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Moderation seems to be one of the hardest concepts for us to grasp – as humans in general, perhaps, but definitely as anorexics and bulimics.

And yet, the word is tossed about with maddening ease as the simple solution for health and happiness. 

As a chronic anorexic in recovery, I find the idea of moderation absolutely  howmybrainworks - moderationbaffling.  My disease is one of extremes, of obsession and black-and-white thinking: when it comes to food, exercise, weight, and everything related, moderation is a complete mystery.  It’s all or nothing – I’ve got to be completely full or completely empty; exercise is grueling or not worth doing; it’s so much easier to not eat at all than to face the fear of eating even just a little.  If something feels good, I take all I can possibly get; if it’s uncomfortable, I avoid it at all costs.

orange-man-pencil One summer, I turned orange.  A very unflattering, fake-tan orange, at that.  A yellowy-orange that tinged my fingertips and stained my limbs like Orange Crush on a light-coloured shirt.

Why?  Because moderation had flown right out the window, once again – this time with carrots.

Carrots are a great source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and fibre.  They’re juicy and sweet, delightfully crunchy, and delicious even when unpeeled.  Plus, they’re a filling, low-calorie vegetable.  For all these reasons, carrots became my favourite safe food.

bunch_o_carrotsEven though I was eating a variety of other foods in recovery, carrots took up a significant percentage of my diet.  They appeared in large quantities alongside – and in between – lunches and dinners.  They took up an inordinate amount of space in the grocery cart and the fridge – until I decided it was less embarrassing to swing by the market every couple of days instead.  Their baby-cut counterparts accompanied me to class, work, and even parties.  Carrots were my go-to hunger-crunchers.

clipart_carrotAt first, I didn’t believe it when people told me I was orange.  The light was always bad, or I was just getting over a cold, or my genes were finally expressing my mother’s South African toffee-coloured skin.  But then my doctor, a woman who had somehow always seen through my anorexic antics,  called me on it.  Apparently carotenemia, or the discolouration of the skin caused by excess beta carotene in the blood, is a diagnosable condition – but it’s more often seen in infants who are fed too much pureed squash, yams, and carrots.  My doctor told me it wasn’t a serious health issue per se, but it was reason enough to reconsider my carrot craze.  I crawled away from my doctor’s office in shame, forced to admit another defeat at the hands of my tricky, extremist disease.

orange man Overall, orange might seem like a better state than emaciated, exhausted, bloated, or starving.  But it’s still a clear sign that moderation is beyond me.  The experience reminded me yet again that I still need to rely on sources outside my irrational, fanatic self for a realistic sense of balance.  I need to stay mindful and aware, to keep things in perspective instead of taking things too far.  I guess orange is just another trap I fall into when I forget that I’m crazy!