the table. But sometimes I wish things had gone differently, that she’d felt comfortable confiding in a family member or a friend before it was too late, that she had a maternal instinct kick in that told her she needed to give me the best she possibly could because I was trying to survive in there and I’d need to survive, even longer, out here.

Sometimes I wish.

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We’re All a Little Bit Racist

I mean, that’s true, isn’t it? Even when we don’t mean to be, racism just kind of inherently happens because stereotypes exist, and we as a society bow down to them, and then we start to think we’re right.

Stereotypes come from somewhere — they have to — so the argument, I suppose, is that they hold within them some iota of truth. And while that may be the case, over-generalizing an entire group of people, whether by ethnicity, country of origin, religion, or political stance, is something we should probably all avoid. Even if a study were done that proved it to be true in 98% of all cases, there would still be that 2% proving it is not a blanket theory.

So Mexicans slough at work, Blacks kill police officers, Asians are good at math, Indians may actually be computers in human form, and White people are gun-toting patriots.

I’m going to go ahead and just dispel any idea that Asians are good at math because I am quite terrible at it (in recent years, I’ve become a math atheist. And I know, I know, you’re wondering what it ever did to me and why I’m bearing a grudge, but it’s far easier to not acknowledge its existence than let it ruin my life). I do not play the violin. I’m pretty lazy and lack self-discipline. I speak one language, and I don’t eat rice on a regular basis (because, you know, carbs are bad for you *insert eye roll here*).

There’s this misconception that, so long as it’s “positive,” it’s not racist. And it’s true that not all stereotypes are racist, but for the most part, all racism is stereotypical. I belong to a group of individuals who are often viewed as the superior minority — my people work hard and apply themselves. Except for, you know, the ones who don’t, but they’re in the minority of the minority and simply do not count. When you say to me, “You must be good at math,” don’t snow yourself into thinking what you said wasn’t actually racist because *sighs* it was. Offensive? Not particularly, until I start thinking about the racism aspect, but I realize you could say far worse things to me, so I suppose I should count my blessings that I belong to the most worthwhile race.

By the way, not all Asians work hard. *raises hand* I slept in till 11:30 today and didn’t get out of bed for two hours.

I feel like I need to also say something on the matter of racism in humor. Look, a few of my favorite stand-up comedians are kings and queens of self-deprecating humor relating to their ethnicities and countries of origin. We could probably argue all day long as to whether that humor is a good outlet to deal with the duality of being a minority in America or a negative impact on an entire race because it’s feeding into the stereotypes. I personally consider it the former, although I’ve heard some that not only stepped into the latter but actually jumped in head first, and then it was no longer amusing to me. And unfair though it may be to you, it’s just more acceptable for minorities to joke about, you know, being minorities.

Otherwise, racism in humor is awkwardly uncomfortable to me. If something is both funny and racist, the take away from that ultimately should be that it’s racist, and it just shouldn’t ever be uttered. Really nothing should ever trump racism. When I was in high school, I was working on a group project with some friends. One white boy, one white girl, one black boy, and myself, so like … AMERICA! Somehow the topic of funny racist jokes came up (I feel like it must have been jokes at first and then treaded into the uncomfortable place of racism), and after the white boy told one particularly offensive “joke” involving the n-word (he actually said it right there in front of my friend, Marvin, and I don’t recall how he reacted, but I was none too pleased), my friend (I’m just going to spoil the ending for you and let you know the relationship ended upon utterance of this joke) said, “No offense, Mary, but …”

I’m going to give you a brief lesson on how to be a decent human. If you must begin anything with the words “no offense,” then you really shouldn’t say it ever at all under any circumstances. You are openly admitting that you are a fool because 1. you know you shouldn’t say it, 2. you’re admitting you know it, and 3. you’re doing it anyhow. Seriously, that makes you suck at humanhood.

The rest was, “… What do you say to an Asian you see in the hall? …*insert the most uncomfortable silence known to man* … I CHINK I GOT SOME GOOK IN MY EYE!”

So, I mean, like I said, the friendship died a fiery death right then and there. One racial epithet is more than enough, two is just gratuitous.

The problem is, I know what her line of thinking was — as an adoptee, I’m considered by many friends and acquaintances to essentially not be Asian. And while I am certainly not interested in Korean culture, the fact that I was born in Asia to parents of Asian descent and a long line of Asian ancestors makes me, ahem, Asian. I can’t really alter that. But because of this non-Asianness, I am somehow immune to all things racist? (I do pose this as a question because it baffles me still.) I may watch the Super Bowl and eat pizza and listen to Adele while wearing leggings (I draw the line at Uggs, although I bought some seriously cute leg warmers today), but … still Asian. Still going to be offended by racist comments.

