interviews and hiking and eating

The days move. It is summer, and it is warm, and that makes me so happy.

I interviewed for a job this morning, and I think we connected well. It’s not a position I’m particularly interested in, but I need a cash flow while I continue accruing psychotherapy hours towards licensure. It’s a position I’m definitely qualified- if not overqualified for- but it’s relative to my field. I could do it. 

I went for a solo hike afterwards. One of my favorite canyon hikes. It was hot. I like that i can enjoy my alone time now. I used to loathe it. Remember, in high school, when nothing is worse than being seen alone (except, maybe, being seen with your parents). The hiking felt good. Really good.

I was so hungry afterwards. Ate some almonds. Drove home. Took a cold shower. Napped. Still hungry. Ravenous, really. Haven’t been eating enough. I know this. My appetite has been weird ever since I got back from that cruise. I can tell I’m losing some weight. Of course, this thrills me. Of course. Of course. Of course.

But I’m eating enough. It’s just at the bare minimum. I could do more. I’m flirting with a few-days-from-now-hangry binge, and I don’t want that. No sir. 

I had so many more thoughts to write, but I’m nodding off to sleep. More later.

Love<3

 

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Aside

dieting season and milkshakes.

Dear Bee,

Good morning, sunshine. Haven’t written to you in awhile. Too busy. Okay, that’s a fallacy. Not having enough time is a misconception. It’s more like not making it a priority. 

At one point, you were my biggest priority. Writing to you, talking to you, getting to know every little part about you. I had to familiarize myself with your voice. I had to study and dissect and analyze it until I knew every suckle of your distorted self.

I’m happy with the number on the scale, but not with the reflection in the mirror. And it’s petty. My thighs will always look too big. My stomach will always look too round. These are all misconceptions in my head. It’s my mind that needs a workout, not my body. No matter how much I whittle down my frame, it won’t matter. The mind will see what it wants to see. You will see FAT if you want me to believe I’m fat.

People around me are losing weight. Everyone, it seems, is on a diet. Guess it’s that time of year. Summer and itty-bitty short season is just around the corner, and we all know that means short-term crash dieting and fanatic exercise. I hate it, probably because I’m jealous of it. Probably because I still fall prey to the idea that just losing ten pounds would dramatically enhance my already wonderful life. Probably because I am torn between STILL believing the perfect body will give me the perfect life and realistically knowing that the very idea of that is absolute bullshit. 

I’m not bingeing so much, but I’m overeating. I don’t like that either. That’s more in the gray area, and that area frightens me. It’s the meshing of “safe” and “unsafe” foods. It’s the no-man’s land between “perfect” eating and “destructive” eating. Perfect, being the foods I can eat without worry or fear. Destructive, being the pathological, insatiable bottomless pit that craves all the sugars and fats. This weekend was good practice in the gray area. There was lots of meals out. Heavy meals. Desserts. French toast and cheesecake and milkshakes. Triggering meals. But happy ones because they were spent with the people I love. To eat those by myself would have been much more dangerous. 

And I’m not exercising as much as I would like. Because I’m busier than I have been in years. I have about 12-15 clients on an average week now. In addition to running two therapy groups, supervision meetings, trainings, and a full course load of classes. It’s chaotic. It’s what I love. It’s not going to be this fast-paced forever, but for right now, time is of the essence. There are days when I barely even get to move. My restless homeostasis hates that, but, at this point in my life, I’m taking care of other aspects of my health…and that is by advancing my passions and pursuing my dreams. I am working out my mind and soul, instead of just my body. Different, but just as important.

I’m trying to do the best I can. It’s not easy. It’s a conscious effort. There are many times when I fall backwards. The definition of recovery constantly changes. But I know I’m better than I was. And I’m happy where I am. And I’m excited for where I will be. 

so, my weekend..

Dear Bee,

I mean, you were obviously around this weekend. In the mirrors and on the scales and in the food I ate. You were there lurking in the booths at each and every restaurant at each and every meal.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a good weekend, because I did. I had a fabulous weekend with my boyfriend. We had a vacation house to ourselves, where we were able to lounge in the jacuzzi, hike pretty mountains, and enjoy gorgeous beaches. He is the best thing that has ever happened in my life, that I know. But, still a part of me, wishes I could be fully and 100% present to soak in every delicious vibrance of this love.

