The Girls at 17 Swan Street: Book Review

The Girls at 17 Swan Street by Yara Zgheib deserved every single one of the 5 stars that I gave it.

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

The Girls at 17 Swan Street is an amazing read and should be read by everyone, those going through similar situations with eating disorders so that they can finally see themselves in a story and feel seen, and those who don’t suffer from eating disorders. I think the story would be especially helpful to the family members of eating disorder sufferers so that they can actually see what it’s like to feel like you have to force yourself to eat every bite to make others happy and to look in the mirror everyday and no matter how thin you are still feel fat.

Typical books about ED show one side of the story, either they show the eating disorder suffered perspective or the perspective of the family and friends who are forced to witness their loved one suffering from this horrible disease. The Girls at 17 Swan Street does have the lense on Anna for the entire story but we’re able to see clearly how her husband and family are effected as well and I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. Anna and Mathias’ love story had my clutching my chest in fear.

Yara did a fantastic job telling this story. It had me thoroughly invested from the moment I began to read up until the final page. I loved the different emotions that the story invokes by showing you different parts of the women’s lives. I rooted for everyone in this story and would love to read a follow up to find out if any of the women beat the disorders and to see what their lives would be like after treatment and returning home.

10 Things You Could Be Doing Instead of Commenting on My or Anyone Else’s Weight.

10 Things You Could Be Doing Instead of Commenting on My or Anyone Else’s Weight.

1: Minding your own Damn Motherfucking Business, Bitch.200-2.gif

2: Getting a Hobby, I hear there’s a shortage in knitters, also known as:(see number 1)

3: Clean your House. Clutter leads to anger. Spontaneously commenting on someone else’s weight sounds like some angry shit. (Again, see number one.)giphy-1.gif

4: Worrying about yourself. I’m quite certain that there’s a missed dentist’s appointment, some raised blood labs, or even some missed sex that you could be catching up on. 200w-2.gif

5: Reading up on Candida, and understanding that the extra bloat around my waistline is caused by a medical condition of which I’m actively combatting with a whole ass team of medical professionals and if you’re going to be dispensing advice you should at least be informed. (in that order)

Also, look up hypothyroidism, metabolic disorders that cause weight gain, and other disorders that might be the culprit for the unexpected weight gain or loss that you seem so interested in. 

6:  Stay hydrated. Hydrating cures dehydration and saltiness. A prime indicator that you haven’t been minding your own business. (I almost forgot this one. Thanks AB!)200-3.gif

7: Reading a book. Perhaps one that teaches you about social cues and why it is never ever ever ok to walk up to someone and comment on their weight. That person you think looks great because they suddenly lost all of that weight may actually have cancer. A book on etiquette could give you pointers on better things to say to someone like, “The weather is nice today.” or “How’s your dog?” Or “How bout those Cowboys?” -Classic-

8: Studying a trade or brushing up on that foreign language you said you were going to master all of those years ago. I’m not going to even point out that if you spent more time working on your trade or mastering that foreign language you’d have less time to worry about Anyone else. I’m just not going to do it. So, you’re welcome. 

9: Travel. Traveling and exploring different countries, religions, and lifestyles should help you become a more well rounded empathetic human being. (Unless you’re just committed to being an asshole.)

10: Donating to or volunteering at a local charity. If you’re the type of person who feels so inclined to help other people without their requests then charity work would be perfect for you! You could get your rocks of by helping other people and keep your teeth in your mouth by not getting them knocked out by the not pregnant woman you’ve just insulted. 

I know in our society that commenting on other people is something that we just do without even really thinking about it but let’s just not. Your “helpful” words don’t help and you don’t know how your words could seriously harm that person. And, yes this is inspired by personal events but it’s something that pisses me off when I hear it done to anyone. Think before you speak. 

Black Girls Don’t Have Eating Disorders.

I’ve just finished working out with my trainer, in front of my house, something I do twice a week. For almost two years twice a week we meet here, underneath my carport where we do a mixture of kickboxing and cardio. I realize that this is some privileged shit. That I’m even more privileged and once more during the week on Sundays I meet him at a gym for bootcamp. Oftentimes I’m the only person at bootcamp so I get another private personal training session. But I don’t feel privileged.

