Life With Ed, Part 8: It’s Always Something

It’s been awhile since I have written a “Life With Ed” post, so if you’re new to my blog and you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my Eating Disorder Series here.

Disclaimer: This is a series of posts about my experiences with anorexia and bulimia.  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. I am not an doctor or a therapist. I am simply telling you my story.

My recovery has been kind of strange since I got my stomach surgery back in February. Although I thought I was in a good place in terms of my bulimia, I really wasn’t. The thing is, it’s easy to think that throwing up your food “only” twice a week is good when you’re used to doing it every day, so I was pretty comfortable with that. My stomach surgery threw a wrench into the whole process though, in a good way – after my surgery, I became physically incapable of throwing up. As terrifying as the prospect was, I realize now what a gift it has been. I literally have no choice but to keep my food down, which is something I curse myself for about twice a week on average.

Of course, just because the physical actions of bulimia are no longer possible doesn’t mean that the mental and emotional aspects of the disorder have gone away. It is certainly something I struggle with every day. Because I can no longer purge, I sometimes deal with those feelings by wanting to aggressively restrict my calories, which is also something I really can’t do if I want to run decently. It’s a constant mental argument, but it’s one that I feel like I’ve made a good bit of progress in most of the time.

Most of the time.

A few weeks ago at the Route 66 Marathon Expo, I was so stressed out about meeting all of you who said you were coming to our booth because I hadn’t been drinking much water while I was sick and I felt puffy and bloated. Every time I met someone, I thought to myself “I wonder if I’m bigger than they expected?” Seriously. Every. Time. As if that’s what you guys are thinking when you finally meet me and I’m randomly wearing some insane ram hat on my head.

Me and Colleen, who probably was not thinking that I looked “puffier” than she expected.

This past weekend, I went home for Thanksgiving and my mom and I went shopping on Black Friday. I have literally only one pair of jeans that I like, and with my birthday coming up, we decided to go shopping and see if I could find more of them. Apparently, the style of jeans I like – non-stretchy denim – no longer exists in America. Why do people like stretchy jeans? Why is this a thing? All they do is accentuate my giant runner thighs. It is unacceptable. I’m going to add this to the list of things to rant about in my next edition of T-Rex Rantz.

Anyway, my mom and I went into the umpteenth store and she was sitting and waiting for me to try on my jeans. The uber-friendly sales woman starts talking to my mom and trying to sell her some jeans and tells her she should just try some on. She asked my mom what size she wears and my mom said normally she wears a 4. The sales lady said “No way! I bet you’re a 2.”

Perfect description of my mother.

I almost threw up right there in the dressing room. I was trying on size 2 jeans.

It’s so stupid. My mother is tiny. She’s 4 inches shorter than me and just a very small person in general. My whole life, though, she’s been bigger than me and always worn a bigger size. When the saleswoman suggested that we might wear the same size – and it turns out that we don’t, not that that matters – I almost collapsed.

For the rest of the day, I felt anxious and sick. Even thinking about it now, I still feel that way. When I break it down, I realize how completely ridiculous it is. It’s not that I have gotten bigger and am now the same size as my mom (who was never even bigger than an 8 to begin with), it’s that she has gotten smaller and is now close to the same size as me. Why should that upset me? What difference does it make? The reality is that it should not upset me and it doesn’t make a difference, but this is how my brain works. So then, upon realizing how ridiculous the whole thing is but recognizing that I still feel that way nonetheless, I start to get depressed about the fact that I don’t think like a normal person and then the whole thing just spirals downward.

Menace 63alt3
Hyperbole and a Half just gets me.

I write this mostly to try and get it out and process it, but also to further explain the way the brain of someone with an eating disorder works. As I discussed in my fifth Life with Ed post, eating disorders have nothing to do with the way the patient perceives anyone else’s weight – I think my mom is tiny! Yet when I found myself getting so worked up over this whole situation, it never occurred to me that the reason my mom and I might wear the same size was because she got smaller – the only logical conclusion was that I had gotten bigger. Do you see how that works?

