Life With Ed, Part 7: What Life Looks Like Today

I know I haven’t done a “Life with Ed” post in awhile, and I really am sorry about that. It’s been weighing on my mind a lot and I know that y’all are waiting on a post about how to help the people you know that have eating disorders. That’s a much more complicated post than it sounds like, so trust me that I’ve been working on it and it’s coming soon. I have not forgotten about it. Today, I want to talk a little bit about what my life looks like at this point in my recovery.Β  A lot has changed since I first started writing this series, so I feel like it is time for an update. If you’re new to my blog and have no idea what I am talking about, start here.

Disclaimer: This is a series of posts about my experiences with anorexia and bulimia.Β  Many of the things I discuss could be extremely triggering if you are dealing with an eating disorder, so please read at your own risk.Β  I am not an doctor or a therapist. I am simply telling you my story. I will discuss my current weight in this post, so if numbers bother you, please do not keep reading.

As you probably know, I had surgery to fix my severe chronic acid reflux back in February. What you may not know (unless you listened to my interview over at Marathon Training Academy) is that my surgery left me with the physical inability to throw up. My surgeon had told me that there was about a 50% chance of that happening, because the entire point of the surgery is to keep acid and food from coming back up your esophagus, so it stands to reason that doing so would, well, keep acid and food from coming back up your esophagus. My surgeon did not know that I am bulimic and I made a point not to tell him because I knew he would not perform the surgery if he knew – the risk of me relapsing and injuring myself would be too high if I was one of those 50% who couldn’t throw up. In fact, when we were doing our initial consultation and I asked about not being able to throw up anymore, he actually made a joke about how it wouldn’t be a very good idea if I was bulimic. Story of my life, right?

What are the chances that people will stop making eating disorder jokes one day? I’m thinking zero.

You may be wondering, then, why I would get a surgery that medical professionals wouldn’t recommend for someone with my condition. Well, that’s a pretty complex explanation. First of all, I really really don’t like other people trying to make my decisions for me. It’s not a matter of being stubborn, because I can be convinced, I just don’t like being told that I can’t do something. You can tell me I shouldn’t, but not that I can’t. Second, I felt like this was a really important point in my recovery. Choosing to get this surgery would effectively mean I was closing the door on bulimia. It felt like I would be making a commitment to myself and my recovery that I hadn’t been prepared to make before, and that idea was kind of empowering. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I was really sick of acid reflux. REALLY SICK. After trying a million diet and lifestyle changes, every medication on the market, and realizing that surgery was pretty much the only way I would have consistent relief, I knew that I had a way out. I didn’t want to live with reflux forever, and I didn’t have to. That was a pretty powerful motivator.

But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t freaked out by the idea of never being able to throw up again. It’s not like you’re allowed to try it out to see if you can, although I’ve since had some complications that have confirmed that I cannot. My mom asked me what I planned to do if I had a bad day and started freaking out because I couldn’t purge, and I had no real answer. When I sat down and thought about it, I figured that if the situation became really desperate, I would most likely start restricting my calories again and my eating disorder would swing back to closer to anorexia on the spectrum. My mother wasn’t particularly comforted by that answer, as you might imagine, but the one good thing about anorexia is that the behaviors are much more noticeable than the behaviors of bulimia. People notice when you don’t eat, especially if they’re looking out for it. To me, that knowledge was comforting. Even though relapse is always a possibility, I felt safer (for lack of a better word) knowing that I wouldn’t really be able to hide the way I used to.

It’s go time

Since I had surgery, I have not had acid reflux a single time. The results are better than I could have possibly imagined. I also have not thrown up once – because I can’t. As of today, that means I officially have not thrown up for 60 days. That is the longest streak ever since I first became bulimic 8 years ago, and it’s a pretty big deal to me. Even though it is facilitated by necessity, it feels like a victory nonetheless, because I was able to make the leap to get to this point in the first place. So, that part of things is going well.

But there are parts that are not going well, or not going better. Previously, my entire recovery effort hinged on controlling the behaviors associated with my eating disorder and hoping that the thoughts that cause the behaviors would go away in time. Now, I am mostly left with my thoughts. I notice it all the time, but some days more than others. Lately, I’ve been running a lot and bumping up my mileage and speed. I’m training hard to achieve some goals that I have set for myself, and it’s been hard work. Having learned a few weeks ago that my body can no longer process sugar, my diet has changed considerably.

I do get more awful when I eat sugar.

The other morning, I found myself feeling really heavy, for lack of a better word. Fat, I guess. I looked in the mirror and saw a giant staring back at me. I figured I must have gained weight, and although I try not to weigh myself very often, I couldn’t resist stepping on the scale to assess the damages.

I had lost 5 pounds since the last time I weighed myself and 10 pounds since I had surgery.

