I apologize for another ED related post, but someone said something to me yesterday that really stirred up some thoughts in my mind…
Bingeing is a topic not often discussed in the eating disorder world because it tends to invoke a lot of shame, guilt, and self-hatred. Restricting does the same, in a different way, but bingeing is much less a “socially acceptable” problem than calorie cutting and over-exercise. We live in a really messed up culture where thin is in and people go to extreme measures to make themselves fit an image that biologically may not be natural.
I view hunger in a similar fashion; intuitive eating is somewhat of a foreign concept. Not everyone’s body requires the same nourishment; some people have super fast metabolisms and can literally eat EVERYTHING they want without gaining an ounce, others may not be as lucky. Some people can gain muscle easily, barely having the lift a finger, while their neighbor can lift and lift and lift, drink protein shake after protein shake and not bulk up at all. Every body is different and something I am trying to work on is implementing a NO COMPARISON rule. No comparing my physical shape, no comparing my meal plan or plate, and no comparing my exercise routine to anyone, but instead looking at the progress, ME and an INDIVIDUAL, makes. After all, don’t people say the world would be pretty boring if everyone was the same? I am kinda starting to feel that way.
My disordered healthy behaviors started with a messed up relationship with exercise. I was a girl who loved to exercise and I did it EVERY SINGLE day. I loved the “high” I got after jumping off the treadmill, or having a power session on the elliptical. I loved seeing my muscles change and feeling like I had some sort of control of my physique. I did not have an eating disorder where I skipped meals (which is why it took me SO long to admit I had a problem). I ate every single meal and included snacks sometimes too, but I was VERY rigid. I calculated and measured everything that went into my mouth. I looked at food as calories rather than nourishment. I cut out entire food groups and completely ignored the idea of moderation. Ultimately, I didn’t value myself, and my body, enough to fuel it with what I needed for the active lifestyle I wanted to live!
I constantly checked websites to make sure I was eating the “right amount” and read all these articles that said to only eat 1600 calories a day. I never really thought about the fact that every site I went to had different answers on their “scientific calculations,” and that this could possibly be telling me that listening to my body’s hunger fullness signals was probably the best way to go? But how was I going to know that? Hungry, full? I got pretty good at overriding these signs, or at least ignoring that gnawing pain that should have said “Duh, FEED ME!” I would guzzle seltzer water, diet coke, and eat loads and loads of lettuce just to stave off the horrible hungry feeling. I even got pretty crafty at making my meals look big, with the lowest possible caloric value, to trick both myself and others that everything in my diet was A-ok. But a body can only starve for so long…
Ryan and I were going back to the Mediterranean for our one year anniversary (we had gone there for our honeymoon). We were taking a cruise that left from Barcelona so we went a day early to explore the sites and enjoy a city neither of us had ever seen. My body does not do well with schedule changes so my sleep patterns were all our of whack and after 20 hours of being awake I crashed only to wake up a few hours later panicked that I had to fit in my morning workout routine before Ryan got up.
Silly him…He was of the mindset that vacation was actually for relaxing!
DAMN THIS TREADMILL! I hopped on one of the two treadmills in the hotel gym but it was in kilometers and the speed was off and it just wouldn’t work the same as mine at home. And to make matters worse I didn’t feel right. My legs felt abnormally heavy and my stomach was turning and I just couldn’t do it. What has gotten into me?! I kept repeating in my head, “You never quit…power through the pain and sickness! Gosh darnit, you do this every day and today should be no different!”
Am I hungry? Why do I feel so weird? What do I do?
I got a drink of water and then it happened…
I looked over only to see the free breakfast buffet that came with our hotel package.
Has anyone had a european breakfast buffet? It is full of fresh cheeses, meats, NUTELLA, muesli, grainy cereals, milk, yogurt, fruit, and the crustiest, oatiest, warmest, freshly made, loaves of bread you could possibly imagine. The other difference between this and the breakfast at the Hampton Inn is there are NO NUTRITION LABELS. There aren’t boxes of frosted flakes, its actual oats and grains and dried fruit. The yogurt doesn’t come in a Danon Light and Fit container, it is in a larger bowl that you scoop out into your own bowl. There are no measuring spoons and I obviously did not have mine with me (which was abnormal because I am sad to admit I usually carried them in my purse). I was about to panic.
Knowing Ryan would sleep for another few hours I sat down to at least get some coffee. Maybe after some coffee and water I could go back to my treadmill….
…Or maybe not.
I just want a roll, ONE roll. I love crusty bread and I haven’t had something other than diet bread or a low carb wrap in so long, so I put one on my plate. Ok, fruit. Fruit is healthy, and I am probably still dehydrated from the long flight…look at those berries…so fresh and juicy…just a small scoop. I put some of that in a bowl. Then I thought about calcium…the milk looked like it was whole milk so i ruled that out but that yogurt…oh the yogurt. It looked like the thick creamy greek kind I buy at home. Lets just top the fruit with a little bit of that, only a small spoonful…my bones need the calcium after all! And just a sprinkle of muesli for good measure. You can’t find good muesli in our town, you know.