I recognize that last sentence streams into perfectionism. There is no 100%. It is impossible. And nobody can be fully present. After all, that is what distinguishes humanity from all other animals. Because we are able to think and explore alternative meanings, our minds are constantly wandering to the past and future. To expect to live in the exact moment at every single exact moment would not only be irrational, but it could also be detrimental. Imagine if we only had our impulses to drive us into what we wanted to do. We would have no way to self-regulate, own responsibility, or make intelligent decisions based on our unique needs and wants. In other words, we would live in chaos.

I ate a lot of carbs this weekend. There was pizza and pasta and calzones and fudge and burritos. So, yes, I ate a variety of food. This is a simple statement. Also a neutral statement. It’s the meaning I want to attach to it. My eating disorder wants to attach the negative dialogue (of course) and tell me that I’m hedonistic, gluttonous, a failure at recovery, grotesque, disgusting, and weak. My “positive-affirmation” warrior side of me counterbalances those insults by telling me that I’m allowed to enjoy life, that one weekend won’t kill me, that food is just food, and I’m absolutely not grotesque, disgusting, and weak. I want to believe both, but I will choose to listen to the warrior side, because the disordered side just wants to keep me sick, and I’m fully aware of that. I’m not a bad person for what I ate. I’m not a bad person for experiencing certain feelings or thoughts about these foods. I’m in recovery, and it gets hard. Especially on vacation. 

I am done weighing myself again for awhile. At least for a few weeks. I’ve been letting that number dominate my emotions and thoughts about my body image way too much. I gave up the scale for about six months at the beginning of this journey, and I can give it up again. There is no reason to measure myself by an electric number, not at these stages of recovery. However, I have rationalized the stepping up and down on the scale, attempting to convince myself that I’m just “checking the number” just to “see my progress.” This is unhealthy for me. This is way too dangerous. I’m realizing it now. I have come WAY too far to backslide into the never-ending, addictive quest to reach a new lowest weight. And that’s exactly where you will take me…down that slippery slope that promises eternal beauty and happiness. Bullshit. There’s no beauty or happiness attached to a weight. There never was, and there never will be.

I’ve been working on that novel for Nanowrimo…so far, so good. I’ve missed fiction writing. I like letting my characters unravel their stories into complex and intricate plots. I have a loose idea of the beginning and the end. The middle is a little more fuzzy. Kind of like recovery. I remember where I started, and I have a vision of what the end chapters will look like, but all that lies between…that’s really up in the air, isn’t it? 

“You need to gain some weight.”

Dear Bee,

So, my brother has to gain weight. Literally. His doctor told him so yesterday. He laughs at this. Jokes that now it’s time to get yoked and start putting on muscle. Starts shoveling down cookies because he can. 

My brother is my best friend. He’s always been thin as a rail. It’s just how his metabolism works. I’m not jealous, simply because I recognize that I have stubborn, but beautiful boobs and an ass that prevent me from having a gaunt look. I also have a muscular frame due to years of doing every sport and physical activity imaginable. But, I am intrigued by his response to this news.

In the past, the idea of gaining weight seemed unfathomable. No matter what number flashed back to me on the scale, it was never too low, and even thinking about it inching any higher sent me into a tailspin.

I distinctly remember the first time I weighed over 100 lbs. That was exciting for me. I was thin and tiny as a child; most of my friends were more developed, and I felt too skinny around some of them. I hit puberty around 14. Then, my breasts grew (what seemed to be overnight), my hips emerged, and my feminine features arrived. I was no longer an underdeveloped little girl. I was (gasp) becoming a woman?

That’s probably when the eating disorder pathology started. It’s a slow progression. Nobody just meets the criteria overnight. It starts as a casual diet, a controllable choice, a “project” of sorts. I just needed to lose 10 pounds. Or so I thought. I started writing down what I ate. Started exercising for reasons other than enjoyment. I was convinced I needed to lose weight. Convinced that when my body became perfect, I would find the perfect boyfriend. Convinced that a perfect body would make me popular and fit in with the girls I desperately wanted approval from. I just needed a perfect body, and I acted as if this was an achievable feat!

Eating disorder intervention really needs to start in elementary school and junior high. That’s when our bodies start changing. That’s when appearance and fitting in becomes a top priority and dating becomes equally important. We need education and support. It’s not just about positive body image; it’s about teaching young children how to accept themselves, how to ask for help when they feel alone, how to reach out and seek guidance when they are struggling, how to nourish and take care of themselves in healthy and fulfilling ways. 

