Mika Brzezinski, co-host of Morning Joe, released a book this week, Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction and My Own.  It made me want to tell a personal story.

Like most Americans, my relationship with food is complicated.  I once told a friend that if I won the Nobel Prize, my first thought would be about my weight.  He was shocked.  If you are a woman and don’t understand that feeling, I am jealous.

When I was a child, my abusive father used to call me fat.  He would “jokingly” poke at my stomach and call it “jellyroll.”  My two ways of dealing with the troubles in my personal life (you can read about some of that here) were books and food.  I ate a lot.  When I look back at the few pictures I have from then, I don’t see a morbidly obese child but that’s what I saw in the mirror and my self esteem was in the toilet.  I may have gotten a little chubby but nothing like what I thought.

In junior high school, a girl in my class spread a rumor that I was pregnant.  I was 14.  One morning on the bus she said, “We’ll know when you start gaining weight.”  One response I had was good — I played tennis for HOURS a day after school, it was a great stress release.  I also stopped eating.  One of my roles was to make sure we had the right food in the house and I just stopped. My father worked at night and he would get us dinner at a deli each night and most days that’s all I ate.  Unless I was at my grandmother’s house, I just didn’t bother.

Then I learned about bulimia.  Have all you want and lose weight!  That’s awesome.  I can write you a manual about what to eat or not eat if you are planning to puke later.  For instance, chocolate ice cream tastes the same coming up as going down but pizza is a killer.  This is NOT a “pro-ana” site so please don’t think I am telling people to gorge themselves on anything.

The year I turned 14 was a big one for me.  I discovered two things; beer and boys.  That just made the desire to be thin more intense.  My stomach was flat but it never felt flat enough.  A few years later, the crowd I “ran with” was much more interested in being thin than being healthy (if you read the piece above you’ll see we were also more interested in drugs and alcohol).  We congratulated each other for not eating or for purging if we did.

This attitude towards food, that eating was more of a reward than a life sustaining thing lasted until less than ten years ago.

There were two exceptions; Everest and Kilimanjaro.  When I trekked to the former’s base camp, I was in terrible shape (from campaigning).  One day we were climbing a hill and had to stop every five minutes.  After lunch, everything changed.  Breaking news! Food is fuel!On Kili, I had a similar experience.  Every day when we stopped I become colder than I have ever been in my life for about fifteen minutes.  I think it was when my body went from burning carbs to fat but that may be crazy talk.

In 2004, my life changed.  I had major stomach surgery.  It was not gastric bypass, it was a Billroth II (partial gastrectomy).  In English, that means the bottom third of my stomach was removed.  That completely changed my relationship with food because eating isn’t pleasurable anymore.  It also put me on a path where eating is not always necessary.  In 2004, I found I could literally go weeks without eating anything.  It’s true.  I spent most of that year in the hospital “NPO” — it stands for the Latin “nil per os” or in English, “nothing by mouth.”

Ever since then eating has been a challenge. Even if I enjoy while I am doing it, it hurts later.  That’s a problem I have now.  A few years ago, I took a really stressful job and found the way to deal with it was to do the opposite of what I did as a child. Rather than run to food,  I ran away.  The result has been weight loss.

The irony is that I look lighter than I am (the same person who told me not to lose weight, took my weight and didn’t tell me, per my request, but put it on the prescription she gave me — was that really necessary?).  I have to use a belt with pants that used to be too small for me to wear.  A medial professional told me on Thursday that my weight is “perfect.”  She said, “Don’t lose any more weight.”

The upside is that I have a new wardrobe.  The downside is pretty much everything else.  My physical health is terrible.  I am much better person when I weigh more.  I have seen sides of myself this year that I never knew existed.  I am not blaming my behavior on my weight loss, my actions are my fault and I take responsibility but the obsession with looking a certain way has done nothing good for me.

We live in a strange time.  We spend less of our income on food than ever before, yet the quality is lower than it has ever been.  Do we need endless pizza for $5?  No.  That’s not remotely good for us.  And don’t get me wrong, I love Egg McMufffins.  LOVE THEM.  We are addicted to food that is bad for us.

At the same time, we practically worship thin people.  Look at any woman’s magazine.  Girls are taught that’s what you should look like. Fat people are discriminated at work. I have noticed that all I have received about my weight loss is praise (ironically from some of the same people who want me to eat more can’t help but tell me how great I look, I still think I could lose 20 lbs but I think my brain is set on that you need to lose 20 lbs mindset, am working on changing that but it’s a process).

