Choosing Recovery: The Easiest Hard Decision I’ll Ever Make

Yesterday, I made the decision to once again stop tracking my calories and weighing myself for at least the month of February. For the past 4 months, I have been inching my way back towards this leap with my dietician — increasing my calories very slowly, and only moderately successfully. I was due for another increase yesterday, but I wasn’t even consistently hitting the previous increase. I also had my first ever doctor’s appointment where I actually told the doctor about my diagnosis (OSFED – atypical anorexia subtype, in case you were curious – meaning having lost a significant amount of weight due to obsessive caloric restriction but not yet being classified as having a medically underweight BMI). And something hit me…

It wasn’t that long ago that doctors were calling me an athlete; now, they are calling me anorexic. And, I had the thought: what do I want to be called? Anorexic or an Athlete?

I was so proud the first time someone referred to me as an athlete. It’s not a title I ever thought I’d carry. Athleticism was not a part of my personality! Athlete means dedication, focus, commitment, discipline – it means all the good qualities I want to have. 100% I want to be called an athlete again.

But, if I’m honest, there’s also a part of me that wanted to be called anorexic. But, really, what I think that part wanted was for it to be obvious that I was in pain. Anorexic means “I’m not ok, and I need help.” Anorexia communicates that when I feel like I can’t.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few days telling this part of myself that giving up anorexia doesn’t mean that I can’t communicate my pain. And, in fact, giving up anorexia is likely to mean stronger pain, not less of it — because it means giving up the thing I was using to self-soothe and numb that pain.

A few people in my support groups have asked me “how? How did you make this decision? How did you get to this point?” Even I was asking myself if I’d find this point again…just this weekend, I was asking it. Well, a few things…

First, I have the benefit this time of already knowing that intuitive eating works well for me and that there are very good things on the other side of eating disorder recovery. I’m not nearly as scared this time around, because I’ve done it before.

Second, I have been so overwhelmed and stressed lately — daycare closed due to a COVID outbreak there, and I had to work full-time while caring for my two young children.

The eating disorder adds so much stress and pain on top of all of this other stress and pain. In a moment of clarity, I had to genuinely ask myself why I wasn’t choosing to take control over the one thing I could actually change to make things better?

For months, coming to this decision has felt like the hardest thing. But, in the end, it is really pretty easy. You really do…just do it. And anorexics are stubborn, strong-willed people. When we put our mind to something, we do it. 100%.

I don’t know what exactly will happen now. Though I’m not clinically underweight, I’ll still probably gain some weight, and that might suck. Hopefully, the people who matter to me won’t care about that. Hopefully, I won’t care about that too much.

I’ll try to document it some on here — this starting over again journey back to intuitive eating. I’m only a day and a half in, and I can already tell you that it is both immediately freeing and frightening. But, mostly freeing. And already worth it.

What Do You Do When Numbing is Off the Table?

I often look back on my past selves and think “what the hell happened?”

What happened to make me gain so much weight?

What happened to make me lose so much weight?

Why did I continually eat until I was in physical pain?

Why did I continually starve until I couldn’t go on a simple walk?

When I think back to all of these times in my life, I’ve realized that they were all times of trauma. Often, extended trauma – not one-time events.

I had heard of emotional eating, and I knew that it was something I used to do. (Something I labeled as “BAD!”) But, I had never heard of “emotional restriction.” I had never considered that one might turn to restriction in the same way one might turn to a pint of ice cream for comfort. But, when I think about it now, it makes perfect sense.

When food is the first place you turn in every crisis you’ve experienced your entire life, it makes perfect sense that restricting food could become the place you turn.

I didn’t recognize this pattern in myself until very recently. But, looking back, even before the restrictive eating disorder, starting a “new diet” always brought up a bit of a rush — a sense of hope, new beginnings, and accomplishment. The promise of approval and love in times when I felt unlovable and unworthy.

I bring this up now, because I have spent the last 6 weeks in the worst restrictive relapse since I began recovering from my eating disorder. I’m telling you this because I always want to be honest about my weight loss. And, honestly, because I know my friends and family read this blog…and I need you to not complement me on my weight loss if you see me over the holidays & happen to notice. I need you to know that I did not lose this weight healthily — I lost it because I’ve been trying to numb myself and cope after dealing with a trauma.