Of course, it doesn’t help that trying on jeans is traumatic in the first place and it’s even more traumatic when you’re a runner with rather sturdy thighs. I found myself cursing all my marathons as I tried on pair after pair and hated how they seemed to strangle my poor thighs. I became convinced that none of the jeans looked as good as my old pair, which they don’t even make anymore, and I resigned myself to wearing the same pair for the next 50 years. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen my grandmother wear jeans, so I’m pretty sure it won’t be that long. Do old people wear jeans? Serious question.

As I tried on all those pairs of jeans, I remembered how my stupid body dysmorphic disorder makes it impossible for me to see myself realistically in mirrors, so the jeans probably weren’t as grotesque as I imagined. It wasn’t the jeans that looked bad, most likely, it was just that I was afraid of changes because I knew I was ok with how I looked in the other ones and convinced myself that nothing could ever compare. So I decided to take some pictures of myself, since I can actually see myself realistically in pictures but not in mirrors.

Old pair of jeans
New pair of jeans

If you are thinking to yourself “Congratulations, dumbass, those look exactly the same,” then you’re not alone, because that’s what I thought to myself when I saw the pictures. After hemming and hawing over how much I hated the jeans and how they weren’t the “right kind” and I didn’t want to buy them…it turns out that it was just my brain that was creating the problem the whole time. Typical.

So, there it is. I guess I’m proud of myself for starting to really analyze and think about why I think the way I do, and I’m proud of myself for recognizing that there is just a slight chance that I’m being ridiculous. The fact that it even occurred to me to take a picture of myself and see if I was being crazy is a pretty big step, but I get tired of the way my brain works. I just want to be normal for one day, but it’s always something. I like to think I’m making progress nonetheless.

70 thoughts on “Life With Ed, Part 8: It’s Always Something

  1. I agree, I’ve never seen Nana in jeans either I do remember being shocked when i was told she has ONE pair and they were the 1st pair she’d ever owned. It was shocking!!! My fav cut is boot cut tho 😉 Love ya!!!

  2. Really awesome post. Insightful, witty, but freaking honest. Brains can do amazing things, and they can really suck too.

  3. First of all, stretchy jeans are awesome. I hate stiff jeans. They are way too big in the waste so stretchy jeans let me get a “tighter” pair without hanging off my waist but give my hips and thighs room to breathe. And working with kids, I need to be able to move. I’m trying NOT to wear yoga pants every day. I have always hated my legs (hince me NEVER taking off my shorts even when I’m IN the lake). But you have nice toned legs and a booty!! I’ll show you MY cottage cheese if you want 😉

  4. I love the stretchy jeans, but I hate skinny jeans, ankle jeans, jeggings, etc. Those are nice if you’re wearing boots but i live in Charleston SC and it does not get cold enough here to hardly wear boots! It was in the 70s today and I wore shorts. I like going to American Eagle for jeans, I usually get their Artist jeans and they fit and look great, especially the dark washes.

    I think buying jeans is stressful for ANY female, not just someone who’s struggled with an ED (but definitely more stressful). Your thighs look fine and the jeans look great though. In the end… it’s just clothes! I spend way more time in my running and workout clothes, and even my pajamas anyway. So those are the things that matter 🙂

    1. I pretty much put my boots on starting the day after Labor Day no matter how hot or cold it is. I love boots so much that I’m willing to suffer for fashion 🙂

  5. You have so captured the essence if the eating disorder brain. It isn’t sensible and it’s constant. My issues have been different from yours but the panic and fretting are so familiar. Any strategies for quieting those chaotic tireless voices are a plus. Thanks as always for sharing.

  6. I heart this post.

    I mean, I hate this post, because of everything/all of the anguish it represents.

    But I love this post because it means that someone else gets it.

