A year ago we spoke with a young woman we’re calling Raina, who felt she was on the verge of developing an eating disorder. For context and perspective, we spoke with comedian Margaret Cho, who's struggled with eating disorders much of her life. This week, we get an update on how Raina is doing one year later.
Please note: This episode deals with eating disorders and includes discussion of child sexual abuse. If you or someone you know are affected by an eating disorder, you can get more information from the National Eating Disorders Association online or by calling their helpline: 800-931-2237.
This episode originally aired on January 9, 2017, and was produced by Dan Pashman, Anne Saini, and Shoshana Gold, with editing help from Dan Charles. The Sporkful production team now includes Dan Pashman, Emma Morgenstern, Andres O'Hara, Tracey Samuelson, and Jared O'Connell.
Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
- "Third Try" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "Quiet Horizon" by Daniel Jensen
- "Secret Handshake" by Hayley Briasco
- "Gravel and Dirt" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "I Still Can't Believe" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
Photo courtesy of iStock/ttatty.
Dan Pashman: Please note: This episode deals with eating disorders, and includes discussion of child sexual abuse.
Dan Pashman: Hey, guys, it's Dan. But a year ago, we did a show where I spoke with a young woman who felt she was on the verge of developing an eating disorder. Today, I'll speak with her again to get an update on how she's doing one year later. But first, we're going to replay the original episode in its entirety. If you just wanna hear the update, you can skip ahead to about 24 minutes. Okay, here's the show.
Raina: Hi, Dan, I've just discovered your podcast and I love it. I listened to your interview with Ron Funches and the donut episode last night, both hilarious and heartening. Here's the deal. I'm a teenage girl in NYC and have recently developed some unhealthily sparse eating practices/scary attitudes about food. I was wondering if you might consider ever doing an episode that explored eating disorders, especially from a recovered person's point of view. If that's too heavy or not your cup of tea or glass of milk or mug of coffee, I get it. It is a podcast about eating. Not not eating, for heaven's sake.
Raina: Shame and fear of food is something that just permeates teenage girlhood. I know more anorexic, bulimic, and ambiguously other girls than one person should know an entire lifetime. And although I don't have a full blown eating disorder myself yet, I can see myself kind of hovering around that doorway. I would love to hear your take on this phenomenon because your shows are hilarious and heartwarming and celebrate food. Sincerely, Raina.
Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful, It's not for foodies, it's for eaters. I'm Dan Pashman. Each week on our show, we obsess about food to learn more about people. You just heard a young woman reading the email she sent me that inspired this show you’re about to hear. We’re calling her Raina. That’s not her real name. I invited her into the studio because I wanted to hear more about what she's going through. But also I wanted to talk to her because I'm a father of two young daughters. So these are issues I think about a lot. When Raina came in, she just graduated high school and was getting ready to leave for college. And she said she doesn't have a full blown eating disorder yet. She reached out to me, hoping to hear from someone who had recovered from one. She thought that might help steer her in a better direction. So we reached out to comedian Margaret Cho. Margaret's been a hugely popular comic for over 30 years, but she's battled eating disorders for even longer.
CLIP (MARGARET CHO): Eating disorders are terminal diseases. People don't understand. For me, it's a cancer. I go into remission for a time and then something comes out like thigh gap and it throws me back into this disease.
Dan Pashman: Back in 1994, Margaret was hired to be the first Asian-American lead in a network sitcom. The ABC execs told her she needed to lose weight. She starved herself so severely that her kidneys failed. And that wasn't the end of her struggles. When I interviewed Margaret, I played her clips of my conversation with Raina so she could respond and offer Raina advice. So this episode will go back and forth between my conversations with Raina and with Margaret. In that sense, it's also sort of a conversation between the two of them. In her email, Raina said. So many teenage girls around her have issues with food. When we met in person, she talked about how her perception of those girls has changed.
Raina: I remember before experiencing this for myself, like I would see and hear about these girls who would, you know, diet unhealthily or just, you know, not eat or throw up. And I would judge them.
Dan Pashman: Why did you judge them? Like, put me in your head in that past point, when you would judge them and what were you thinking?
Raina: I thought they were weak willed. I thought they were succumbing to society. And to some extent, I still do. I hate being someone that is constantly censoring my eating habits.
