• Diaries,  existential screaming,  mental health

    Self-Care is an Active Effort

    Eating Disorder Diary

    Please note: This is really an excerpt from my diary, ergo the bad numbering, change in POV, and TMI detail. Trigger warnings for all things eating disorders: weighing myself, exercise, loaded language, disordered diet habits, substance use.

    February 2020

    SO YOU WEIGHED YOURSELF AND WERE HORRIFIED BY THE RESULTS.

    About a month ago, you weighed yourself at the gym. You were wearing shoes, holding your phone, and clad in leggings/shirt. The scale said you were 164 lbs. It’s not far from where you were before eating disorder treatment, so that’s not too bad.

    Today, you weighed yourself at the gym. You were wearing shoes, holding your phone, and clad in leggings/shirt. The scale said you’re at least 172 lbs. You’ve gained eight pounds in a month, which your brain wants to round to ten pounds, and a ten pound gain in a month-ish is one of the most horrifying nightmare scenarios you can imagine.

    Here’s why you’re not going to panic and hurt yourself over this.

    1. You don’t want to. Putting MyFitnessPal back on your phone instilled you with a sense of grim dread; that’s a cycle you’ve been on, and it works for many, but not for you. It doesn’t really change your behavior. Not anymore. Did it ever? What as the cost when it did? It was your hobby, your obsession, and one that made you feel shitty. It’s a fraught place filled with despair, for you, and you’re not far enough from that time to use MFP healthily. So you don’t want to. And you won’t.
    2. You’re still attractive. Others are still recognizing you as attractive; they dive out of the way when you reach a door, they are charmed when you compliment their hair, they give you the sexual credit seemingly due to you.
    3. But even if you weren’t still attractive, that’s subjective, situational, and usually temporary. It’s okay to stop being attractive. Or not be attractive every day.
    4. If you don’t find yourself attractive, that’s a different problem. Your weight is not a metric that tells you how well you’re allowed to dress, care for yourself, and do your hair. To feel attractive, you should go home and shower, you should trim your hair, you should find a cute outfit that fits and wear it. But you should also just love yourself. And if you’re not feeling attractive, that doesn’t mean that you have to hurt yourself over it. Attractive isn’t something you have to be in order to have value, be loved, and love yourself.
    5. You’re not going to suddenly balloon to 200+ lbs. Gaining that weight quickly has a lot of reasons. You just quit smoking, and stimulants increase your metabolic rate; being on nicotine gave you the terrible feeling of being one giant jitter, always anxious, sleeping poorly. You have been eating more, but you haven’t been having to think about it nearly as hard, either. The time you used to spend fretting over food hurting you are now spent enjoying the food you eat. And you won’t enjoy relentless binging.
    6. You’re a weight lifter. Though people overestimate how much “denser” muscle is than fat, you do have muscle, and that’s a good thing. You have to feed your muscles to grow and keep them. You can see how much stronger you are when you’re in the gym; 95lbs squat feels comfortable, like nothing, and isn’t that wonderful? It used to be effort. You can do more than that too. Quite a bit more. You’re so strong. A lot of that is because your muscles have everything they need to work, and then some, and that’s okay.
    7. You’re eating in a culturally normal way. Look at your family. Look at how they eat. Look at how they’re shaped. You can do this, because you’re actually eating with them now. You’re spending time together. You need to get closer to them and their eating habits, not further away; this isn’t just an important part of socializing, but a way that you can help your family heal their relationship with food too. They’ve never eaten as much salad since you started doing it. You’ve never sat down to talk and laugh with them this much, this regularly.

    That said, it doesn’t hurt to check in with yourself and make sure you’re not overeating. You don’t feel good when you overeat, either. And you won’t feel good with too much extra weight—though the line from “extra weight” to “too much extra weight” is difficult to locate.

