A recovered life does not fear me, it’s the journey to get there that is holding me back. Unfortunately, right now, recovery only seems like a miracle, making it unimaginable for me to categorize myself with the individuals who have overcome this battle. As much as I continue to hold onto my eating disorder, I do recognize that life without it would be incredible, and actually life changing. By not having this illness constantly intervene in my everyday life, I would be genuinely happy, less stressed/anxious, mindful, and overall FREE. I could finally just live my life without thinking and worrying about food 99.9% of my day. I can see myself finally being able to open up and share my feelings/emotions with others instead of relying on ED to help me cope temporarily. I picture me engaging in social gatherings not just physically, but mentally (because my ED brain is always present). Going off of that, my relationships with friends and family would greatly improve and I could finally put an end to hurting the people who truly care about me.
*I have learned through reading that individuals with eating disorders have two parts of them; one being their true healthy self and then the other being the self-destructive disorder. This analogy has helped me realize that all of this negativity that I have absorbed into my life is only due to the ED part of me, which I CAN in fact get rid of! As I have taken some steps back since treatment, the ED side of me has gotten stronger and has convinced me that this illness is something that I can just deal with the rest of my life. By picking up a book and doing exercises (like this one), I have identified the healthy self of me that I still have and know that living with an eating disorder does not qualify as living.
With this tool I can practice and learn how to strengthen my healthy self by challenging and talking back to my ED. This is not to say that I will automatically believe my counteractive statements and/or that they will prevent me from using a behavior, but through journaling it WILL help me gain an understanding of why I might be doing it and what the underlying fear is. An example of this dialogue that stood out in relevance to me was this one…
ED Self: Even when I’m at a healthy weight I will be miserable, so I might as well be thin and miserable, rather than fat and miserable.
Healthy Self:You can’t predict how you will feel at a healthy weight because you have never been there long enough. All you know for sure is that you are absolutely miserable and alone when you are sickly thin. That is a known fact, whereas you don’t know how you will feel if you gain weight and become healthy.
Getting back to the original topic of life when I am recovered, I am more hopeful and motivated to get to that point. I know it will take time and there will be bumps in the road, but in the end it will be worth it once I get back myself and can start truly living.
Diving into the real world seemed like a manageable step, however, after a week of settling in at home, I realized that I took a dive with not enough water. I was not oblivious to the fact that I wasn’t fully ready to discharge, but rather, overpowered by the depressing idea of spending my winter break in a hospital/and lonely apartment, instead of at home with my family. On top of that, I’m sure ED completely supported my decision, knowing that without as much protection, it would be easier for him to get back some control.
As some might already know, after already struggling at home, I came to the conclusion that going back to Iowa would not be in my best interest. I was and still am convinced that going back into what seems like a toxic environment, would just result in me being right back where I started, or even worse.
Figuring out whether to go back to school or not was a very challenging and stressful decision. The best representation I can give of the constant battle I face, is a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Of course, the devil is the voice of ED, the voice continuously telling me that recovery is not in my future and if anything, is a part of me that I need to keep in order to be happy. I know that is far from true, and that is where the angel comes in, the part of me that wants to recover and knows that the only thing preventing me from genuinely being happy, is ED.
I didn’t want to admit it, but the only thing that has made me want to go back to Iowa is that devil on my shoulder knowing that it would be much easier for me to lose the weight that I have restored. Thankfully, that angel on my shoulder has gotten stronger and can identify all of ED’s irrational thinking and minimize his power. There were two distinct paths laid out for my future, either go back to school so I can get worse or stay home to get better.
Although my decision to stay home was far from simple, I can proudly say I made the right choice. Recovery is scary, and honestly, sometimes getting better is more frightening than actually living with an eating disorder. I discretely had the chance to walk away and give ED what he wanted, but that angel was there to realize that the only person I’d be fooling, is myself.
So, my plan is to finish up the year at College of DuPage (where I was before), then attend the University of St. Francis come the fall. Being in a loving and supportive environment is crucial for recovery and I am so fortunate to have that. I am beyond relieved to be home with my family.
Thank you Madeline for taking the time/effort to apply to colleges for me (although might be illegal) and direct me in the right path. Although I get frustrated, thank you for pushing me outside my comfort zone and setting up rules, goals, and challenges for my Road to Recovery at home. Words can’t describe how much I appreciate all you’ve done/ do for me and I want everyone to know how incredible of a sister you are.