    My twin sister and I both suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. So exhausting. It’s insane (and I realize that) to simultaneously feel too thin (arms, chest, shoulders, legs) and too fat (stomach), but there you go. Wish I could look in one mirror, or at one other person, and not hear the critique in my head.

    Thanks for writing honestly about this. It really helps more than you might know.

    1. I think one of the worst parts of the whole thing is KNOWING that you are being crazy and not being able to stop it. That’s part of what makes it so exhausting! I almost think it would be better not to know because then we wouldn’t argue with ourselves a thousand times a day.

  7. I think that it is amazing that you are not only analyzing your thoughts but challenging them as well. That is real progress. Although, I stopped most of my ED behavior years ago, I still struggle with the mental aspects of feeling guilty when I eat and proud when I don’t. WTH? And also the body image issues. I am constantly comparing my body to other women’s bodies. Am I bigger? smaller? WTH? Constantly, its exhausting! Running helps a lot and so does your blogging about your experiences. Thank you for that. I don’t talk about my struggles and try very hard to hide what is left of my ED behaviors because I don’t want to model it for my kids. Keep fighting the good fight, you are making progress!

    1. I’m so glad that my blog series has been a help to you! I am terrified of having kids for precisely the reasons you described, in addition to some others, including the amount of noise they make, but that’s neither here nor there. I feel the exact same things you described. I compare my body to every woman who walks by.

  8. I gotta say…your Eating Disorder Series is my favorite part of your blog. Everything you say is so true, and I think you are able to explain it very well to those who have never dealt with these issues. I have my own issues and Thanksgiving brought them out in the worst way (even though I didn’t spend it with family OR have a traditional thanksgiving spread of food). Still, it got me. Your jeans look great by the way 😀

    1. This is such a tough time of year for so many people! I’m pretty lucky because I don’t love Thanksgiving/Christmas food as much as I love, say, pizza, so I’m not as inclined to overdo it and struggle with guilt and all the associated feelings. I’m glad you’re enjoying the series and I hope it helps in some small way!

  9. My grandfather would not wear jeans. He was of a generation where jeans were what laborers wore to work, and he could never get past that.

    On another topic, do you ever find it ironic that you are the T-Rex Runner and you are concerned about your “large” thighs?

  10. I’m tearing up a little. Sorry, I’m not sorry. Damn, but everything you said reminded me of my older sister Lindy. She also dealt (I think dealt) with anorexia and bulimia together. What a struggle….a fight. We all experienced something different throughout all the phases. Anyway, reading such an honest and true description of what you still go through rips me through and through because she must still be fighting that beast as well. Maybe she feels alone? She doesn’t need to. Thank you so much.
    BTW: I’d been looking for a half to tackle and had decided on Sedona because it’s so close to me and I need a beautiful run to re-set my soul, so-to-speak. I’ve gotten several friends and my 16 yr old to also tag along and join. I’m looking forward to meeting you (if we can), but I’m really nervous. Silly, eh??? I’m running up a small mtn here for training. We’ll see…..

    1. man, the sedona (half) is absolutely beautiful! I think I ran one of my slowest and totally don’t remember it being hilly-just all the red rocks. 🙂 have fun! oh, whiskey row is a challenge-uphill for half, then (don’t fall) back down.

    2. I am so glad this series can help you understand Lindy better and hopefully help you to let her feel less alone. That’s been my goal from the very beginning of writing these posts! Please feel free to send them to her if you think it will help.

      I’d love to meet you in Sedona, of course! Don’t be nervous, I’m terribly disappointing in person.

      1. Ok, gotta come clean! I SO was going to run the half. Even started the training, but allowed my peers to talk me out of half and into the 5k….but I prevailed and at least signed up for the 10k before the price went up. My Speedy Gonzales 16 yr old decided on the 5k. Garsh Lolly, the elevation looks ‘fun’ and I think it’ll be much colder than what I’m used to running in. Still trying to run to top of my mini mtn with my dawg (right now I make it several steps then my lungs explode), but I’m a super ninja on the way down. Waaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

  11. Although I don’t have an eating disorder, I am in recovery for alcoholism and drug addiction. I was surprised at how much I identified with your post. I think dysfunction is dysfunction is dysfunction, if you get my drift. Compulsive/obsessive behavior is similar across the spectrum of mental disorders.