Dan Pashman: And do you remember when it turned? Like, do you remember when you realized you had become one of these people that you felt ...
Raina: There was no specific moment. It was just sort of like over the summer I went to a college intensive thing in North Carolina, and I was just there for five weeks. And it was just cafeteria food every day for five weeks. I was not only eating bad food, I was eating a lot of it because it was just there. And at the end of those five weeks, my body felt really bad all the time. So when got back after the summer, like I swam every day, I biked six hilly miles every day. And I made sure to eat sparingly and eat well. And then from there, it just sort of like escalated.
Dan Pashman: So what was it? Was it like a slippery slope, basically?
Dan Pashman: Somehow it just went from I want to get healthy to like it's never enough?
Raina: It was quite, quite slippery. I remember before this afflicted me hearing like it's all about power and control and not understanding that. And it was only very recently that I realized that I it is something that I do for control. I don't know if you know about this, but when you get really, really hungry, like your stomach just kind of turns hard and very solid and sort of like you can hit it and feel like there's this sort of knot, you know? And I think when I'm feeling really sad or anxious or powerless, that feeling helps me feel strong and it's like an armor. Does that make sense?
Margaret Cho: Yeah, I know that feeling.
Dan Pashman: This is Margaret Cho.
Margaret Cho: I think she's great. She understands and puts words to her pain and strength. So I have a lot of hope for her. I think she's going to be fine, but she just needs to know that this is the beginnings of the disease and that she can get out. Eating disorders are terminal diseases. People don't understand. For me, it's a cancer. This is a really terrible problem. And I have extremely bad health problems still.
Dan Pashman: Well, and I know that when you when your sitcom was debuting, as you've you spoken about this before, that the network executives ...
Margaret Cho: Well, they were complaining about my weight. They thought that I was too fat to play myself.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Margaret Cho: Which is like — I was just cowed by it because I was just a young girl.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Margaret Cho: And we didn't have the same kind of language around eating disorders that we do now. I mean, this was when I was in TV, this is the height of heroin chic.
Dan Pashman: But so when those network executives said to you, we think you're too fat to play yourself on television ...
Margaret Cho: Yeah. Yes.
Dan Pashman: How did that make you feel?
Margaret Cho: I was devastated because I wanted the job so bad. You know, I thought, I'm never going to get a job again. This is the biggest job I've ever had. And if I if I don't lose this weight, I won't be able to do this.
Dan Pashman: What I find most amazing about that is, I mean, you've gone on to a tremendously successful, you know, multi-decade career.
Margaret Cho: Mm-hmm.
Dan Pashman: But I mean, that was when you first rose to that level.
Margaret Cho: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: A level that very few comics ever get to.
Margaret Cho: Right.
Dan Pashman: You got to that level ...
Margaret Cho: Mm-hmm.
Dan Pashman: Being you.
Margaret Cho: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: I think it's amazing to me that anyone would be like, well, this isn't going to work on television. Like you were already famous.
Margaret Cho: I know, I know.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Margaret Cho: It's so crazy. But it was like ...
Dan Pashman: It's not like they punched you from obscurity.
Margaret Cho: I know. So it was very strange. I had always only been worried about my comedy, and suddenly I had to be worried about the size of my body.
Dan Pashman: You also said that, I mean, that throughout your twenties, so much of your problems with alcohol and drugs all relate to food.
Margaret Cho: That's true.
Dan Pashman: How so?
Margaret Cho: Because you want to stop feeling hungry. So you, you know, started by Fen Fen. But then — it's this thing that Jeanine Garofalo and I used to do together. We were both super crazy about food and so nuts about it. And so we would have two shots of tequila, right? And that would kill your hunger. But then you were just kind of dizzy in a week and it didn't make you — it sort of made you sick to your stomach. So we couldn't eat. And we did that so much.
Dan Pashman: Raina's not at that point yet, thankfully. But I could tell from talking to her that she's always thinking about what she's going to let herself eat. Sort of like bargaining with herself. It's as if one part of her likes how she feels when she doesn't eat. And another part of her is ashamed for liking that feeling.