Thank you Mom for simply accompanying me during meals and for holding me accountable. I’m sure it can be stressful at times, but without you there, I would struggle to do it on my own.
Thank you Dad for never pressuring any decisions especially those that haven't been the most cost-effective. I know how much you strive to see my healthy and happy.
To the rest of the family, thank you for your love, laughs, and support, I love you all<3
My most miserable days might have taken place in partial, however, I truly miss it. For the first time since coming to school, I have felt most at home while being in the hospital. I’m sure that sounds pathetic or maybe even crazy, but it’s the truth. If you’ve walked in my shoes, you’d understand why.
So, how can I hold onto a place that caused me so much anxiety, frustration, discomfort, and anger? Where to begin???
I miss being taken of.
I miss others holding me accountable.
I miss being told when to eat, how much to eat, and what to eat.
I miss eating with individuals who are there to struggle with me.
I miss being able to challenge myself with the company of others.
I miss knowing that I will have to get my tray checked.
I miss knowing that I have to finish my meal.
I miss not being able to easily give in to ED.
I miss being able to talk about my issues at any given time.
I miss being around people that saw right through me and my lies.
I miss being able to say “no” to ED, and “yes” to recovering.
I miss being surrounded by individuals who truly understand this disorder.
I miss my partial family.
Lastly, I really miss those monster cookies that I got for free in the hospital!
With all of this sentimental talk, I might be painting a picture of partial hospitalization as some glorious place filled with rainbows and unicorns, but that is far from reality...
Partial was your biggest nightmare.
Partial was a long 8 hours.
Partial was stuck in a hospital.
Partial was anxiety and even anxiety attacks.
Partial was eating one meal that was equivalent to what you consumed in one day.
Partial was discomfort.
Partial was constant fear.
Partial was lying.
Partial was hiding things.
Partial was lack of freedom.
Partial was lack of trust.
Partial was misery.
Partial was shame and guilt.
Partial was disgust.
Partial was using whatever disordered behavior you were capable of.
Partial was a waterfall of tears.
Partial was a blockade in my education.
Partial was never apart of the plan.
Partial was traumatizing.
Aside from this negative depiction, it is, and forever will be, a special place to me. After all, partial did give me some of my life back, and I am forever grateful for it.
Although there is no finish line in treatment, after 6 weeks and 37 days spent in partial hospitalization, I felt that it was time to discharge. As miserable (along with frustrated, disgusted, anxious, etc.) as treatment made me at times, I was genuinely sad to be leaving. Although the days were filled with challenges and discomfort, the hospital was my place where I felt comfortable and finally understood by others. Support from the staff was constantly present and they always went above and beyond by assisting other issues that had been effected such as school, work, and relationships with friends/family/significant other. Needless to say, my parents were not present, but the staff did an amazing job by filling in their shoes and taking care of me.
As for other patients, I have bonded with individuals of all ages that were alongside struggling and even supporting me, whom which I will never forget. Through partial, I have even made a new best friend, Alyssa. Not only did Alyssa and I instantly bond in treatment over our motivation and desire to lead every group topic, but also our similar personalities and interests. What made our friendship special and unique to others, was that the essential qualities of a best friend (trusting, honest, supportive, understanding), was already present prior to actually becoming friends. Even though Alyssa and I have only known one another for a matter of a month, being that she is also fighting this battle, she is able to understand me more than anyone I know. Alyssa is the one person that can be by my side struggling, yet at the end of the day, manage to be smiling and laughing with me. I would have never guessed that someone that I just met would have such a significant impact on me, but boy am I thankful for you. Love you Alyssa <3
I am also thankful for all the extra love and support that my family has cherished me with during these difficult times. Mom, dad, Lauren, Katie, and Madeline, I would not have been able to be so strong and successful if it weren't for all of you.
Thank you mom for basically being a student here at Iowa and spending time with me when I really needed you.
Thank you mom for the little things that actually meant a lot to me, like sending me daily quotes.
Thank you dad for reaching out to me numerous times throughout the day and asking how I was doing.
Thank you dad for telling me every day how much you love me and how proud you are of me.
Thank you mom and dad for going above and beyond by trying to make my time at Iowa enjoyable.
Thank you Lauren, Katie, and Madeline for never treating me like a burden to the family.
Thank you Lauren, Katie, and Madeline for always putting up with me.
Thank you Lauren, Katie, and Madeline for continuing to treat me like a sister and not a patient.