    1. Are you mindfully eating? I’m trying, but I think I’m privileging the enjoyment of the food over the feelings in my stomach. And that’s because…
    2. My stomach has been hurting a lot. Which totally fucks with my hunger signals. It’s gotten better these past couple of days and I’m optimistic it’ll stay that way, allowing me to have more contact with my hunger again.
    3. Can you eat slower? You’ve done well portioning your foods lately, I think. You’ve been eating half sandwiches so you can have more bulk in the form of salads and whatnot. The varied diet is great. If you eat slower, you might find that you’ll eat less…or not.
    4. Are you finishing food when you don’t need to? You almost ate an extra mini naan because there was just one left. You’ve got this weird thing about finishing. It’s okay to put things away for later, put it back in the bag (if it’s something that’s appropriate for), or just throw it out. Also your dogs love it when you don’t finish food.
    5. I’m having cannabis. A lot on the weekends, probably still too much in the evenings. I think I need to evaluate my relationship with cannabis. I haven’t been in a hurry to drop it because I also dropped nicotine recently, and I’m still craving that to an extent.
      1. I think it’s okay if I’m still doing this one thing FOR NOW. Maybe. I don’t have to be all or nothing. That’s also a mindset I have to continue working on.
    6. I’m not moving as much. When was the last time I walked the dogs? I’ve reached peak winter sludge mode.
      1.  I think that’s okay too. I mean, I think it’s inevitable, and temporary. The weather will improve. I’ll want to move again.
    7. Can you eat out less? You know from your History that food from outside is more calorically dense.
    8. Can you eat with more variety? You’re really enjoying bread a LOT right now. And that’s okay! But maybe you could limit your bread…like one bread a day. Bagel OR sandwich OR pita OR dinner roll.
      1. Maybe instead of going “ONE BREAD A DAY,” you should just make sure you’re getting one non-bread grain a day to start: rice or oats (not in cookies, lol) being the easiest. Frankly you don’t have a lot of “grains” in your diet that are super normal so it will probably be effort enough to address that. If you don’t have oats for breakfast, have rice with dinner. That’s easy, right?

    The bottom line is that you’re not helpless, nor are you doing anything Wrong. You’re doing your best to heal. Right now, that healing—which is not just physical, but social and emotional—has the side-effect of weight gain. But as long as you stay on top of yourself and continue to fight for mindfulness, go slowly, and eat with others when possible, you can make sure you don’t gain excessively.

    What is excessively? I will feel I’ve gained too much if I can’t do the physical things I enjoy (and that’s definitely not a problem right now!) and if I’m seeing ill health effects, like more blood sugar problems. For now, Y O U A R E O K A Y, do not panic spiral, do not hurt yourself, do not use MFP. Be patient. You’re beautiful and powerful and also your hips are cool.

    March 2020

    Well, things have changed a lot, haven’t they? You’re on nicotine again. You’re probably still gaining weight, but you’re not weighing yourself. And priorities now are…different.

    Welcome to the corona virus, self. You don’t have it yet, although you’ve convinced yourself several times daily that you do. And maybe you do! But either symptoms are mild or you haven’t developed the bad ones yet. If you’re going to develop terrible symptoms, you’ll need your energy to cope with those when they come. So don’t waste time coping with pain that hasn’t arrived.

    Looking forward into the future, guessing outcomes, and spending all this time fretting is only aggravating your eating disorder. Just because the world is offering perspective on what it means to suffer doesn’t mean that you’re Suddenly Not Mentally Ill. It means you have to be more on top of it, not less.

    But it also means you’ve got to be kinder to yourself. You’re getting forked by reality a lot. Seldom do a handful of hours pass without the wall of dread striking again, reminding you of what’s happened and what’s (probably) to come.

    So let’s talk about what you’re doing really well right now, and what we could do to improve things.