So, back to my brother. He has to gain weight. Many people would kill to be in his position, but really, he’s just annoyed. This is unintentional. He does not want to be underweight. It just happened that way. He’s very active at his new job, and this sudden spike in physical movement caused him to lose some weight. So, he just has to eat a little more. What a simple remedy. At one point, I would have killed to be told that I just needed to gain some weight by a medical professional…I would have finally felt “sick enough.” I would have finally felt like I was pretty and pure enough.

I am not a little girl, and my body reflects that. I never want to be told I have to gain weight. I am not in a position right now where I could handle being told that I need to lose weight, either. I am grateful for the body I have. It is not perfect, but if I could go back and tell my adolescent self, I would tell her that she will fall in love multiple times, create amazing and genuine friendships, and live a happy and whole life…no matter what her body looks like. 

It wouldn’t have made sense then, though, because it’s only starting to make sense now.  I am proud of my body, but it does not define me. With my eating disorder, it did. With my eating disorder, my body was all that mattered, and if something adverse happened, it had to be because of my weight, size, or what I ate that day. I couldn’t accept that there were things beyond my control. I couldn’t accept that maybe some people just didn’t like me…and it wasn’t due to my body. Some things didn’t happen the way I wanted them to…and it wasn’t due to my body. My feelings weren’t where I wanted them to be…and it wasn’t due to my body. My body was just the force that took the beating. I blamed it for anything and everything. 

I no longer do that. My body may not be perfect, but it is close. I only have one, and for today, I choose to RESPECT and LOVE it for all its beauty and miracle. 

My Ex is Fatter.

Dear Bee,

My ex-boyfriend lives just a couple miles away from me, so it is only natural that my friends occasionally run into him. Thus far, I’ve been lucky. I saw him once driving, but we have yet to have that awkward run-in and deer-in-headlights encounter. At this point, I think I would be okay if we did. I would be civil and cordial and make small-talk if necessary, but I wouldn’t jump in to have a deep conversation either. 

He’s gotten chubbier. I’ve heard that from two different people. This makes me ecstatic. I hate admitting this. Me, fat-phobic? Me, who is studying to be a therapist, who literally breathes empathy and nurture, who is clinically trained to provide equal treatment to everyone? I would like to say that is my eating disordered voice speaking, and some of it probably is, but there is simply no excuse for my own sick sense of superiority. Because, clearly, if he’s gaining weight, that must correlate with him being worse off than me, inferior to me, less than me, grosser and sicker and more worthless than me. My friends also agree. They say he’s gotten chubbier with that carefree and malicious laugh, as if to say, you’re so much better off than him. He never deserved you to begin with, and he’s nothing without you. And if that’s not distortion, I don’t know what is. 

By nature, we associate weight gain with problems in life. We associate it with depression and dysfunction, inferiority and unattractiveness, laziness and gluttony. I am not an innocent angel who is immune to this kind of discrimination. I wish I was. I hope one day to be, but right now, it is an automatic thought that I must consciously work through. I tend to assume I am better than people who are bigger than me, and, on the flip side, I think the opposite if I am bigger than them. Thus, it is only natural, given my distortions, that I believe I am better off than my ex-boyfriend is. Not for legitimately comparable reasons, but because of the disparity in our appearances. Because mine is more socially acceptable. Because mine is more atheistically pleasing. Because mine is what more people would consider attractive, successful, and put-together.

For someone so deep in recovery, it saddens me that I still automatically hold these distortions and discrimination against others. 

Bodies are bodies. They are vessels. They are a composition of muscle, fat, and bone. They are not markers of inferiority, superiority, or even beauty. Evolution, social construction, core schemas, and media messages are the marker of inferiority, superiority, and beauty. 

Is food a problem for you? Isn’t it a problem for everyone?

Dear Bee,

My appetite is still basically nonexistent. I’m still eating, but it’s not much. I know this is a normal side effect of the medication, and I am hoping that my body adjusts. Well, the rational part of me is hoping that. The eating disordered part of me, of course, is loving the suppressed appetite, weight loss (even if it’s just water weight), and eating 1-2 meals a day. I honestly don’t know why psychiatrists would prescribe anything with a side effect of appetite suppression to someone with an eating disorder or disordered tendencies.

