I Went on a Trip Last Week. So Did My Eating Disorder.

“I don’t want to be like this!” I want to scream. I would do anything to escape this sad, small existence. Therein lies the problem.

Christina Jumper
8 min readSep 27, 2023

These selected excerpts are from a journal I brought on a recent trip to Boston. They contain content that may be sensitive to those struggling with eating disorders, food, and weight.

Author owned photo (2023)

The last time I was in Boston, I was very sick. I didn’t know how long the sickness would last, or that it would get much, much worse.

It was October 2018. I flew with a Ziploc bag full of nips and downed two of them in the terminal bathroom prior to takeoff. When I landed, I found a liquor store and filled my plastic water bottle with bottom shelf vodka before I’d texted my best friend that I’d made it safely to her city.

It made me feel protected. It also made me feel sad that I was already keeping secrets from one of my favorite people before we’d even reunited.

She knew parts of it. I’d told her I’d started purging again because I knew she would offer love and support without actually being in a position to do anything about it. What friends I did have back then I utilized in this manner. I didn’t feel good about it. But then, I didn’t feel much of anything at all.

The final night, alone in the apartment she shared with her boyfriend (whom I knew) and two roommates (whom I didn’t), I sat on the floor of her bedroom and ate Five Guys I’d procured from down the street. I licked the cheese stuck onto the wrapper and scrounged the bottom of the greasy bag for any morsels that had escaped my fingers — not just the errant fry, but bits of lettuce and onion that barely had any calories anyway.

I started washing it down with vodka, then remembered I had a chocolate shake and switched to that. I knew I was going to purge and didn’t want to waste the alcohol.

I threw up on my knees in my best friend’s bathroom, surrounded by the toiletries she used every day. It was not an easy purge, and for a moment I thought my ribs would break or I would have a heart attack or both. But I pressed on because I deserved it.

Later, I took a selfie lying on her bed waiting for everyone to get home. In it, my hair is wet and hangs across my bloodshot eyes as though to shield my future self from the shame of the moment.

When I think about this night, I recognize that in some ways it was nothing special. There would be many more bedroom floor binges followed by violent purges and intense self-hatred. So many, in fact, that I’ve shoved this particular memory aside.

I don’t want it to mean anything.

Five years later, I’m in Boston again visiting my college roommate and catching some shows. The friend I stayed with last time no longer lives here. I ride the Green Line through her old neighborhood and text her hastily snapped photos of familiar landmarks.

I silently weep for my past self while passing the Five Guys where I purchased my binge five years ago. Meanwhile, my stomach reminds me that I haven’t eaten all day. I’ve been walking for hours and my feet are killing me, but I still can’t bring myself to take the bus — or worse, Uber! What an exorbitant waste of money, of exercise. Why sit on my ass when I can walk in the fresh air and get to know this city in a more intimate way?

Except the price of intimacy is about what you’d expect: I am left panting, sweat pooling in unwanted places, sore in spots I didn’t know I was supposed to stretch beforehand.

I am proud of myself for the way I subject my body to hardships. The pain feels like a prize for doing something, anything, to remind myself that I can be strong.

Strong is sick. Sick is strong.

I don’t talk about my eating disorder the way I talk about my drug addictions. For one thing, the former is something I deal with daily and I’m ashamed to still be stuck. Maybe sometimes I get comfortable in the routine and don’t want to risk intervention.

My eating disorder is an unwelcome reminder that I am real, and therefore a begrudging part of reality.

The drugs are easier to talk about because someone with a drug problem is not seen the same way as someone with an eating disorder. Both are sick, but in different ways — at least to the outsider.

Drugs made me a hard person. Part of me is proud of the fact and wears it for all to see; my sharp edges, my calloused psyche. Nothing can hurt me because I hold the power to bend reality to my will.

My eating disorder is an unwelcome reminder that I am real, and therefore a begrudging part of reality. Through it, I am forced to acknowledge my body. My body makes me uncomfortable, so I deny its needs. If the outcome is a smaller body, all the better.

But having a smaller body and being known for having an eating disorder — that is, being known for caring about things like weight, though that isn’t the point at all — means people watch and they assume things the moment you appear to be struggling again.