    Your thought process about your favorite pair of jeans and how you’d have to wear them for 50 years (or however old you’ll be until you officially become Too Old For Jeans) makes perfect sense to me. I was right there with you…and was completely duped by the fact that the new jeans you tried on looked *exactly* the same as your old pair.

    And it doesn’t go away – even though I haven’t had a drink or drug in a very long time. The sneaky thing about dysfunction is that it sounds like my regular thinking, ‘Everyone is thinking ___________ about me.’ I plug away regardless, because even though it doesn’t go away…it gets better. You are an inspiration to share your experience so candidly. It is where the recovery is. All the best to you, T-Rex!

    1. You are 100% correct – eating disorders are very similar to drug and alcohol addiction. Someone very close to me struggled intensely with both of those things for many years, and I saw so much of myself in his struggles. As much as I’d like to think the dysfunctional thoughts will go away eventually, I’ve been told by many therapists that they won’t. It does get better, like you said, but I never want to let my guard down. When that happens is when I get sick again. It’s hard when you’ve been thinking dysfunctionally for so long that you can’t remember what “normal” thinking even feels like! I totally relate. Thanks for your comment.

  12. Two quick thoughts (since I have to be up in 4 hours 😉 ):

    – It took me forever to let myself wear running tights, and a year after that to really feel comfortable. This weekend my kids called me ‘twiggy’ wearing them … certainly not what I think of myself.
    – I totally contextualize my size based on others – I look at the size label on the back of their jeans, analyze how big they are and how I must look/seem in comparison. I don’t know that I have ever come to a meaningful conclusion 🙂
    – I was trying on smaller clothes than I had worn since … well, since *before* Jimmy Carter was president … for my wife to buy me for Christmas, turned sideways, and thought – holy crap. I really am NOT fat.

    I can sit and say that I am the thinnest and fittest and most healthy of my entire life, but our brains totally play games with us.

    1. I totally understand not being comfortable running in tights…but dude, it’s like -12 degrees where you live. How did you survive winter runs without them?

      1. How did I survive without tights? Ever hear of these things called ‘pants’? 😀 Actually for guys there is a huge selection of ‘running pants’, with heavy insulated tech fabrics (sort of how I run at -15 with a ‘sweatshirt’ and base layer on top.

        And before that – before the popularity of tech materials took off – I had some really awful things that could only be described as ’70s track suits’, with insulated layers underneath. And an amount of accumulated stink that I could never fully wash out and eventually had to throw out!

        I also think it is understandable for guys to have a higher hurdle around getting used to running tights – even without my personal issues. I mean, head to the local mall on Saturday, and what would you say is the % of women 16 – 30 years old wearing yoga pants / leggings / etc? My younger son was DJ-ing at Macy’s again this past Saturday, and I would put it at ~50% or so. # of men I saw in tights? Zero.

        1. I’m not sure it actually occurred to me that there were running pants that are not tights. I think I just assumed that the pants would be baggy and cause chafing and not be a tech material, so the options were either tights or shorts. This is like a whole new world.

          1. Whole new world is right – aside from the reflective vest, there isn’t a single thing I am wearing this morning (13F temp, 1F wind chill) that would have been available to a normal runner when I started running as an adult …

  13. Hmm, you’re right. I never saw either of my grandmas in jeans. Ever.

    Btw, can I comment on your size?
    I mean, how small are you? I kept thinking you’re as tall as me (I always think people are my height which is stupid I know but you can’t really tell from pics).

    I find it really strange that I can go from feeling perfectly normal and fit and that there is no need for me to lose weight to feeling huge and fat and thinking I need to lose 5kg this instant. From one day to the next which you can imagine has no impact on how much I weigh because weight doesn’t change that much in the space of 24 hours.

