No appetite :/

Dear Bee,

You know what I love? Cognitive-behavioral therapy. You know what I hate? Cognitive-behavioral therapy. Just kidding. But I strongly dislike having to memorize seven million CBT techniques in rigid, step-by-step detail for my final next week. Good thing I’m a pro-memorizer. How else would I have survived all those endless multiplication-fact tests, SAT-style exams, and diverse array of college course material ranging from geology to religion to women’s studies to communications?

Anyways, I’m still on this restricted high. Yep. I literally had no appetite yesterday. I skipped lunch, had just nuts and grapes around 4pm, and then a salad later. But, it was all forced. Food is medicine, but I wasn’t hungry at all. Is it still eating-disordered if I’m just not hungry? Normal eaters don’t force themselves to eat when their bodies aren’t telling them to eat. I don’t know. The difference, I suppose between normal eating and disordered eating, in this case, is that I was happy I didn’t have an appetite. I didn’t want to eat.

I went hiking this morning, and again, I woke up with barely any appetite. I finally felt my stomach growl after we arrived at the trail and just ate a small granola bar. Then, I grew hungry around mid-morning. By then, I was actually grateful for a physical reminder that I needed to eat. With an eating disorder, it can be so hard to distinguish emotional from physical hunger, and many times, I ate or did not eat purely based on emotional drives. Because I am trying to honor my intuition at the highest level, this means I need to eat when I’m hungry and change the distorted thought that I am superior by waiting until I’m absolutely famished or that I’m successful if I have an empty stomach or I’m a better person if I restrict my food rather than binge on it. Neither are desirable options. Neither take me to the place in recovery I seek to be.  

I didn’t weigh myself this morning, though, although I still have this weird idea in my mind that I need to lose a few pounds just because. Just because, why? To feel prettier? More confident? Happier? No. These are all fallacies. These are distortions. By now, I know that a lower weight does not correspond to greater happiness or confidence. I haven’t made it this far in recovery to want to throw it all away for a forced and unnecessary weight loss. I haven’t made it this far in recovery to punish myself further. 

My stomach is growling right now. And after I publish this post, I’m going to dress my naked ass and eat. Recovery win. 

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Our problems were of our own making

Dear Bee,

After all, our problems were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol (Big Book,103).

This quote resonates so well with me because ever since I actually took responsibility for the shitstorm that was my eating disorder, I was able to assume ownership for my distorted thoughts and behaviors. I was able to realize that it wasn’t the food item’s fault for existing or someone else’s fault for taking me out to eat or the restaurant’s fault for serving too big a portion or the media’s fault for saturating our society with a bombardment of images defining attractiveness and beauty. 

When I was in OA this morning, we read this part of the Big Book and wrote a reflection to share. Many people spoke of their struggles in triggering situations, discussing holiday parties and buffet restaurants and so forth. They talked about having to avoid such events. I do not necessarily find social scenes all that triggering (maybe because I am so preoccupied with what people think): I know it is far more risky for me to be home alone, where I am isolated in my thoughts. 

After the meeting, I had lunch with my sponsor and spent a few hours hanging out with her. She’s so nice and attentive to me! I finished Step One the other day and read her what I had written. In reading it, I noticed how many times I used the word control and perfectionist. 

I have to let these go…I am getting closer to that everyday, but it still gets tough. She’s proud of me for being so young and so dedicated to taking care of my needs, and I must say that I am too. I want this recovery so badly, and I don’t want to be struggling forever. I have changed my entire life in order to put it first (maybe this is why I get so frustrated when it doesn’t work out exactly how I want it to!)

We talked about having a food plan and defining abstinence and such. I am still ambivalent about this, as I really want to follow my intuition with the eating. I do not believe in abstinence in my recovery the same way I believe in abstinence in other addictive behaviors, say alcohol or drugs. OA subscribes to the idea of red, yellow, and green-light foods. In order to be successful in recovery, one is best avoiding his/her red-light foods. I thought this worked for me at one point, but now I realize, I am a behavioral binger. If I choose not to eat sugar, one of my main triggers, but find myself in that binge-mode thinking, I will find something else to satisfy that urge. 

What I aim to do is keep all foods on an equal playing field and listen to what my body tells me it wants. Really, really, really listen. So far, this has given me a strong sense of clarity and internal peace. 

