Most of the time, since I got control of my eating, my eating disorder brain stays essentially dormant. I always have it, of course. But my issues are not necessarily prominent in my day-to-day life. My body stays basically the same. I eat basically the same. I’m not hungry or full. I eat 3 meals a day. Those meals are within my food boundaries. The rest of life goes along as it does. For the most part, since I no longer eat compulsively, food, eating, and my body are non-issues. But from time to time, my eating disorders move into the prime real estate in my head. And since I quit smoking and my body has been going through some big changes, my body image issues are reclining in a penthouse with an ocean view.
A few weeks ago I posted “Stupid mirror! I said fairest, not fattest!” That particular body image disorder attack was about looking at myself in the mirror and seeing a distorted image of myself. Seeing myself as fat when I am not.
And then I realized last night that for several weeks now I have been having what I call “diet-head” issues. And I didn’t exactly realize that I was in my “diet-head”. Because my eating disorders are sneaky and subtle and disguise themselves in myriad ways.
Since I quit smoking, I have had two things come up that are a double whammy when they come at the same time. I have been hungry and I have been gaining weight.
At least that’s what the scale says. Which is a whole other issue between me and my eating disorder brain. Because I was shocked to hell. I was actually expecting to have lost weight before I got on the scale the other day. I have not been feeling fat. My clothes fit. My face, neck and collar area are looking as slender as ever. And my stomach has been getting smaller. Frankly, if I didn’t know what the number on the scale was, I would not have thought twice about being back in my “regular” body. But I did, indeed, see the number on the scale. It was 140. (Yes! 140! Can you imagine how I freaked out!? I totally freaked out. Called my friend crying like a 3-year-old!) And it does not matter that I had been feeling thin and pretty and back to normal. The number on the scale trumps liking what’s in the mirror. Eating disorders are a trip, right?
It is very rare that I get hungry. It happens maybe three or four times a year. I eat multiple pounds of fruits and vegetables every day. Plus eggs, dairy, olive oil, butter, and a few times a week, meat. But for many weeks now, I have been hungry. I don’t know if it is emotional or physical. But either way, I have been afraid to do anything about it because the scale says I’ve been gaining weight. And my body image disorder brain has a desperate fear of getting fat.
My food boundaries are just boundaries. There is a lot of room within them. For example, how often I eat meat, or how much fat I want in my dairy products is absolutely changeable. My boundaries are not about deprivation or “dieting”. I never eat sugar, starch or simple carbohydrates, but I have plenty of options. I have plenty of room with the foods that I do eat to make sure I do not feel like I’m being punished. There are ways to eat within my food boundaries that can compensate for being hungry or feeling like it’s too much. One of the ways I can do that is with the size of certain fruits and vegetables. And sometimes I forget this.
When I was first getting control of my eating, I ate positively ginormous fruits and vegetables. I would go from market to market in search of the biggest and the best.
As the years have gone by, I do that less. It eventually started to become too much food. (That’s crazy to me, by the way. That I have reached a point in my life where there is such a thing as too much food! I’m a food addicted compulsive eater. That’s a freaking miracle!) So I generally stick to the basic fruit and veggie quantity. Like I said, it’s still multiple pounds every day…
But I’ve been hungry for a while now. When I have finished my meals, I have not been feeling satisfied. But I have been afraid to go out and find the biggest and the best like I did in the beginning. Because I want to get back to being 133 lbs and not 140. And because I already eat huge meals. I have been feeling like I should be satisfied. Like it’s shameful to want more. Plus the whole thing has seemed damned unfair! I quit smoking and I get punished with both being hungry and gaining weight!?!? Ugh! How am I not supposed to take this personally, God?
And then a good friend said “Stop thinking about it. Forget about your weight and enjoy your food.” And I said yes. I agreed. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking about enjoying fresh and delicious on the lighter side. Because good Lord, I weigh 140!
And then I was at the farmer’s market, and I saw giant cantaloupes. My body said, “Want! Want!” My terrified-of-getting-fat eating disorder brain went. “Tsk tsk. Better not. 140.” And then I heard my friend’s voice say “Enjoy your food!” And I bought a giant melon. Bigger than my head. Half for dinner last night and half for breakfast this morning.
And you know what? For the first time in weeks I felt satisfied. I went to bed with a smile on my face last night. I went to work today with a song in my heart. And I am not ashamed. And I am not afraid of getting fat. And last night, after dinner, I realized that for the first time in forever, I do not feel like I’m being punished. And that I do feel like I deserve. To enjoy my food. To enjoy my life. That I deserve to be satisfied. That I’m worth that!
I am starting to understand that deprivation feeds the idea that I don’t deserve, as much as feeling like I don’t deserve makes me deprive myself. That it is also circular, like the eating making me fat and ashamed, and shame making me eat. Basically, my eating disorder brain is like a giant, evil vortex. It swirls around and around and it will take starvation and deprivation as soon as gluttony and shame. It’s all the same as long as I am punished and miserable.
Let me be blunt. I’m walking a line here. I’m doing a dance with myself and my eating disorders. I am navigating food choices, emotional and physical comfort, self acceptance and body image. Food comforts me. Eating a giant cantaloupe made me feel better. Bacon and fried onions do too. There are things it would be dangerous for me to withhold from myself. Satisfaction in eating. Foods I enjoy. I need these things as much as I want them. For my sanity and my health. And at the same time, it would be dangerous to let myself actually gain more weight than I can be comfortable with. But I also know that I just quit smoking. And I need a little self-love. And some comfort. I don’t know what’s going on with my body. I’m just going to have to wait and see. But in the mean time, I am going to enjoy my food. Within my boundaries, of course. But there’s so much abundance and deliciousness withn those boundaries. So if keeping myself comfortable and cared for means that I am going to have to occasionally eat a cantaloupe bigger than my head…well so be it…