Raina: And then I was like, I'm hungry. And I packed myself a sandwich and a banana. And I was like, I could eat this banana. Or I could not. I'm not going to do it. And so right now I have this banana in my bag, but I'm not going to eat it because — I don't know why.
Dan Pashman: But you're hungry.
Raina: Yeah. There's something that happens when — like, I just lost a lot of weight and I felt lighter than air all the time. And part of that was exhilarating. But part of that was like, you know, like this sort of ephemeral, sort of like, I'm here, but I'm not really here. Like, my body is not really here, and I just sort of float around. I don't walk. I don't ...
Dan Pashman: And you're saying you like that feeling or you don't like that feeling?
Raina: I don't know. There's something very comforting for that about me. It's like when you don't want to exist, you don't have to exist for a little while when you don't want to.
Margaret Cho: Yeah. Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Is that something you can identify with?
Margaret Cho: Absolutely.
Dan Pashman: Back to Margaret Cho.
Margaret Cho: You're condoning what society has been telling you ever since you were born. As a woman, we're not encouraged to take up space. We're not encouraged to be loud. You know, we should be seen and not heard. But that's not the same for boys. It's like you want boys to be strong. With girls, you you really try to control them by giving them Barbies and giving them these false idols of what a woman's body should look like. You know? And you don't allow them to just be themselves. And so it's hard. I have so much compassion for this young girl. But what's great is that she reached out to you. You know, that's something. That's really something, because it's a very secretive disease, you know?
Dan Pashman: When you were like in the the one of the worst periods of your issues with food and eating disorders. Can you describe how that feels?
Margaret Cho: Well, you do like weird shit. Like you — I would get like a whole big loaf of bread and eat, like chew it and then just spit it out, you know, into the toilet. So you had the feeling and the chew, like you ate it, but then you didn't. Or I went on these really weird raw food diets, which I actually don't have a problem with that kind of idea of a cleanse. But, you know, I would like literally go for weeks with only eating persimmons. And that made me defecate in my vehicle [DAN PASHMAN LAUGHS] so badly in traffic. And I was going someplace kind of fancy and I was like, ummm. And I sat in traffic and my — I was just covered in it and it started getting cold. And I realized that I deserved better.
Dan Pashman: Coming up, more with Raina and Margaret Cho. They'll talk about the roles their parents have played in developing their issues with food. And Margaret will offer advice directly to Raina. After that, we'll have an update on Raina taped one year after this original conversation. Stay with us.
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I'm Dan Pashman. This week is the two-year anniversary of cascatelli, and to celebrate, Sfoglini is running a sale on their website from March 17-19. You’ll get 20% off all items including the Sporkful Collection. We’re also doing a giveaway – a Sporkful collection variety pack – so that’s cascatelli, vesuvio, and quattrotini, plus a cascatelli dish towel and cascatelli companion recipe book. For more details on how to enter the giveaway, follow me on Instagram. I’m @thesporkful. Thanks.
Dan Pashman: Okay, back to the show. Today, I’m going back and forth between two conversations. One's with a teenager we're calling Raina, who says she feels herself edging closer to an eating disorder. The other is with comedian Margaret Cho, who's struggled with these kinds of issues most of her life.
Dan Pashman: Couple of things I want to add here. First, we are focusing more on women in this particular episode. It's important to note that a lot of boys and men also struggle with eating disorders. In fact, the National Eating Disorders Association estimates that between a quarter and a third of people who have an eating disorder are men. We actually did a show about men battling eating disorders a couple of years ago. I also want to make clear, in case it wasn't obvious already, I'm not an expert on this. I'm just trying to help two people tell their stories. At the end of this show, we will tell you where you can go for more information on eating disorders. Now, here's Raina again talking about why she reached out to me in the first place.
Raina: I think the reason I sent you that email was because I wanted other people to know that it's not just them. Like at my school, we change in the locker room. You know, you just go in and it's rows of girls just staring at themselves in the mirror with their shirts up and examining their stomachs and their bodies and being hypercritical.
Dan Pashman: As the father of two young girls. I have to say, hearing stuff like this terrifies me. Raina's involved in theater and she described going out to eat after a performance.
Raina: One of my actresses was like, "Come with my friends and my family to dinner after the show.", and I did. And it was just like nobody ordered anything. And it was — I was like, that's absurd. Why aren't ... You know, we're in a restaurant — what? What is going on? You know? And they were thin and they were beautiful and they were sort of goddessly, but it was just sort of like, there is no joy in this restaurant.