I am still committed to keeping up with this mindset, even though I did have an emotional eating episode (oh, hey chocolate) this afternoon. I know EXACTLY what triggered it. I felt inadequate after hearing some news related to school. Basically, something happened that invoked some jealousy and resentment towards my classmates and made me doubt my own abilities to succeed in my profession. I realize now that I completely overreacted and fell into the catastrophic, all-or-nothing thinking, but at the same time, my immediate automatic thought was, I’m not good enough. Unfortunately, I did not challenge that irrational thought before eating. I am not beating myself up for my action: it’s just another learning experience to add to this book of recovery. 

I am treating myself with kindness now, and that’s all that matters. I know now that no matter what happens, I am good enough. I do not have to depend on external stimuli to affirm that.

Peace be with me and with all of you<3

First attempt at “working the steps”

Dear Bee,

Attempting some step work..

Step One, Part 1: We can’t stop once we’ve started

A. Admitting that our bodies are abnormal in that we get uncontrollable cravings when we want certain foods and/or indulge in certain eating behaviors.

B. Being honest about the nature of that abnormality by admitting what foods and/or what eating behaviors causes us uncontrollable cravings.

FIGURE OUT YOUR BINGE FOODS:
What foods are your absolute favorites? This is hard to tell. When I truly allow myself to eat “whatever” I want, I crave flavorful whole foods, such as roasted vegetables, fruit, etc. I genuinely love a good salad or sandwich and that is not the “healthy” me speaking. I also enjoy pancakes, chocolate, and pizza.

What foods put you in a zone (at various times)?
Cookies, cake, chocolate, brownies, ice cream, candy, pastries, donuts, pop-tarts, pie, granola bars, cupcakes, frozen waffles, sweetened peanut butter, some kinds of trail mix, sugar-free gum, bread (on rare occasion), sweetened nuts (such as honey-roasted almonds, chocolate-covered peanuts, etc.), movie theater popcorn, cereal (all types)

What foods can’t you imagine giving up?
Fruits and vegetables. I eat these at every meal and feel uncomfortable if I go too long without having them.

What foods do you eat until there’s nothing left?
This really just depends. If it is not “my” food, I will not eat the whole bag/box, due to the potential shame and humiliated of “getting caught.” However, if it is “my food,” I certainly do not feel worried about consuming the entire amount. Usually, however, I tend to graze and overeat on several different foods (mostly sweets and in large quantities) rather than just finish a bag of something. For example, I will eat several scoops of peanut butter, an entire row of cookies, several brownies, a large portion of ice cream, etc. What have I eaten until there’s nothing left? Pints of ice cream, bags of chips, sleeve of crackers, sleeve of cookies, package of chocolates, frozen pizza, box of Pop-tarts, peanut butter (not the whole jar, but if there’s just some left, I will finish it).

What foods do you find yourself eating while simultaneously saying to yourself, “I have to stop eating this!” but you don’t?
The listed foods that put me in the zone can be hard for me to stop. Others occasionally include: tortilla chips, Saltine crackers, movie theater popcorn, candy in a bowl. Sugar-free gum is also something I chew compulsively (even after my jaw is tired and my stomach hurts). Coffee can do this as well.

If you’re overweight, what high-calorie/non-nutritious foods do you find yourself eating a lot of? Remember that sugar and refined flour have very little nutritional value, and fat in large quantities is nutritionally bad.
I am not overweight.

FIGURING OUT YOUR BINGE FOOD INGREDIENTS:

Don’t stop! There’s more to do!
Given your list of foods, are there common ingredients in ALL of these foods? Look carefully at the list of ingredients. You may be very surprised by what’s in some of your foods.
Salt and fat can be triggering at times, but sugar tends to be the most predominant ingredient I binge on.

Don’t make any assumptions about what your particular problem is until you look at the complete list. You may find a common ingredient that is NOT what you think your problem food is. (For instance, you may think that sugar and flour are your problem, but when you look at all your binge foods, they may include not only pastries and ice cream, but also potato chips. The only common ingredient to ALL of these is fat.)
Fat is definitely in every listed food. Sugar is in most of them as well.

When you look at the list of foods, is it the foods themselves or what you put on them for taste that can make a difference? For instance, is bread a problem, or what you spread on the bread? Is pasta a problem, or the kind of sauce you put on the pasta?
It is the food themselves.

For your favorite foods, imagine taking away one ingredient at a time-what’s the ingredient that suddenly makes the food uninteresting to you? Or imagine substituting one ingredient for another, like whole-grain flour rather than white flour, or artificial sweetener rather than sugar-what’s the substitute that suddenly makes the food uninteresting to you?
Taking out the sweetness makes the food uninteresting (it is still appealing if it is artificially sweetened).

