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April 12, 2010

Wasted, a memoir by Marya Hornbacher is a beautiful intimate piece of work which chronicles her tumultuous journey through bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Just for the sake of clarification, bulimia originates from Latin, its etymological meaning being “ravenous hunger” or “ox hunger”. Etymologically, anorexia finds its roots in Greek, meaning lack of  desire to eat. “Nervosa” translates as “for reasons of the nerves”, distinguishing these conditions from disorders of the digestive system.

This post will be a long one, mainly because its length will conclude as a reflection of my journey and my take on hers.

As someone who has recovered and yet is still dealing with the remnants of their eating disorder I was told this book would be very triggering. I am reading it anyway, for telling me no operates almost identically as telling me yes. I am in no way perfect and perhaps I was searching to be triggered. Hornbacher’s retelling of her journey is poignant, devastating and has sent me down an affecting yet  blissful voyage of deep, deep introspection. She writes beautifully and I see so much of myself in her reflections of who she used to be psychologically. Like Marya (MAR-yah – two syllables) I have been named “Precocious”, “talented”, “not reaching full potential” have been uttered at me within seconds of each other and in quick succession for as far back as my academic career goes.

 Moreover, I love the fact that she in no way glamorizes the diseases (she vacillated between the two) and in fact, her account provided me with validation that I NEEDED: it told me that I had actually suffered and what I did was bad and not normal. These simple facts have not yet fully settled in my consciousness, however they are there – working to surface and take hold of me. This piece of art, this ironically yet expectedly cathartic piece of utter magic is tender. Her articulation of the way in which our culture is full yet devoid of sustenance on page 135-136 is breathtakingly accurate.

The usual line on eating disorders is that they are an attempt to become a child again, a regression. Rather than looking at eating disorders as infantile desire to return to an ex utero symbiosis with the mother, I think it’s important to note that they might be a cultural generational phenomenon of plain old-fashioned burnout. My generation was weaned on subliminal advertising, stupid television, slasher movies, insipid grocery-store literature, MTV, VCRs, fast food, infomercials, glossy ads, diet aids, plastic surgery, a pop culture wherein the hyper-cool, blank-eyed supermodel was a hero. This is the intellectual and emotional equivalent of eating nothing but candy bars – you get malnourished and tired. We grew up in a world in which the surface of the thing is infinitely more important than its substance – and where the surface of the thing had to be “perfect”, urbane, sophisticated, blase, adult. I would suggest that if you grow up trying constantly to be an adult, a successful adult, you will be sick of being grown up by the time you’re old enough to drink.

Wasted by Marya Hornbacher


Who is Marya Hornbacher? She is me.
She is you.
What is Wasted?
It is my story.
It is your story.
It is us, because in part, it is a story of the consequences of our culture’s collective inclination towards homogenous idolization of one specific look, one specific you, one specific us, one specific Perfect.


All of us have theories about the world and about ourselves. We will go to great lengths to prove ourselves right because it keeps the world in our head coherent and understandable. My theory was simple: I was a screwed-up person. The phrase “self-fulfilling prophecy” comes to mind. (195)

This is the most part of recovery, the journey and conquest that comes with conquering and defeating the mindset of never-good-enough and viewing perfection as a reachable end.

And now my favorite, for this phrase personifies my crisis, my identity, and my burden:

My entire identity-being was wrapped up in (1) my ability to starve, and (2) my intellect, I had a complete identity crisis when I realized neither of these was impressing anyone. (199)

One Comment leave one →
  1. thebluelight9 permalink
    April 12, 2010 7:59 am

    I was desperately looking for someone to elaborate their opinion on the this book. I have to say that it was incredibly triggering for me. Nonetheless, it was beautifully written and I agree with a lot of what you have to say about it. Nice blog. 🙂

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