After struggling with bulimia for many years, one day something magical happened. I threw up. That's not the magical part, though. The magical part is that it was for the last time. Ever, I thought. I would over succeeding years have 3 moments of relapse (eating binges) but for all intents and purposes, this was the end of my bulimia.Read More
There's a reason why disordered eaters come off as anxious, crazy, and bitchy (whether male or female). It's because restriction wreaks havoc on the brain.
While the physical aspects of restriction (being skinny, as well as the less desirable symptoms detailed in this post) are obvious, there are some effects that are more subtle and mental in nature. Here are 10 things you might not know about food restriction.Read More
I'm going to tell you a personal anecdote. It involves boobs, but trust me, it never goes beyond PG-13.
Not long after I started dating my sweetheart, and before I was earnestly pursuing recovery, he gave me what he thought was a compliment. It was along the lines of "whadda rack" and basically implied that I had large breasts. Now, in retrospect I have learned that this is something he thought that women like to hear. Maybe some women do enjoy hearing things like this. But not me.Read More
Let me set up a scene for you. I'm traveling and much to my dismay, I find myself on a lunch with three people I don't know all that well (if you're reading this and thinking "is this me?", let me just say right here and right now: it's not). The reason for my dismay? I don't like lunch and I don't like eating with people I don't know. But wait, it got worse.
Each of them orders, and as they do, the orders get more and more complex. One "can't do gluten", even though I had seen her drinking a beer the night before. Another orders a menu item and proceeds to edit every single component. I already wanted to slap her; even more so once she added a cup of hot water with lemon to her order. Another, apparently fearing fat, inquires about how each item is cooked and edits anything including oil or butter.Read More
I had a little food incident a while back. I had a setback. Basically, after eating a meal which consisted of a bowl of brussels sprouts roasted with olive oil and spices, I felt more satiated than usual, which resulted in over-googling calorie contents of brussels sprouts. I began googling how brussels sprouts make you feel fuller than anything else. Because I had eaten what I thought was a virtuous dinner of brussels sprouts but somehow found myself feeling bloated and over-full, as if I had eaten three slices of pizza.
I still have trouble with that "full" feeling. And I couldn't stand it, and I wanted science to tell me why I was feeling the way I was rather than give in to the little voice in my head that was whispering "Jessie, don't you miss throwing up?".Read More
I suffered from disordered eating for a very long time. My eating disorder began at around the age of 13, and it wasn't until my early 30s that I began to earnestly seek out and participate in the recovery process.
That's a really long time.
If I could go back in a time machine and change things, honestly, at this point, I don't know if I would. Because while I don't think it's awesome that so much of my life was spent in a sort of disordered eating haze, I believe that my disordered eating has played a big part in shaping who I am, and now that I am in a state of advanced recovery, it is giving me fuel to truly pursue who I want to be, and allowing me to help make the world better for others.Read More
Don't get me wrong. I have no delusions that full recovery would mean that I am free from worry about food forever. Because honestly, even people who don't identify as disordered eaters get crazy about food sometimes. In a way, that is a relief. Being only normal-people crazy about food seems do-able to me. If it's ok to be sort of crazy about food sometimes, then I believe that I can fully recover.
"Full recovery" doesn't mean I will never have an ill thought about what I ate or never think about food as anything other than fuel again. For me, "full recovery" means living in a way that food doesn't dominate my thoughts and dictate how I act. But that having been said, I also consider full recovery a moving target. At a future point, I may need to redefine what recovery is. But for now, this feels good.Read More
Being able to talk about eating disorders has been huge for me, and I know that it has been helpful to readers. So I decided to be brave and to talk about a huge part of disordered eating that people really don't talk about--the effect on intimate relationships.
I hope that by sharing some of my story and getting vulnerable, it will be helpful to others and help them feel less alone.Read More
In the movie version of my life, eating disorder recovery would probably go about like this:
- A: Movie-me hits "rock bottom", realizes she has a problem.
