Haven't really done a big juicy ED update in a while, have I? Maybe because it's not on my mind as much - although by that, I mean the ED isn't on my mind as much in terms of the crisis mode disease/treatment/recovery rollercoaster. My health is very stable in that regard; no weight loss, no starvation-induced blackouts or dizzy spells, regular periods, etc. But that's not to say my mind is a little utopian, ED-free zone, either. Food, calories, weight, and exercise are still on my mind CONSTANTLY, although it feels a little less explicitly disordered, if that makes sense. I wouldn't really identify myself as "eating disordered" right now; more just as someone who's weird about food.
Big Issue #1 right now is rigidity. I count calories like a fiend. This has been one of the defining characteristics of my eating disorder for as long as I can remember, and shows zero signs of abating anytime soon. It has been a useful tool at some points in my recovery, by helping me to stay on track and make sure I got enough in...but that was more of a useful little side effect, not the true motivation. Because the true motivation has always been: I can't stop. There have been times when I've gotten more lax about counting - e.g. not writing everything down, rounding liberally, or not counting certain fruits/veggies other minor stuff... but calorie-counting has never been optional to me; it is inextricably ingrained in the process of eating to me. I literally don't know how to eat without counting calories - as in, I simply cannot look at a food, much less put it in my mouth, without thinking of it in terms of caloric content. Add I have a whole host of calorie-related rituals and rules that are so entrenched I wouldn't know the first thing about breaking them. I eat according to a very structured schedule with prescribed amounts of calories at prescribed time intervals. Hunger cues mean almost nothing to me. That's not to say I don't feel or recognize hunger, because I do. I mean that hunger still does not determine what, how much, or when I eat in any discernible way.
Restaurants still stress me out, though I'm better about that. It's more the unknown/change-of-routine thing than the calories/fear food thing. Though, I still do have major fear foods and major issues with overshooting my calories. Exercise is moderate, mostly because other health-related issues have forced me to be moderate about it, and the temptation to run for hours every day (as both a calorie-burner and an anxiety-reducer) is incredibly powerful. I still usually feel the need to "justify" my eating in a way that I suspect normal people don't.
Areas where I've improved:
- Better overall calorie intake
- More variety (still not great, but better than it used to be)
- High fat intake - gonna use a number here, which I rarely do: I aim to hit at least 40% calories from fat, which was a target my eye doctor (of all people) set for me when I was suffering from severe, amenorrhea-induced dry eye. It seems high in a low-fat-obsessed world, but it's not at all hard to meet when nuts/peanut butter are daily staples, and natural fat sources have all sorts of wonderful health benefits, plus they help with regulating hormones and appetite and all that.
- Not dipping below a healthy weight (BMI-wise) in over two years. I gripe about my weight constantly and still haven't quite figured out my metabolism or needs, but staying in the healthy range for this long is huge for me after several years of my weight being so low and unstable.
- Motivation/recovery mindset, whatever you want to call it - but I have zero desire whatsoever to go relapse, which has literally never been the case throughout my entire history of anorexia. I am really proud and in awe of myself for this one.
Areas that still need improvement:
- Still tweaking the exercise balance. I love running more than is healthy, which suggests to me that it's not necessarily all love, but partly compulsion.
- Variety. It's better than it used to be, but I am still incredibly limited in what/when/how much I eat. This is just a handful of foods in a very long list that are still total no-gos: white bread, pasta, potatoes, pastries, ice cream, most grainy sides (rice, cous cous, quinoa), chips, candy, I could go on...
- Flexibility. My eating schedule is unbelievably rigid, which I don't always realize until something disrupts it and I fall apart. Just a handful of my ED-related hang-ups: no breakfast before working out, no less than X hours between meals/snacks, no more than X,XXX calories per day, no driving to my office (it's a not-super-long-but-not-insignificant distance walk), and on and on and on.
- Body image. Not totally sure how to go about doing this, but after some improvement as I shifted from Underweight to Healthy Weight, my body image has since plummeted and is a major, major barrier to making further changes to my diet/exercise plans
A lot of this is probably not exactly surprising to many of you, but it helps me to take stock periodically. Because no matter how much I obsess and freak about stuff, I have come a long way.