Once you isolate a particular ingredient, imagine eating that ingredient by itself without anything added to or mixed with it. Imagine eating a bag of sugar, a bag of flour, a pound of butter. Could you eat none of it, some of it, or all of it? Clearly what you could eat all of is a binge ingredient. What you could eat some of may be a binge ingredient. What you could eat none of may not be a binge ingredient. Be honest with yourself.
I have binged on sugar cubes and eaten scoops of brown and cane sugar. The thought of eating either plain flour/butter is completely unappealing to me.

Do you generally eat foods that have been livened up with sauces or gravies or condiments that contain sugar, or flour, or fat, or a combination of those? Is taste an issue with you?
Not usually. I do not mind the bland taste of raw food. I like raw fruits and vegetables and I occasionally just use spices to add variety to other dishes that call for more flavors. I do not like many condiments (hate mayonnaise, gravy, most dressings, etc.).

(Now we’re making a transition to eating behaviors:)
Given your list of foods, are there particular textures (smooth, crunchy, chewy) that seem to be common to some of them?
It varies. Given the list, I do like chewy and smooth foods, possibly because they are easier to eat in large quantities. However, I do not feel that I am partial to one texture over the next.

Given your list of foods, are there particular times or situations (stressful, for instance), when one kind of food predominates over other kinds of food? I consume sweets when I feel heightened emotions on either end of the spectrum (example: extremely happy or extremely sad). During holidays, I also tend to like sweets.

FIGURING OUT YOUR BINGE EATING BEHAVIORS (ingrained and volume issues):
Are there particular chewing behaviors you notice?
I chew quickly. I like to finish my food fast. The idea of taking breaks while eating can cause me discomfort and anxiety (unless I am interacting with others). Still, I need to make a conscious decision to slow down my pace.

Do you need to chew all the time? When I chew gum, yes. Moreover, I like “taste” in my mouth, whether it be with coffee, gum, tea, etc.

Have you had a lot of dental work because you grind your teeth or chew a lot?
No.

Are there particular textures that seem to be common?
It varies.

Are there particular times you seem to overeat ANY kinds of food, not just your binge foods?
Yes; social gatherings, times of stress, restaurant meals, holidays, because it’s Wednesday…!

Are there particular situations where you seem to overeat ANY kinds of food, not just your binge foods?
Yes. See above.

Can you leave something on your plate or do you have to eat it all? Occasionally. This is getting easier, but it is a definite struggle (especially if I serve myself the portion). I trust my eyes far more than my stomach, and if I feel it is a reasonable amount, I want to consume all of it (especially with nutritious foods, such as a large salad). It is hard for me to throw out food or share it.

Do you have any way of knowing, whether or not you ever pay attention to it, when your body really doesn’t need any more?
Yes, I DO know… I just sometimes choose to ignore.

Is there any eating behavior always leading to overeating that you just can’t imagine giving up?
I will give up whatever is necessary.

Do you need to feel filled all the way up?
Occasionally.

This exercise was provided to me by: http://www.therecoverygroup.org/wts/2008/2008-01q3.html

Very insightful!

I’m hungry

Dear Bee,

I’m hungry. My stomach is growling angrily at me, and my lunch break is an hour away. Physical hunger is REAL. Physical hunger isn’t a question. It’s like the sensation of thirst or needing to pee. Undeniable.

I am grateful that I am relearning what genuine hunger feels like. I think you took that pleasure away from me, convincing me that I didn’t need to listen to my internal body cues, convincing me that you knew better. You told me when I was hungry and when I was full. Consequently, I usually ate before I felt hungry and continued to eat beyond the point of satiation.

After all, how can you know what fullness feels like when you routinely ignore it?

I ate for so many reasons other than hunger. I ate because it was “time” to eat, because others around me were eating, because there was food by me, because I “deserved” to eat, because it was lunch or dinner, because I was bored, because someone else had cooked or baked for me, because there was free food, because it was a party or social gathering, because I felt happy, sad, anxious, annoyed, or scared, because the food smelled good, because I still had calories “left for the day,” because I was already knee-deep in a binge, because the food was almost gone, because it was a holiday, because I was drunk, because I was on a date, because eating enabled me to procrastinate, because food was a numbing escape.

Emotional eating is extremely difficult to stop. Even individuals who have never suffered from an eating disorder struggle with eating for reasons other than hunger. Yet, this act is not accompanied with the same levels of anxiety, shame, guilt, or other cognitive distortions.

I cannot expect myself to stop from “eating for reasons other than hunger” 100% of the time. I am not aiming for absolute perfection.

I’m just aiming to honor my body by feeding it when it is hungry!