- B: Movie-me enters a recovery program, thinks she is not like the others but through trials, tribulations, and maybe a montage or two, overcomes adversity and finds full recovery.
- C: Movie-me reunites with lost love; screen fades to credits while we walk hand in hand eating ice cream, never to count calories ever again.
In real life, recovery has not been nearly so easy, nor has it involved even one joyous 80s song montage. In fact, in a lot of ways it has sucked and been really hard. This post is dedicated to people who may be entering recovery--I want to tell you some of the hard stuff, not to discourage you, but so that you can know you are not alone when it comes up, and so that you can keep on going.Read More
When I was little, I wanted to be my big sister. She was the strong one. She was the pretty one. She was the brave one.
She was also a big bully, and since I worshipped her so much, I was probably an easy target. She was older than me and bigger than me, and she used that to her advantage. Hair was pulled, toys were taken. Various acts of childhood terrorism occurred.
But she had her tender moments, too. I remember crying for some reason or another one day, and how she came into the bedroom and didn't say anything--she just brushed my hair and patted my head for an hour.
She is a good sister.
Happily, when she grew up she found the best possible profession: a personal trainer and fitness instructor. Suddenly, it's as if a childhood of bullying was merely her apprenticeship: now, she could boss people around, tell them what to do, and it made them healthier. She excelled at it: they lost weight/got strong/met their fitness goals. Honestly, she quickly became kind of a local celebrity.
A little over a month ago, VERY unexpectedly, my big, strong, beautiful sister was diagnosed with advanced-stage ovarian cancer. Now, to the uninitiated, ovarian cancer is something that can get really scary really fast if you start reading about it. Side effects. Decline of health. Survival rates.
She had a surgery, but there was still cancer. Overnight, her world was transformed. Her primary setting will no longer be the gym: it's going to be chemo rooms, doctor's offices, and she will be doing lots and lots of paperwork. She's going to be tired, she's going to lose her hair, who knows what else.
Through all of the words, all of the information, all of the procedures, one word keeps coming back front and center to my mind:
Why my sister? Why should someone so young (the average patient for ovarian cancer is 55+) get cancer? Why someone so obnoxiously healthy? Why not me or my other sister or my mom? Why didn't the surgery remove all the cancer? Why didn't they try harder? Why?
I'll tell you the truth. Even though I know that cancer doesn't discriminate, that Patrick Swayze got it and so on, I still don't understand. It feels mean and not-fair.
It makes me alternately sad, mad, confused, and frustrated, and even though it's not even me suffering, all of the emotion, confusion, and general not-knowing has all of that has been a trigger to my eating disorder.
When things feel out of control, my eating disorder is the place to return to, the place where I can have control.
So far, my ED-tendencies have primarily manifested as control issues. I have been keenly aware of when it's time to eat, what I am going to eat, and I have to use certain plates. That type of thing.
For example: I go to the hospital with my sister for a quick and easy shot that she needs. Seeing the cancer center at the hospital makes me want to cry, because I know this is her "home" for the duration of her chemotherapy regime. Right after we leave the hospital, all I can think about is what I am going to eat for lunch and what plate I am going to eat it on. I am so caught up in calculating how many calories this lunch will add to my total for the day that I am a crappy conversationalist to my sister, and isn't that the whole point of me being here, to be with her? so it makes me feel bad, and then that makes me focus on food again for control, and the cycle keeps going.
I know that it is a good step that I am able to recognize that this is happening. But then again. Even though I am painfully aware of what is going on and can see it happening...the maddening part is that it is STILL happening. Even being present and noticing these things doesn't stop the disordered thoughts from creeping in.
Honestly, the cancer is not about me. It's my sister's struggle. That is part of what makes it difficult: it hurts to feel so helpless. It's like I want to suffer if only to take some of it from her.
But here's the thing: returning to my eating disorder isn't going to kill the cancer inside of my sister. It's not going to help her in a single way, and it's definitely not going to help me. In fact, it could actively keep me from helping her.
