Welcome to another Traveling to Teens blog tour! This is part 1 of 2 posts for this tour.
I'm pleased to welcome Allen Zadoff the author of Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have. He's written a great guest post about overeating. Thank you Allen!
Boys and Food
In my novel Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have, the lead character, Andrew Zansky, is a 306.4-pound high school sophomore who doesn’t fit into his life or his pants. Many reviewers and readers are surprised to find a book about a boy with body issues, and they want to know where I got my inspiration. The truth is I didn’t fit into my pants either! I was a 275-pound high school sophomore who avoided social events and believed that gym class was a curse from God.
At the time, all I knew was that I loved food. I used to go to Pizza Hut with my best friend Darrin (a big, 6’2” black guy) and eat the hell out of the place. We’d easily knock down a large, all-meat pizza, extra bread, maybe a giant calzone for an appetizer. This was before they started putting cheese in the crust. I missed the era of cheese in the crust, can you believe it?
If I’d eaten like that once a week, maybe I would have been all right. But I had a secret. I ate like that all the time, eating until I was stuffed, hating myself, and doing it all over again. My parents were constantly monitoring my weight, concerned not only with my health, but with my social life. They knew that being a fat teenager was not going to be a fun experience. Because I was being watched, I snuck food. I waited until my family went to bed, and then I raided the kitchen. In our house the kitchen was located near the bottom of the stairs, and my mother had a supernatural sense of hearing. If she heard a wrapper crinkling in the kitchen, she’d wake up out of a dead sleep and shout, “Are you okay, Allen?
“Fine, Mom, I’m just getting a soda,” I’d say, and I’d make the cans rattle in the refrigerator.
“Go to bed.”
“In a few minutes.”
But I wouldn’t go to bed. I’d make myself a sandwich. Then another. By my junior year I was staying up late into the night, watching TV until my body ached, eating bagel sandwiches one after another. I could make a sandwich faster than most people can tie their shoes.
The funny thing is that I hated what I was doing and I really wanted to be thin. But no matter how badly I wanted to stop overeating, I couldn’t do it. Even when I went on a diet and lost weight, I always went back to eating the same way, quickly regaining the weight and more. I try to show some of these dynamics in Food, Girls, like the scene where Andy gets upset and eats a whole counter top full of pies.
It took years, but eventually I found out that my overeating was more than just a little problem; I had a full-blown eating disorder, and most eating disorders get worse over time. That’s what happened to me. In high school, I didn’t even know that men could have eating disorders. I just thought I was fat. I wasted a lot of years trying to control my eating because I didn’t know I needed help to get better. It was a huge relief when I finally went to a therapist who knew about eating disorders. I found out there’s a huge recovery community, men and women of all ages who have struggled with overeating, bulimia, anorexia, and over-exercising and found a way to get through it. There really is a lot of hope, but I had to reach out for help and stop trying to figure it out on my own. I wrote about my experience in my adult memoir Hungry:Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin. I tried to say all the things I wish I’d known about food and overeating when I was in high school. So now you know, the inspiration for Food, Girls comes directly from my own experience.