Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Positive Peer Pressure

One thing my old therapist W always emphasized was how prevalent eating disorders are on college campuses, and that I would have to be extra super vigilant about not comparing my body and my diet to others'.  Last year I lived with three girls, and two of them probably had some disordered eating habits.  Not full-blown EDs per se, but definite Food Issues.  They were both a little overweight, and they went on and off diets repeatedly.  Honestly, I never really found it that triggering because I wouldn't have deviated from my self-imposed regime under any circumstances.  I never would have broken my own rigid ED rules and it didn't really matter to me what other people were doing.  I just stuck to my lettuce and Diet Coke, thank you very much.

This year is totally different.  For various reasons, I am only living with one girl from last year - not one of the aforementioned girls with Food Issues - and another of our friends.  Both of these girls are literally two of the most normal eaters I've ever seen.  They eat cereal without measuring it.  They eat pretzels out of the bag.  They pack snacks for long days on campus.  They cook pasta with sauce for dinner.  They - wait for it - drink juice.  With calories.

Last night I was eating my perfectly portioned snack when one of my roommates came into the kitchen.  She said, "That looks good," and made some for herself.  I stared for ten minutes.  How did she know it was okay to eat that without planning?  Without counting calories?!?

Peer pressure is a funny thing.  I've always been hugely insecure and conscious about how people perceive me, but most of the pressure has come from within myself instead of from my peers.  This is true for all areas - appearances, grades, achievements, etc.  If I got a B on a test, I wouldn't be upset that someone else got a B+.  I would be upset that I didn't get an A.  I think W was afraid that I woud see skinny girls picking at lettuce and working out for hours, and be influenced by that because if she can do it then why can't I?  In our last session, W told me over and over again not to be influenced by what anyone else was eating (or not).  But even at my worst, other girls never really triggered me at school because I knew what I needed to do.  Eat X.  Lose weight.  No questions asked.

Now, I'm kind of hoping that the peer pressure will kick in and work for me in the other direction - that by seeing my roommates eating what they want, when they want it, and not freaking out about it, I might start to loosen up too.  Look, A just ate something and didn't get fat.  Maybe I can too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A College Update

Being back at school is weird in so many ways, but one of the weirdest parts is that it almost feels like I never left.  Same crew of friends, same set-up in my bedroom, same furniture.  Then my stomach growls at lunchtime and I remember that I eat meals now.  Or I look down and remember that I was skinnier before.

The hardest thing is running into people I haven't seen since January.  Obviously, I am heavier than I was then.   It is noticeable.  So I imagine people gawking, trying to hide their shock/disgust/omg look how fat she got over the summer!  I am fully aware that not everyone is as obsessed with my weight as I am, but still.  It's not like people won't notice.  So that's hard.

It's also a little lonely.  I've spent so many months wrapped up in my own obsessions and insecurities, finally coming to terms with gaining weight and eating well - now, I realize that life has gone on.  I feel like the whole world has been turned upside down, and no one even seems to notice.  No one quite realizes how fucking hard it is to navigate Move-In Weekend with all the restaurant meals and lack of gym time and general unpredictability when all you can think about is food and weight and calories, and you are counting and recounting and recounting.  It was easier when I was restricting because the landscape was simple: eat as little as possible.  All the time.  Endure the obligatory meals out, then make up for it as soon as possible.  But now, I don't know what the end goal is anymore.  I want to maintain my weight.  I want to lose weight.  I want to eat.  I don't.

On a brighter note, my apartment is beautiful.  We have a full kitchen this year, which I think will make staying on track much, much easier.  Last year (my sophomore), the switch from home-eating during the summer to school-eating in the fall threw me for a loop.  I was already teetering on the edge of a pretty big cliff last summer in terms of eating and exercise, and I think the unpredictability of cafeteria food was too much for me and really sent my eating disorder spiraling out of control.

Other things that are stressing me out:
- My new apartment is quite far from the campus fitness center, meaning it will take me about 45 min roundtrip to walk there, plus the workout time.  This is a much larger chunk of time than I have ever had to devote to exercise - the gym at home is literally two minutes from my house.  So I either have to cut down on my workout, or cut down on other things to make time for working out.
- My schedule is still up in the air.  I met with my advisor today about what I need to do to graduate on time (which is hopefully the goal), but I left feeling even more conflicted and confused about which courses I should take now and which ones I should save for next semester.
- I haven't weighed myself since getting here, and I'm worried out about having put on tons and tons of weight in the past three days.  My stomach feels bloated and my rings are tight, so I'm afraid to step on the scale and see the damage.  Logically, I know I'm probably retaining water from all the salty restaurant meals and it isn't real weight, but I'm shaky enough that seeing an elevated number will freak me the hell out.