I sat down with my plate(s) and started to eat. OH….MY….GOSH! It was like I never had food before. I wasn’t even done with what I had before I was planning what I wanted next! Turkey with that awesomely grainy mustard, another roll with Nutella, and just a little more yogurt with that other granola-looking stuff….well the portions I got, were not so little.
I got my next round and sat down…I ate and panicked. What had I just done?! Are you kidding me!??!?!?!? This is how you are going to start the vacation, CJ?! Get your butt back to the gym right this very second and RUN RUN RUN. Even though my stomach felt like it was about to burst I marched into the gym and got back on the treadmill. I could barely walk my tummy hurt so bad. I had to get rid of this feeling. Both physically and mentally I wanted to die. I hated myself and everything that I just did. I RUINED EVERYTHING. I kept repeating, “how can you be so stupid, so weak…you have no will-power. You are pathetic and will make up for this later…”
There were plenty more of these terrible thoughts I just am chosing to not re-live this moment in its entirety for the sake of my sanity, and yours.
I could not find a bathroom in this gosh darn hotel and conveniently at this moment no one could speak english, or understand me in my frantic state, so I went up to our room. I turned on the shower and sat down by the toilet…I won’t describe in detail what happened next because, 1. I am still very ashamed about how much I hurt Ryan on the day our wedding occurred only one year before and 2. I really do not want to trigger anyone more than I may have already.
I used an eating disorder behavior I never ever had until this point. I felt so helpless, so full, so guilty. I must have woken Ryan up because I heard a knock on the door.
Oh no. What do I do? I answered…
“Ceej, are you ok? Do you think you have food poisoning from last night?! You don’t look like you feel well! Can I get you anything, some water?”
My face must have said it all because he closed the door and went back to the bed. He wouldn’t even look at me. How could I, he asked? How could I do this, disrespect myself and him on such an important day? Just a few days earlier I begged him to still go on this trip even though the doctors had advised against it, and he had his apprehensions, but I said I was fine! And now I had proven all them all right. I obviously was not fine, and needed way more help than an outpatient clinic.
I explained to Ryan what happened. “I binged!” I said, “I ate everything I could get my hands on! The carbs! I couldn’t handle all those delicious looking carbs!” Embarrassed I told him every morsel of what I ate and he looked at me with blank eyes.
“Honestly, that is not a binge CJ. That is what your body needed today. Some days may be like this, but others will not. It is normal to indulge a little on vacation, and you need to look at those foods as energy, not calories.”
Indulge a little?! WAS HE CRAZY?! He held me as I cried and fell back to sleep…ashamed for getting caught even though I was secretly happy I got rid of that horrible full feeling. (Isnt that sad…I seriously needed to get over myself!)
I promised I would eat lunch even though I insisted my body couldn’t possibly need it, and we ate together as soon as we got on the ship…
And oh joy, it was another buffet…(Which thanks to him I handled much better)
I went to the gym that afternoon as Ryan got the message I ordered for an anniversary gift. The entire 80 minutes of his treatment I ran. I ran faster and farther than I had before, looking around as each mile passed to make sure he wouldn’t see. I had to do this because I thought it could erase what I had eaten earlier. I did not run because I wanted to. I ran because there was a voice in my head telling me if I didn’t, he would never leave me alone.
Looking back now I realize how much this situation proves the depth of my sickness. I hurt people I love so much and didn’t even care. I was too worried about resuming the lifestyle that made me “comfortable” to realize what I was doing to my body, and to those around me. I shouldn’t be ashamed for bingeing. I should be ashamed for my attitude toward myself, to my husband, and to our marriage.
I am really glad I can see that now, but if you would have talked to me about this early in my recovery I would have looked at you like you were nuts. In my mind I did what I had to do to stay sane, when really I was just enabling my disease to take deeper hold onto my life.
Every day you (and I) let the eating disorder dictate your actions, is another day it will take more away. You may not see it now, but you will. It took me really talking through this situation, and many others, to see the wrong I was doing. I obviously still struggle, but I am working every day to fight back. I take it one day at a time, one meal at a time, one food at a time.
We are all worth way more than any number on the scale or inside our jeans, or in the particular case mentioned above, the extra calories I may have consumed on a vacation I was very lucky to take.
Every person is different, has varying nutritional needs, and contributes something special to society regardless of their size. I am trying to find myself outside appearances and superficial means, realizing there are way more important things in life to worry about than food and exercise. To do this my therapist suggested I tell myself one nice thing a day, or one thing I appreciate about MY PERSONALITY, on a daily basis.
I usually find this odd and have trouble doing this because I feel like I am bragging or being conceited, but today I am going to share with you one thing I like about myself…
I am a good person, with strong values and a kind heart. I like to help others in any way I can.
This may not always be true, and I may not feel this way tomorrow, or an hour from now, but the one thing I can definitively say about recovery is, A LOT OF TIMES YOU HAVE TO FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT.
So now it is your turn…
What is one thing you like about yourself? (Or more, I think self-confidence is one of the best assets to have!)
Do you ever have to fake it til you make it?