Thank you family for showing me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel during the times when I struggled to see it.
Thank you family for always checking in on me, even when I was having a bad day and didn't care to talk.
Thank you family for reminding me of my strength, when I thought I lost it.
Thank you to those that have been taking the time to read all of my blogs.
Thank you to those who have been checking in on me and asking how I'm doing.
Thank you to those individuals at school who have offered to have meals with me.
Thank you to the Knudson's for always welcoming me in their home while being at school.
Thank you to Shirley for providing me the opportunity to go through treatment.
Huge thank you to the team of doctors, dietitians, psychotherapists, occupational therapists, and recreational therapists for all that I was taught, the care that was given, showing me the challenges I'm capable of overcoming, and helping me get some of my life back.
As delicious as this meal was(no joke), I hope it was the last tray I will ever be served...
I want to take this time and thank you for being the best boyfriend that a girl can ask for. The past five years have flown by and there hasn’t been a day where you haven’t been there for me. During high-school you helped me cope with the fact that I did poorly in school and was scared of my future. I always feared the reality of growing up and being a kid, however, you showed me that I could at least look like one. You gave me the confidence in life that I needed. You told me I looked better if I was under weight and you were even there to take me shopping for the new clothes. You proved to others how good I am at making excuses, denying invites, and isolating myself. Thankyou ED for making me feel that there was something that I was not only good at, but had control over...(little did I find out, I was the one controlled.)
I miss you,
Your purpose in life disgusts me. You have had full control over me the past five years and made me forget about the things that are important. As I envisioned you were there to help me cope with my struggles in school, you were actually distracting me and making things even harder. You publicly humiliated me at social events and told me that it wasn’t ok for me to eat the things that others were. What boyfriend does that???? You took away my vibrant personality and instead, made me isolate and think getting sleep was more important than going out with my friends. You ruined holidays, parties, and events for me because you refused to let me think it was acceptable to engage in traditions. You even managed to make the one day of the year, my birthday, a time that I feared rather than enjoyed. I had plans for my future but our relationship got so psychologically unhealthy that instead of going away to college like my peers, I stayed home. Through therapy with you, I benefitted by becoming more mature, self-aware, and overall learn things that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Although things were paying off for me individually, unfortunately our relationship was still difficult. I ended up staying home another year because we couldn’t continue working on our relationship if I was away. It seemed that you were finally less controlling and that we could manage where we were at, but little did I realize, you just brainwashed me into lying to the individuals that were there to support us. The thing that I despise you the most for is making me believe that after two years of working on our relationship, we were finally set for our future. I hate you for constantly telling me that I looked beautiful at an unhealthy weight when you knew the damage I was doing to achieve that body. I tried breaking up with you when I left for college and that is just when your abuse got worse. You wouldn’t let me go out, you wouldn’t let me eat the things everyone else, you wouldn’t let me wear certain clothes, and most of all, you wouldn’t let me focus on the one thing I came here to do, attend school. I believed you when you told me that I could rely on you to help cope with my challenging transition and I hate you for proving me wrong. I hate you for telling me that I deserved all of the abuse and that there was nothing I could do to protect myself. I am disappointed in myself for letting things get to this point and for not sharing to those who would’ve protected me. You showed me that I was incapable of fully doing things on my own and that I needed to put my life on hold in order to recover from the past 5 years of your abuse. I hate you for convincing me that I would feel better if I lied and hid things, when in reality, it brought shame. I hate you for making me feel defeated and hopeless. I hate you for attributing to my anxiety and all the restless nights pondering what tomorrow will bring.
As I might resent you for taking away years of my life, college experience, and relationships, I would like to thank you for all that you’ve given me. You have brought out my strengths through battling my weaknesses. You have helped identify how brave, considerate, honest, and strong I am. You have showed me not only all of the support I’m surrounded by, but the individuals who are truly there for me. By overcoming obstacles, you have given me the confidence I need to do anything in life. Although I am at a place where I really need to focus on myself, you have showed me I am capable of still putting others first. As I feel like your abuse put me at a disadvantage in life, you actually put me at an advantage by all that I’ve learned. I want to thank you for making me want to quit in order to show me the courage I have to continue.
Friends and family do their best to understand what things are like for me, but no one can truly understand. Realistically, I wouldn’t even want them knowing all of the irrational thoughts that go through my mind on a regular basis. I know my parents would be disappointed in me if I stayed in a psychically and emotionally abusive relationship, however, I have been in one for the past 5 years with an @sshole named ED, that I can’t seem to get rid of.