How are things today for me?  I bike almost every day.  This week I am going to add weights and yes, I still exercise during Morning Joe, which I do watch every day.  I am working on eating five or six small meals a day.  I don’t always succeed but I am working on it and I do eat every day (that’s a big deal for me).  Again, this is a process.  I am even eating meat (per doctors’ orders), though I suck at cooking it.

This is a hard thing for me to talk about but Ms. Brzezinski’s book and the discussion it has raised is important.  Thank you for starting it.

Last note:  Dear guys, this is not about you.  I have a lot of guy friends and my boyfriends have all told me the same thing, “Guys don’t want super thin women, you don’t have to lose weight.”  This isn’t about what you or anyone else sees when they look at me, it’s about what I see.  It’s called body dysmorphic disorder.  I have never been officially diagnosed with it but when I am wearing clothes that didn’t come close to fitting me before and I see a whale, there’s a disconnect.  I am working on it.  It’s still a process.

So much going on and so little time to write about it.

1. Wikileaks; as a liberal, what is the party line I am supposed to follow here?

It seems there is one thing Americans of all political stripes have found something they can agree on; Julian Assange.  Politicians and pundits hate him.  My personal views are more nuanced.  Few ideas reside closer to my heart than freedom of the press.  I may not like that these documents were published but Mr. Assange is not the bad guy here.  Neither is the New York Times.  There is a villain here and that’s the guy who pretended to be downloading Lady Gaga and was really trolling for secrets to share with world.  A secondary villain is the piss poor security that let this guy access all these cables in the first place.

Mr. Assange seems to be a bit of a douchebag; arrogant and possibly delusional.  I do not share his worldview but that does not invalidate his right to have it.  US politicians have no business calling an Australian citizen that he is a traitor for leaking anti-US documents.  I also find it ironic that some people who fear the coming of a ‘one world government’ are under the impression that non-US citizens who don’t live in this country can possibly commit treason against us.  I have no idea if he is guilty of the crimes Sweeden has charged him with but see no reason for him not to face them.  It would not make sense for any court on the planet to send him to this country.  It is pretty clear that he would never receive anything close to a fair hearing here. We are just pissed off that we are embarrassed.

The New York Times also seems to have tried to be as responsible as possible when it came to what documents they released and what information was redacted.  Our system of government relies on the ability of the press to print the information they receive.  Again, it is not their job to keep US government secrets hidden away.  That’s the government’s job.

I read today that someone leaked tons of credit cards as a protest against any action against Mr. Assange.  Again, I am all about the freedom of the press but leave my personal credit information out of your protest, please.  That’s identity theft and your outrage does not justify this.

2. Tax cuts for everyone!

I think President Obama is doing pretty good job.  I feel like when he took office he faced what I like to call a Himalayan array of problems; each is gigantic when looked at independently but not so much when compared with each other.

My final verdict on the tax cut plan that the White House has worked out with some in Congress is both the best deal he was going to get and a little too far.  Well, not too far but too far, too fast.  I think the deal on the tax cuts for the uber-wealthy might have been a necessary evil but I would have liked him to publicly fight it.  I think Joe Scarborough has been dead on about this.  I would have liked to have heard him use the term hostage a week ago.  Truthfully, I would like to have heard that before the election.  Here’s the exact wording I would have liked to hear, “As a candidate for president, I said that I oppose the tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year.  I understand that the definition of wealthy differs in areas of the country where the cost of living is high.  I have asked the Republicans to consider extending all the tax cuts but those on individuals making more than $1 million a year.  They have refused to even discuss this and are threatening to hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage.  We cannot let them.”

That would not have guaranteed anything but would have made the lefties among us feel like he remembers who elected him.  It also may have made if this package was the best they could do, that the lefties in Congress could support this.

This is a minor point, really in the overall scheme of things.  Even more minor is one problem I did have with President Obama’s press statement.  He said “if they are (wondering) if I am itching for a fight I suspect they will find that I am.”  You suspect.  YOU don’t know if YOU are ready for a fight?  Seriously.  You should have a clearer idea of what is going on in own head.

3. Can we all agree that we all want the economy to create more jobs?  Can we get our politicians to skip to the part where they tell us what they propose we DO to make that happen?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering running for president.  Today he gave a speech in which he railed against Washington gridlock, partisan bickering and reiterated his desire to see the economy grow.  He was short on specifics and long on rhetoric.  It may not be fair to signal him out for something all candidates or would be candidates do but something about this speech got under my skin.  I wish we could just stipulate that we all want the economy to improve, kittens are cute and all humans are mammals and just get on with our lives.