Those close to me will know what happened. I don’t want to go into intimate details here, but to avoid speculation, I will say that it had to do with finding out someone close to me was actually a sociopath & reporting that person for abuse, which has been a year-long process that has finally concluded.

What I do want to talk about — even solicit from those who might still read this blog — are other ways to cope with trauma and overwhelming feelings when you’ve spent your entire life turning to either food or restriction to deal with these things.

What do you do? What do you do when you are so overwhelmed by feelings that it is intolerable? What do you do when you cannot wrap your mind around something traumatic that has happened? How do you cope?

I can’t turn to cake… and I can’t turn to starvation. What do you do when numbing is off the table?

Perhaps the answer is right in front of me — I do this.

I write a blog.

What Does Normal Bloating Look Like?

I recorded a video for my YouTube channel yesterday (I’ll post it below) that I thought would translate pretty well into a blog as well (plus, I’m going to add some bonus pictures that aren’t in the video just for my awesome blog readers). For those who would rather watch vs. read (or watch and read), here is the video:

Now…let’s talk about bloating.

This experiment was inspired by one of my favorite YouTubers, Natacha OcĂ©ane, who recorded what a normal day of bloating and scale fluctuations look like for her. Now, there are a few differences between Natacha and myself…

Natacha and Me

…have you spotted them?

I’ll give you a minute.

Just in case you can’t tell from this photo, Natacha is in her 20s, has never been obese, and has never had a child — three pretty big differences between the two of us!

I loved her honest portrayal so much, though, that I wanted to provide my own showing my different body type. So, that’s what I did!

Now, if you watch the video, you’ll hear all about how difficult this day wound up being for me. I struggle pretty hard with watching the scale and my body fluctuate. I am hoping that this experiment will help to remind me that these are very fickle things that fluctuate wildly, and there’s no need or reason to change anything just because of minor fluctuations like this.

Now, the experiment…

Method!

I “measured” as soon as I woke up, after my run, after lunch, before bed, and when I woke up again this morning.

I took two sets of photos/video: my abs relaxed vs. my abs flexed (not that you can see them, haha).

I also weighed myself.

What I Ate

Pre-run: espresso with some creamer

Breakfast: protein pancakes w/ extra protein powder, peanut butter chips, coffee w/ creamer

Lunch: half of a buffalo ranch salad kit with a beef pattie on top, sweet potato chips, sour gummies

Dinner: a bowl of cereal with 2% milk, blueberries, and a yogurt

Snacks: lunch meat (turkey), crackers, pickles, protein bar, decaf coffee with creamer

How I Worked Out

5-mile short run

Results!

Here are the weights:

I was 140.2 when I woke up, 138.8 after my 5-mile run, 140.8 after lunch, and 140.8 before bed.

scale.jpg

I woke up at 139.6 this morning.

scale2.jpg

Abs Relaxed Photos

absrelaxed1.jpg

Absrelaxed2.jpg

This morning:

Absrelaxed4.jpg

Abs Flexed Photos!

Flex1.jpg

Flex2.jpg

This morning:

Flex4.jpg

Conclusion!

Bloat is normal, the scale fluctuates a lot throughout the day and day-to-day, and these things are not something to worry about. I thought, at first, that I bloat up “bigger” than others because of the elasticity in my stomach area, but I’m honestly not sure that’s true now. I think I’m just much more critical of myself!

Also, on a personal note, yes, I have legitimately gained a couple pounds in the last couple of months. I actually had lost about 4-5 pounds when I went on a short-term, idiotic diet, but my body composition test told me that all I’d managed to do was lose muscle & water & freak my body out so that it was holding onto fat for dear life. So, I stopped dieting, got back on the intuitive eating train, and re-gained the weight within 3 weeks. My next body composition test is next week, and I’m hoping to see that I have my muscle (water) back.

Personal Note

This was a really hard experiment for me, and I am feeling all sorts of anxious about putting it out there. I’m definitely struggling with body image a lot these days – more, I think, than I was even before I started exercising.

That said, the exercise is going amazingly well! I continue to see gains in my strength and endurance, and I want that to be all that matters — I at least want it to matter more than a stupid number on a scale. I hope, some day, this is true for me.