When I informed family/friends that I was struggling and had gotten in the habit of hiding food, they were unsurprisingly, not pleased. I understood their disappointment, but they were making it seem like going against treatment was a path that I wanted to be taking. Realistically, this is part of the process and if I was crushing it every day with happiness, then I wouldn’t have an eating disorder. I might not have been completing all my meals and snacks, but I am still here fighting. I should get some credit for that, right?
The feeling of shame that has resulted from hiding food is not something I enjoy, however, nor is the discomfort and guilt that comes with being extremely full. Defending my actions to outsiders doesn’t do justice and if people understood what it was like then they would be surprised that I waited so long to start hiding my food!
So, what is so hard about gaining/restoring weight? Let’s just say the words “eating disorder” and “weight” do not go well together. Throughout my relationship with ED, I have heard individuals make comments how they wish they could be as strict as me with food or even look as thin as I do. The comment I love the most are about people wishing they had to be forced to gain weight. For those that don’t realize, these statements are similar to telling an alcoholic that you wish you could drink as much as them...FYI just because an alcoholic continues to drink, that doesn’t mean it brings them happiness or that they didn’t wish they could stay away from picking up a bottle, it means they are sick.
I would do anything….
-to see myself like others do (aka not have a distorted body image)
-to know if tomorrow is going to be ok or totally awful
-to be able to eat a cheeseburger without thinking about it the remainder of the day
-to look in the mirror without thinking that the cheeseburger made me gain 5 lbs.
-to have my outside support system be able to fully understand
-to never believe that there is an easier way out than recovering
-in a hospital for 8 hours, 5 days a week
-scared of 100 calories, yet having to eat as much as 1,000 in one sitting
-uncomfortably full to the point where you might/or actually do throw up(unintentionally).
-expected to eat 1 ½ later regardless of the guilt and discomfort that you already have
Imagine not being…
-a normal college student
-fully trusted by others
-able to even trust yourself
-able to use the bathroom around a meal/snack without feeling like people might think you are actually purging
-able to fall asleep because you are already getting anxiety about what tomorrow will bring (ex. the things you will be able to eat, the things you won’t, and the things you will be able to hide)
-able to plan your future (ex. Not knowing how long treatment will be, if I will get better/worse, if treatment will be something I need to do next semester, etc)
-able to easily adjust back to normal eating environments with people
After having a rough week and no longer being able to pick my foods (as a consequence of throwing away part of my breakfast), I was close to giving up and discharging from partial against staff recommendations. With the help of my peers and family, I was able to come to the conclusion that I was not going to quit treatment when people were deliberately telling me I wasn’t ready. On top of that, I thought about the people reading my blogs that encourage, support, or look up to me, and I was not about to disappoint anyone, especially myself. The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that you can only go up, and that’s exactly what I have done. I am proud to say that I have gotten out of the habit of hiding foods (majority of the time), and I can say the feeling is much better than being disappointed, guilty, and anxious. The discomfort of being full is still there, but I have learned to accept it and power through it reminding myself that it is temporary.
Although it doesn't feel like it majority of the time, I have officially survived my first month of treatment. When people asked about how my first week went, I was proudly and genuinely able to say that it went well! I initially was able to find excitement in challenging myself and trying the new foods I was given, but I soon realized that the challenges were insignificant to what was yet to come. I was warned that on my first day of treatment I would probably think I made the worst decision of my life but it wasn’t until the end of the second week when that feeling hit. I had a huge wake-up call that treatment was FAR from exciting and that the obstacles I would be faced would be the most challenging things I would ever have to overcome. I went into (and ended) my first week in treatment with a great deal of confidence and motivation, which is why I was even more discouraged when the reality of it occurred…
Before treatment, I was truly satisfied with the way I looked even though I knew others viewed me as “unhealthy” or “gross”. I didn’t think I was restricting, but considering I was continuously losing weight, I can look back and say I was in denial. Getting down to the double digits, my weight was at an all-time low, seeming to be completely out of my control. That being said, I was committed to putting any leftover control that I had, into the hands of professionals.