Dan Pashman: I asked Raina if she had ever experienced anything like Margaret experience with those TV execs where someone told her flat out, "You need to lose weight." Did her parents or friends ever pressure her like that?
Raina: My mom used to make comments like, you know, like maybe smaller portion sizes or — I don't know in what context, but I remember once being like her saying something like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That'll that'll help you with your little, you know, your waist — you know, help you watch your waistline, you know?
Dan Pashman: But it sounds like those instances of your mom saying those things are relatively infrequent.
Raina: Yeah, they're infrequent.
Dan Pashman: And it wasn't like ...
Raina: But it stuck out in my mind. Like it — that that was from years ago and it's still in here.
Dan Pashman: You remember it.
Dan Pashman: What do you wish that your mom would say to you?
Raina: I don't know, I. I wish she wouldn't say anything at all, because I think that this is something that no one can give you the answer except for yourself. And like, you have to sort of grapple with it and come to terms with it by yourself.
Dan Pashman: Have you ever discussed any of it, any of these concerns with her?
Raina: Not my concerns, no. No, not — I mean, we have — I have a neighbor, like a neighboring family that we've known for forever, and it's a pair of twins. And one of the twins had anorexia, I think. And they sent — you know, she went to rehab. And then my mom will just say, like — I don't want to use her name, but like, "Don't pull a Jane Doe on us.",you know? I mean, it's this also thing of like — of just sort of, like, dehumanizing people who struggle with food. So then when you don't eat or you have trouble eating, it's dehumanizing. Like my mom will make jokes, like — or not jokes, but just sort of like ...
Dan Pashman: Comments.
Raina: Comments. Like, oh, that was so — you know, and now her parents have lost all their savings and sucks for them. You know, like, I'm so glad I have a daughter who's not like that.
Dan Pashman: So how do you feel when you hear her say things like that?
Raina: Incredibly guilty.
Dan Pashman: Why?
Raina: Because I am like that.
Dan Pashman: That part of the conversation with Raina was especially hard for me to hear. You know, one of the things about being a parent that can be nerve wracking is that you never know what's going to have an impact. You never know what offhanded comment they're going to remember years later. And that's scary. I asked Margaret what it was like for her growing up and what role family played in her issues around food.
Margaret Cho: Well, when I was younger, you know, all of the family, like in Korea, in America that had immigrated, all the women were so thin like birds, you know, and ...
Dan Pashman: Your parents were born in Korea?
Margaret Cho: Yeah. My parents are born in Korea. And I was I was born in America. But then I got shipped back and forth a bunch, so I got a bunch of tapeworms.
Dan Pashman: Oh, no.
Margaret Cho: So I always had weird, like, intestinal parasites and stuff.
Margaret Cho: So I was always like, really weirdly thin. And that was really praised by my family. And I think that when I started getting molested when I was five, I started to realize that I needed to figure out how to protect myself. And so I eat a lot, and maybe I could just kind of not be so attractive to these molesters, you know? Like, I kind of was trying to sort of build up my body so that I could just, I don't know, protect the inside of me, like protect my nerve endings from being touched strangely.
Margaret Cho: And so that's the start of it. And then you look at yourself and because of what society says, you're so angry at yourself for doing that. And then it reverses and you don't eat anything, and then it reverses again, and then you keep eating and then you don't — you know, it's like that's why it's like it's an illness that keeps coming back. It's not curable.
Dan Pashman: Did you did your parents ever like pressure you or give you a hard time about your weight?
Margaret Cho: All the time. All the time. They still do. Why are you so fat? How? How can you be so fat? Why? What is your weight? Every time, because Koreans are — it's a very patriarchal culture. The women are supposed to be small. Korea has the highest percentage of plastic surgery in the world. In that culture, the thinness is such a value that it's really intense.
Dan Pashman: And have you ever confronted your parents?
Margaret Cho: All the time.
Dan Pashman: And when you've confronted your parents and been like you ... you know, you did you know, you instilled all these horrible feelings and ideas in me that have plagued me for my life, what do they say?
