After multiple rips from a bong and eating a whole package of cookies, I found myself sprawled on the floor of my freshman year dorm, full. I had just made my way through four episodes of Face/Off and one package of Chewy Chips Ahoy. As I stared at the ceiling, I found myself enthralled with the outward curve of my stomach.
Growing up, I used to lay in bed and suck in my stomach until I could count my ribs. It was an accomplishment whenever I didn’t need a deep breath to achieve the hollowed slope I so desperately desired. The National Eating Disorders Association states on their website that an ongoing study reveals that cases of anorexia have increased over the last 50 years, specifically in maturing females. But as I lay there surrounded by the sounds of my suitemates chatting and the smell of cannabis, I appreciated my bloated stomach.
The disorder was a gradual thing, starting with counting with ribs and ending with one meal a day. I blamed the weight loss on sports but instead of getting stronger, I kept getting weaker. The food I needed became my greatest enemy.
As a sophomore in high school with mental health diagnoses of depression and anxiety, I didn’t want to talk to anyone about how empty my stomach often felt. Instead, I would watch my friends and teammates stuff their faces with muffins and pasta while I nursed my fourth cup of coffee.
Mirror Mirror, an organization dedicated to helping people with eating disorders, wrote, “Many sufferers do not come forward for diagnosis due to embarrassment, denial or confusion.” I told myself I just wasn’t hungry, and that it was normal for my collarbones to be prominent enough that an upperclassmen would ask what diet I was on. None, I told her, I just joined a sports team. What I didn’t mention is that my sports team encouraged binge eating and vomiting during work-outs. A coach once told me, after I threw up at practice, that I am mentally weak and if I was stronger, I would be able to finish the workout before puking.
I thought this was normal. And no one in my life told me this was wrong. Everyone else did it, so why should I complain? My perception of what a healthy lifestyle had been warped into an eating disorder that many people around me encouraged. My relationship with food had gotten dangerous, and all I could focus on was how many ribs I could see.
I heard about the freshman 15 all my life, and as I prepared to go to college, I found myself trying to create a schedule to limit my eating. I often thank God for my suitemates—being placed with three stoners probably saved my life.
Before college, I didn’t have that much experience with cannabis. I had been around it and smoked once or twice but I never felt like I had the true pot experience that everyone on VICE and the kids behind my local Starbucks talked about. The first time I truly smoked, I ignored my grumbling stomach even while my mouth watered over my friend’s meatball sub.
Marijuana Doctors, an online site, says said that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) reacts with CB1 (cannabinoid type 1 receptors) receptors in the hypothalamus, leading to the release of a hormone called ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and speeds up digestion. Marijuana Doctors also goes on to explain that THC releases dopamine, creating increased pleasure when eating while high, and that THC makes food smell and taste better as it stimulates the brain’s olfactory bulb.
Healing is a gradual change for me, one I didn’t notice until I came home for winter break and had my yearly physical. I gained 10 pounds without even realizing it but felt better than ever before, both physically and mentally.
Eating while high made things simple for me. It took away the doubt and reservations because all I could focus on was my grumbling stomach. I started to enjoy food again, and really appreciate it as more than just fuel for my body. Yes, there were still mornings when I would have four cups of coffee instead of breakfast, but for the most part I ate at least three meals a day. I started listening to my body, a lesson I am still learning, but something that cannabis definitely helps with. Without my thoughts jumbled all over the place, it became easy to listen to my body and to do what it wanted.
There were definitely some unhealthy moments of overeating, and I still have days where I forget to eat, but for the most part, I like to believe my eating disorder is behind me. Even now, as I continue to take bong rips, I am able to listen to my body and know when the munchies are real or just a side effect of getting stoned.