The ED clinic in College City couldn't fit me in for an appointment for another week and a half, so I'm trying to police myself until then.  Periods of limbo are super hard for me, and I really want to stay on track this week and next until I restart therapy.

Hope everyone stayed safe from Irene!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Just Remembering

Seven months ago I was packed and ready to head back to college after winter break.  I had been seeing B and W for about three weeks.  My weight was up a little bit, but pretty close to as low as it has ever been.  My flight was leaving early the next morning.

I was on my laptap in our basement when my dad came home from work around 9pm.  Usually he pokes his head in the doorway, says hi, asks about my day, and heads upstairs.  That night, he came into the room and sat next to me on the couch.

My dad and I are not very close.  We butt heads less now than we did when I was in middle/high school, but we don't spend much time together and we don't talk much.  It bothered me more when I was younger, but I've since gotten used to it.  So it was uncharacteristic of him to initiate conversation like that.  He started asking random questions about whether I was packed and had my boarding pass ready and all that.

Out of the blue, he said: "Kaylee, you have to take care of yourself.  Mom and I aren't going to be there to take care of you."

His voice started shaking and his glasses were getting fogged up and then I realized he was crying.

I think that night was the first time it hit me how much the eating disorder was affecting my parents.  I tended to think (well, I still do) that it was my private thing.  Not an illness, nope, no way.  Just my personal arsenal of rituals to maintain my sanity because how else would I avoid getting fat?

Seeing my dad cry - and for the record, I've NEVER seen him cry before - made a teeny tiny part of me consider that maybe I wasn't actually super disciplined and blessed with insane self-control.  Maybe I didn't need to be left the hell alone because everything was under control, dammit.  Maybe I was just sick.

I'd like to say I had an epiphany that night - saw the light and embraced food and health and my lady curves, but obviously not.  Within two weeks, I was back home mad as hell and my relationship with my dad was worse than ever.  But still, that one moment sticks with me.

A Pause in Packing

There are about 18 hours until I hop on a plane, fly five states away, and move into my new apartment in College City.  I'm not quite finished packing...but I'll get there.  Really not in the mood to go through my last batch of winter clothing and see what still fits me, what will/won't fit me in the next few months, and what I can fit into my two almost-full suitcases.  So I'm taking a break to blog.

- I had my last appointments with my dietician B and Dr. M this week.  There are some mixed feelings about that; obviously they have both been pretty important to my day-to-day life for the past several months, and some weeks they basically provided the only human contact I had, other than with my parents.  Still, it's not exactly like we were buddies.  They definitely saw me through my worst times physically and psychologically and I wasn't always the easiest, most forthcoming patient.  So I'm grateful for them, but definitely glad to be getting away.  As I was leaving her office on Tuesday, Dr. M asked me, "Do you have any sense of accomplishment about what you've done this year?"  I said no, not really, so she did some cheerleading and sent me off on a good note.

- M also gave me a referral for a new treatment center in College City.  When I contacted them, they told me that their only therapist who accepts my insurance is male.  I'm not sure how I feel about this; I don't have any problem working with men in general - I grew up with a big brother and have lots of guy friends.  Most of my professors are men, and three of my four college advisors (yes, I have FOUR different advisors) are men and I connect really well with all of them.  BUT I have enough difficulties in therapy as is, and I just don't know if I will be comfortable talking about feelings and body image issues with a man.  I haven't made an appointment yet, but am planning to at least give it a shot with this guy.  After some Googling, I've found that he has a ton of ED experience and seems really on top of his game, so we'll see how it goes.  Stay tuned on that one.

- This week, I've been making a big effort to spend more time with my family and my remaining friends in town, and really make the most of my last few days here.  Don't get me wrong - I've been completely miserable stuck at home since January, but I guess the end of summer is making me a wee bit sentimental about leaving.  As much as I might resent this town, I do get very attached to my routines and I'm feeling a little anxious about leaving this (albeit boring, unsatisfying, and generally shitty) living situation for a whole new one.  These jarring thoughts keep popping up in my head like last run on this road...last workout on this machine...last lunch at home...  Yes, most of these thoughts have to do with food and exercise.  Leave me alone.  It's a work in progress.  One big goal I have for this semester is to be a bit more spontaneous about that stuff - to be okay with changing dinner plans, saying yes to a last-minute lunch invite, skipping a workout, etc.  It's hard to look back and not see the past eight months as a huge waste of time, but I'm really trying to change that mindset and see every day as an opportunity.