I’ve never experienced suppressed appetite, though, and I have to say, it is strange. I’ve never taken diet pills or any of that. The only time I remember feeling this way was when I had food poisoning for a few days and the sight or smell of any solid food made my stomach church. So, this is strange. I just don’t physically feel hungry, which sure, isn’t the only reason I ate, but the medication has also removed a lot of the edge to want to eat. I can go almost the entire day without feeling my stomach growl. That’s different from active restriction, where I would try and avoid eating, whether or not my body was telling me it needed food. This doesn’t feel like restriction because I just don’t feel hungry.

Anyways, I was at the fair with my family today, and I saw a booth for Overeaters Anonymous. I just found it really ironic, since the fair is a place that advertises selling deep-fried chocolate-covered bacon and sloppy joe sandwiches wedged between Krispy Kreme donuts. They practically endorse overeating. It’s really one of the only places where people aren’t judged for eating ten times during the day.

Obviously, I recognize the difference between an act of overeating and a habitual and progressive problem, but their bright sign posted, Is food a problem for you? Um. Whether we want to admit it or not, food is a problem for most people. Especially in America. That is evident on our citizen’s waistbands, climbing rates of diabetes, and overabundance of fast food. Eating disorders are staggering in terms of low recovery rates and high mortality numbers, but obesity is a ridiculously killing epidemic. How many times have I heard someone say they just need to go on a diet or work off this cheeseburger or lose ten pounds or I totally blew my diet today or I was going to be “good,” but then I had this cookie. How many times have people eaten something they didn’t want to eat or didn’t make it to the gym and feel like a failure because of it?

So long as we tie emotions to an act that is inherently neutral, do we have some kind of problem?

Food is a trouble area for nearly everyone I know, and obviously the effect of this problem lies on a spectrum, but the point is: most of us have used food as a crutch or coping mechanism at some point in our lives. It’s when it affects our daily functioning that it becomes a problem. Is obesity a problem, then, if the person is seemingly unaffected? Is poor health a problem if the person does not care about their diet? I’ve never been obese, but I know few obese people who are truly at peace and okay with their sizes. Most of them are affected at some point, be it from feeling discriminated, being unable to engage in activities they might want to try, or experiencing health complications. Is food a problem for these people? Is overeating on any level a sign of a problem? Normal people overeat, but not all of them gain weight.

Do people who suffer from weight-related issues have an actual mental problem? The AMA just declared obesity as a disease, meaning it no longer represents a figure muddled by an individual’s lack of sheer willpower or laziness. With approximately 95% of people failing on diets, obesity does seem to be a chronic issue, and I don’t think willpower is to blame. It’s not in my jurisdiction to say who has a problem and who does not, but I really think the phrase Is food a problem for you? can be universally applied to almost anyone. 

free slurpees :D

Dear Bee,

The honeymoon phase of a relationship is so much fun. It’s just like nonstop sex, nonstop conversation, nonstop cute little sayings and dates. I really couldn’t be happier. Even though I’m excellent at finding the good in absolutely anyone, I’m also good at picking flaws. So far, I’ve come up with nothing though. No complaints. It’s so effortless; so euphoric. We go out and have fun and then talk until sunrise with really great sex in between. What more could I ask for? I loved being single and learning about myself, but I’m also so glad to have intimacy back in my life. Someone to sleep with, someone to hold, someone to kiss and hug whenever I want…that all just feels so good. Everything about this is finally healthy.

My appetite is still somewhat whack. For the past few days, I’ve struggled to stomach more than two meals a day. I’m not actively restricting; I just haven’t been very hungry. And when I do feel hungry, it seems like I get full with barely any food. My stomach feels sensitive lately. I don’t know. I just recognize that this suppressed appetite is definitely a slippery slope. I’ve also been experiencing some fatigue, but I think that’s a side effect of the medication. I’m not sure. I know that my body is just adjusting. I can sense that I’m losing weight, but because I’m still very much in the normal range for my height, I’m not as concerned as maybe I need to be. I return to the psychiatrist for a follow-up appointment in a week and a half, so I’ll check in with everything there. 

Life is good right now. Finishing up school next week. FINALLY. Europe at the beginning of August. Beyond stoked. Still have to figure out my roommate and living situation, but I’m not going to worry about that until I return home. Oh yeah, and I love being in love. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world. 

Well, today is July 11, so if you live in America, go get your free slurpee at 711. I sure will!

PS: I kinda wanna write a memoir….? A few people have suggested the idea, and I think I may go for it in a few years. I’ll combine my experiences as a therapy student and then as a therapist and explore all that I’ve learned about recovery, myself, and so forth. We’ll see.