cookies and calories and candor

Hello Bee and hello insomnia,

Hello late night cookies. Hello fatigue. Hello lovely readers of mine.

I downloaded one of those calorie counting apps two weeks ago. I know. I KNOW. This is terrible to do in eating disorder recovery. I know. I KNOW. And yet, there is a strange comfort in tracking, in quantifying, in numerical data, and in precise, black-and-white readings. When everything else feels unpredictable and chaotic, I have my macros and my calories.

God. That sounds disordered. That sounds so absolutely disordered.

I want to sit here and rationalize. It’s good for my health. It’s just to keep me on track. It’s just this, it’s just that…

That’s not me rationalizing. Please. We all know who’s the one that’s rationalizing. We all know what happens when I start counting…anything. But it happens when I stop counting, too. The slips happen. They tell me something; they give me meaning, but yes, they happen.

Maybe, I’ll delete it. I’m not sure. It’s made me more mindful of my food choices. It’s hard when you struggle with both, with the bingeing and the restricting. But I like when the seesaw is on the restrictive side. It’s pure. It’s dainty. It’s discipline. Bingeing is the beast, the monster.

I’m seeing so many clients now. I’m running groups. I’m helping so many people. Every issue and pain under the sun. I am blessed. I am doing my best to avoid burnout. I go with my clinical intuition. I help as much as I can. I use metaphors and stories and am unconventional. I care so much about these people. Most of my clients like it. Well, they must. Because they keep coming back. That’s surely a good sign. I doubt my own competence often, but I keep pressing. I know I’m good at what I do, and I know I’m willing to continue learning. 

I miss my own therapist. I miss a lot of things. I keep changing everyday. The boyfriend and I have been together nine months now. That’s insane. Remember when we first met? Where has time flown? We are still solid. He’s amazing.

Food is hardly at the forefront of my life anymore. It’s there, yes, but it’s not the only thing that’s there. The recovery is more of an integration into my life. No, I’m not actively doing much to maintain recovery. I’m not going to therapy nor am I attending support group meetings nor am I even writing on here very often. But, I am taking care of myself in other ways. I’m meditating. I’m practicing mindfulness. I’m letting go of “food rules,” even though tonight, I ate about 750 calories worth of cookies. I’m not beating myself up for that. I’m exercising, a lot of yoga, because that feels good for my body. Hiking, getting out in the world, that feels good, too. I’m reading. I’m spending time with people I love. I have a brighter energy that transcends my soul.

I am different. I am changing. I like that about myself.

I have moved away from this diagnostic nightmare, from this stigmatized label, and morphed into a more whole and complete person. I am shining, through the struggles, through the strife, through the constant inconsistency, through the predictable unpredictability. That is how life just works. I have surrendered. 

Yes, I still binge here and there. Yes, I’m counting calories here and there. Yes, I’m definitely “in recovery.” No, I’m not perfect, and no, I don’t pretend to be. 

I’m a crazy, flawed human who makes mistakes, who falls on her face, who bruises and who stumbles…but I’m a warrior. I’m a fighter. I wouldn’t love myself any other way. 

It’s not about self-actualization. It’s not about the destination. It’s not even about reaching happiness.

It’s about all the steps and all the journeys it takes to get there.

 

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This may be offensive.

Let’s talk about appearance. It matters. Anyone who alludes otherwise is either living under a rock or blatantly ignorant. To claim that appearance shouldn’t matter is similar to claims that race shouldn’t matter. You’re right. It shouldn’t. But, it does. And to deny that this privilege exists makes you look like a fucking bigoted idiot.

I don’t know what it’s like to be fat. Like fat, fat. I really don’t. I’ve never been obese. At my very heaviest weight, maybe I was considered a few pounds overweight, and even then, it was very temporary. I have my eating-disordered-fueled “fat days,” but as far as I’m concerned, I can eat whatever the hell I please without worrying about being outwardly judged (except myself). I can wear revealing shit and I’m typically met with erections instead of winces. I’ve never been criticized, fat-shamed, or called a terrible name due to the size or shape of my body. It’s a privilege, and I’m fully aware of it. I’ve used my appearance to flirt, to be understood, to receive validation, to feel good about myself. I know my body turns people on. I know my nudity is atheistically pleasing. I work damn hard for this body, not just for someone else’s satisfaction, but for my own as well.

