No matter how much weight I lost, I couldn’t love myself. I couldn’t look in a mirror and think, “This is it. This is the body I have always wanted, so I can stop now.” But in my head it was always, “I’ll stop when I drop 5 more lbs and then I can go back to normal.”
5 lbs down, 10 lbs down, 20 lbs down, normal never came. It always annoys me when I hear people say people with eating disorders are vain. I didn’t get to enjoy my body. Not once did I like the way it looked. There was never once a point where I felt sexy. I felt like a piece of shit. But I couldn’t stop. More, more, more and it was never enough.
I was an empty shell and I couldn’t stop. When people would talk to me, their words had no meaning. Food scared the shit out of me, and excited me at the same time. Almost as if eating was a dirty little secret. I would go look at the food in the cupboards or watch food network and get a high from imagining what it would taste like, and feel like I had “strength” because I could avoid it.
Multiple times I would wake up in the middle of the night and feel shame for the extra 10 unplanned calories I ate that day and go for a 3 mile run. I was terrified of the dark, and cold. I had tears streaming down my face the entire time, but I couldn’t stop.
I distinctly remember my family taking us on a trip where I was with them from morning to night and I shoved three peanut butter sandwiches, a granola bar, and a couple cheese sticks down my pants and sloshed around all day with sandwich in my crack simply to avoid detection.
Eventually things became life threatening, and I was hospitalized for three weeks. The experience of that was more traumatic than my actual eating disorder, but I’ll save that story for another day.
My disorder today
Fast forward to today, and I have overcome my eating disorder. Although, to be honest, overcome isn’t the right word. Manage is more accurate. Are we ever able to fully overcome an eating disorder? I have yet to find out, but I’d like to hope so. After you have been to such a dark place, you never fully come back. Your brain is just wired that way. Instead, I have learned to channel my need for control into other outlets and push myself in ways that fight against everything I am familiar and comfortable with. The only way to overcome anything is to challenge it.
There has never been any middle ground for me. It’s all or nothing. My eating disorder eventually began to shift from obsession with losing weight to an obsession with gaining weight (muscle) and eating more than my fill to make that happen. But even that became unhealthy and obsessive. It is a constant game of “check yo self”. You have to know when to take a rest day. Know when to put down a tracker and eat intuitively (no matter how outside of my comfort zone it may be)
So how do you approach nutrition when you are wanting to achieve a certain body type but know you have eating disorder tendencies? In a perfect world, you would take the self love route. You’d stop worrying about what your body looks like, and eat intuitively. But honestly, we live in an image based world and most of us are not yet in a place where that is something we are willing to explore. And I’ll be the first to admit it.
Eating disorders are all about control. So I give myself control and I take it away strategically when I abuse that control. I track my food to make sure I am eating the right amounts that are healthy for my body and conducive for my goals. But when this becomes obsessive, I pull back and have untracked days. This practice initially made me extremely uncomfortable. After doing it over and over, I realized my body wasn’t changing. I wasn’t gaining any weight. Soon enough, I became confident enough that I could eat freely and the anxiety around untracked days went away.
So, how do you reach your goals and your ideal body if you are always falling off your program? It’s about balance. And by balance, I’m talking about the 80/20 rule. 80% of the days, I stick to my plan. 20% of the days, I don’t.
And to be honest, your goals won’t go out the window if you skew off track. As long as you are headed in the right direction, you’ll be good. And, you’ll be able to develop a positive relationship with yourself along the way.
This method works for me. It may not work for everyone, but this is how I have been able to keep my eating disorder in check. There isn’t one “perfect way” to heal from an eating disorder. All I know is that I sure as hell will continue to fight and outsmart it with everything I have.
And through this entire process, I can say that I’ve learned how to shove peanut butter sandwiches in my mouth instead of my pants.