Having an eating disorder makes me feel like a bad feminist. Having an eating disorder somehow paints me against everything I’ve worked so hard to deconstruct about women’s bodies in society. Simply by having an eating disorder, I feel like a walking betrayal.

I imagine women in particular look at me differently when my eating disorder causes me to lose weight. I worry they think I’m doing it for the wrong reasons. This implies I do it on purpose. It is not a lie, sometimes.

“I don’t want to be like this!” I want to scream. I would do anything to escape this sad, small existence. Therein lies the problem.

On this trip, I’m reading Hunger by Roxane Gay. It is my first exposure to her work, and I can’t believe it took me this long to discover her voice. She writes about her hunger and the way it has shaped her existence in her body and the world, and I find myself quietly sobbing during many passages.

I sometimes feel like a walking compromise.

I feel understood, and I understand Gay, which is the whole reason she wrote the book. To be understood. How badly do I want to be understood. I want it so fiercely I can feel another sob catching in my throat as I write this.

But I am not Roxane Gay. As a thin, white woman, I have many privileges that are not afforded a woman of size and color.

I sometimes feel like a walking compromise. Yes, I cover myself with tattoos and my hair is split in two colors and I wear anti-patriarchy slogans, but. I am thin. I am white. My presence does not rock the boat in the way I want to believe it does.

I pretend like I’m making a difference while catering to the systems that steal so many underrepresented voices. I worry I am taking up too much space without using my privilege to shed a light on the issues that matter.

I worry about a lot of things. Mostly how others perceive me in public. I worry about how my movements, or lack thereof, are interpreted. I worry about my clothes and hair and what they tell people about my character. Am I interesting? Sloppy? Too much? Dangerous?

When I see a woman who is thinner than me, I feel a twinge of jealousy followed by relief that she probably won’t see me as competition. If I am thinner than her, I worry that she’ll think I’m shallow, a threat.

I have learned that the world presents different realities based on the way I act and present myself. Therefore, all possible outcomes depend on me conducting myself appropriately.

At what point does a woman’s worry turn into anxiety? And at what point does anxiety turn inward and destroy?

Almost the minute I get home from Boston, I start eating and I don’t stop. Frozen french fries and plant-based nuggets followed by watermelon Italian ice, biscuits dipped in milk chocolate, Goldfish crackers, dairy-free gelato, and sugar-encrusted fruit gummies. It doesn’t feel like a lot when I’m eating it, making sure to spread it all out over hours and stop when I’m bored with whatever particular item I’m consuming. Only when I’m lying in bed that night, questioning everything, do I realize with horror what’s happening.

The pride and fear that I’d felt following my four days of restriction and over-exercise have been replaced by the suspicion — no, the certainty — that eating enough was never the problem.

The person I was in Boston should be the real me, I tell myself as I feel my ribs with the bloat underneath. Where did she go? How can I get her to stay?

In my case, with food and everything else, it is all or nothing.

Since 2021, when I last got out of residential treatment, I have tried to claim recovery. Sometimes it feels earned, like the times I go out of my way to ensure I eat a meal, or the fact that I no longer keep a scale in my apartment and haven’t for years.

Other times, it feels like I just need to drop the act already and admit that my illness still runs the show.

If I am in someone else’s place and they have a scale in their bathroom, I flirt with the idea of using it. On two recent occasions, I caved. Each time, the number was lower than I thought it would be. Days and weeks later, I think about those numbers and am reminded that I still have a long way to go.

My eating has always vacillated like a pendulum. It seems the more difficulties and changes I face in life, the more violently the pendulum swings. “I don’t know how to eat normally!” I moan to my roommate, clutching my stomach and trying not to vomit.

In my case, with food and everything else, it is all or nothing.

I remind myself that the swinging of the pendulum will eventually slow down as long as I stop pushing it in either direction.

One push, however small, and the cycle continues.

I am afraid of immobility.

Christina Jumper writes about addiction, eating disorders, harm reduction, deconstruction, and recovery. She is the creator and cohost of Pickles and Vodka: a Mental Health Podcast, where she embarrasses herself weekly.



Christina Jumper

writer. artist. anxious mess. cohost of pickles and vodka: a mental health podcast.