Although I do not have first-hand experience of weight stigmatization, I can only imagine how painful it must be…only because I know I automatically judge myself. As a person who has struggled with an eating disorder, I compare myself to every body I see. This is instinctual, and I am sure most anyone reading this can relate. In some ways, it is a litmus test. How do I rank? Am I bigger? Smaller? Society tells us thinner is superior and fatter is inferior. I wish I didn’t abide to that archaic logic, but I do. I respect thinness because I want it. Fat, in a sense, scares me. Maybe because I know I am just a few more careless episodes of bingeing and overeating and depression to spiraling there myself. And I’d feel like a failure. Harsh, but true. 

I can’t picture myself liking a fat version of myself. 

Writing this post is uncomfortable. I am a training therapist. I am an expert in empathy and an advocate for human equality. I have friends and family of all shapes and sizes. To openly admit that I have my own prejudices makes me feel ashamed, but it is the truth. And I do my best to promote radical transparency, especially on here. It is a result of the society I live in and the eating disorder I struggle with. It is a result of the engrained messages preached from a very young age and the surroundings that reinforce it.

I never want to be fat. And maybe that keeps me in the eating disordered logic. I would rather hang onto my body (and still linger onto some disordered behaviors) than risk the changes that could come from letting them go. This is such faulty logic. I am not going to gain weight, I know this. And even if I do, I won’t pile on a hundred pounds overweight. 

Maybe “fat” terrifies me because I often feel like a “fat” person trapped in a thin body. My binges would definitely indicate that I have an insatiable, gluttonous appetite. However, I also compensate with those binges by frequent exercise and what society considers a “well-balanced, nutritious diet.” As far as food tastes go, nothing excites me more than beautifully-prepared vegetables or a plate of fruit. It’s weird, I know. But, when I’m in binge-mode, anything sugary and carb-y goes. Things I don’t even LIKE are consumed. Things that taste like processed shit are consumed. Punishment on top of punishment. You would think if I want to binge I would at least afford myself in quality treats. So not the case. I eat whatever I can get my hands on.

We have a huge obesity problem. We also have a huge eating disorder problem. To me, it’s ninety percent psychological and ten percent physical. Doesn’t matter which end of the spectrum we are on. We just happen to value the thinness side more. So, that’s the side I want to be on. 

 

the purpose of a body.

Dear Bee, 

Nobody has ever hated my body more than I have. It’s a painstaking realization most of us experience at some point in our lives. My lovers have gotten more pleasure from my body than I have. My body has the ability to not only walk but to run long distances, escalate mountains, jump on trampolines, swim, roller-skate. My body houses insane metaphysical sensations, including, but not limited to: goes-without-saying-joy of orgasm, the amazing feeling after a sneeze, ability to cuddle with another, fabulous pleasure derived from yoga…my body will hopefully be the developmental womb of LIFE one day.  Eating disorder recovery, unfortunately, extends further than body love. A misconception in mental health is that body-positive talk CURES the pathology. It doesn’t. I mostly like my body. Would I like my legs to be slimmer and stomach to be flatter? Yes. Find me a red-blooded woman that doesn’t. Eating disorders go beyond that. The weight is just a symptom, really.

The stereotypical skinniness isn’t what I’m aiming for. I don’t like the emaciated look, and my shape will not allow me to get there. I don’t have an ultimate weight loss goal. There isn’t a NUMBER that can cure it. I know that. I’m far enough in recovery to realize that there is no number too low (or for that matter, too high) to actually stop me from engaging in self-destructive behaviors. There is no PERFECT BODY. My stomach may get flatter, and my legs may get slimmer- but really, that’s not going to make much of a difference.

The scale doesn’t fuel the disorder, though it can be a catalyst for perpetuating a reaction of anger, shame, and anxiety. THOSE feelings are what propel the disorder. It’s not a neutral object such as food or a scale. I wish it were. That’s why changing destructive behavior is MUCH easier than changing destructive thoughts.

