Sunday, December 29, 2013

Looking Back and Taking Inventory

Ugh I KNOW, I'm the WORST. Sorry for no blogging about anything remotely interesting. I'm still home, still being lazy and spoiled, still reading excessively, still navigating this whole food-and-exercise-outside-my-comfort-zone-and-with-parental-supervision thing, but doing okay and feeling pretty good.

I came across some old photographs on my dad's camera from this trip almost two years ago. Back then, I weighed double digits less than I do now and at the time, was positively mortified by how fat I looked. In fact, that trip (ahem food poisoning) was the tipping point that sent me from semi-subclinical-restricting to full-on Sorry Everyone I'm Done With this Shit, Not Gonna Eat. I lost an additional XX after that trip, which nearly got my butt stuck in inpatient by May. Looking back, I can't believe how nuts I was.

Anyway. Did I have a point? I guess what I meant to say was, my body image now is a hundred million times better than it was back then, even though my weight is much higher. I just feel healthier and nourished and satisfied. I struggle with snacks when I'm home and my days always tend to be bottom-heavy (eating more late in the day as opposed to spreading calories out evenly throughout the day....CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME WHY THE HECK I DO THIS???) but overall I am doing very well with getting in enough calories.

I've been thinking a lot about how I got here. "Here" meaning my current status of having a relatively okay body image at a perfectly healthy weight, being okay with eating a healthy amount of calories, eating cookies and white bread and cheese and candy and all that without freaking out, and not thinking about food every second of the day. I don't see a dietitian anymore, and never found them very helpful anyway, but it feels like I've gotten myself to a place—through cobbling together various sources of knowledge and inspiration, through trying and messing up and trying again, through experimenting with different ingredients and combinations—where I feel like my diet is pretty solidly healthy and robust and I am okay with eating the way I do. My weight has been rock-solid for almost six months now and my periods come every thirty days like clockwork, so it seems pretty clear that things are falling into place. I didn't get here by accident, but by a lot of research and experimentation, trial-and-error, and obsessing.

Obviously there are still snags. I still count calories. I still weigh myself. I stil run pretty compulsively. I still base my intake more on caloric content rather than hunger or preference, although I am getting better at that. And I'm hopeful that time will help.

It's hard to imagine that the person in those old vacation photos was still fully entrenched in an eating disorder. I was also still stuck in treatment three times a week, between my therapist and dietitian. Even just a year ago, I was still getting formal ED treatment and came home each Wednesday afternoon with an updated meal plan and those stupid dietary worksheets. Maybe I'm just a freak, but I've never been successful in treatment. Recovery has only clicked for me when I made the decision for myself, committed myself, and never looked back. I know this probably sounds kind of snotty and ungrateful, but I really feel like the months and years of therapy didn't really do squat for my anorexia. I'm sure the process took much longer than it needed to—and obviously I'm not totally done yet— because I flat-out refused to engage with my team 90 percent of the time, but the only thing that has kept me moving forward has been my own internal motivation. Largely inspired by my physical health problems, but still primarily from within. No one makes me eat, you know?

I've still got a lot to work on, but my head is in the right place. And up until about a year ago, my head was in a totally awful place regarding the eating disorder, and no amount of therapy would have pulled me out. I'm not bashing therapy because I know that it is a crucial piece of the puzzle in ED treatment and I absolutely ADORE my current therapist....but for me, for the anorexia, it just never seemed to click. Can't decide if that's depressing or empowering. Maybe a little of both.


  1. 1. See?! I never, in the depth of the disordered brain, EVER believed the "you will feel less fat when you gain weight and aren't a crazy starved person" bit. But it's so so true.

    2. Not a freak. Treatment helps you until you have the skills/stability to help yourself, IMO. When you're well you outgrow that stuff (and I don't mean to say that being eating disordered is being immature-- but rather, that when you start to recover, your brain grows and morphs in ways that make what once was "safe" confining, much like adolescents pushing back against parents...), I think-- I went to a nutritionist weekly and recorded my food and was cranky with her and kinda hated it but drug myself there because not going was terrifying.

    Being left to my own devices was terrifying. And then, when I was stable for enough time, when treatment was really boring, I started to get fussier about who would still be a part of my treatment. And the RD, who was lifesavingly helpful when I couldn't feed myself, was out. It's always piece meal, patchwork, whatever. I've done loads of inpatient and other structured programs, and they were stopgaps, keep me alive until I'm brain-fed enough to figure shit out again, sorts of things. Real, sustainable recovery comes from you. Figuring out what works and makes sense and motivates you.

    3. You have SO much to be proud of. So much. Happy new year! Here's to even more health, happiness & nerdiness.

    1. I never believed it either, but it's totally true—it's almost as if I can see myself becoming more rational about food/weight etc. over time, kind of like watching a toddler learn to talk, where they pick up a new word or phrase every day.

      Hmm that's treatment has always been kind of piecemeal, never a fully structured inpatient or IOP program, and I went through all of it kicking and screaming BUT seem to have been able to come away with the most useful bits while leaving the rest behind. Weekly dietary, for example, was initially helpful but got old REALLY fast. In fact, i think it actually fed into some of the gripping compulsions and obsessions about food and calories that I still have today. The most important lessons I've had to learn is that there is no perfect recovery, no perfect way to eat, etc. and I've only been able to accept that by trying things out and messing up and adapting and messing up again. So it's been a long and very individual process, but it would be unfair of me to claim that treatment didn't play a very important role.

      thanks as always for weighing in. Hope you had a wonderful holiday.

    2. Oh god yeah, re: treatment feeding into compulsions/obsessions. It's almost trading your own obsessions for that pseudo-healthier obsessiveness/compulsions for a minute. I'm so glad that you're able to get to the point where obsessiveness of any kind isn't acceptable to you, that's awesome. Same sorta thing is true for lots of healing type things-- a cast/being non-weight bearing is only helpful in the v. early stages of a fracture healing. After that, you lose bone mass, and can only actually recover by the painful process of being weight bearing & letting the bone breakdown/remodel. Having a fractured femur during IP #1, I thought about that a lot, actually.

      Happy new year! You still on break or does your semester/workload start up straightaway?

    3. Yes! e.g. I never recorded my daily cals/exercise before seeing a dietitian, and then years later that was still one of the most entrenched ED habits. love the fracture metaphor, that really rings true. I've only figured stuff out by screwing it up, never by taking my tx team at their word and doing everything perfectly the first time around and staying that nice safe little cocoon, you know?

      I don't actually have class until the 13th but I'll be working all next week and I have some neglected writing projects to catch up on. Plus studying for this damn GRE

  2. I'm so proud of your for how amazingly you've done in recovery! Even through your trial-and-error periods, you have kept recovery as the goal, which is so important. I'm so happy for you that you're in a place where you don't feel like the structure of an RD and therapy solely devoted to ED stuff is necessary. It really does seem like your own motivation has kept you going strong for so long! It really inspires me to know that gradually, the food rigidity, rules, body-image stuff, etc. do get better after having consistent nutrition and recovery work. It also seems like you're really insightful about the next areas of recovery to tackle. I'm so thrilled for you! I wish you nothing but happiness and joy in 2014!

    Also, I'm the exact same way about the uneven food/cal distribution throughout the day. I really don't get it at all either. If you find the magic cure, let me know ASAP please!

    1. Thanks Alie!! I'm sure I haven't gone about recovery the most efficient, by-the-book way and have almost certainly drawn out the process by resisting help at almost every turn, but the upside is that now, I feel very much in control, and very proud and protective of my health, if that makes sense. And the brain-changing that happens naturally over time is really incredible.

      best wishes and happy holidays, take care Alie