I feel scared. Nervous. Stressed. I’m stressed about my body. A stress that I’ve been dealing with for more than twenty years. An obsession that if I’m not careful could kill me. I have an eating disorder. One diagnosed by my psychiatrist after my divorce when I casually mentioned that I was at least eating more often. To which she wanted to know:

Do you not eat often?

How long have you been doing that?

Do you binge?

Purge?

How often do you weigh yourself?

How many diets have you been on in the last year?

What do you eat in a typical day?

How often do you exercise?

Twice a day? For how long? And ordered: Let’s keep a food journal.

Of course, I didn’t. I didn’t need a food journal. I didn’t have an eating problem. I had an “I just lost my spouse problem.” So I quit going to her. She obviously didn’t know how to do her job. Besides, Black girls don’t have eating disorders.

On the one hand I’m a nurse and I know that anyone of any gender, race, and socioeconomic class can suffer from an eating disorder but on the other hand, I’m black. We don’t DO eating disorders. That’s some white people shit. Some middle class shit. Which, as I think about who taught me how to eat every other day, how to eat whatever I wanted and throw it back up later, how to stick a toothbrush down my throat until I learned to vomit on demand, how to over exercise and under eat- a group of black girls on a cheerleading squad, black girls definitely do DO eating disorders.

But It’s under control. I have not weighed myself in over a year. I eat daily. I haven’t purged in years. I’m cured Or so I tell myself. But I’m obsessed. I spend hours a week in front of the mirror looking at my body. Assessing the weight distribution. Is that muscle? Is my belly fat? Are my boobs getting smaller or bigger. I obsess about food. Eat secret meals that I buy with cash so my wife is unaware of what all I’ve eaten then throw the bags in the front trash can where she never looks or at gas stations on the way home. Then I obsess about what I’ve eaten for days. For months. And I know that this too, this obsession with my body composition, with every calorie that I’ve put into it, is in fact an eating disorder. I wonder, how long it’ll take until I convince myself to abstain from food or even worst to purge.

I feel lonely in this journey. I’m not super skinny so I don’t fit in with those girls and the thick girls, well I’m not quite thick enough. So I don’t pipe up when they discuss how difficult it is to find good bras, or how happy they are about their weight loss, about their inch loss. On more than one occasion, on more than one thread I’ve received the message. The shut yo skinny thick ass up you can’t sit with us message. So I suffer in silence. Drive my wife crazy with questions, Do you see it? Do I look skinnier? Is all of my hard work obvious? I fret that I’ll drive her crazy. That eventually she will leave me, for someone with a higher self esteem. For someone who loves their body. For someone skinnier.

I’ve looked up the stats on eating disorders in black women and not surprisingly there are none. Exact statistics on the prevalence of eating disorders among women of color are unavailable. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “Due to our historically biased view that eating disorders only affect white women, relatively little research has been conducted utilizing participants from racial and ethnic minority groups.” Even though sociologists recognize that black women suffer from eating disorders they don’t have enough data because for a very long time, even for scientists, black girls don’t have eating disorders. At least until now.

*

946450_1746456125588232_3943990604301335826_n.jpg

Around March 18 2016

 

22550021_2020351931531982_549322052245054987_n.jpg

Around October 15 2017

For the record my trainer is amazing and I can see the difference in pictures from before I started working out with him up until now but I can’t see the difference. (Only someone with an eating disorder will understand that last part.)

The Thing I’m Obsessed With.

Friday was the Book Release Party for my new Poetry Book Brownish Green Female  Sheep. It was my first book release so I have nothing to compare it to but to me it was the most amazing Book Release ever. The venue, Ybor City Barbering Company Barbershop and Bar, was beyond perfect. The atmosphere was ELECTRIC. My best friend since 7th grade snuck in the night before which made the night even more special and I was surrounded by friends, family, and associates, the majority of whom all bought the book!!

I was on cloud nine the entire time. Electric from my frazzled nerves and the endless supply of Mimosas the fabulous bartender kept sending my way. My wife, in true AB fashion ensured that the guests were having a great time, my best friend managed me and the book purchases, Sheree L. Greer my mentor/dear dear friend/cohost along with the ridiculously talented Samira Obied hosted the show in epic fashion. So when I tell you that it was the dope show, I mean that in all caps. DOPE SHOW!