I have been kind to myself today. It hasn’t been easy. But I woke up early and worked out with my mama and it felt wonderful. I had an amazing therapy session with one of my favorite clients. And I holed up in a coffeeshop for several hours and read an incredible book. I ate a good lunch. Now, I’m going to class.

I feel huge in my body, but that’s only due to the bloated of recent bingeing. It’s maddening, but I have to accept it. I’m not perfect.

I have a couple choices here. I can sit and dwell over the mistakes of my yesterday or worry about the potential mistakes of my tomorrow.

Or I can just accept this moment, although it’s a moment full of anxiety and heaviness and discomfort, for being a necessary moment in my life, for having purpose and reason, for taking me somewhere I need to go.  

 

Thinness over everything

Dear Bee,

It’s currently 8:10pm on a Friday night, and I’m ready for sleep. I had a little me-date tonight that consisted of a warm shower, meditation, lounging around and reading in pajamas, and spending some quality time with the family. Even though I have lots of friends, I’m more on the introverted side. I used to resist it, simply because DUH, I had to do something every weekend in order to be cool, but now I could care less. I like spending time alone. I don’t need to hang out with people just for the sake of hanging out with them.

My mom almost wears the same pant size as me now. She’s lost a bunch of weight by making smart food choices and exercising more this past year, and I’m proud of her. She has struggled with her own issues in the past, namely emotional eating, but she’s learned some positive coping skills to combat some of it. We were shopping today. She tried on a pair of jeans, and they fit us both. She can’t remember the last time she wore this size. She’s at a healthy weight, and I’m at a healthy weight. In the past, I may have felt pressure to lose weight, because obviously I had to be smaller than my mom, but right now, I’m just cool with my body the way it is. 

I treated it well today. Started the morning with an invigorating workout, went to the doctor to get a physical, bought it some pretty clothes, filled it with nourishing food, showered and lathered it with soap, and will soon rest it on my comfy bed.

Imagine how different the world would look if we treated our bodies like they were our best friends, rather than our sworn enemies. I cannot envision a world like this, simply because it seems so far-fetched, idealistic, and essentially impossible. We are primed to hate our external appearances. We are groomed to hone in on our insecurities and flaws. How many times have you heard a person say, “Holy shit, I love my body.” I can tell you all how many times I’ve heard it. Never.

In fact, if we were to hear this, we would demoralize that person, as if it were inhumane and barbaric for him or her to say such a narcissistic thing. 

When I was young, I was a short and scrawny child. A very late-bloomer. People always thought I was younger than I really was (well, they still think this). My best friend at the time was tall, developed, and large for her size. I remember being jealous of it. I wanted to take up SPACE, rather than always feel SMALL. I wanted the authority and power I thought she had. I’ll never forget the day we were playing some “if you had one wish” game on my driveway, and I said, “I wish I could sing, so I could sing like you!” She said, “I wish I was thin. Like you.”

I doubt she’d remember this memory. But, I do.

We want thinness more than we want happiness. We want thinness more than love. And for those struggling with an eating disorder, we want thinness more than life. 

I just think we have greater purpose than that. 

There’s so much more I could write…but really, my bed is just calling my name. 😀 

 

tiny little thing

Dear Bee,

It’s much too cold. Yes, it’s only in the low 60’s, but I live in California, and anything below 65 degrees Fahrenheit makes me whiny.

I wonder how distorted my body image is. I think I see myself as much larger than other people perceive me. Yesterday, one of my colleagues was talking about someone and stated, “She’s short and tiny like you.” Today, I was at the dentist; she was commenting how cute and petite I am. My boyfriend likes to tell me that I’m small and teeny. See, I’m short, so I know that plays a role. I don’t think I look fat by any means, but I don’t think I look super teeny-tiny either. Curves- yes, I have those. Boobs and ass. Check and check. I don’t look delicate. But people will buy me clothes that are XS or S and I’m like…?! How does the world see me? I know I’m definitely not the skinniest girl in the room. I know I’m not underweight. And yet, people think of me as this tiny little thing.