It happens, accidental (and intentional) racism. And whether or not you believe race is something created by society to separate us and we’re all just humans gosh darnit, it’s here to stay. I doubt we’ll ever truly be able to get away from it. (Also, I think that’s a really stupid argument and sounds like something a white person would say to seem relevant to his ethnic “peeps”.) What’s important, however, is how mindful we are on a daily basis, how hard we try to be thoughtful and kind and to ignore all the stereotypes, allowing ourselves to simply learn about those around us.

Adoption in the Media

For whatever reason, adoption has kind of been a taboo topic for decades upon decades upon decades. I don’t really understand it myself — adoption happens, it’s a thing, babies being placed in loving homes is basically the raddest ever. Let’s just talk about it, guys.

And let’s not pretend like babies are adopted for reasons only related to illegitimacy or youthful parenthood — children are adopted every day for every reason under the sun. And you can sit around thinking the birthparents are terrible people who made awful decisions, that they brought a child into the world without wanting it in the first place, but might I remind you that they did not get an abortion. So let’s not call names, shall we?

Teen pregnancy is even more taboo — like we don’t want to discuss the fact that teenagers have sex (and *gasps* KNOW about it, God help us all). And what a remarkably brave, mature decision to place a child for adoption in hopes for a better life for not only the child but themselves. It’s not selfish that they hope for better lives for themselves, either — I believe it’s commendable if they want to finish high school, go to college, find careers, fall in love, and have children when they are more ready for it. I’m not condoning teen pregnancy, but I think it’s time that we stopped looking down on them so much.

We’re humans. We make choices. Sometimes the choices are less good than others.

Aside from “Juno,” I haven’t noticed a ton of teen pregnancy and subsequent adoption in the media all that much (unless you turn to the Lifetime Network, and I know, I know, every few hours someone is placing a baby because she was 15 and pregnant, 16 and expecting, or pregnant at 17). So when “Mom,” one of my favorite sitcoms starring Anna Faris and Allison Janney (who, btw, are two of the most under-appreciated female comediennes out there today), decided to not only perpetuate the family theme of becoming pregnant at a fairly young age but then PLACE THE BABY FOR ADOPTION, I was pretty excited.

First off, I need to clear up a few things: a birthmother NEVER, under any circumstances, “gives” her baby up. So the verbage they continually use each episode is grating because it’s entirely wrong. A birthmother places her child with another loving family. They never give anything up.

But that aside, and I understand that’s mostly due to societal ignorance because it wasn’t till recently that people started addressing the whole placed v. gave up, they’re doing things pretty well. The daughter wants to place her child, the father was scared at first but SPOILER ALERT decided it was going to be the best option for everyone. And then we met the SPOILER ALERT IF YOU DIDN’T BELIEVE ME THE FIRST TIME future adoptive parents, who, you guys this is so huge, was comprised of a Caucasian male and an Asian female. Like, an interracial couple adopting a white baby.

THESE THINGS, THEY DON’T REALLY HAPPEN. And it made me really pleased. Like, oh my gosh, society is apparently ready for this. And no one’s freaking out that an Asian woman will have a Caucasian baby for the rest of her life because hey! It’s America! It’s 2014! We do stuff like that, and it’s awesome! (And don’t even get me started on the whole interracial couple thing — the first one I ever saw was between Eric Matthews and one of his girlfriends in “Boy Meets World,” and as a little Asian girl fully aware she’d marry a white man, that was rad.)

“Mom”: attacking all the potentially controversial topics in one fell swoop.

This only makes me crave more. Let’s recognize that society, it is changing, and for the most part it’s changing for the better. Because not that long ago, my birthmother would have been shunned in her society for having a child out of wedlock, and I wouldn’t have been able to legally marry my pasty-white husband, and not much longer ago than that, I wouldn’t have even been able to vote.

10 Things that Don’t Need to Be Said

As an anxiety-ridden obsessive-compulsive Korean-American adoptee Mormon in an interracial couple with a penchant for depression and not planning on having children, I kind of get the whole gamut of things people probably don’t ever need to utter under any circumstances.

Also, I am really addicted to BuzzFeed right now, so here goes.