Disordered vs. normal eating habits

Dear Bee,

You visited me in my dreams last night! As if I did not spend enough of my waking hours thinking about you! So, so needy. It was a vicious experience. Me, bingeing in that frantic frenzy, trapped in a helpless sense of mind, past the threshold of no return. Naturally, I woke up terrified. Still in the dreamlike state of consciousness, it took a few moments to distinguish reality from nightmare.

Again, feel free to drop by whenever you like! I will slam the door in your face until you finally understand that I am not taking you back. Not today. No ma’am.

In recovery, I notice that I pay very close attention to how everyone else eats. This fascinates me. There is a functioning world of half-eaten sandwiches and leftover, untouched brownies, a world that almost seems foreign, even though I once lived in it before we met!

I have many friends with body shapes and sizes all over the spectrum. Each are beautiful. That being said, I’ve definitely noticed the differences in their food mentality compared to mine.

Here are the main disparities I have noticed.

1. They focus on food when they are eating. And only when they are eating.

In the height of my disorder, I literally spent every moment preoccupied with eating. While this has improved, I definitely still struggle with the obsessed thoughts. Food is essential, just like sleep and water. But do I think about either of those often? Nope. Only when I actually feel tired or thirsty. And then I either sit with the discomfort or get dome water or rest. Unfortunately, I often dwell on food when I am not hungry. Likewise, the very act of eating does not necessarily assuage the preoccupation. This is a work in progress.

2. Allergy restrictions aside, they do not hold rigid food rules

Eating is flexible and varies depending on their day, schedule, food availability, budget, location, etc. They tend to adapt well to food-related change without stressing. Their mealtimes may range. They do not think of food in terms of ounces, calories, or carbs. They eat what they like and avoid eating what they do not like. They tend to avoid “diet” meals. Likewise, they do not have safe or “good” foods. At restaurants, they order what appeals to them.

3. Loving food does not mean excessively consuming food.

This used to drive me insane. I hated hearing my teeny-tiny friends announcing how much theyloved to eat. when it seemed like they ate so little! I realized, however, that loving something does not mean you overdo it. For example, I love traveling. Am I always on vacation? Nope. I love the beach. Do I go every single day? No, I do not. Loving to eat means enjoying quality food. I thought I loved to eat. I thought that was the root of my disorder! But how could I love to eat when food became a source of tremendous anxiety, fear, and guilt? How could I love something I used as punishment? How could I love something I hurt myself with? People who love food eat because food tastes good. And they stop once it stops tasting good (when they have consumed enough). They would be confused by the logic of continuing to eat once it no longer feels pleasurable.

4. They all overindulge, but these incidences do not affect the rest of their day.

If I binge, the day is ruined. Even if I consumed something I did not account or plan for, this “mistake” could completely change my mood. I used to be amazed watching my friends grab a cookie or two or three and move on. Me? I would already be beating myself up, while desperately wanting to finish the rest of the batch. I guess this is the main difference between normal behavior and compulsive behavior. For instance, I can drink, gamble, have sex, etc. and not feel strong emotions of anxiety, regret, or obsession before or after doing so. People with addiction, disordered thoughts, or dependency on these will struggle with their sense of “portion control” no matter the vice.

5. They do not mind sharing, throwing away, or leaving food behind.

This is a huge obstacle for me. Why? Because I give food WAY more credit than its worth! For years, I felt guilty “wasting money” or politely declining someone’s treats. Now, I try not to. I have restructured my thinking to believe that I am wasting money when I use it as an excuse to harm myself (eat far beyond the point of being full, holding onto food just to avoid tossing or leaving it). I once read the sentiment, “you can always buy it or make it again.” This is so true! No matter how delicious a particular food is, it is not the last opportunity I have to eat it!

Another day, another dose of strength, empowerment, and joy. I am blessed for the lessons YOU teach me (even if I’m asleep when the learning occurs).

Eating disorder voices, fake promises, and sitting with emotions

Dear Bee,

Sometimes, you’re just wholeheartedly miserable. I used to think you were this way all the time, but even when I feel upset or unmotivated, like I do right now, I cannot deny that you are getting easier to manage. Slowly. As long as I keep working at it. Nevertheless, sometimes, the energy to deal with you wanes, and I just want to wish you away and forget you ever existed. I want to take the easy route and frolic into the path of destructive escape. Just to avoid the pain you cause. Except, I know, by failing over and over again, taking a passive approach does not work.