I recognize that eating disorders tend to skew our perceptions. I mean, you are constantly telling me that my thighs are humongous and my stomach is disgusting and my skin is way too flabby and so on and so forth…it doesn’t matter how much I exercise or what I eat. In your eyes, I will never be “pretty enough.” Not in your eyes. You are cruel. The worse I feel about myself, the better you feel. That’s just how our relationship works. It’s how you thrive.

The thing is, ten pounds lighter won’t make me pretty enough either. Eating disorders don’t work that way. I’ll just want to go another ten pounds lighter. It’s a never-ending cycle until you realize IT’S JUST NOT WORTH IT. Which is where I’m at. I love the body I’m in. I love seeing all my strong muscles when I work out. I love watching my naked body moving in the mirror when I’m having sex. I love being a woman, and I love knowing that I take care of myself. I love to look good…but who doesn’t? 

You’ve done a really good job at making me believe that my life and, subsequently, my happiness has to be put on hold until I have a perfect body. That’s not true. I’m getting older every single second, and I’ll never be younger than I am this moment. I just don’t envision myself being on my deathbed, stating, Wow, I wish I could have just lost those ten pounds. Nope. I don’t think anyone does. Because that’s not what life is about. And certainly, that’s not what kind of life I want to have for myself.

I want to measure my life in love and experience, in the richness of people and virtue. My body is just a neutral vessel. Really, that’s all it is. It says nothing about the kind of person I am. It’s just flesh, bone, and muscle. And that can either be the most liberating or deliberating news anyone can hear…it just depends how we want to approach it. 

 

whether or not you can recover, you deserve to recover

Dear Bee,

I have much more clarity today. It has been a good morning. There was laundry (anyone else feel like a huge success after washing, drying, folding AND hanging up two loads in just a few hours), coffee, yoga, writing, homework, and also pizza. Life. Is. Good. 

Three more clients until my weekend. Mid-semester crunch. Ready for winter break. Ready for new classes. In disbelief that Thanksgiving is two weeks from today. Time just flies.

Weighed myself when I woke up. It’s been a week and a half since I last jumped on the scale. Not beating myself up for doing it. The number is still low-ish. Definitely not underweight, but low for me. One of the lowest weights i’ve been at in years. I’m seeing more muscle and definition in my body. Clothes are becoming somewhat looser. Interestingly, while I don’t feel like I’m eating more food, I’m definitely expanding my variety of food. And even though I’m exercising, it’s more intuitive and less intensive. My compulsive need to “clean-eat” has been severely diminished. My definition of “safe foods” is growing everyday. I no longer feel trapped to my usual go-to meals (vegetables, fruits, lentils, etc.) In fact, some of these foods aren’t even appealing much to me anymore! I am better at identifying specific cravings and becoming more attuned to when I am hungry, when I am comfortable, and when I am full. 

I don’t think of my eating disorder as and incurable disease. I just find that kind of logic faulty, and that was why I ultimately stopped finding virtue in the Twelve Steps philosophy. I could identify with the fact that I had a problem that was making my life unmanageable, but it was never up to Higher Power to take it out of my hands. It was up to me. The universe can give me answers and solace, but it cannot solve my problems. I had to own up to my life. And that’s one of the scariest things that we as humans can do. Own up to the mistakes we’ve made, the choices we’ve chosen, and the pathways we’ve crossed. 

Mental illness is not a matter of willpower, but oftentimes, recovery is. You cannot choose to have a mental disorder; nobody would choose to have one. We need to stop acting as if some people are “better” than others for choosing recovery. They are not. They have simply grabbed onto the belief that they CAN AND WILL do whatever it takes to defeat the labels and stigmatizations they once internalized as their identity. That does not make them stronger or smarter. It does not give them more willpower. It simply slowly  changes one negative belief into a positive one. It simply lifts the blindfold. It simply gives the person enough air to not feel so suffocated in his or her own toxic world. 

Everybody has his or her own eating disorder story. We can try and shove people into cookie-cutter treatment plans, but, by doing that, we dismiss the individual makeup that composes who we are. Some people will never achieve recovery, even though I believe everyone deserves it. Eating disorders are brutal, dangerous, complex, and often chronic disorders, often co-morbid with other illnesses, interlaced with trauma, and laden with other physical and emotional ailments. I wish I could save all the lost souls, but I cannot. I wish I could promise that it gets easier, but I cannot. I am not a mindreader nor do I look into the future. To say “everyone can recover” is ignorant and generalizing to those who continue to suffer. To say that recovery is always feasible disregards the people who have done all that they can to recover…and still cannot pull themselves out of the dark abyss that is eating disorder sickness. 

