Until recently, I had a voracious sugar free gum addiction. For years I carried pink packs of Trident bubble gum everywhere I went. I stashed them in my purse, my glove box, and my tennis bag. It started about eight years ago when I was trying to maintain the weight I had lost and needed something to keep my mouth occupied so I wouldn’t reach for more chocolate (another little addiction). Over the years, it also served as a stress reliever, a time-waster, and, it wasn't long before I constantly craved the sickly sweet chewy little gems. It was a habit that left my jaw sore and my stomach gassy and distended. I had tried half-heartedly over the years to kick it with no success. Until this past October, when I had enough of feeling like crap, and I was pissed the gum had so much control over me, so I decided to quit. For real. Since I was headed on a girl's trip to hike in Zion National Park, I figured it was the perfect time to try to go cold turkey (although my travel buddies may not have appreciated my timing). And it worked. I quit. Because I could. I had a full functioning healthy brain that said: "Hey lady, it's making you feel sick, so stop doing it!"
That wasn't always the case.
"I cannot believe I let myself get this bad," I said to my dietician Gretchen. Again. We often started our sessions this way, with me berating myself for allowing anorexia to become a thing for me, "why didn't I stop this before I made myself so, so…. Sick!
“Oh sweetie, you have been living with two brains, she explained, “the normal Sherri brain, and the anorexic brain. They have been fighting for space in your head, and for years, the anorexic brain has been dominating and protecting the illness."
I knew my behaviors caused my body to shrink, but I had no idea my brain had shrunk as well, changing its shape, its chemical structure and its ability for rational thinking.
Slowly over the past decade my anorexic brain (I nicknamed AB while in treatment) became much louder and bossier than my Sherri brain, aka SB (creative I know). Even when I became aware I needed to make changes like eating more and moving less, I was never able to do so for more than a day. AB was very persuasive.
When my hair was starting to fall out leaving clumps in my brush and clogging the shower drain, I chalked it up to an allergic reaction to my new hair color. After my period stopped arriving month after year, I Googled and found that amenorrheawas common in runners. Chipped and cracked teeth were a result of too much sugar, my skyrocketing cholesterolwas hereditary, and my poor digestion was due to stress, being dehydrated and the fact my body didn't care for hidden preservatives. I had a rationale for everything.
Yes, I had a doctor I saw often. She suggested I add avocado in my diet. Yes, I had a dentist I saw every six months. He shoddily pieced my teeth back together. What I didn't have was a healthy brain to scream at me, "Hey lady, it's killing you, stop doing it."
Self conscious of my thinning hair, I began to wear a lot of hats. (2013)