To be honest, I really just want to eat right now. I am not physically hungry. No, I want to engage in mindless eating, the self-medicating kind that creates that dulling sensation that washes over my entire body and allows me to rebel against my recovery and all the progress I have worked so hard to achieve. I do not even know what I want to eat; for once, no outlandish cravings come to mind.  I am thinking about the contents of my kitchen: the leftover holiday cookies and takeout pizza, sugary cereal and candy, ice cream and Nutella and peanut butter: foods where just one bite can lead to a thousand more.

This is you speaking to me, loud and clear. This is you telling me that I am powerless over your strength, that I am simply a summation of my flaws, that I will never recover or acquire peace. This is you telling me that my emotions are too burdensome and my life is too unmanageable; and, therefore, I need you to assuage my pain and fill my empty voids with your endless supply of love.

This is you, wrapped in a tiny box with a pretty bow. This is you, just waiting to be opened. This is you, tempting my primitive desires.

Except I know that pretty packages do not guarantee pretty things. I know that underneath your satin and ribbon exists a ruthless monster, hungry not for my body, but for my affection and devotion. You miss me, and admittedly, right now, I miss you. And I can just hear all your promises. It’ll be different this time. I promise to be good to you. I’ll never hurt you again. I won’t make you sick. 

And the worst one?

I’ll let you stop right when you are ready to stop. 

I always believed these promises. Your words mesmerized me, and I clung onto every false hope and assurance you offered. You, the smooth-talking force with chivalrous charm. And me, the erratic, impulsive individual desperately looking for a quick-fix solution. No wonder running away with you felt so romantic. You gave me what I always denied myself. You were exactly what I needed when and where I needed it. What an absolutely perfect partner.

So, right now, this is difficult. Yet, I am accepting the fact of my open struggling. This is crucial. I am trying to identify my emotions and sift through them appropriately. I owe that to myself. And how do I feel right now? Tired, for one, which is a trigger. Anxious, for another, which is probably my main trigger. I also feel insecure. Insecure about…about what I want in life right now (I’ve been undergoing massive changes over the past few months), a few relationships with friends, and my overall stance on my recovery. These are valid feelings; rather than shove them down with food or exercise, I plan to just hang out with them.

And that’s okay. Because feelings pass. In fact, in just writing this letter, I already feel better. Once I finish, I plan to take a hot shower and curl into bed with a good book, because I need to wake up early tomorrow.

So, thanks for visiting me again and trying to tempt me again.

Even though this feels painful and lonely, I realize that I am nothing I want to be when I’m with you and everything I want to be when I’m without you. 

Disease of the mind, not the body

Dear Bee,

Sometimes, I think having you, as frustrating as that can be, is so much easier to deal with than actual problems. Naturally, that is YOU talking, because i know that is completely illogical thinking. This, of course, explains why eating disorder recovery is so difficult!
Stopping the behaviors is one tier; changing the compelling, dichotomous thoughts is another.

Disordered eating is simply the sprinkles on top of a lopsided sundae scooped with flavors of anxiety, depression, fear, and anger.

I often wonder why I hold onto you. Why does anyone cling onto abuse?
Because abuse is familiar, and when one seeks control, familiarity beats the terrifying prospects of the unknown.

Sometimes, it is hardest to let go of the things and people who cause us the most pain. Why? Because doing so requires us to accept that we deserve better treatment! And when we have low self-esteem and misconceptions about our worth, this can be highly skewed.

Anyone who had ever gone a diet has heard the quote, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I guarantee anyone who has suffered from compulsive overeating would agree that nothing tastes as good as a binge…and nothing tastes worse than a binge.

A binge is never mindless, despite its seductive numbing sensations. A binge is so much more than the type of food and how good it tastes. I have binged on vegetables, on coffee, on gum, I have binged on breath mints and calcium chews. I have binged on diet soda and on alcohol, believing that I could excuse this compulsory behavior because, well, hey I wasn’t gorging on unhealthy food.

I must stop rationalizing these “binges” just because they are low or calorie-free. A binge is about attitude, not intake. I must remember that eating two cookies can feel just as disordered as eating twenty.

I compare myself to others all the time. Therefore, I compare my eating habits to everyone else’s eating habits. Especially with those struggling from eating disorders. As of now, I no longer relate or feel triggered by the anorexic mentality, but I strongly empathize with bulimic and binge-eating behavior. This can be a slippery slope, as I will often automatically judge the severity of one’s problem by their caloric intake, weight, or quantity and quality of their food. With concerns to anorexia, I sometimes feel envious that they have obtained such control over their bodies and food. Then, I remember the absolute self-hatred I felt when I restricted…there was never enough control and certainly never any sense of pride or achievement, no matter how low my intake or weight dropped.

I must remember that eating disorders are diseases of the mind, not the body.