Okay, sentimentalism over.

Right now I'm just doing the waiting game, puttering around shoving last-minute stuff into my bags, freaking out over details, wishing I could fast-forward to about a week from now.  Here's to travel, move-in, and all other transition-related issues going smoothly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Ghost of ED Future

There is a woman who works out at my gym every morning.  She is probably in her thirties.  She arrives before I do and she stays until after I leave.  She moves from the treadmill to the elliptical to the Stairmaster.  She watches herself in the mirrors when she walks from one machine to the next.

She is very thin.

I am the first to admit that you can't tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at her.  You just can't.  You don't know anything about her lifestyle or her genetics.  You don't know if she just has a freakish metabolism.  Maybe her whole family is rail-thin too.

But this woman is so very thin.  Not natural, athletic, slender-thin.  Sick-thin.

Really, I am trying not to jump to conclusions because I know that I am probably biased and have a somewhat skewed view of body weight, but this woman looks unwell.  She doesn't look like someone who should be working out for an hour (at least) a day.  Remember how I said she might be in her thirties?  Well, I am basing that on the fact that she seems to socialize with a few other women who are in their thirties.  Because this woman - at least from the neck up - could easily pass for sixty-five.  Her face is wrinkled and worn.  She has huge dark circles under her eyes.  Her hair is gray and wispy.

This woman terrifies me.  Not so much that I have stopped going to the gym altogether, but enough that I have tried going a little earlier some days, a little later other days, just to avoid seeing her.  She is still always there.

Obviously, it's horrible when young girls have eating disorders - eleven, twelve, thirteen-year-old girls who have already learned to hate themselves so much they are intent on self-destructing.  But it almost makes me feel worse to see a grown woman with an eating disorder (assuming that this woman does).  It makes me hate everything about anorexia that much more.  This illness fucks up your life and then it sticks around for the aftermath.  I'm still new enough to recovery to find the concept of "fully recovered" hard to imagine, and seeing this woman does not make it any easier.  Her toothpick legs, every tendon visible and screaming for a layer of fat, drive home the point that anorexia doesn't discriminate and you don't grow out of it.  It isn't a phase, or bad judgement, or teenage rebellion gone wrong.  It doesn't just go away.

I'm twenty.  Where will I be in ten years?  There have been very few times that anorexia has truly scared me (denial denial denial), but seeing this woman is one of them.  I desperately want to be rid of this sickness - not thirty and still plugging away on the bike, still hating myself, still devoting my life to hurting myself.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The First Good-Bye

I had my last session with W today, which was kind of sad but not tragic.  I really do like her and I think we were just starting to make some progress (considering it took me about six months to fully warm up to her).  It's frustrating to have to start all over with someone new in College City, but I really prefer the idea of seeing someone in person rather than staying with W via phone sessions.  Actually, W was the one who said that was probably a better plan, since she thinks I "give away more with body language" than I do with words.  Huh.  Not sure how to take that.  Maybe she just needed an excuse to get rid of me.

I wish I could report having an earth-shattering therapeutic breakthrough in honor of our last session, but no such luck - just some rehashing and wrapping up old stuff.  W asked me what some of my longterm recovery goals are, and I came up with: A) less rigidity with food/exercise/timing and B) less obsessing about my weight, e.g. not letting an upward fluctuation derail my entire day or a downward dip put me on cloud nine.

Then W added C) be more open with people about my feelings because according to her, I don't like looking vulnerable.  To which I say, who does?  But okay, she has a Ph.D. so, I'll try.

Looking forward, I am sort of interested to see how a new therapist operates, and to compare her approach with W's (oh, and also to recover from anorexia).  But honestly, I'm feeling a bit ambivalent about therapy in general.  It has been over eight months and I'm starting to wonder what, if anything, has changed.  My weight went up, then went back down a bit.  I started taking a drug, then stopped.  I've been seeing W every week and opening up even when it's hard and uncomfortable - but not many of my thought processes have changed at all and this does not make sense to me.  Shouldn't I be cured me by now?  Why do I still count calories obsessively and work out X minutes a day, every day?

It's just so frustrating to find my head in the exact same place it was six months ago, eight months ago, a year ago.  Thousands of my parents' dollars have been sunk into this treatment thing and I'm still clinging to my same old rituals and anxieties.  Tell me, W, why am I still like this?