Margaret Cho: They say – well, like my mother is just — doesn't get it. All she knows is that she wants her body to be a certain size. And that's just it, you know? And that it depresses me because actually, they're both very sophisticated people. You know, they came to America, they bought a gay bookstore. They wanted me to be around gay people so that I would learn about art, culture, music, life, how to be a fully rounded human being. Then on the other side, I had a very also traditional Korean culture. The part of it that they couldn't break out, which was about body size. And so it was — it's hard. They still don't really understand because they still are kind of like, well, why, why, why ... You know, I don't know what — she's fat. You know? Well, she's ... well, she's fat. When somebody comes on TV ... Oh, so fat.
Margaret Cho: You know? And it's like so — it's depressing that they haven't broken through that, you know?
Dan Pashman: Right.
Margaret Cho: Even though no matter how much I try. But that wasn't as bad as being shamed by network executives when I'm trying to really live out the greatest dream that I could have possibly had to have the first Asian-American family television show, that ruined me. It ruined my life.
Dan Pashman: It sounds like you're obviously in a much better place now.
Margaret Cho: Oh, yeah. Of course.
Dan Pashman: With food?
Margaret Cho: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: How did you get out of where you were and get to where you are now?
Margaret Cho: I think I just stopped giving a shit. You know, like, I don't care, because I've never — I've always been Hollywood obese. By Hollywood standards, I'm giant. And that's fine because I've worked longer than anybody else. All of the other women that came up with me are gone. And as if they sort of — you know, it was just all about their body. And I'm sad about that.
Dan Pashman: Has the longevity of your career also helped you make peace with your body?
Margaret Cho: Oh, yeah. I was never valued for my looks. I was always valued for my mind. And then my mind became stronger. And so I'm like trying to let go of this idea that anything in my body really matters. Like, I don't really care. My mind is more important to me now. Perhaps it's the beginning stages of menopause where you realize that the male gaze is irrelevant and that you can actually finally be who you always wanted to be.
Dan Pashman: So Margaret's made some really great strides. Before saying goodbye to Raina, I wanted to see what she thought it would take for her to do the same.
Dan Pashman: One of the things that really struck me about the email that you sent when you got in touch, my first thought was like, "Why has this young woman picked me to write to?", like, what does she think that I know that like an eating disorder hotline doesn't know. At the end of your email you wrote, "I'd love to hear your take on this phenomenon because your shows are hilarious and heartwarming and celebrate food." You know, I think my non-expert feeling is that you want to be able to celebrate food and enjoy it and get pleasure from it.
Dan Pashman: You get turned off when you're surrounded by people who aren't doing that.
Dan Pashman: Like a lot of it has to do with the people with who you surround yourself with.
Raina: Mm-hmm. When I'm around people who are just simply enjoying eating, maybe that's more license to be like them.
Dan Pashman: What do you want to have happen now going forward? Like, talk to future Raina.
Raina: Hmm. Well, my dad says this thing, and he always has, which is that you're not competing against anyone but yourself. And I think right now I'm in this in this place of competing against myself in a negative way. You know, in a way of, like, I'm hungry, but I'm going to hold out until I just can't bear it anymore. And that's when I'll have like a banana. [LAUGHS] You know? And I hope that in the future I will return to competing with myself in a positive way.
Dan Pashman: And do you have thoughts on what has to happen for that to happen?
Raina: I'm not getting a meal plan in college. I'm just going to cook. And I think maybe cooking for myself, like cooking is an act of love. And cooking is — was an act of love between me and my mom, and so maybe it can be an act of love between me and myself. And if I make my own — when I make my own meals, maybe I'll feel better about eating them.
Margaret Cho: Well, Raina, you're beautiful. And I wish that you could understand that your body is yours for a reason. Your body is your lesson and care for it because you're going to need it for your whole life, which I want to be very, very long. And I want you to feel happy in who you are. I know you're beautiful already. I can see it in your mind, your words, the way that you vocalize yourself, the way that you're able to speak about your pain is so eloquent. So I say a prayer for you and for all girls. But, girl, you're going to make it.
Dan Pashman: Are we rolling, Irene? All right, good. So thank you for the bialy.
Raina: You're welcome.