My sister having cancer is enough of a blow: I don't have to let my eating disorder win, too.
I can ask "why" over and over and over and over, but I would miss out on so much, and I don't know if there is really an answer for it. It's really nothing more than fuel for my eating disorder to try to take over my life again.
So instead of dwelling on the what-ifs and whys right now, I am choosing to recognize that they will not help me in any way. I'm not avoiding information about cancer, but I am not compulsively googling survival rates based on patients who have nothing to do with my sister.
I am trying to take care of myself, which can be very hard especially in the face of "but I should be helping HER" thoughts.
Maybe right now, there is nothing I can do other than be there for her. But by keeping myself strong and continuing on the path of recovery, I will be better able to be there both physically and mentally for my sister in whatever ways she may need in the months coming up. If I let myself succumb to the comfort of my eating disorder, not only will I not be able to help her, but I will be making myself sick, too.
Going back to my eating disorder is not worth it for all the whys in the world.
Do you have experience with a crisis triggering your eating disorder?
Some say that people who are prone to eating disorders are like loaded guns. It’s like they are born with weapons of mass destruction inside of them, silently laying in wait. The ammunition is always there, but it takes the right chain of events to pull the trigger.
Looking back, the shot heard round my world to start the revolution of my disordered eating sounds downright stupid. It was a comment about my ankles.Read More
Terrible confession: I've always been secret big believer that romantic partners can “save” me from my eating disorder. Of course, this is completely untrue and, since we’re being honest, kind of unfair. Truthfully, what passes as "cured" (for the moment) is actually just the all-consuming power of a new love to occupy time that had previously been dominated by an eating disorder. Like many of the exciting parts of the first flush of love, though, it doesn't last.Read More
How many of you in eating disorder recovery have found that after you ditched the behaviors with food, far from becoming better, your life just became massively empty, with the days seeming to have too many hours?Read More
What if--just like that--I stopped being someone with an eating disorder, and just decided to be someone with a not-eating disorder who happens to be going through something weird with food at the moment? To shift from someone with a chronic disease to someone who is just dealing with a cold that they know will pass?Read More
I identify as "mostly recovered". To me, this means that while I have ditched a lot of the unhealthy food behaviors that characterize an eating disorder, I still have work to do. In particular, that work has to do with breaking my own habits and rules.Read More
Do you believe in miracles?
As a general practice, I don't. In spite of my love of unicorns, sugar, and bright colors, I tend toward the sensible side of things. There's part of me that doesn't want to dream too big, doesn't want to let my hopes get too high, doesn't want my heart to be too open, because not if but when I am disappointed, it is going to hurt. In some ways, living like this is not so bad: I do in fact save myself from disappointment. But I also keep myself from living to my fullest potential, because I dull myself from feeling not only the lowest lows, but also the highest highs.Read More
You know how "everyone's Irish" on March 17? Well, I have a theory that everyone has an eating disorder around the holidays. And I choose to find comfort in this: as someone in eating disorder recovery, the holidays are the time of year when everyone is right there in it with me.Read More
A lot of people who don't know better are dismissive of eating disorders. In particular in the case of restrictive disorders, the reaction is often along these lines: "why don't you just eat a cheeseburger / pizza / sandwich?". You can insert several different foods here, but it's often a high calorie density food, and likely one of the foods most likely to scare the size-0 pants off of a disordered eater.Read More
Some of them I consider "regret-lite"--things that I feel, yes, but can dismiss as being fairly standard regret fare. You know. Things I said that I wish I hadn't, things I wish I had said that I didn't. Wishing I'd spent more time with my grandmother before she died. Lamenting the fact that I didn't study abroad when I had the chance.Read More
Are you familiar with something called "Body Checking"?
I had heard this term before, but usually in a crowd control sort of context. For example: "I was body checked by Madonna's entourage on a NYC street!". But I'd never heard it in an eating disorder context until a few weeks ago, at the NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) conference.Read More