1. “I’m kind of OCD” and/or “That’s kind of OCD.”
To specify, you can’t really “kind of” be OCD. You either are or you aren’t. What you CAN be, however, is generally compulsive, which is a trait every single person on this earth has. You don’t have to have some mental disorder to feel compelled to alphabetize your Blu-Rays (which, by the way, if you’re not doing, just start, okay?) or organize your kitchen counters. You aren’t mentally ill if you don’t like fuzz on your clothing or notice a speck of food on your work desk. If you weren’t compulsive, you’d be kind of … in a vegetative state of apathy, when you really think about it.

Image courtesy of youtube.com

Image courtesy of youtube.com


2. “Just think happy thoughts.”
Just stop. Just stop now. People suffering from depression, seasonal or otherwise, do not need to hear your sage advice as to how to overcome it. There is an inherent difference between depression and feeling blue. Feeling blue is one of those things that would absolutely be fixed by thinking happy thoughts and eating cheesecake. Depression isn’t really. If it were that easy to overcome, we’d all be thinking the damn happiest thoughts on earth all of the time.

Image courtesy of juxtapost.com

Image courtesy of juxtapost.com

3. “Don’t worry about it” or “Don’t stress too much.”
I will if I want to. I will if I don’t want to. There is literally no way that you can convince someone with anxiety that things aren’t worth worrying or stressing over. Just let us deal in the ways we need to deal. Like with medicine and therapists. This especially goes for individuals who have OCD. “Oh, so you want me, an obsessive, to cease worrying? Done and done.” <—– will literally never happen
Your plan to make us stop worrying is futile, so you may as well just throw in the towel and either worry with us or love us for our other outstanding qualities.

Image courtesy of glennster.deviantart.com/

Image courtesy of glennster.deviantart.com/

4. “Never say never!”
This is specifically in reference to the not planning on kids issue. I get it, you and your spouse and your children are the happiest family on earth, and I admire that. There’s nothing bad about having a family; I literally can think of nothing unless, of course, you’re Amanda Bynes, and then maybe hold off, mmkay?
When people hit a certain age, like 29 or 30, and Spouse has been through an -ectomy, and both are college graduates with their heads on straight, chances are they are old enough to have made a solid decision together that doesn’t involve anyone else. Also, colloquialisms. Let’s just rid ourselves of them right now while we can.
Furthermore, should we change our minds, that’s not a good time for you to say “I told you so.”

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

5. “Where are you from?”
Oregon.
No, but where are you from?
Oregon.
Before that.
Well, I was born in South Korea, but I was adopted when I was three months old.
<insert awkward Korean phrase here>
Oh, I don’t actually speak the language. Because I was three months old.
When are you going back?
… I don’t really have plans to.
Don’t you want to meet your real family?
They’re in Oregon. I see them pretty regularly.
etc.
et cetera

Just watch this.


6. Anything about the “real” family.
Let’s just establish something: calling either the birthfamily or the adoptive family real is offensive to the other and generally incorrect. The best way to get around this? One’s a birthfamily. The other is family. Adoptees don’t generally consider themselves to have any sort of fake family in the mix.

Images courtesy of mamiverse.com

Images courtesy of mamiverse.com

7. “What’s your real name?”
Not all adoptees, especially those adopted domestically, have different names than the ones they’ll have the rest of their lives. And it kind of goes back to the real v. fake family thing. I was given a Korean name by the adoption agency (Kim Jong Mee, which I find disturbingly similar to the former and current presidents of North Korea), but my real name, which appears on my birth certificate, is Mary. Always has been, always will be.

Image courtesy of thegazette.com

Image courtesy of thegazette.com

8. “You speak really good English” (can be followed by “… for being from Hong Kong” and yes, that really happened in my real life)
I’d hope so. I was an English major, after all.

Image courtesy of forlackofabettercomic.com

Image courtesy of forlackofabettercomic.com

9. “You’re Mormon? How many wives do you have? hahahahahahaha”
Polygamy (called plural marriage by Mormons in the 19th century …) was taught by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) for more than half of the 19th century, and practiced publicly from 1852 to 1890 by a minority of families (between 20% and 30%). (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormonism_and_polygamy)
For the record, we haven’t practiced polygamy for 123 years now. That’s a long time. That’s longer than the oldest person in the world has been alive. So probably we can stop with the jokes about it.

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

10. Are you going to raise your kids bilingual?
If you’re talking to an adoptee, then don’t even bother. If you’re not talking to an adoptee, then maybe. Maybe they will raise their kids to be multilingual. Maybe their kids are going to get all the jobs because they speak literally every dialect on earth.
Probably it is not your business. Also, seriously disinteresting when it really boils down to it.

Image courtesy of memegenerator.net

Image courtesy of memegenerator.net