Dan Pashman: We'll put this these aside only because chewing —
Dan Pashman: We do occasionally chew on the show, but not that often.
Raina: It doesn't come out.
Dan Pashman: Well, once in a while I get emails that there are certain people that have — I forget the name of the condition, but there's a certain condition where, like mouth chewing sound —
Raina: My mom ...
Dan Pashman: Oh, she — your mom has that?
Raina: Mm-hmm. She can't stand it.
Dan Pashman: Really?
Dan Pashman: So, how are you doing?
Raina: I'm good. I'm really glad to be back in New York after my year away. It is like — I think it's a very typical experience where everyone tells you, you know, "You're going to have such a great time.", and you get there, to college, and you're like, "Why am I so unhappy?", and then a year passes and then you just manage to figure it out, and then it's time to go home again.
Dan Pashman: Yeah, I feel like that's I think that was kind of my experience in the sense of like, you need the first year to like get your sea legs.
Raina: Mhm. Yeah. For a long time this year I thought that I wouldn't have the story that you probably wanted. Like I come back and I'm fixed and I'm better and I, and I am a lot better than I was last year after like a lot of, you know, really steep ups and downs. But I hesitate to say that because it's cyclical. Or not even cyclical, it's unpredictable and spastic.
Dan Pashman: One of the things that really struck a chord with a lot of listeners was when Margaret Cho described it as sort of a chronic condition, almost like a cancer, like it goes into remission, but then it comes back. And it sounds like that's kind of what you're describing.
Raina: Yeah. You know, you can see yourself hurting yourself, but also knowing from like a healing perspective, you just kind of have to go through it. Like you can't skip any steps to getting better. I don't even know what the steps are, but like, you can kind of intuit when you have to just sort of get through this phase, and then you'll be in a new phase.
Dan Pashman: Like you have to hit bottom.
Raina: Yes, over and over again. [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: Now, when we last spoke, you had talked very little about this or almost not at all with your parents.
Dan Pashman: And I asked you, "What do you hope what would you like your mom to say?", and you said, "Nothing. I don't want her to say anything.”
Dan Pashman: Did your parents fear the episode?
Dan Pashman: But it sounds like you've talked to them more about the issue since then.
Dan Pashman: What have you said to them?
Raina: My experience was so invisible. And so when I tried to talk to my parents about it, they just sort of were like, "That's not you. You know, that's not you. Stop trying to make a big deal out of it. Or stop trying to look for attention." Like, my mom came to visit me in spring, and I said to her, "This is a real problem for me. And I would like to talk to a therapist about this." And she was like, "You have to acknowledge. You have to acknowledge that you're not like, you know, those girls throwing up in the bathrooms or like, who starve themselves." And I just didn't know what to say to that because I felt like I was being really vulnerable with her and she was not honoring that.
Dan Pashman: What would you have wanted her to say?
Raina: I would have wanted her to listen first and foremost. She said some of the right things a few times. You know? But it's more of the tone in which she said it or the energy behind it. It was very panicked and like, this is my fault.
Dan Pashman: Let's talk a little bit about food.
Dan Pashman: What are you're eating these days?
Dan Pashman: You brought in some beautiful bialys from our friends at Hot Bread Kitchen, who has a great organization in New York that trains immigrants and refugees to become chefs and bakers.
Dan Pashman: And before we started taping, you were eating the bialy right here with me.
Raina: Yes, I was.
Dan Pashman: Last time you were here, you had a banana in your bag, but you weren't allowing yourself to eat it.
Raina: That's true.
Dan Pashman: So that seems like progress.
Dan Pashman: And when you left for college, you said you weren't getting the meal plan. You wanted to cook for yourself.
Raina: That's true.
Dan Pashman: How did that go?
Raina: Sometimes I wasn't as good at maintaining it as others. I mean, what happened was that I had been starving myself for so long that when I had access to food, I just sort of — I was making up for lost time. And so I kind of switched over to this sort of bingey side of the equation.
Dan Pashman: Raina says for her, bingeing means eating a big serving of pie at a friend's house or five spoonfuls of cookie butter straight from the jar or a lot of peanut butter.
Raina: I had a really big issue with peanut butter. Like there was this one day where in the morning I had like half a jar of peanut butter, and then I spent the rest of the day, like, googling, "I have a problem with peanut butter", and hating myself.