Again, I may not believe everyone can recover, but I do believe everyone deserves to recover. 

Halloween, therapy, and my body!

Dear Bee,

Halloween weekend was good. Super good. The boyfriend and I did a hilarious couples costume that I have to keep anonymous due to its originality. We went out with a group of friends on Saturday, drank and danced and danced and danced, and took tons of pictures. Yesterday, we recovered, shared headaches, went to a pumpkin-carving party and then fell back asleep. 

Alcohol is a dangerous social lubricant, but I like the feeling of being drunk. It’s fun. I do it very sparingly now after raging hard for a few months last year. My boyfriend doesn’t really drink much at all, and I’m glad, because I’m not the hugest partier myself. Before him, I thought I was supposed to go out every weekend, get my drink and dance on, meet guys who only wanted one thing, and come home feeling empty. That’s what the single life is all about, right? Living young and wild and free? I did it, but it never felt just right. I was always too in my head, too preoccupied with the social setting around me…I thought I needed “escape,” but, in reality, I needed to make a worthwhile life that didn’t require anything to escape from. I’m so relieved I don’t feel any need to to do that anymore. The club scene gets old. The hangovers aren’t worth it. The dancing is always the best part. I love to dance. 

We’ve moved my therapy sessions to every other week due to financial constraints. The truth is, I could probably afford it, but because I’m not working or making any income whatsoever, I had to make some monetary sacrifices. And I don’t need absolute, dire clinical services right now. Thankfully. A year ago, had we moved them to every other week, those thirteen days in between sessions would have become agonizing. I would have been miserable and counting down the hours until I could just explode for sixty minutes and vent all my frustrations and fears. I now feel confident in myself. I can do recovery. I am doing it everyday. 

And today we were talking a lot about triggers, addiction, and self-disclosure as a therapist. This is always a gray area: as a rule of thumb, therapists can self-disclose if they know sharing their personal experiences or input will somehow benefit the client. Doing it for their own purposes is considered unethical and possibly hazardous. I guarantee my therapist self-discloses more than the average therapist. I know about her kids, family, schooling, job, money, etc. I know about her eating disorder history, her experiences with hospitalization and inpatient and therapy and OA and psychiatric wards and the treacherous throes of anorexia and bulimia. Yes, I’ve virtually stalked her online, but the majority of this information comes straight from her mouth. In the midst of her sickness, people had considered her a lost cause. She’s been through hell. She tells me she self-discloses with her eating disordered clients because we are often the most resistant, shameful clients.  

Her self-disclosure has humanized her as an individual. I trust her and know she understands what it’s like to feel obsessed with food, trapped in a mental disorder, and taking on an identity that requires you to feel “sicker” in order to feel better. I still put her on a pedestal out of my own transference issues, but I recognize that she’s been through just as much as anyone else. She can’t possibly be perfect, even though I want her to be.

Food hasn’t been much of an issue lately. I’m proud of my body. I like looking at in the mirror, in pictures, during sex. I’m proud of it. I like my arms and my hips and my boobs and my smile. I like the light in my face, the youthful glow I radiate. I’m at a low weight, one I haven’t been at since high school, and it’s interesting, because the last time I weighed this, I was severely restricting myself to stay at this golden number. As if some arbitrary number will make our lives happy. As if that’s all we ever needed. I haven’t restricted myself to get to this number this time. I haven’t ran a thousand miles or given up white carbs. I’ve just eaten what I feel like. And that includes vegetables and fruit and nuts and seeds, but it also includes real bagels with real butter and real ice cream with real chocolate and real bread with real cheese. Only when I complicate the simplistic process do I begin to spiral back into the disorder. When I just take it meal by meal, I regain my confidence. 

I am so grateful that I continually give myself the invaluable gift that is recovery. There is no greater feeling than the release and liberation of self-induced bondage.