Hopefully this lapse in motivation is just end-of-summer introspection gone wrong.  I am not under any illusions that I can or should get by without therapy, and I'm completely committed to starting with someone in College City as soon as I can set it up.  It just would be nice to have something to show for my past eight months, aside from a few extra pounds and frustration through the roof.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hips, Hunger, and Half the Sky

I finally saw the orthopedist for my hip, which was a huge relief.  No stress fracture (which I was secretly afraid of, thanks to my old lady bones).  Apparently I have a hip flexor strain at the anterior iliac crest - basically just another plain old overuse injury.  My doctor told me it "should be" healed by now, considering I'm so young, but all I can really do is take more time off running, plus do extra icing and stretching.  Nothing I didn't already know.  I guess I could have saved the $25 co-pay, but whatever.  Peace of mind is worth it.  The doctor also gave me a referral for physical therapy, which I may or may not use.  It's not really worth it to start here since I'm leaving town in a week, but I'll be much more crunched for time once I start school.  Maybe I'll just go to one or two sessions and get a few tips.

Onto something else: I keep finding myself in the same bothersome situation, which should probably be a sign to CHANGE SOMETHING but that would be too logical.  See, I hate restaurants for all the typical anorexic reasons - no control over how the food is prepared, eating in public, no nutrition info, etc.  Plus, I'm very particular about when I eat, and with restaurants that obviously depends on when you can get a reservation, how fast/slow the service is, how many courses there are, when other people want to other words, way too many uncontrollable factors for me to handle.  In general, I try to avoid restaurants because I tend to freak out in anticipation of a huge meal, then end up overcompensating and eating way less than I had ever planned and leaving hungry.

Yesterday my family and I went out to a really nice restaurant for a special occasion. This had been planned for about a week so, naturally, I spent the whole week worrying about it.  I had visions of inhaling massive amounts of greasy, fatty, rich food and gaining ten pounds in one sitting.  (No idea where this fear comes from.  I'm a pro at picking the lightest dish on the menu and then overestimating the calories.  But I still worry about accidentally stuffing my face.)  Our reservation was at 8pm, which freaked me out in itself because that is much later than I normally eat dinner.  I don't have a problem with eating late - I eat a snack around 9 or 10 most nights - but the fact that this big, unpredictable meal was so late meant that I had all day to worry about it, and made me feel the need to eat less during the day "just in case."  So I tried to listen to my hunger and eat normally without obsessing about the dinner, but I definitely cut back more than I should have in preparation.  Plus, I spent the day shopping and touring a museum in a Big City with my mom, meaning we were on our feet walking, climbing stairs, etc. in the heat and humidity for several hours.  Hunger, crankiness, sore feet.

By dinnertime, I was BEYOND hungry.  It was that weak, drained, shaky hunger when your stomach has given up growling because what's the point, Kaylee?  I growled all day and you wouldn't give me what I wanted.  In a moment of bravery, I did not order the obviously lowest-calorie item on the menu, but maybe the second- or third- lowest.  It was a dish that I knew I would feel okay about eating, especially since I was starving, but also something decently substantial - and I ate all of it.  The verdict?  Still hungry.  I'm not sure how many calories were in my meal, but I'm almost positive that it was less than a normal dinner I would have eaten at home.

This always happens - in an effort not to eat too much, I eat much too little.  Yet somehow, I still find myself leaving restaurants with a sense of guilt, as if I really did eat too much.  So I'm left feeling guilty AND hungry, and swearing never to eat in another restaurant again.  And I completely lack the ability to adjust for error after such an outing - meaning, I can't be calm and rational and have an extra snack to break even.  It's more like, "Oh, oops!  I didn't overeat?  What a tragedy.  But maybe I did overeat.  Why does my stomach feel like it's trying to digest itself?  Huh.  I should probably work out for X extra minutes tomorrow and cut X calories because....well, just because."  Why hello, Rational Side.  No, I don't believe we've met.

I tried explaining this to W once - that I eat better at home, and restaurants cause me so much anxiety that it just doesn't seem worth the energy.  She replied that it is, and I quote, "absolutely worth it" because eating out reminds me that life goes on even when I break my stupid rigid rules.  Calories can be made up, but sticking to my own routine day in and day out only reinforces it, and makes it harder and harder to change.