Is 5 pounds a lot of weight? No, but I’m not a very big person anyway. And when you’re feeling heavy and expecting to see that you weigh more than you did a couple of months ago, it’s kind of shocking. That moment served as a horrible reminder of how screwed up my head is. Despite the fact that a lot of my clothes are now much looser than they used to be and that I look noticeably thinner in pictures, when I look in the mirror, I see a giant cow. I see huge thighs and a muffin top and a person that basically isn’t real. I feel heavy and bloated and fat even when I am not. When I look at pictures of myself, I understand that I am thin because it feels like I am looking at a different person, like someone who isn’t real. But when I’m in my own body and looking at myself in the mirror, there is some kind of disconnect that happens that I can’t explain, and all of a sudden I’m looking at someone who is literally obese. The signals get messed up somewhere and I lose the ability to perceive the reality of my body and shape.

Hello, brain? Are you there?

This is why I say that eating disorder patients don’t have a goal weight, which is part of what separates them from people who simply diet. Even as my weight gets lower, I do not become more satisfied. Usually, I start to feel worse. At a minimum, I feel just as heavy as I did before. Seeing the number on the scale go down while still feeling so big only reinforces that “smaller” is not enough. You always have more to lose. When I weighed myself last week, I weighed 120.2 pounds. Literally, the first thought that flashed across my brain when I saw that number was “I’ve got to get into the teens.” Why do I need to get into the teens? There is no reason. 120 is already less than I normally weigh, and dropping a few more pounds will put me in the “underweight” BMI category for my height. My clothes are already much looser than they used to be. This is dangerous territory for me. Seeing the number on the scale go down is like a trigger for me that is hard to stop once it’s been started. An underweight BMI is a source of pride, even if that measurement really means nothing. I can’t even explain why.

Before you ask, I haven’t consciously been restricting my calories. I have been eating mostly normal foods and trying to eat frequently throughout the day to keep my digestive system happy, but cutting sugar out of my diet has dramatically decreased the number of calories I take in each day. I am a total dessert and Sprite whoreΒ  – I literally eat dessert after every lunch and dinner (and sometimes breakfast) and I used to drink at least one soda per day. I can’t do that anymore, and I’m supposed to be eating smaller, more frequent meals now, so eating as much as I did before is a challenge. Combine that with the fact that I’m upping my mileage and I’m not usually hungry after I run, and now I’m losing weight without even trying. Whether I’m doing it on purpose or not, the lower my weight goes, the lower I want it to keep going.

Not actually relevant at this particular spot in the post, but it amuses me, so it goes in.

In the interest of transparency and honesty, I told all this to AJ a few days ago. His response was “I’m throwing away the scale.” This overwhelming sense of panic and anxiety washed over me, which is odd since I haven’t weighed myself before this in probably about a month. It’s definitely not something I do every day, but just knowing I wouldn’t be able to anymore if I wanted was terrifying. And my immediate thought was “I’ll just buy another scale and have it sent to my office.” The sad thing is I really would do that if I was desperate enough, and I wouldn’t think twice about it. For the record, I have not done that – yet.

Although it may seem like my recovery isn’t going very well at the moment, there are a lot of victories to be celebrated. I haven’t thrown up a meal in 60 days. Considering that I was purging very regularly before my surgery, that’s a big step forward. I have not actively restricted my calories with the intention of losing weight. Both of those things are a pretty big deal, especially with the uncertainty I was facing after my surgery. But just when I start to feel like I’m making progress, my brain slaps me back down again and I’m reminded that I have a whole lot of work left to do before I have a healthy relationship with food, and more importantly, myself. It’s a long road.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

40 thoughts on “Life With Ed, Part 7: What Life Looks Like Today

  1. I wish you the best in your continual recovery. Hope you don’t mind this question, but I’m really curious. What happens to the population of reflux surgery patients who can’t throw up, when ey legitimately need to? For example, if sick with a stomach flu or food poisoning?

    1. Trust me, I asked my surgeon the same question! He said that usually people will just dry heave and that the stomach flu and food poisoning will be resolved through…other means. I’ll let you use your imagination.

  2. I really appreciated this post. That mind/body disconnect is so hard to explain to someone who hasn’t lived an eating disorder. Even at my thinnest and a size 2, I feel fat and feel like I look fat. Always a work in progress. Thanks again for sharing.

    1. I still don’t feel like I’ve done a very good job of explaining the disconnect because it really doesn’t make sense, but I know that other people who have experienced it know exactly what I’m talking about. Thanks for reading and your comment πŸ™‚

  3. Be proud of the steps you are making. 60 days without throwing up is a win! Have you ever considered getting rid of big mirrors? I personally don’t have any full length mirrors in my house because I have rarely looked into a mirror and felt good about my body. I also stopped getting on scales a few years ago, and just go with how my clothes fit. That being said, what works for one person doesn’t work for every person and you have to find your own tricks to make positive steps. Keep up the good work.