    I had to check, I’m size 8 and most of the time I refer to my build as Amazonian. 😉

    1. See? Old people don’t wear jeans. It’s science.

      I’m 5’6″ and I usually weigh 125-130 pounds depending on how much beer I drank the night before. I have an oddly narrow frame in terms of depth, so I tend to look wider from the front and then disappear on the side. It’s very weird.

      1. Now I had to convert my height to see how tall I am in feet (5,9).
        And I’ll stick to saying I prefer to call myself Amazonian like now I converted my weight as well. 😀
        So what if I’m biggish? 😉

        As for the narrow frame, I noticed that about many long-distance runners. I wonder if it happens because of so much running or is that type of frame generally better suited for long distances…

  14. Like John in Boston, I heart this post and hate this post. My demon is anxiety disorder and your comment–“I get tired of the way my brain works.”–resonates. It’s exhausting, but (to borrow a lesson from our running life), we just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

  15. I totally laughed out loud with the “congratulations dumb ass” line. I really think that most people don’t really “know” what they look like-you take a picture, thinking you look “good” and it’s oh yuck-I look terrible! We look in the mirror and see something different-better or worse. and frankly, when I was reading the part about the sales girl saying your mom was a 2, I was thinking it was the “vanity” jeans thing, where you appear to wear a smaller size than you thought, so you buy the jeans/clothes and think to yourself-yes! I wear a 2 now. I remember wearing a size 5 in the day, and refused to buy anything bigger than an 8. and who would know what the hell the tag said except me? dysmorphic…

    1. The “vanity” jeans thing actually causes me paralyzing fear. I knew what size I wore in my old jeans but was so afraid that I was just a 2 in that one store’s size. I got over it when I tried on jeans in literally 8 different stores and was a 2 or smaller in all of them. Seriously, why can’t sizes just be standard? How hard is this?

  16. I have said this before, but here it is again: you are one sweet chick….thanks for the honesty and congrat’s on the ability to put it out there – that’s good therapy.

  17. I really should be in therapy for BDD or something, but I’m still at the point where I refuse to believe it’s just in my head. So this was totes emotional for me and thank you for writing it.

    Thank you for also being anti-stretchy jeans. I mean, I knew I couldn’t be the only one who preferred a heavier fabric that wasn’t all stretchy but shopping always seemed to prove me wrong. I think the regular old denim hangs nicer on me, I don’t need things stretching over all my curves and lumps and bumps. And by the end of a day or so the stretchy ones are all strechy-ed out and falling down, which is also not nearly as flattering as it sounds. I also need curvy jeans because my hips and thighs are so much bigger than my waist, and in a tall size. I should really just stick to wearing, like, footie pajamas.

    1. I’m glad this post helped you in some way. I totally understand where you’re at, and the reality is, when you’re ready, you’ll know.

      I hate the way the fabric clings to every little curve! Gross. I think we all should just stick to wearing footie pajamas.

  18. Thank you for being brave enough to write this.
    My brain also doesn’t work “normally” but mine is an anxiety disorder that has affected nearly every aspect of my life for years. It’s only in the past 9 or so months that I’ve been able to (mostly) get a handle on it. Some days are good, some days aren’t.

    1. I’m in the same boat. And it’s impossible to explain to people so I basically stopped trying. For some reason, I find my eating disorders much easier to explain than GAD.

  19. You are right those jeans do look a like. 🙂 To help you in your quest though try a western wear store (we have Drysdales around Tulsa) They still carry the good ol Wrangler type denim jeans, least last time I looked.