And finally, I am reading a fantastic book called Half the Sky.  Parts of it are rough to read, but it is entertaining, inspiring, and uplifting.  I've been called a bleeding heart before, but this book is hard to argue with.  Basically, Nicholas Kristof and his wife traveled to a bunch of different countries investigating injustices done to women and concluded that educating and empowering girls is the best way to - for lack of better words - change the world.  I agree.  Can you tell?  Nicholas Kristof rocks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What I Needed to Hear

My ED doctor, M, has pissed me off on more than one occasion - mostly because she is really blunt and sees right through my bullshit ("It's not my fault I lost weight I couldn't eat because.... blah blah blah").  Appointments with her are No Fun.  There was the appointment in December when she told me I had to quit working out because I wasn't "heart safe," thus launching my ongoing fear of having a heart attack.  There was the appointment in January with my parents when she told them I needed to take a medical leave from school because of my low weight and heart rate and bone density lalalala.  Then the time two weeks ago when she made me cry.

I always dread seeing M because she usually makes me feel cornered and mad.  Since she is The Boss of my treatment team, her perception of me really really matters.  I try so hard to be clear-headed and articulate and composed with her, but feeling trapped like that makes me clam up.

My appointment today was different.  M listened, instead of interrupting me for sounding "too anorexic."  Or something.  When I told her for the millionth time that I don't want to take medication, she just nodded and dropped it.  When I talked about how I want to proceed with therapy at school (start seeing a new therapist vs. phone sessions with W), she smiled and said, "I just love it when you speak up for yourself!"

Then, as I was leaving, M stopped me and said simply, "You can do this."

And that, when all was said and done, was what I most needed to hear.  Sometimes it seems like everyone has been so eager to set up "relapse prevention" strategies that no one - not even me - has stopped to think about what would happen if I didn't relapse.  What if I turn out fine?

I needed to hear that relapse isn't necessarily expected of me. That it's not even an option.  I don't want to go back to college planning to fail.  Yes, I want to be prepared, but not all doom and gloom about it.  I want to go back to be in school, not just to be not anorexic, if that makes sense.  Hearing M say "You can do this" made me realize that someday, recovery will be over and it will all be worth it.  It reminded me that recovery isn't supposed to be the power struggle that it has felt like lately, with everyone drawing lines in the sand and refusing to budge.

You MUST take meds.

You MUST gain to X pounds.

No, I will NOT.

Recovery isn't punishment, even though it can feel that way.  Everyone is in it to help me, as hard as that sometimes is to believe.  Dear Kaylee: Open your eyes.  Don't ever for a second forget how good you have it.  That's all.

Until I see M next week for one last appointment, my job is (according to her): "Calories."

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Discovery

Since I am the queen of ignoring signs from my body and not taking care of myself until little problems become big problems, my hip injury still isn't any better.  I am finally being good and committing to NOT running or abusing it in any other way until I see the orthopedist on Wednesday.  I haven't run in about two or three weeks, and I haven't biked or elliptical-ed for the past five or six days.  Instead, I've been trying to get my exercise fix by swimming.

For the longest time, I was opposed to swimming for a variety of reasons.  First of all, I hate public pools.  I'm totally wimpy and squeamish - thinking about swimming in water (even chlorinated!) that has been contaminated by other people's bodily fluids makes me want to puke a little.  And puke makes me squeamish too.

Secondly, I suck at swimming.  I don't really know why, because I had swimming lessons as a kid and totally tore up that rec center pool.  Seriously, I started in the lowest level class with the toddlers that stayed on the steps, and by the end of the summer session I had been promoted all the way to the advanced group that rocked out in the deep end and got to use the diving board.  Go me.  Over the years, though, something happened and I started to believe that I couldn't swim.  Probably lack of practice just created this huge fear and insecurity about swimming.  Plus, there's my aforementioned fear of squids.  Whenever I tried some basic freestyle, I would end up sputtering and thrashing and swear I would never swim again.  At running camp with my cross country team in high school, we had to swim across a lake and the coach ended up throwing me a life-vest and following me in his canoe because he thought I would drown.

So I was a teeeeensy bit apprehensive about trying swimming again, but I've been really worried about this hip/back pain and I knew that continuing to run or bike would only make it worse.  I guess my compulsion to get ANY type of exercise overrode my aversion to swimming, because I finally decided to suck it up and go to the pool at my gym.

The verdict: I actually like it! Swimming feels different than any other kind of exercise because it really does use your whole body in a way that nothing else does.  I've always liked workouts that leave you drenched in sweat and wobbly on your feet because, duh - how else would I know if I'd done enough?  Swimming is different - no dripping sweat, no throbbing knees, no screaming quads.  The sensory deprivation is sort of calming - I can't listen to music or read or watch TV, so there's nothing but the sound of moving water and my own breathing.  It leaves my body feeling floaty and loose and generally fatigued, but not completely wiped the way that running does.