    1. I actually don’t have any full length mirrors in the house. The one in my bathroom cuts off about mid-thigh, though, which is basically the worst possible place for a mirror to cut off! I don’t weigh myself very often anymore (maybe once a month) and I keep the scale in a different room behind a closed door, going with the “out of sight, out of mind” theory. It works most of the time. I really think I just need to wear maxi dresses every single day for the rest of my life and I’ll be good to go πŸ™‚

  4. I’m sorry that this is something you have to deal with! I with there was an easy answer. I admire your courage to discuss your eating disorder in your blog. For those of us with no personal experience of such disorders, your entries are a great insight.

    I also wanted to tell you that you are a wonderful inspiration. I started running a few months ago (I’m almost 47) and am now up to 5K. I came across your blog by chance, and became an instant fan. I love your running stories, your sense of humour, your dedication… reading your blog makes me want to keep going, even when my feet hurt and my legs are tired.

    Wishing you all the very best!

    1. Thanks for reading, Tamara! It’s been really rewarding for me when people say they are learning about eating disorders through this blog because that is the entire point of this series of posts, so thank you.

      I am so honored that you think of me as an inspiration. Congratulations on starting to run! So many people don’t have the courage to start running because it seems hard, so kudos to you for getting out there. My mom did her first 5k last year, and although she definitely isn’t addicted to running, I know she’s been impressed with her ability to push through pain. I’m so glad to have you as part of Team T-Rex. If you keep running, I will too, deal?

  5. I wish you luck. As a reflux surgery veteran myself, I will say that I have been able to vomit only a handful of times since my surgery nearly 12 years ago. Every time involved a bout of stomach flu or food poisoning. I was unable to vomit during both my pregnancies, only very painful dry heaving. But Zofran is a miracle drug for nausea and I lived on it during my entire 2nd pregnancy. I have found the worst part of not bring able to vomit is the spasms that occur after dry heaving. They can last for hours and are very painful! But I do NOT regret having the surgery! Changed my life for the better and I haven’t once regretted it!!! Good luck on your recovery!

    1. It’s a little awkward how excited I am to hear from another reflux surgery veteran! I don’t know anyone who has had this surgery so it is great to hear from you! I have Zofran as my secret weapon, and I took it in one of my recent marathons. I definitely do not regret having the surgery at all! It has been a godsend. I didn’t think life without reflux was possible!

  6. I have read every post about your Life With Ed series, and your honesty and raw emotion is to be commended. You have touched many people with your experience, and have let people know that they are not alone in the battle of eating disorders. My sister ‘s life was saved by 12-step programs when she was battling anorexia. As you may know, there are free meetings in every part of the country offering support for people struggling with anorexia, bulemia, and overheating. My sister found the support she needed to change her life, and she still attends meetings regularly (more than 15 years after changing her eating behaviors). I will forever be grateful for the support and help she found at the time she needed it most. I could not help her, and watching her pain was one of the most heart wrenching experiences of my life. I didn’t understand the battles in her head. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t just eat more. But the people she met in 12 step programs did. And she is now a sponsor to others battling eating disorders. I hope you continue sharing, continue looking for answers, and continue to be strong. You are an inspiration!

    1. Thank you, Stacey! I am so glad your sister is doing well in her recovery. I haven’t heard of 12-step programs like that in my area, but I will look for some today. Maybe there are more resources out here than I thought. Thank you for the suggestion!!

  7. Thank you for such an honest look at ED . You are such a great writer and I am learning a lot.
    One question regarding your format: is there a way to read the blog without looking at the short films you insert into the text.? I read your stuff on an IPad and there is no way to scroll so that any are out of sight while reading. I love what you have to say, I don’t love the distracting , annoying video clips. I focus, and put a lot of gravity on what you have to say, especially when it comes to your ED blogs. The videos are are just not what I want to see when I read about this stuff. Funny, I tolerate them better when you write about your racing.
    I will continue reading , even if I can’t block them out. So far, I have to use my hand to cover the blinking of the video, as I read.
    Thanks.

    1. Hi! I’m sorry you don’t like the GIFs. I don’t have an iPad and I don’t really know anything about formatting or computers at all – I just write and enter it through WordPress, unfortunately. I think if you subscribe by email, you may be able to read the whole thing in your email without the images, but I am not 100% sure. I use the GIFs because honestly, serious topics make me really uncomfortable and I personally need a mental break from writing it and reading it (I always reread my posts before I post them). I’m sorry you don’t like them, but I appreciate your comment. Thank you for reading!

  8. Rough side-effect of surgery … but like you say, it was the right time for the right choice.

    One interesting observation (maybe I am wrong) – it seems like you are more able to be honest as you make more progress. In specific, I felt from previous posts that you were still struggling, but not so much that you were throwing up fairly regularly. Now I feel like you are able to talk about what is happening *now* more clearly. Think that is true? If so that has to be a good thing, right?