I don’t know that I would’ve asked for anything more… Except while taking pictures with my family one of my brothers said to me, “you’re fat you need to work out.” To which I replied “I work out at least twice a week”. To which another sibling replied “you need to work out more than that.” I’m not going to go into anything about how I don’t need their help to lose weight, how I’m struggling with candida, or how neither of them is an authority on weight loss. I’m just not.

For some background, I’m the oldest child and my siblings don’t really know about my eating disorder. They don’t even really know me like that. So I’m not even mad at them  for saying what they said. They don’t know how I hate my body most days. How I work out with my trainer and feel super happy with my progress until I stand in front of the mirror naked. They hadn’t read the book so while they knew that the book was about love, they don’t know that the longest poem in the book is dedicated to Anna. One of my most secret friends. Or she was, I haven’t seen her in years, though I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about her daily.

They don’t know. They couldn’t know. So I don’t fault them for taking one of the best days of my life and dampening it a little by talking about my weight, they’re humans, and one thing that humans are good at is offering criticisms and critiques as if we would die without doing so. But, If I had one wish, it would be that  we as a society  stopped commenting on things like weight. We have no idea what the other person is truly struggling with.

If you or someone you know is struggling with food obsession you can speak with someone in your local community or at Eating Disorder Hope.

To read Anna You can purchase Brownish Green Female Sheep from my publisher Vital Narrative Press or from Amazon.

Journey to a Healthy Body : Cross Motivation

imageYesterday I restarted my journey towards a healthy body. One thing that I know for sure in regards to my fitness journey is that I am more focused and encouraged to stick to my regimen if I don’t have a real regimen and I if have a lot of people to consistently cross motivate with.

So I did what people so frequently get frowned upon for doing in this digital age: I took my plight to the internet  by posting a picture of my dream body and some motivators onto my social networking sites asking for buy-in from my friends and family. Of course plenty of people were down to join the get fit and keep each other motivated cause. There are a lot of people struggling to get in shape. After getting buy-in I decided that I needed to keep the posts up, both for myself and the other people on the body fitness journey, so this post is a first of many. Below I’ve compiled 5 things that come to my mind when I think about getting healthy and fit.

Music:

Currently my go song, the song that I play when I need that extra boost and the song that I have last on my playlist, cued to play right when I think about giving up is 99 Problems by Jay-Z. Why? My body fat is my b*tch and I can’t let her be one of my problems.

Activities vs The Gym:

I prefer to do activities as opposed to going to the gym. I’ve been to the gym all weekend but I plan on joining an adult kick ball team by the end of March. I’m also on the lookout for inexpensive Pole Dancing, Barre, Acrobatic, and any other class that I think would be fun, help me work up a sweat, and give me the shape of body that I’m most comfortable with.

Eff The Scale:

One thing most people don’t know about me is that I suffer from an eating disorder. Currently it’s under control but I know if I don’t get my body in check I’ll be tempted to perform unsafe weight lose practices. Hence, you will rarely if ever hear me talk about getting on a scale or losing a certain amount of weight.  I have no idea how much I weigh and I have no intention of trying to find out.

Fun in The Sun:

Sometime in the very recent past I became an outdoor lover. Indoor activities like twerk or zumba classes can be fun but if given the choice I’d gladly do anything that keeps me on the water and in the sun. My goal is to become a strong swimmer when it gets warmer outside so that I can try to join some kind of team that practices water sports.

Inspiration:

I’ve been reading up on how to make my fitness quest a constant part of my life. Jeanette Jenkings, Rachel Brathen, Shawn T and, Massy Arias are some of my favorite fitness inspirations. I check their timelines frequently for fitness advice. Something I read says that it takes four weeks to see results so I don’t intend to really look in the mirror for the next twenty-six days. There’s a saying that it takes twenty-one days for something to become a habit so I plan to work out for 45-60mins a day for the next nineteen days before I drop down to five days a week.

What are your 5 things that come to mind when you think about getting healthy?