It has taken some practice, but I think I might be sold on this swimming thing.  Don't get me wrong - I'm no pro.  I don't know what I look like, but I assure you it is NOT graceful.  Zero technique.  Definitely still some thrashing tendencies.  Also, I can't ever get the breathing right, so I usually have to stop every couple of laps to gasp for air.  But swimming uses muscles in my arms, core, back, and neck that I've never used before.  Instead of the endless pounding on my legs from running, swimming makes me feel strong and powerful.  I feel like I'm doing something good for my body rather than breaking it down.

Also, I think shaking up my workouts has been a good way to address my rigidity about exercise, which is still a huge problem.  I like to do the same thing every day so I can be sure I'm doing "enough" or the "right" thing and any changes are scary because omg what if I get fat?  (Surprise! I haven't gained an ounce since I stopped running.)

But once a runner always a runner.  I definitely prefer running and I miss it and will be going back to that as soon as this stupid hip thing goes away.  For now, though, I'm pleasantly surprised that swimming has turned out to be so pleasant.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

That Feeling

To anyone who says fat isn't a feeling, I say: you've obviously never felt fat before.

I KNOW what they mean - fat isn't an emotion. Fat isn't a mindset.  Fat isn't something that should inform your decisions and your lifestyle the way that joy and empathy and curiosity should.

But fat IS a feeling.  A true, physical sensation.  You feel it with every ounce of your body, even if you don't have any actual fat on you.  You feel it when you move, when you sit, when you get dressed, when you shower, when you - God knows - step on the scale.

A couple of months ago when I was in the midst of gaining weight, I remember wailing to my mom, "But I feel faaaaat!"

Now, my mom is one of the most balanced eaters I'ver ever seen.  She tries to be healthy, but indulges occasionally and eats foods she loves with no guilt.  She exercises a few times a week because she loves running and being outside blah blah blah.  She has a normal, healthy body that she treats appropriately and appreciates for being functional.  No, I don't know where I came from.

So naturally, the concept of starving yourself is baffling to her.  In response to my meltdown, she was incredulous: "What?  You think you're fat?"

No, Mom, I didn't say I think I'm fat; I don't think I'm fat.  In fact, I know I'm not fat.  I know that technically, I'm underweight.  I know that people who wear size X jeans cannot ever be considered fat.  I can calculate my BMI in my sleep, and I know that no matter how I play around with the numbers (what if I were half an inch shorter....two inches taller...what if I gained/lost X or Y or Z pounds...what if I shaved my head/clipped my toenails/plucked my eyebrows before weighing myself again...) I do not fall anywhere near the "overweight" category.  So again, Mom, no.  I don't think I'm fat.

But I do feel fat. I feel it when I sit down to eat, and I feel it after I've finished eating.  Not because I believe that one meal will actually make me gain weight instantly, but because my body feels too big and squishy and uncomfortable.  I feel it when I consider taking a day off from working out, knowing that rest is fine and healthy and good, but also knowing that a long sweaty run will make me feel, at least for a little while, better.  Less fat.

Sometimes I wonder if my feeling fat is actually just me feeling normal, and I have forgotten what normal feels like.  I know that the intense physical dissatisfaction with my body probably has to do with emotions - like frustration, insecurity, depression, loneliness, etc.  But I also know that feeling fat is real, and I am insanely jealous of anyone who disagrees.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Week in Review

Entering the home stretch - of summer, that is.  Today is my last day of work and I'm hoping to peace out early, if all goes to plan.

We had a department outing on Wednesday that involved a catered lunch.  I did eat pretty well, even though I was stressed about the whole thing right up until I sat down at the table.  I definitely had to do some private cheerleading to feel okay.  It wasn't so much the actual food that bothered me - more the break in routine.  I couldn't relax beforehand because I didn't know what to expect, and afterwards I worried that maybe I'd eaten too much.  Logically, I'm sure it wasn't any bigger than my normal lunch, but that didn't stop the little voice in my head that wondered, how can you be sure?

But even though I was uncomfortable about it, I still managed to eat a decent meal and have a good time.  As much as I hate my job, I do work with some genuinely kind, warm, funny women and it was nice to spend some time with them outside of the office.