    You also look good the size you are. You actually look healthy. Not fat, not skinny, like an athlete. Fit and healthy. Nothing wrong in having big strong thighs. It is muscle. You run 26 miles. It happens. I was bumming because my weight actually went up. A friend said I look skinnier overall (I am still about 230 lbs so skinny is not goign to be a problem) but that my thighs are looking bigger. Muscle weight. Just remember fit is the hot new look, not skinny. As a guy, there is nothing about your look or body that would make me say no way. Just look in the mirror everyday and say to yourself “looking good girl” as a added means to help your thinking, regardless of how you actually feel.
    It take courage to share like you have. Be proud in who you are.

    1. Thank you, Jim 🙂 Isn’t it ridiculous how it’s possible to gain weight training for a marathon? That should be illegal.

  20. When I met you at the expo, I was thinking your hair looks so luxurious in person. Thanks for putting your struggles into words. It helps those who are battling, and helps others like myself, who don’t know the first thing about it.

  21. I’ve never seen either of my grandmothers in jeans. Or any of my husband’s grandmothers in jeans, either. They still look very dapper and adorable. Hats! Gloves! Collared blouses! Tailored pants! I cannot wait till I’m 60 and free from the tyranny of jean shopping. Or I can just go to Uniqlo and buy more of those crazy Japanese Leggings Pants.

    I’ve been fortunate not to have an ED of any sort, and I love the honesty and humor of your Life with ED posts; they really help me understand what you and some of my friends have gone through. If photos of yourself help you wrap your head around the fact that you actually look perfectly normal, keep taking those photos! To me you look like a healthy runner, really. And I’m super envious of the fact that you don’t get sore after doing more than one marathon a month.

    1. I think the best part about being old is that you basically can do/wear whatever the hell you want, and no one can judge you because you’re old and they don’t know anything about life and you do. I cannot wait to torment my family some day. Preferably by wearing Japanese Leggings Pants ALL THE TIME.

  22. Your new jeans look great, but if you are still obsessing, I just wanted to add that you can find almost every discontinued piece of clothing on ebay. There are lots of sellers that buy up name brand stuff from thrift stores and resell it on ebay. If you know the brand and style of your jeans and you are not skeeved out by used clothing, it’s definitely worth a look. I was obsessed with one particular pair of discontinued shorts that I owned (seriously — they are the perfect shorts – perfect length, perfect fit, perfect fabric, perfect pocket placement — what does that ever happen?!), and now, thanks to ebay, I own about 6 pairs. Happy me!

    1. Funny that you mention this because I actually did try it! Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell what type of material the jeans are made out of online. I bought a pair of J Crew matchstick jeans in my size and they arrived in the fabric I hate. Sigh.

  23. I’ll be 60 next year and I can’t imagine wearing anything except jeans. If I live to 100 I’ll still be wearing jeans. Also, I’ll still hate shopping for them.

    Thank you for your honesty in this series!

  24. I’m with you darling BDD and GAD. My pants are fitting anymore and I REFUSE to go into a store to buy anything that might be “GASP” a bigger size. NO NO NO! I do Boot Camp 5 days a week and put in a bout 26 miles a week pounding the pavement. I don’t know what’s happening with my body but I just know people are looking at me and thinking “She’s gained weight”. People who tell me I look great are just being nice. The holiday foods are a nightmare for me. I just want to go to bed and hide until mid January. So thanks for the honesty – the jeans both look great… but I know that’s not what your brain said either. I gasp when I see pics of myself because they must be taken from a great angle – I look thin. NOT WHAT I SEE INT HE MIRROR!
    Love Ya Doll!

    1. Isn’t seeing pictures of yourself amazing? I don’t know why our brains work that way, but I feel like I’m looking at a different person when I’m looking in the mirror vs looking at a picture of myself! It’s insane!

  25. You look like you always did at LPA/Baker and with all the running you do I’m sure can afford an extra calorie here and there. Keep up the good work.

  26. Jeans shopping is incredibly stressful! Even though you already found a pair, thought I would spread the word that Gap still sells non- stretch jeans!!!! I thnk it’s the only store in the world that still does & why I will spend $70 on a pair of jeans (although sometimes they run 50% off & I get ridiculously excited).

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