TL;DR – 3-Week Check-In

Fair warning: if you’re looking for a short, inspirational post, this one isn’t it. This is the down-and-dirty, nitty-gritty details of the past 3 weeks. This is the ugly underbelly. A TL;DR post that I have not put my “writer’s cap” on to turn into prose.

It has been 22 days since I last tracked a calorie, a carb, a gram of fat, or even a gram of sugar. I have to confess, it has not been 22 days since I last stepped on a scale: between doctors appointments and starting a program at a new gym, I have been on the scale a couple of times. But, you know what? It’s not quite as powerful as it was a few weeks ago. (It’s going to take a long time to totally escape its grip.) I wanted to come back here and share both the highs and lows — as well as the intense psychological battles — from the last 3 weeks.

Let’s start with the lows from the past few weeks and get those out of the way.

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  1. I am still pretty fixated on weight. I find myself looking in the mirror more and trying to guess if I’m losing, maintaining, or gaining. I also had to come face-to-face with the reality that a part of me still wants to lose weight (and it feels like it always will).
  2. I have struggled with urges to go more extreme in my food limitations:
    • Contemplation of switching to keto with the sole purpose of losing more weight
    • Pushing myself to just ignore hunger between meals (despite my early proclamation that the point of this was not to lose weight and not to be hungry)
    • Feeling food anxiety (as if some foods are “not safe to consume – ever”)
  3. I have struggled with tons of doubt and shame. I’ve certainly come right up against “maybe this is bad for me…maybe I should just quit this and go back to tracking…” A lot of people have implied that that’s what I should do. (Or, at least, a lot of people have implied that what I’m doing is unhealthy – but, then, so was what I was doing before this…nobody has yet to tell me what exactly they think I “should” be doing.)
  4. I’ve officially been diagnosed with an eating disorder. Again. Let me tell you more about that…

So, I’m not doing this alone. I am in therapy. Actually, I’m in a couple different kinds of therapy: individual and group therapy. My group therapists are eating disorder specialists; my individual therapist is not. Because of points 1-3 above, I decided to have an individual consult with one of my group therapists about what I am doing. That therapist has confirmed the eating disorder diagnosis I was given at my highest weight: ED-NOS (eating disorder – not otherwise specified; that means my ED doesn’t take any one shape).

It was really hard for me to hear that. Doing this — especially the discomfort other people have expressed about my eating choices — has really made me feel like I’m wearing a scarlet letter (or…scarlet letters: “ED”). It really feels like once you’re labeled with an ED, then that’s all anyone can see. Any change in my weight, eating patterns, any measure of control I might choose to take all seem to send up red flags of “is this ED behavior?”

I also don’t feel like I’ll ever really be allowed to feel proud about losing 100 pounds, because the last half of it was lost due to an eating disorder. Just saying that straight up: I feel shame about my weight loss – not pride (and, sometimes, I feel like that’s what others think I should feel about it). And, I feel shame about the health decisions I’m making now – not because I think I’m doing anything wrong, but because so many people seem so uncomfortable with them.

But, not my therapists. Let me make that clear to anyone who sees those “lows” above and is sitting there thinking “Uh, yeah… what you’re doing probably IS your eating disorder.” My therapists disagree. I disagree. And, next week, I’ll also be seeing a nutritionist to work out where to go from here.

Just because I have bad days – just because I have days when I am not happy or when I am struggling with disordered or unhealthy thoughts and urges does not mean that all of my behavior and decisions are disordered. As my therapist pointed out, the key here is that my eyes are wide open about what’s going on, and I am talking about all of these things that are coming up. That is not what an active eating disorder looks like: EDs thrive on secrecy and silence.

This feels like a good time to switch over to all the positive things that have come up in the last three weeks.

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  1. I have rediscovered my love and talent for cooking. When I was tracking calories and macros, I shied away from cooking, because it was so tedious to try and calculate the nutritional information (and the portion sizes that fit that nutritional information) for everything I made. Now that I’m not tracking or relying on macros, I feel free to just cook!
  2. I don’t have to weigh and measure anything. Ever. I can cook a recipe and just feed my family without trying to make sure I know the exact amount of food that’s left over so that I can accurately calculate my nutrition later. I thought this was going to be a difficult piece for me, but it’s not… it is a huge weight off my shoulders to just be free to cook and eat without doing a bunch of math.
  3. My body’s signals are, indeed, becoming more clear. Even just a week ago, I would’ve ranted and raged at you that it was impossible to learn your body’s signals eating this way because my body wasn’t giving me the signals I was used to. I was experiencing a LOT of digestive upset (because vegetables), and that really impacted my ability to know if I was hungry or not. But, in week 3, everything calmed down. My digestive upset is gone, and my body is telling me when I’m satiated in a way it never has before.
  4. My mood is absolutely improved. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t had bad days – I have had horribly irritable days! But, it’s not as often as it was, and I feel much more in control of it. I am less “snappy,” less irritable, I have more patience and, I believe, even a little less anxiety overall. One caveat, though: my insomnia actually got worse, especially in the first week. I feel like that’s evened out now, though. I would not say I am sleeping better; but, I’m no longer sleeping worse.
  5. I joined a gym! Not just any gym, though — I’ve joined a small local gym that focuses exclusively on personal training. I’ve started strength training for the first time ever! I’ve always avoided strength training because of what it tends to do to the scale; removing the scale means focusing on other goals… like not being squished when doing bench presses 😉
  6. And, fine, I will tell you what I’ve seen on the scale those couple of times when I had to step on: initially, a small 1.5-pound loss, after which I gained about half a pound back. But, you know what… that’s really, really ok with me. In fact, it’s awesome. It means I’ve gone 3 weeks without tracking my food (in fact, I’ve piled my plates HIGH — if you care to see, you can follow me on instagram @saladflambe), and I’ve not gained a bunch of weight.

