I’ve always considered myself an overeater. A binger. Food addict. Pig. Someone with no control over what I ate and destined to spend a life battling an obsession with body image and food.
I have sought resources for eating disorder recovery for a decade. And as time went on, my seeking became more desperate and my search more earnest. Until I started to feel I was beyond redemption.
At a support group last year however, one lovely lady mentioned something I’d never been told before. Something I’d never considered. You’re bingeing because you restrict, she said. I thought that was hilarious.
Sure. I’d been through a period of extreme restriction (starvation…) for a month prior to my hospital admission, but that was the first time I ever restricted. Prior to that I’d always binged. So I thought.
Upon more discussion with this very wise woman, I realised my food intake had been restricted since I was an infant – either by others or by me.
My mother was concerned how fat I was as a baby, so endeavoured to lessen my food intake all the years I lived at home. As a result, I learned to sneak food whenever she wasn’t looking. Routinely bingeing, and becoming a chubby little girl.
Once I left home, I had free reign to eat what I want, when I want. And so I did. But I gained weight – not surprisingly! So I tried not to eat and white knuckled and lost weight. Until I gave in, binged and got fatter. Then white knuckled. Binged. Purged. White knuckled. Fat. Thin. Confused. Obsessed.
Bingo. One bulimic.
It shames me to say this, but I always wanted to be anorexic. Not because I want to be ill, but because I want to have that kind of control over food. I’m conscious it is common for anorexics to think of nothing but food, however, they also exhibit the strength to resist. And I wanted this strength for myself. Instead I feel weak. Always on the see-food diet. See food – eat it.
What I am starting to realise (Hallelujah! they all shout) is if I eat regularly, I binge less. Irregular food consumption, and regular bingeing, leaves my body constantly wanting to be fed and never knowing when it will receive nutrients. So I perpetually crave food. Ingesting food at five regular intervals throughout the day means my body will learn to expect food and will cease to crave it constantly. That is the message I’m hearing from almost every eating disorder resource I stumble across.
I feel like a slow learner. And I still really struggle to believe the answer to a lifetime of food woes is to actually eat food. Every day. Five times a day. And then good health and a stable weight will fall into place, providing the food I eat is balanced, healthy and not in excessive quantities. Too simple really.
And yet… While I have not managed to implement this magical new lifestyle on a regular basis, when I do eat regularly, my body feels better and cravings diminish.
So I repeat again, my major goal now is to eat food and keep it down. Every day. Have I managed that recently? No. Not even a little bit. My routine has been all shot to pieces with trips away, and I need routine. But I can – and will – get off this wobbly place and back on track. Prior to adjusting my lap band, I need to develop and maintain a regular habit of eating five times a day – three small meals and two small snacks.
I’m also going through the, not sick enough, phase again. I’m a plump middle-aged woman with no major health issues. Everything I go on about is a storm in a teacup – I have this dreadful fear someone will label me a hypochondriac. There are people out there with real problems, serious mental health issues, majorly restricted eating, significant physical complaints directly related to eating disorders. I’m not “sick enough” to warrant all this recovery work, and not well enough to ignore it. Limbo land. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I’m bound to get sick enough sooner or later. If it really isn’t a big deal, I should be able to change everything quite easily, without clinging to old habits like a drowning woman.
It’s all in my head.
Change my thought patterns and habits. Eat five times a day. Implement the tools and changes.
Don’t restrict. Do eat. Don’t be a negative nancy. Do be a positive polly. Look forward – not back. Practice acceptance.
Don’t ever restrict.
I got into this mess when I learned food was unreliable. I’ll get out of this mess when I learn food is always accessible.
Nourish the mind, body, spirit.