On the exercise front: I haven't been running for the past few weeks because I started having awful hip pain.  Actually, the hip pain has been there for a while and I just ignored it. Recently, though, I've been experimenting with other kinds of exercise in hopes that the pain will go away without turning into a full-blown injury. Nothing feels quite as good as running to me, though, so I usually go a little overboard on the bike or the elliptical to make sure I get a "hard enough" workout, and end up hurting and frustrated.

Long story short, even without running, my hip hasn't really gotten any better.  Recently the pain started spreading to my lower back so that when I'm sitting at my desk or in my car, suddenly my back will seize up and I have to start twisting and performing contortions to stretch it out.  I'm seeing an orthopedist next week so fingers crossed it's nothing serious.  In the meantime, my goal is to stay off of it completely in terms of working out - maybe try swimming instead.  But NO RUNNING.

In other body-failure news, I have a horrible cold.  Every morning when I wake up sniffling and congested, I get confused all over again.  Who gets colds in the summer?  Me, apparently.  This is my second since June.  Not life-threatening, but annoying.

It is probably going to be a boring weekend since my two best friends are out of town.  It's a little early to start thinking about packing up my stuff for the semester, but cleaning and laundry are definitely in order.  Then therapy on Sunday and dietician on Monday.  Hopefully I'll find something semi-fun to keep me busy.

Off to my final day at the office.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Therapeutic Exchange

Me: "It's hard for me to see this as a problem because I've weighed less than this and lost my period for X months before and no one made a big deal about it."

W: "Whether or not it was acknowledged, it was an issue then and it is an issue now.  As a professional, I cannot let you stay in an unhealthy place."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fasting to Fight Famine

I definitely want to update about the meeting with M and my mom yesterday but I haven't really had a chance to process everything and I know I won't be able to articulate it well right now.  But it went okay and I do feel a little better about things.

Anyway, there was kind of a funny moment when I got to M's office.  I was coming straight from work, but I got held up and was about 10 minutes late.  I came bursting through the door huffing and puffing and stressing because oh how I hate being late.  My mom and M were already there and I was a mess trying to un-fluster myself and be composed and explain why I wasn't on time and I said, "Sorry! I had to go to a meeting about the fast-"

And both my mom and M blurted out in perfect unison: "You can't fast!" and then just turned and looked at each other in this mixture of shock/horror/slight bewilderment.  They have only actually met each other a few times but at that moment, they were on exactly the same page.

To be clear, I did NOT fast yesterday, but most of the people at work did.  There was a 24-hour office-wide fast to raise money and awareness for the famine in Africa (I'm not 100% sure how it worked - I think you were supposed to get family or neighbors or whoever to sponsor you for fasting for the day or something like that.)

So, obviously, I did not have the green light to forgo food for the day, nor did I particularly want to.  First of all, I don't think I could forgo food for a day.  I get predictably hungry every 3-4 hours like clockwork - any longer, and I start getting the sick dizzy faint-y feeling.  Even in my hardcore anorexic days, I still ate pretty regularly.  Just not much.  Secondly, I knew I was getting weighed at M's that afternoon and definitely did not want to step on the scale with nothing in my stomach.

Thirdly, and on a slightly different note, I don't know if fasting for a day is the most sensitive way to raise awareness for a famine.  It almost seems like you are minimizing the problem - "Hey, starving Somalians, look at me!  I can go without food too, see?  I get it!  Wow, you're right - this totally sucks!"

(Am I reading too much into this?  Am I just overly sensitive to the starvation issue?)

I think the rationale is that the fast is an act of solidarity - rather than stuffing our rich, Western selves with delicious fattening food while millions are starving to death, we will devote this one day to trying, in some small way, to empathize with their suffering.  I can understand it from that angle.

Still, it doesn't exactly sit right with me.  I guess it's sort of like when people use"dieting" and "being anorexic" interchangeably.  Someone can cut her intake and lose lots of weight and be skinny, but that does not mean she's anorexic.  One is a choice and the other is not.  A diet is not anorexia, and a fast is not a famine.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

More of the Story

To elaborate a bit on my most recent rant...

My dietician B was not pleased when I saw her on Thursday morning.  She wanted me to go see M (main doctor who runs the treatment center) that day, so B called over (their offices are a few blocks apart) and was able to get me an appointment in the next half hour.  I agreed to it mostly because I was so caught off guard and didn't exactly think fast enough to say no, even though it would make me extra late for work.  Stress.

I went over to see M, who immediately took the gloves off and told me I am being uncooperative and sending red flags and that I need a plan A, B, and C because I am relapsing.

