This is the first in a series about getting help if you suffer from disordered eating. I am not a professional; everything I say is based on my own experience. Always consult with your own doctor. This post mentions specific food and ED behaviours – do not read if you are easily triggered.
An ED is a funny thing. One becomes torn into two frames of mind – the strong ED voice convincing you that this is the best way to live, that you are a perfect picture of healthy eating and exercise and that you are achieving your natural weight and beauty; and the sliver of the real you – the you that existed before food was ever an issue – telling you that this is all a bit mad. Unfortunately, the latter is pretty easy to drown out: she isn’t one for putting up a fight.
Often times, this means that by the time a sufferer is actually in treatment, the ED is so far along that recovery is a difficult and grueling process. In these cases, the person can still be in denial about the problem and are in recovery against their will.
I, on the other hand, took a different path to treatment. Although it was October before I asked for help, I was becoming more aware that my life was spiralling out of control months earlier. That quiet little voice started chirping up, and I even asked friends once or twice if they thought I was too thin. It was around this time that I wrote a this letter to my parents, which I never sent.
Whilst you were out, even though I was not physically hungry, I went through 12 Ryvitas with thick layers of Nutella and peanut bbutter on each. Although I felt I could not stop, this did not bother me until I eventually did stop (we ran out of Ryvita) and felt so physically ill and anxious that I went to the bathroom and tried to vomit up everything I had just eaten. Unfortunately, due to my apparently very strong gag reflex, nothing happened except overwhelming shame from eating too much, trying to throw up and failing to throw up. I’d like to say that this is the first time an incident like this has happened. But that would be a li.
Over the last 2-3 years, what began as an attempt to lose my TY weight has slowly become an obsession. I take pride in knowing the calorie count of almost everything and I generally maintain arounf a 500 cal deficit for each day (although evidently, some days are a failure.) I follow my day by routine. This currently involves making 20 grams of porridge with 250+ml water (72 cal) and maybe an apple or a yogurt (68-85 cal) Then I shower or do the dishwasher ot play the piano, anything to distract me for 4 hours until I lunch – soup (74cal) or maybe a salad (anything from 38 cal – 180cal) Dinner is always worrying. Anxiety kicks in if I hear chips, sausages, potatoes. Even pork chops or chicken have the potential to make me feel uneasy. Because once I start eating, I generally cannot stop and these high cal foods require self control if I am to meet my daily restrictions. Post-dinner is even harder because evening seems to trigger some sort of binge habit. On a good day, I can control it. On a bad day… well, I’ve already explained.
If a binge has happened, I have my coping methods. Since I track EVERYTHING I eat, I usually distribute the calories from an overeat over the next day or two so I don’t forget to make the extra cut back so I can maintain (or hopefully lose) weight. Exercise also helps. Running is a double edged sword. Workouts mean I can efficiently burn 500-600 cal in a 45 min session, but I am also hungrier and more tired than ever, making everything seem more difficult.
These thoughts consume me. My mind is a flurry of numbers, calories eaten, calories burnt, current weight (111-113 pounds) BMI (18.5) BMR (1640 – meaning I eat about 1140 a day, slightly more with exercise.) I like to cook dinner so I can control things like oil, seasoning, butter, anything that may cause secret calories to sneak in. I don’t drink because I cannot cope with 135 extra calories from a Smirnoff Ice or the fast food I am bound to rationalise to myself afterwards. No weight goal is good enough. My original goal was 125lbs. I am now 113.
A few days ago, my friends told me (in the bathroom of the Pery hotel) that they were staging an intervention until I reduced exercise, ate more and gained some weight. But I have become used to this from people and am clever to be seen eating – or at the very least, formulating a convincing story of having eaten a large meal earlier in the day.
So why am I writing all of this down? I make it clear that I DO NOT want to gain weight. I DO NOT want to get bigger. I DO NOT want to be a size 10-12 or above 8 stone. But I do not want osteoporosis. Or infertility. And I find that at this particular moment in time, it is too difficult to cope, to maintain this lifestyle of restriction. It has become a disgusting cycle of fast/binge/exercise that I would like to escape from but am terrified of the consequences if I do. I know that in the morning, I will return to my normal attitude of self restriction and exercise. I will make my watered down porridge, I will burn as many calories as I possible can in the gym. Even now, in this seemingly lucid state, I cannot help but be disgusted at myself because of my binge and the fear that I will not be able to undo it. Tomorrow, like every other day, will involve my morning weigh-in and multiple scrutinies of my own stomach throughout the day. Anytime I am in the privacy of a locked room with a mirror (my room or a bathroom, for example) this will happen and each time, I will more than likely mourn the imperfection of my disproportionate and mishapen mid section. It seems my torso dictates my mood, my day, my life at times.
I do not have a disorder, per se. I amnot technically underweight, I don’t restrict enough to qualify starvation, I do not vomit or use laxatives. But it is possible that I have a problem. My biggest fear going into college? That I won’t have time for exercise or healthy eating, that I will put up weight and that subsequently, my clothes won’t fit anymore, I will freak out and I will be deemed too mentally unstable to pursue a course such as medicine.
I don’ know what to do. Honestly, I don’t. I would like to be normal, but what is normal?
Like I said, tomorrow will probably return me to my usual state of mind, but at least for now, I have the sense to admit that perhaps something is up.
But, like I said, the voice of ED is quick to shut the real you up, and the problem continued.
To be continued…