I’m getting super raw and real this week as I discuss my eating disorder. Proceed with caution.
My mind and body rage a war.
Bang. I inhale a sub.
Bang. A hamburger.
Bang, Bang. A half-gallon of ice cream.
Each bite, a bullet to my devastated body as if punishing myself for some unknown offense.
Eating disorders is an irritating misnomer. It’s actually an emotional disorder. It’s hurtful and offensive to hear, ‘Why don’t you just stop eating?’ as if it’s so easily within your control.
My eating disorder burned hot and fast. One day that was the farthest thing from my reality. The next thing I knew I was making rounds around town, piling up on all the fast food and cake and ice cream that should feed an individual for a week. And I called that lunch.
When I wasn’t eating, I was absolutely falling apart. I drowned in the deepest, darkest depression I never knew was possible.
The Healing Spiral
Healing is not a linear process but more of a spiral. As I cycled through, I found myself revisiting a story I’d thought I was done with. Recognizing that I was now addressing and healing deeper levels, I tried to honor where I was and meet my needs. My eating disorder was my latest expression of my relationships…with my Mom…with others…with myself. Knowing this was helpful when my head was in a place to care.
My chronic illness has taught me that most physical symptoms/illnesses/disabilities have strong underlying emotional connections. When I felt the compulsion to eat, I’d sit with my emotions for 5 minutes, longer if I could. Then I’d allow myself to eat whatever I wanted, no judgement. I’d allow myself to actually enjoy it. When I stopped fighting myself, the compulsion instantly dimmed in intensity. My mind and my body slowly learned they are on the same side.
My Visible Pain
With an understanding that many struggle to lose weight because it subconsciously protects them in some way, I asked myself in what ways might my weight be serving me. To be honest, I was surprised to get a response. I honestly believed that that was not my reality and only asked to be sure I covered my bases.
I’m guessing my answer will resonate with you.
My weight serves to be the only visible sign of my struggles. From emotional abuse to sexual abuse to chronic illnesses, my struggles have always been invisible, thus minimized, disregarded, thought to be a figment of my imagination. For once my body was screaming, ‘Look at me dammit! How can you not see how I’m hurting!’
I’d had to learn to meet my needs by finding my voice. Speaking up for myself in appropriate ways so my body doesn’t have to silently scream on my behalf. That’s tough work after a lifetime of being silenced. Thank God, I’m rebellious.
It took time. But there came a day when I stopped in my tracks and was like, ‘Wait…I’m ok! When the hell did that happen?’
It was in tentative fits and starts but there was a distinct difference. My cat helped a lot. Since I tend to dissociate, I am often unaware of my own emotions. Kiki gets super clingy which I’ve learned is her telling me to stop and reflect. Sure enough, every time, I end up in tears. As difficult as that is, she’s trained me to be more aware, to stop and reflect more often and to increase capacity for the difficult shit that dredges up. I’ve come a very long ways! And my lack of compulsion to eat is my testament.
Losing The Weight
After experiencing zero compulsions to eat for a few months, I finally felt ready to shed my visible pain. I was ready to just be me again. I am still learning to use my voice. But I’ve shown up for myself enough, that I’m trusting I will continue to do so, meaning I no longer have to scream ‘Look at me!’ with a large body.
I remembered the biblical parable of the man who becomes suddenly gung-ho about religion, then quickly falls away because he didn’t have roots. He tried to grow too much too fast. I determined I didn’t want to be that guy. So, instead of focusing on weight loss, my first goal was to grow roots.
I started by doing what I most enjoy. Given that I’ve always hated exercise in general, I had to learn what I most enjoyed. I experimented with calisthenics, cardio, yoga, recumbent bike, weights. Experimenting with various types of exercise kept it interesting. It also helps me learn what I like.
I have been working out 5-7 days a week for 6 months now. The secret to my success is continuing to meet myself where I am. If my body tells me it really needs a break. I give it a break – no judgement. If in the middle of a routine or video and I’m just over it, I move to a different routine or video.
I’ve settled on weights. When I thought of cardio and my heart sank, it was time to find something else. For now weights are working for me. Though there are random days, when I’m like, ‘No, just a gentle stretching routine is all I feel I can do right now.’ And I’m now ok with that.
While there’s been no weight loss according to the scales, I see the difference in the mirror. Big time. And mostly I feel the difference! I remind myself that I’m building muscle. So I’m ok with what the scales say, knowing that’ll change once my muscles are toned and more and more fat melts away.
My Secret to the Long Game
Without my rock solid faith, I’d accomplish little in life. I daily seek inspiration to keep showing up for myself, knowing that I am doing more than embarking on a weight loss journey. I am healing…my inflamed body, which will only help my chronic pain and fatigue; my emotional baggage that’s all tangled in with the weight and eating and chronic illness stuff. It’s all connected. And I’m living The Serenity Prayer- changing the things I can. Which, once I was able to get out of my doomsday depressed mindset, I could see again, is a lot.