Finding out that I was expected to restore around 18 lbs. not only seemed unbearable, but totally unrealistic. However, soon into treatment that fear turned into motivation as I knew I would get off trays and be able to pick my food (within reason), once I started to restore. Whether it brought me disgust, discomfort, or guilt, I proudly ate everything that was given to me throughout the 8 hours at the hospital. Independent meals (a time where we have complete freedom- aka can easily act on any urges), was a time for me to show myself and/or others my determination to destroy the illness that has been eating at me for years (literally lol). Needless to say, I was genuinely happy when I saw a slight increase in my weight, knowing my “reward” of some freedom, was soon to come.
At this time, when I saw others hiding food, I found it pathetic that they deliberately chose to go against recovering. Not only was it disappointing to see, but it was also extremely frustrating and tempting to do the same. Why deal with the emotional, mental, and physical discomfort when there was an alternative action that could temporary ease that? Yes, that action might not be in the steps to recovery, but it sure would be easier! Little did I find out, it wasn’t…
As degrading as it is, I have to admit that the amount of shame that resulted in hiding food was not enough to keep me from doing it again. After continuing to restore weight, the number on the scale no longer made me genuinely happy, but rather disgusted and disappointed. Unfortunately, as my weight increased, so did my fears, urges, and behaviors. Being a month into treatment and having restored 11 lbs., you’d think I am doing better, however, I am now struggling the most.
Recently I have been trying to get over my biggest obstacle- not wanting to restore anymore weight. I am having difficulties accepting the changes so far to my body and until I can be happy with where I currently am at, I refuse to restore anymore. I no longer feel as if my body needs to be eating foods like fries and cheeseburgers every day, yet I still have too. Instead, I rather start practicing the way I plan on eating every day on my own with foods like quinoa, bread, rice, etc. but that won’t fly.
This belief of not needing to restore anymore weight has resulted in me trying to take back the control that I once gave up. It first started with me hiding my snacks, then shortly turned into hiding/throwing out as much of my meal as possible. The more I have been able to avoid in treatment, the more I feel like I deserve to eat on my own (TERRIBLE MINDSET, I deserve to eat regardless!). My mentality on the weekends has changed from dominating independent meals to restricting as much as possible. Seeing my motivation and commitment go from a 10 to a 3 has been a huge set back. I know in treatment there are always going to be obstacles and winning them all is unrealistic, however, experiencing such failure for the first time has made me feel discouraged and hopeless.
How could I so easily look at others struggling and tell them that they can do it, yet cannot tell myself the same? As humble as I am, I can say that my original confidence and motivation towards treatment and recovery made me an individual that others really looked up too. Being in treatment longer than some and having restored the most, I feel like I need to continue to be a role model for others and show that taking the easy way out is not an option. Whenever I give in to urges I feel like I not only disappointed my peers and staff, but any other person that has had faith in me.
During group my friend turned to me and said, “Jess, you know you don’t need to be strong for all of us, right???”
But sometimes when you can’t find the strength to do something for yourself, you have to do it for others....
As if there weren’t already enough rules and guidelines that come with everyday life, there are plenty more irrational fears ED has brought on, resulting in more rules to follow. I only included a handful of behaviors that individuals like me use, however, the list goes on and on…
-No grains. I started to cut out items from this food group and overtime, completely banned. Even “healthy” (I need to stop perceiving foods as healthy or unhealthy) grains like quinoa, rice, wheat bread, and rice cakes were not allowed to be eaten. The only “grains” I would regularly eat were vegetable crackers and sweet potatoes, although that sometimes still brought on guilt. Eliminating this food group is totally unhealthy (can definitely use the term in this case) and explains why near the middle of last year I started to feel/look exhausted, sick, and weak. After months of having these symptoms, we took higher measures to figure out what was wrong by seeing different doctors, switching up any medications, getting blood work, and even having a sleep study done. Little did we know, it was just my eating disorder. Not only was I depriving my body of carbohydrates that I needed, but I was also starving myself.
-No more than one fruit a day. Although foods like vegetables even have sugar in it, the amount containing in fruit makes this food group dangerous. The amount of servings was not only limited, but the time in which it was consumed also had an impact. In my irrational mind, eating ALL(exaggeration) that sugar late at night would not be beneficial to my underweight body. The biggest controversy brought on by this rule was when I would possibly be enjoying wine that evening and was in a “this or that” situation. This means that I had to pick between my daily fruit or wine, otherwise I needed to view it as a treat or feel guilty for having both.