Dan Pashman: When Raina's feeling good about her eating. She says she's mostly having things like smoothies, chili soups, or salad.
Raina: I love salad because it makes me feel secure.
Dan Pashman: What do you mean by secure?
Raina: Like, salad is not going to hurt me. Even if I eat and eat and eat salad, it's probably not going to hurt me.
Dan Pashman: Do you spend a lot of the day still hungry, or do you feel like you eat enough until you're satisfied?
Raina: I eat until I'm satisfied now. Before not, right now.
Dan Pashman: Raina says right now because even though she was in a pretty good place on the day we were talking just a few weeks before, that things weren't going so well.
Raina: My dad and my brother got pizza. My mom was out and I said, "I don't want to eat that." And they said, "Just eat it." And I said, "I don't want to eat that. That's going to make me feel bad." And they're like, "No, it's all in your head." They literally said, "It's all in your head." This was maybe like three weeks ago. I had like two pieces of pizza. And then I, like, freaked out and called a friend. And that was the last time in recent memory that I remember being — feeling really bad about something I ate.
Dan Pashman: But if that was just a couple weeks ago, it sounds like ...
Raina: Yeah, but it was an isolated event as opposed to like a continuous thought process.
Dan Pashman: Right. Have you seen anyone in the past year? Have you sought any professional help?
Raina: Not professional help, but I met people, including one of my teachers last year, who were recovered from eating disorders. And I talked to them a lot and that was probably more helpful than seeing a therapist for me. I mean, I probably should see a therapist. It's just easier to talk to these people and cheaper as well.
Dan Pashman: What were some of the things that the teachers you talked with told you that were especially helpful?
Raina: The most helpful thing they said was like, "You have a problem." You know? The most helpful thing was like, tell yourself you have a problem — you know, allow yourself that label. It was helpful to hear that, especially since my mother wouldn't allow herself to think that I had a problem.
Dan Pashman: What do you think it would take for you to get a more substantial level of help?
Raina: Yeah. I mean, I guess what it would take is just that first appointment. But I haven't done that yet.
Dan Pashman: Why do you think you haven't?
Raina: It's just a landmark. It's just a milestone. It's a milestone. I know it's something I should look into. I know, but I am a master procrastinator. Yeah. And I've also — maybe it had something to do with, like, I have really bad authority problem. Like, I can't handle anyone telling me what to do, ever. And it's also just the the idea that, like, I feel like having a therapist is a responsibility, you know?m Maybe it's just that I can't admit that I deserve to have one or like, I'm — not that I don't have a problem, but that like, I have a hard time admitting that what I went through was anywhere near what other people go through.
Dan Pashman: Do you think any part of it is the same sort of personality trait that your mom seems to have?
Raina: Probably. That's probably why it drives me so crazy.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] Let me ask you the same question I asked you at the end of our interview a year ago.
Raina: [LAUGHS] Uh-huh.
Dan Pashman: When you look at the next year, what do you hope for in terms of your relationship with food and eating?
Raina: I hope that I can make it something to connect with other people. Like I — a friend of mine is moving off campus and so — and she doesn't know how to cook at all. So we're going to have a little cooking club. You know, I feel like I've done a lot of reflection and a lot of thinking, and I hope that I can extend a positive nutritional culinary culture to the people I care about.
Dan Pashman: I just hope that includes yourself.
Dan Pashman: Good.
Dan Pashman: Couple more thoughts I wanted to add here before we wrap up. Raina said something that I wanted to circle back on. She said, "No one can give you the answer except for yourself. You have to come to terms with it by yourself." And I think I understand what she was trying to say. She was trying to say, this is something that's inside of you, therefore only you can fix it. But I'm a little concerned that that could come across as saying to people that you need to try to fix this alone.
Dan Pashman: And I want to make sure that we draw a distinction between doing something yourself and doing it alone, because those are not the same thing. So if anything that you heard in this show sounded familiar and if it's something that you or a friend or a loved one is struggling with? I want you to know that you're not the only one and you aren't alone. And there are people who can help you. So I would encourage you to reach out to the National Eating Disorders Association, at NationalEatingDisorders.org and they have a lot of resources and information and support groups there that can help you out.