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.