-Drinking. “This or that” situations frequently occur, especially when I engage in drinking. Prior to going out I don’t like to eat much because I know alcohol will fulfil my hunger. On the flipside, if I eat a normal amount then it is hard to start drinking on a full stomach. Having this rule is very dangerous especially for someone like myself that tends to get pretty rowdy. You would think it would be the opposite way, but when I am drinking I tend to stare myself even more. It is not until the next day where red flags go up realizing that I had been consuming vodka sodas and taking shots while depriving myself of food for 12 hours, yet will still do it the following weekend.
-At least 3 hours in between meals/snacks. I’m sure most of you just eat whenever you are hungry, right? I might be wrong, but I am pretty sure that is the “normal” thing for people do. For me, whether I could eat or not was strictly based off of time. Eating prior to the three-hour limit was not acceptable and if I gave in to my hunger cues, then I was weak. Three hours is a normal period of time, however, when the meals are less than 300 calories, there is no reason to ignore hunger ques due to a rule. Overtime, I figured out ways to suppress my hunger and I found satisfaction from the number of hours I could go without food. Scary, right?
-Salad. Anyone that has eaten meals with me might think I have an obsession with salads, but that is wrong. The kids that I babysit even would point out how that was the only thing I ate and jokingly brought up me possibly turning into a salad. There have been times where I have literally eaten 3 salads for every meal not because they are just so amazing(sarcasm), but the safest. What about breakfast then? This was definitely hard to avoid, especially since my family goes out for breakfast every Saturday and Sunday. Our typical Saturday spot over time became something that I would try to avoid, as I knew the time and scenery made it inappropriate to get a salad. Previously, an omelet was my safe food item there, however, when ED got stronger I started to fear and refrain from the unknown oils that my meal was being cooked in. Fortunate enough, our Sunday spot was more like brunch, so I was capable of getting the same exact salad each week.
-Menu preview. Although I got a salad 99.9% of the time, I still felt it necessary to look up the restaurant menu online to make sure it was safe enough. Going into a meal already knowing what I would be eating lessened my anxiety and fears, however, could also prevent me from wanting to go to a specific restaurant. This has been a behavior that I have been doing on a regular basis for the past 4-5 years.
-Rigidity. My eating is extremely rigid and is one of the major things I need to work on. Aside from the salads, I have this concept that there are only a handful of safe foods that I can have. Research has shown that the more and individual restricts, the more they obsess over food, which is where I have been at for years. Limiting the foods that I am allowed has resulted in me having the same exact meals and snacks every single day for months. Now that I am off trays and get to have some control over my meals/snacks throughout the day, I notice that I still am being rigid with what I eat. I have found the safest or most worthy food items from the cafeteria and have just been continuing to get the same. It would be ok if I were to just genuinely enjoy the foods that I am constantly having (everyone knows I’m truly obsessed with the monster cookies), but being afraid to try new things is a whole different story.
-Dinner table. This typically represents a time where family/friends gather around to bond over delicious food, but to individuals with an eating disorder, it is a battlefield. In treatment this represents a time where we gather around to support one another over the food that entails anxiety, frustration, and discomfort.
If you don’t have this illness then you probably aren’t even aware of all the intentional or tensional behaviors going on. Fortunate enough, staff members know every behavior in the book which is why we have rules. I give everyone reading this permission to ever yell at me if you notice me doing any of the following below.
-Lying. I am actually not lying when I say this, but we lie ALL THE TIME. One of the things that I have learned through treatment is that there are a bunch of foods that I claim, “I don’t like” or “upsets my stomach”, but THAT is a lie. I am
It is sad how this disorder causes us to lie to people that we care about and that even when feeling shamed, we continue to
do it. Don’t worry friends and family, I no longer lie to you guys. I have always been open about my emotions with staff during partial, but I have struggled with being open about the behaviors I have used. I fear that if I am honest it
will be harder to continue doing them...
-More I restrict, the more I deserve. Since hiding food in treatment, I have started to believe that the more I get out of eating, the more ok it is for me to eat later on my own. This is clearly an awful mindset to have because I am viewing eating on my own to only be deserving if I restricted. Not only does this mentality encourage hiding food, but also the idea that eating is only a reward.
-Can’t WANT food. If you ever hear me talking about how hungry I am, know I must be STARVING. Suggesting to others that I should eat is always difficult because ED takes it as another sign of weakness. I think it is safe to say that individuals with anorexia view eating as a matter of needing, not wanting. Although I don’t want to eat, I know I need too. Is my typical salad something that I actually want to eat? No, but I know my body needs to be fed something.