    Also, saw that some model scouts were hanging out at eating disorder clinics seeking new ultra-thin models … ugh (http://www.cosmopolitan.com/celebrity/news/model-scouts-eating-disorder-clinic)

    Keep strong!

    1. I think you’re right, Michael. I have been able to be more honest with myself as I make more progress, which has allowed me to be more honest with all of you. I’m not sure if you listened to the interview or not, but one of the things I said in it was that I think other people would define my eating disorder as being much more serious than I would because I have a very skewed perception of reality. Writing this blog and talking about my thoughts and actions allows me to get feedback from “normal” people, and that feedback has provided me with good information about how far along I am in my recovery. As a result, I’ve learned that things that I consider “great progress” might not really be, and that times when I’ve thought I am doing well, I was still very sick. It’s been really helpful and I think it has definitely allowed me to be more honest.

      Ugh, that is absolutely sickening. I wish I could say I was surprised!

  9. I think that most people have a disconnect with the way they look and the perception of the way they look-only in the reverse manner-I look in the mirror and think (at 20 pounds over my normal weight..) that I look okay or even good-then I see pictures of myself that same day and think-“what was I thinking?” πŸ™‚ That is why we have muffin tops..

  10. It is good to know that people that run in any weather, get up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday to run for hours and have way too many running shoes, are considered normal people for you to talk to:-) Praying for your continued progress and daily victories.

    1. Of course they are considered normal people to talk to! Who else would I want to talk to anyway? πŸ™‚

  11. trex. i listenened to your interview this morning on marathon training academy whilst out training in the desert sands that i call home. i found you captivating and am now reading your entire series online. i am in awe of your ability to convey all this so well and with such honestly and courage. if there were more like you who were able to be so open, then the whole ed issue would be far less of a problem than it is today. inspired … tori x

    1. Thanks so much, Tori! I’m glad you liked the interview. I just found your website and what you’re doing is amazing! I can’t wait to read more about your adventures.

  12. While I do not suffer from ED, I can identify with the brain’s disconnect. I never see what is “real” when I look in the mirror and when friends tell me I look great (or beautiful, or cute, or healthy), I think they’re just being friends and glossing over the fact that they have a huge cow in their life. Sometimes, rarely, I can see it but I usually am so disgusted that I never truly try. I am an expert at avoiding mirrors, pictures and reflections. And the voice in my head is sometimes so overpowering, I don’t know how I smile.

    I work really hard to quiet that voice but it’s always there.

    Good job, T-Rex, and keep up the fight.

  13. Recovery is a struggle! Some days are better than others, but from my experience, the best way I keep weight on is by listening to what my body is craving. Can you still eat fructose (natural sugars?) I remember reading in your post Life with Ed part 1 that you have a nutritionist? Use these tools! Life in recovery is one of the most blessed as well as most difficult, but I wouldn’t trade a single day of recovery (no not even the worst) for a day back with Ed. That’s one relationship I’m thrilled to have ended.
    Again, best wishes and stay honest! Honesty helps a lot with recovery.
    Brandi Lawson

    1. Hey Brandi! I can still eat some natural sugars, like fructose. Others, like whatever is in honey, I can’t have. I don’t have a nutritionist anymore. At the time when I had one, I don’t think I was far along enough in my recovery, and I still looked at it like a diet. I try to just eat whatever I feel like now and not worry about it. As soon as I start thinking about what I’m eating, I’m in trouble. Thank you for sharing part of your story! It’s great to connect with other people who understand πŸ™‚

  14. Thanks for attending and sharing at the ‘Diet is a 4 Letter Word’ session at Fitbloggin. It was nice to meet you–much success to you in your journey!
    If you run another WI race, let me know!

  15. Hey there! Although I don’t suffer from an ED per say… I totally relate with looking in the mirror and just wanting to cry. Why don’t I see what others see? I am a workout maniac. One day of rest, maybe. If I don’t do it, I feel horrible. I’ve been gaining weight (working out with weights will do that). It makes me want to scream. Everyone says “You look great” “Muscle weighs more than fat”. All I hear is “Yeah, you’ve gained weight”. It’s at least nice to hear from someone who has felt the same.

    1. I totally, 100% relate. Have you heard of Body Dysmorphic Disorder? It’s not an eating disorder (but often affects people who have them) and it sounds like something you might be dealing with, just based on the comment you left. You might want to check it out and consider talking to someone about it. I have had good success with modifying my behaviors, at least, if not my thoughts (yet).

      1. Well, I looked it up (hangs head in shame)…sounds all too familiar! I’ve taken to working out now twice a day…and modifying my eating habits as best I can. Taking what you said to heart and hopefully can rectify the actions (like you, if not the thoughts).

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