Hungry to Speak

You ask her why she doesn’t eat that food anymore. She tells you she doesn’t care for it.  She tells you she is full. She tells you it’s unhealthy.
She tells you she is eating raw food now.
She doesn’t tell you that it’s because of the calories, that it’s because she wants to lose weight, that she wants more than anything in the world to eat it and feel okay.
What is going on inside when you see her eat?
This is not easy. She does not wish to tell you.
See, she can’t even talk in first person.
When you see her eat, her heart beats fast. She wishes you wouldn’t watch her eat. She wonders how much you think about what she eats. She decides what she will eat next to make it look like she is not eating too much. She waits until it is noisy enough in the room so that you may not notice how much she is eating when she grabs something else.
She seems calm. She sits there acting like nothing is wrong because she doesn’t want you to see how loud she is screaming inside. She doesn’t want you to know how embarrassing this is for her.
I will speak now.
You ask my why I’m fat; I’ve gained weight, I am no longer as thin as I was. But this does not mean recovery. What kind of eating disorder is this, anyway?  You ask why I can’t have more self-control. I tell you, it is because I used to have all the control in the world.
You ask me why I take food out of the trash. I tell you that it is because I used to spit my food into it.
You ask my why you find food wrappers, empty cans of vegetables in strange places around the house. I tell you it is because I pushed food away for so long, and now there is a shaking, anxious girl inside of me that is scared she will never have enough.
I am scared to feel the hunger again. I am scared you will see the monster I held back for so long.
This girl you see today? This is the monster I’ve been hiding all along. This is the girl I was ashamed to admit I buried inside for years. This is the girl who was scared—is scared—to admit that she has a big, fat problem with food, because the control she had before was never hers to begin with.
You ask her how she could possibly have an eating disorder if she looks anything but anorexic. She has no response for you, because her voice is trapped in the bottom of her stomach—the stomach that screams to be filled, to be emptied, to be punished. She has no words to articulate, because how can she explain that what goes on inside speaks louder than what she reveals on the outside? She wants to stop, but her body rebels.
Have you ever heard a body scream? I have. It was my own, and I kept strangling it, kept pushing her beneath the shallow bathwater.
Stay there. Stop breathing. Stop scrambling.
Stop eating.
Cold water splashes. Body thrashes. She suffocates.

Photographer: Jennette Kristen Laven

Photographer: Jennette Kristen Laven
I hurt because I don’t want to be told that every emotion, every scream for release, every moment I have been through is a lie. Because what else can I call this obsession, this war with food?
I wish I could show you my pain. I wish I could have the guts to show you the monster within when I eat by myself. I wish I could make you feel the deep hunger when I restrict, make you see the gluttony consume me as I consume it. I wish you could feel the isolation as I sit holed up in my room, as I hide in the bathroom, as I sneak off into an empty room and eat.
Because I am embarrassed. Because years ago I took the bread off the dinner table and pretended to chew it before my family, only to excuse myself to go to the bathroom and flush it down the toilet.
I wish I had the guts to show you the stashes of food I hide in my room, in my purse, in my desk drawers. But I know that embarrassment holds me back, that I try so desperately to keep this hidden so that no one will know that I keep this such a big secret, that when you ask about how I could have an eating disorder, I have no words left to give.
Call it a lie, call it fear, call it lack of control or discipline—but in my head it is more real than I will ever know.
This is why I do not want to eat to begin with. This is why I fear hunger. This is why my obsession with food continues everyday. Because I know I will have to eat again. And when I do, I no longer feel that I can control my body. It takes over, and the girl who was drowning beneath the water comes up with a vengeance and twists me around. She twists around my mind and drowns that instead.


You ask me why I eat in secret.
I tell you it is because I am ashamed to eat at all.

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. She has published articles about running and running with an eating disorder in Michigan Runner magazine and is a level 1 USA track and field certified coach. Mogul, an award-winning technology platform that enables women worldwide to share ideas and solicit advice, awarded Steil the title of “Mogul Influencer” for articles about my book and eating disorders posted on their site. She has spoken about eating disorders for events at Aquinas College and at the “Go Boldly, Love Your Body” campaign in Grand Rapids, and has been interviewed for several websites, podcasts, and the Grand Rapids Press newspaper. Steil is a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received sixth place All-American accolades in cross country as well as seventh place in the NAIA track nationals. Feel free to subscribe and email at runninginsilence [at] gmail [dot] com
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11 Responses to Hungry to Speak

  1. Dale Bales says:

    Powerful post. Thanks for your openness. You encourage all to face their hidden demons and confront them.

  2. Katie McKay says:

    I never knew this, but I am amazed by your strength. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Becca says:

    You shed beautiful light upon an ugly demon. Well done- I like the format of this post. We’re cheering for you!

  4. Florence says:

    Such a beautiful raw (no pun intended) post. I admire your honesty and I appreciate the way you formatted this. Writing is a wonderful way to express the terrible war with food, the fears and the dreads and the insatiable hunger. I wish I had answers for you, but the only advice I think would be relevant is to try some meditation. When we let our minds quiet down we’re better able to listen to our bodies. While the monster that is the eating disorder is reigning its ugly head, there is another quieter side of you that knows how to feed yourself and love yourself and not be ashamed to eat. Keep searching, you will find her. You are not alone and you are doing a wonderful job, carving your own path on the jagged road to recovery. Also, have you checked out Geneen Roth? Feeding the Hungry Heart and Breaking Free From Emotional Eating changed my life. Sending lots of positive energy (and a hug) your way. xoxo

  5. Mandy says:

    Beautifully written post.

    I relate to a lot of it. Binge eating was something I never really talked about when I was in the midst of it because of the shame and self-loathing I felt. In a sense being anorexic was easier because the inward struggle was more visible. It is a tough transition to “normal” eating and it can be really frustrating when you have gained weight and so people assume you are better. Or, in my case, when genetically waif-thin family members say, ‘I don’t get it; why don’t you just east in moderation?’

    It is hard to make people understand, but you definitely capture the struggle well in your post.

  6. Tamara Steil says:

    You left me speechless – with admiration for your writing, and with sorrow that I cannot take away the pain and desperation for you. That I cannot shield you. That I cannot make it all go magically away. I cling to the foggy hope that you will soon face your demon and rip it to shreds. Though every day a shred will grab at you again and you will fight it again. You can and will save yourself but the journey is long and fraught with difficulty. It is never easy but I know it can be done and I know it is within you to do it. You have so much support – people who care, like Becca – cheering for you!

  7. Regan Levitte says:

    I’ve been clicking around for several posts, looking at your popular tags, and I found this post. This is gorgeous prose and is open and wise and shows so much fear and also earnest bravery, I think. Your fearless charge into taking on, and educating people about, your eating disorder is beautiful and I admire it.

    Throughout this semester, I feel like I’ve gotten to know you so much better through this blog, much better than I ever have had in the, what, two? literature classes we’ve had together.

  8. Gillian Hurley says:

    Wow, Rachael, this is so beautifully written. To be able to capture those feelings and capture the hearts of your audience in such an incredible way on such an important subject is just admirable. I love how you go in and out of this type of prose in your blog. Sometimes, it’s conversational, and other times it’s like this- poetic and lyrical, while remaining serious and powerful. It’s brilliantly written.

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