Another common occurrence where this rule comes into play, is with servers at a restaurant. Just the other week I briefly mentioned in group how I was annoyed at my server the previous night when she abruptly took away my plate that was not finished. Although I was totally ready for that last roll of sushi, I just sat there in silence as she grabbed it. I didn’t realize until later that this small event actually had a lot more meaning behind it. When asked why I didn’t speak up, I simply said that I felt awkward, which was not the case. The truth was that stopping the server as she took my plate was too much of an effort to eat, something ED would not allow. (The sushi roll wasn’t that great anyways!)
-You’re not hungry??? Yeah, me neither… Not only is it wrong to actually want to eat, but to do it while others are not. No matter how loud my stomach is growling, if someone else has yet to eat, then the only thing I hear is that I shouldn’t either. It wouldn’t be until my stomach was in pain from hunger that I would give my body what it was asking for (although it probably wanted a cheeseburger!).
-Checking labels. The deciding factor to what I should eat and/or if I am allowed to have a specific food, is strictly based off of nutrition labels instead of whether or not I actually want it. As long I picked the “healthiest” option, ED is satisfied, although my taste buds might not be! This is a HUGE thing that I need to work on as I have let nutrition facts have full control over everything I eat. Even during treatment, I have been able to figure out how to compare my options of food in order to put together a menu for approval.
-Grocery store. The grocery store is a common setting where individuals with an eating disorder struggle and feel an intense amount of anxiety. I never perceived the grocery store as a scary place and if anything, ED CRAVED it. This was a time where ED could put a variety of foods/drinks in front of me and have me convinced that I had the power to refuse them, but realistically, ED was the one with the power. I always thought that I genuinely enjoyed grocery shopping, but little did I know, it was just a behavior. Although I never had intensions on buying certain items (cereal, candy, cupcakes, cookies, and ice cream), I would go through the isle and get satisfaction out of mentally picking out what I would have. Pretty sick….
A task that one of my friends and I did during treatment this week was go grocery shopping for our OT (occupational therapy) lunch with one of our rec therapists. Alyssa and I were challenged when we were asked to pick out a cereal that we actually wanted to have. Not only could we not check the nutrition facts (thankfully some are now on the front of the box), but we only had TWO MINUTES! I soon regretted sharing my previous experience when picking out cereal…Although it was progress that I even bought cereal on my own, it was still a long 10 minutes filled with anxiety and label checking. However, in this situation where I was accompanied with support and supervision, I was able to complete the challenge and pick out a cereal that I have always loved…lucky charms!
Finally it is my time to break the rules.
-Tell an individual that is restoring weight that they “look good” or “healthy”. There is a 99% chance we are dissatisfied about the fact that we have “gained weight” and the last thing we need is to be reminded of that. Although it might seem like a smart thing to say since our physical appearance might suggest we are doing well with recovery, that is not the case. Learning to accept and love the changes you see happening to your body while restoring weight is probably the toughest challenge in recovery, and people acting like you are “fixed” since you are no longer underweight just makes things more difficult.
-Converse about topics regarding calories, gaining/losing weight, and body image. This can be extremely triggering and even encourage an individual to use a behavior. I think it should be common sense to refrain from talking about these topics in front of someone who has an eating disorder, but people do it constantly. It is a normal thing for people to express feelings like “feeling fat”, but bringing that up around someone that is constantly obsessing over body image and fighting urges, is probably NOT smart.
-Bring attention to food during meals. In treatment we are not allowed (or supposed) to discuss the food that we are eating. Again, there is a 99% chance we are already thinking 100 different thoughts about what we are consuming so if anything, need to be distracted. This is why it is nice having the support and company of others instead of being alone where I am capable of being more attentive to what I’m eating. All that being said, I would still have no problem with sharing any thoughts or emotions towards my meal, however, just at an appropriate time
-Tell an individual to “just eat”. Oh ya? That is a brilliant idea, I don’t know how I didn’t think of that!!! This is one of the most frustrating things that people tend to suggest and possibly the most idiotic (no offense everyone). That is literally like telling an alcoholic “just don’t drink so much”. If the solution was that simple then these probably wouldn’t be illnesses. I get people are trying to help and just don’t know the right things to say sometimes, but making the illness seem like a quick fix is almost degrading.