    It means that there’s another way to live, and I am so excited about that.

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Weight Loss & Self Abuse: It’s Got to Stop

Ten years ago, I truly believed that happiness lay at the other end of the scale. I thought that so much of what made me unhappy in life would be fixed by changing numbers: the one on the scale, the one on the tag of my pants. And, for eight years now, my life has been consumed by numbers: Points, PointsPlus, calories, carbs, sugar, protein, fiber, fat.

My brain is full of numbers. I can tell you there are 73 calories in an egg, that 100 calories usually equates to roughly 3 Points on the old Weight Watchers plan, that a typical serving of fries at a restaurant is about 400 calories. I’ve had so many numeric goals: 100 carbs or less; 1,500 calories..1,200..1,000…800 calories a day; 200, 180, 150, 145, 135, 125, 120, 115 pounds on the scale. As you may have guessed, some of these goals were not healthy; some of these goals were not even safe. I didn’t care. I cared about numbers: I cared about making the numbers smaller and smaller and smaller.

Then, I had a daughter, and she was more important than the numbers. And, for a time, I thought that was it: I was fixed. My relationship with food, with the numbers, it was all OK now. Pregnancy had taken me back from the brink of underweight, and as long as I didn’t get back there, then what I was doing was healthy. I could let go of the shame of knowing that “After picture” was really just the outcome of an eating disorder.

But, over time, the numbers have crept in on me again. They’ve wrapped their claws around me. And, I look back now and see that all of those numbers have taken something away from me: I am less happy because of them.

Ten years ago, I thought weighing less would make me happier. But, now, I weigh less, and I don’t feel any happier. I don’t feel accomplished and content; I don’t feel any safer. All I feel is like I’m on the edge of losing all control of a bunch of numbers. And, that losing control of those numbers will bring destruction and failure and loss. I am afraid of the very numbers that I thought were making me better and happier.

So, you see, perhaps, why I have not written in this blog in a very long time. I have been too wrapped up in the numbers — in making them smaller (even while they have become HUGE in my mind), keeping them steady, trying to control them all the while knowing, deep down, that they are controlling me.

But, tonight, I am back. And, I’m here to say that I am going to be trying something new: I am going to try to break up with numbers. We’re in an abusive relationship, and the only way to end an abusive relationship is to cut it off.

To say I am scared would be an understatement: I have no idea what I am doing. I am terrified that I am going to regret this decision. I am terrified that all of this will be, in the end, just a bunch of words. I am afraid that I will ultimately go right back to my abusive relationship with numbers. I’m also carrying the fear of those numbers still — I am afraid of them changing, of them increasing. I’m scared of gaining weight. I am so so scared of gaining weight. And, I’m telling you this, because I just want to be honest. This blog is about honesty. Raw, open, unfiltered honesty. And, I’d like to use it again while I go through this breakup.

Now, I hesitate to share this next bit, because I don’t do endorsements or gimmicks or fads — ESPECIALLY here in this blog — and I do kind of fear that’s what this next thing I’m going to share might be. But, as I am committed to transparency, I will just blurt it out: I’ve decided to start this break-up by doing Whole30. There. I said it. Ugh. That was hard. I’ve no idea if it’ll be a good choice for me or not; I’m choosing to do it this way, because it feels right to me — it feels “safe” to me. I do want to say this though: if, at any point, any of you see this becoming some sort of act of restriction, please call me on it. Because, that is not what this is about, and if it goes that direction, I need to stop the program immediately.

Also, let me be clear, this is pretty much the only time I plan to mention this program’s name. I’d like to use this blog to talk about what this is really about: processing my breakup with numbers and working on my relationship with my body and food. Because, I’ve realized that not only am I in an abusive relationship with numbers, but I’m in an abusive relationship with my body. Only, in that relationship, I am the abuser.

I have both physically and emotionally abused my own self. And, right now, I’m not entirely sure why…or how to stop. I do know that my abusive relationship with with numbers feeds my abusive relationship with myself, so, it seems to me that cutting that off is step 1. I hope you’ll hang with me while I try to figure out steps 2 and beyond.