THEN in the middle of all this, if you can believe it, my therapist happened to call M's office (I'm not being sarcastic - this actually was a totally random coincidence.  W was calling about a totally unrelated issue regarding another patient) and M said, "Hi W.  Tell me about Kaylee."  I sat there awkwardly while M listened and then she hung up and said, "W says that lately, you haven't looked well and you've been much more guarded in therapy."

Basically, M's theory is that I am super anxious about school and have begun sabotaging my own recovery in some subconscious last-minute cry for help.  Is she right on some level?  Probably.  She has more years of experience with anorexia than I do.  On the other hand, I really resented the fact that she seemed to be implying that I was being deliberately uncooperative and purposely rejecting any help.

M's reasoning:
1. My weight is down - thus, I must be restricting and lying about it
2. I refuse to take anti-depressants
3. I have been "guarded" in therapy

My reasoning:
1. I have never once lied to B about my intake and I have never once gamed the scale (i.e. waterloading, bulking up with clothes/jewelry/heavy belts etc)
2. I was on an anti-depressant earlier this year and hated it
3. My weight is not that low

But M just wouldn't listen to me.  All she said was: "You sound so anorexic you can't even hear yourself."

M is pushing for me to do some type of day program in the time I have left before the end of summer (which won't happen for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is financial) because she feels like something drastic needs to happen now or I won't be able to go back to school. 

I said, "I haven't slipped that badly and so I don't think that not going back to school should even be an option."

She said: "Kaylee, going back to school is most definitely in jeopardy."

And honestly, that just made me mad.  Because I have been nothing but compliant throughout this entire process and I have done every single thing that was asked of me.  So why can't I be spoken to like an adult who is willing and able to participate in her own recovery?

Of course, I didn't say any of this out loud.  Instead, I started to cry.

At the risk of sounding like a snot, I was most frustrated by the fact that she just wouldn't listen.  M insisted over and over again that I am "sending strong messages" and "waving red flags" and why would I be doing that if I "really wanted to go back to school?" When I tried to explain that I am totally motivated and am actually doing much better, all she said was: "That's the anorexia talking."

By the end, it seemed like we weren't really getting anywhere because I was too busy being angry and upset and trying to hide it.  M wants me to come back on Monday with my mom for another discussion.  Honestly, I am just so fed up that I feel like nothing will be accomplished and I'm absolutely dreading another confrontation.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I'm just fed up.  With doctors, with food, with myself.  Today I had a really crappy appointment with my dietician followed by another crappy appointment with my ED doctor where I felt bullied and patronized.  I have this urge to cancel everything for the next week or two and get a break from it all.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Healthy People

I was reading this article at work today about the "Health at Every Size" movement:

The basic premise is that healthy behaviors can improve your life regardless of whether they result in weight loss. You abandon diets in favor of "intuitive eating," which means paying close attention to what you crave and how the foods you eat make you feel, as well as gradually learning to distinguish emotional hunger from the physical kind. For exercise, you identify any activity that provides enough fun that you don't need to force yourself to do it regularly. HAES also demands that you love and respect your body just as it is, whatever size it is right now. At its core, HAES is about stripping away rigid ideas about food and fitness.

It's a pretty good story about the HAES movement, but it just made me sad that the idea of "intuitive eating" is newsworthy.  Eating when hungry? Not counting calories? Appreciating your perfectly healthy, functional body? What a concept!

I feel like this a lot when I hear women beating up on themselves about food and weight.  When I compare myself to other people, it always seems like food and exercise issues come so much more naturally to them.  It still shocks me to realize how many people obsess about this stuff.  Why should they, if they aren't plagued by eating disorders?  Why should they be obsessing about calories just like I do when they can actually eat anything they want?  Other people can say yes to the plate of brownies circulating the office or have seconds at dinner without feeling crappy for days - I can't.  I'd like to think that if I didn't have an eating disorder, I could do these things too. Without anorexia, I would totally eat intuitively and love my body.  Right?

So it kind of makes me sick to think about how many women actually hate their bodies and feel guilty about eating.  This worries me because a major appeal of recovery for me is the possibility of someday being able to eat a delicious meal and not berating myself so much that it overshadows everything else in my life.  But what if this abuse is actually the norm?  What if I become fully recovered and I still feel this way?

In recovery, I think it could be helpful to use HAES as a model - at least in the intuitive, love-your-body approach - and not lose sight of how lucky I actually am to have all my parts in working order.  As much as I hate it at times, my body has stuck by me through a lot and I really wish I could appreciate it more for that.  And apologize.  I wouldn't have done this to you if I'd had a choice, Body.  Blame my brain.