    1. You’re not weighing yourself. That’s cool. Continue NOT DOING THAT. Attaching a number to the way your body is growing out of your clothes will help literally nothing.
    2. You got some new clothes that fit. You feel pretty fucking sexy in these clothes.
    3. You still have way too many clothes that don’t fit. Get rid of them. The stuffed sausage feeling is horrible, you don’t look attractive, there is no point in subjecting yourself to this.
      1. You should get new clothes! It’s harder to fit stuff online, but you can do it. You can’t let your fashion slide during the apocalypse any more than you can during pregnancy (a personal apocalypse) because you know from experience that you will feel like garbage. It’s okay to spend some of the money you’re not putting toward outside-the-house entertainment toward feeling good in your body.
    1. You’re not much of a weight lifter right now. Your metabolism has slowed, muscle will relax, fat will be generated from all that comfort food you’re eating. AND THAT IS OKAY. You’re not inactive. You’re still taking care to use lighter weights at home, and move your body, and that’s what you need to be healthy. You don’t need more rigorous exercise to be healthy – particularly not at a time like this. Focus on doing what you need to feel good and let the rest go. Conditioning is currently the least of your worries.
    2. Let’s talk about the nicotine. So you’re doing that again, even though it made you feel anxious, hurt your throat, and was generally so unpleasant by the end. You’re already beating yourself up about it, a lot, so you may as well not beat yourself up more. Look at the bright side: you’re staying under 1 pod/day of Juul, usually closer to 1/2 pod. (Remember how you used to clear 2 pods/day? 1/3rd of that is what we call progress.) Yesterday, you noticed your throat hurting a bit, and stopped vaping. You’re not vaping to excess and causing bad symptoms. This much nicotine still isn’t good for you, but you’ve shown moderation, and you’ll take care of yourself as best you can.
    3. You’re eating a lot of take-out and junk food. But welcome to the apocalypse, wherein all your childhood food insecurity comes roaring back as trauma. Remember how you were just hospitalized for an eating disorder earlier this year too? Jeez, you’re getting all the food-related trauma triggers for 2020. That sucks. This doesn’t have to be rationalized away. But sincerely, you’re eating take-out to keep your pantry fuller longer, support local restaurants (the Chinese food place is grateful for your business!), and keep the family happy. Keeping the whole family happy with comfort food right now is a big deal. And YOU are part of that family, so if eating a couple Oreos a day and a snack of chips is making you feel happy, THAT IS OKAY.
    4. But you’re also eating a ton of salads! When you panic-shopped, you panic-shopped for…salad and bananas. If you’re gonna be eating a crapton of junk food, stuffing the extra space in your body with salad could be a lot worse. Let’s be real.
    5. ALSO, you’re definitely having a lot of cannabis right now. You pushed yourself into the tolerance black zone where you can pop 30mg of THC and still function without a pleasant buzz. Nice job, self. Moderation is harder here. Being home all day, nowhere to drive, husband always available, and enormous crush of existential fear… No wonder. At some point you’ve gotta accept being not-stoned in this apocalypse as reality. I don’t think you’re ready for it. I wish I had guidance for myself in this area.
    6. Your stomach has been hurting less than when you wrote the last post. And that’s awesome. You’re taking care of yourself! (Fewer carbonated waters will help, sweetie.)
    7. You’re drinking alcohol again. But so far, in moderation. One drink in a day, two or three times a week, and only with your husband. This is probably still a bad idea for your stomach, if not for your emotional cope. You know what problems to watch for. You can’t get more alcohol without help right now. Stick a pin in this one – you might need to address it if it changes, but it’s not an immediate worry.

    So here we are now, working our way through the quiet suspenseful part where apocalypse begins, doing our best to care for ourself with a lot of uncertainty.

    What matters right now? Literally, staying healthy to avoid the medical system, and keep my family as happy as possible. You’re doing that, mostly. Limiting alcohol and continuing to move will help. Everything else is kind of a mess. But so is the world.

    Practice mindfulness. You haven’t been doing that, and you’re paying the price. More mindfulness – staying in this moment rather than predicting the future – should help you handle your emotions that have your behaviors haywire. Give yourself more spoons so you can handle things better. Live in the moment.

    And give yourself a fucking hug because this timeline sucks.