Recently, I've been reading a lot of fodder about diets. Again. It seems like this type of stuff comes in waves. A wave of the Atkins Diet, a wave of the Southbeach Diet, a wave of the Grapefruit Diet, a wave of the Blood Type diet. And Weight Watchers. And Nutri-System. And Jenny Craig. And whole body cleansing. And juice diets. Guess what?
I've tried them all.
I even went into credit card debt buying food from Meals to Go. Why, you ask? Because I was under the impression that I had absolutely no control over my own ability to make sensible eating decisions. I thought that if food was put in front of me, I would not be able to control myself. After all, I was "fat", and that's what fat people do, right?
This, my friends, came as the result of a lifetime of disordered eating. I have mentioned this in the past without going into any significant detail, but I suffered from bulimia for many (many) years. It was a secret from my family, my friends, my former husband. NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY knew that I suffered from this disorder. It was my little way of coping. Of retaining (or regaining) control over my little world.
Don't get me wrong, I don't blame our diet-fanatic society for my eating disorder, but I do believe that because our society is so fixated on diets, there is this constantly looming downward pressure to be thin. In my 15-year-old universe, a way to "get skinny" soon developed into an all-encompassing coping mechanism. Society didn't tell me to become bulimic, but society definitely taught me from a very early age to "think thin".
A decision to lose weight almost always starts as just a simple diet, but often turns into a life-consuming parasite. In my opinion, diets are their very own category of eating disorder, in a totally non-bulimia way.
Have you ever known anybody who stayed on the Atkins Diet for YEARS, swearing off carbs as bad, and not eating a single piece of fruit for the last 5 years of the 20th century? This happens all too often. Many people do not know how to not be on a diet. Many people see food as either "bad" or "good", and somewhere along the way, their self-worth becomes mixed up in the equation. "Bad" food makes us guilty, and when we partake in this "bad" food, we feel bad about ourselves as people. When we eat "good" food, we feel good about ourselves as people.
This is disordered thinking, it is irrational, and it is just simply not true.
Food does not come in "bad" and "good" varieties.
We are not what we eat.
We are the people who love us, the quality with which we love other people, the depth with which we allow others to love us, the lives we live, the kind things that we do, and the way in which we choose to live our lives.
It took me nearly 2 years of therapy to come to these conclusions.
Don't let me fool you into thinking that my kung fu is strong like that. I still have my issues, that is without a doubt. The thing that I know for certain is that I will never again suffer from bulimia, I will never again be unkind to myself to the point of self-deprecating behavior, and I will never suffer from obesity. It's just not worth it.
The road to becoming "deprogrammed" from at least 15 years of "think thin"ism was long. I was able to do outpatient treatment because I was not dangerously underweight, thankfully. My treatment began on February 23, 2006, and I stopped all forms of treatment on June 8, 2007 (and I just had to write a series of dates on a blue sticky note so that I could sort that out).
The misconception about bulimia is that you lose weight. This is completely untrue, and from my experience, most bulimics are of normal weight or slightly overweight. I was one of the "slightly overweight" variety of bulimics. The only time that my weight would plummet is when I would go on one of my suicidal "fasts"; meticulously writing down every morsel that I ate, exercising up to 3 hours per day, and feeling victorious when I knew that I had burned more calories than I consumed. The tracking process was exhausting. Considering that I am an Excel-obsessed accountant, I was stellar at keeping track of how many calories I had burned and consumed. I knew how many calories would create a pound of body weight, and I meticulously tracked everything that passed my chapped lips just to ensure that I was working on a deficit.
I knew how many calories every food that could ever potentially pass my lips contained. Per ounce. Per cup. Per tablespoon. The mere record-keeping involved with starving myself was EXHAUSTING!
Inevitably, the weight would come back as soon as I began eating again, because my body was trying to hold onto every last calorie for fear of being starved to death again. Then the vicious binge/purge cycle would resume. Around December, 2005, I began to notice that I was having chest pains, and my fingers would tingle for no apparent reason. I was also getting sick all the time with upper respiratory infections for the entire winter of 2005. Being sick was a major trigger for my eating disorder to kick into full effect. Being sick meant that I had control over nothing. Not even my body would act appropriately. How dare I let myself get sick, and not be able to work out excessively for fear of an asthma attack!
I was sick for so long that I didn't remember not being sick. I started to not care about being sick, and I'd work out through the coughing and hacking and headaches. I was still binging/purging, by the way. In mid-February 2006, I started to experience dagger-like pains in my ribs when I breathed, sneezed, coughed, moved, breathed. Breathing was important. I was fearful that I had cracked a rib along the way during one of my bulimia benders. Despite all of the other problems I was having (constant sickness, chest pains, tingly fingers), the dagger in my ribcage was what brought me to the doctor.
Everyone has their rock bottom. It turns out that the dagger in my ribcage was mine. Enough was enough, and I was sick of being controlled by something other than my own will to be healthy and happy. I'm sure that my primary care physician thought I was insane, because as soon as he began to examine me for cracked ribs, the waterworks began. I told him my entire, long, painful story of bulimia. Much to his other patients dismay, I'm sure. They had to wait on the crunchy-paper-covered exam table for extra long that day! I did walk out of the doctor's office that day sad because I had a pretty bad infection in my lungs called pleurisy, but the good news was that it would go away, I had a referral to an ED treatment center, and I felt strangely liberated.
During my first 2 months of treatment, I met with a nutritionist and therapist on a weekly basis. I hated the nutritionist. She was skinny. And pixie-like. I always wanted to be skinny and pixie-like. I dreaded going to my appointments with her. I would get all sweaty and nervous when I had to go into her office. She was going to weigh me. That skinny pixie was going to weigh me. I lost 8 pounds within the first three weeks of treatment. That wasn't the goal. Eventually, I realized that the little pixie had issues of her own, and I wasn't really interested in being like her anymore. The 8 pounds that I lost in the first 3 weeks stayed off. I didn't care one way or another. I was becoming less and less fixated on my weight and the scale (I had no scale anymore, it was thrown away very early on), and more concerned with my personal well-being.
Strangely, ironically, maddeningly, I have maintained the same weight since my 3rd week of treatment. Give or take 5 pounds. That was 3 years ago. It really only makes me mad because I think of how many years I spent killing myself to lose just a few pounds, and here I am 3 years later. The same weight.
The moral of the story: Stop killing yourself. Stop dieting. Stop trying so hard.
I paid a lot of money for the skinny pixie to teach me how to eat properly from a nutritional standpoint. What it all boils down to is this:
There is no magic formula to eating. Eat what you want when you want it. Just be mindful. Obviously, eating an entire bag of Lays isn't going to do your body much good from a nutritional standpoint. But if you want some chips, eat the damn chips! Stop thinking so much.
Notice there is no talk of calories. Or diets. Or daggers in the ribcage.
Be kind to yourself.
Oh. Just because you stuck through this whole post (as I climbed up and then stepped back down from the largest soapbox ever), I give you this...A tribute to the horror that was my 8th grade formal.
You just have to laugh at this one. Go ahead, I won't feel bad. I almost peed my pants when it surfaced on facebook. The horror.