Life With Ed, Part 9: A Good Day

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. If you are interested in reading the rest of my series on life with an eating disorder, click here.

I debated sharing this post with you because it might be a little insane-sounding. Nonetheless, this was a big moment and realization for me, so here we are.

So, as I’ve whined about ceaselessly previously mentioned, I gained some weight after my back surgery. The total tally was about 10 pounds. Whether it was the result of decreased activity, changing my diet to go gluten-free, or who knows what else, it doesn’t really matter. The point is, my weight went up. I freaked out. I changed my diet, increased my exercise, and generally threw myself into an all consuming struggle to lose the weight. I wrote about that struggle here. While 10 pounds might not seem like a lot, it has affected my self esteem, my relationship, my social life, and my sanity in more ways than I care to admit. I’ve spent more time crying in the mirror than any grown-ass woman should.

Eventually, I had to put away the scale. I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted no matter what I tried, and it was tearing me apart. I decided to start measuring my various body parts as a way to demonstrate my progress, since I could see that I was toning up. I had to let go of weight as the only way to determine if I’m succeeding in my quest to get healthy. After awhile, I started weighing myself once a month, only on one assigned day. The rest of the time, the scale sat in my closet.

I made the mistake of weighing myself most recently a couple of days after my recent small surgery back in November. The anesthesia took away my appetite, and I ate next to nothing for about 3 days. Oh, what wonderful results the scale and measuring tape held for me that day! I was only 3 pounds away from my normal weight! Of course, as soon as I started eating again, I felt like my weight was going up and was just devastated about it. I have some big events coming up at the end of December that I’d like to look my best for, so I promised myself I was just going to focus on working out, making healthy choices, and put away the scale and the measuring tape. Clearly, there wasn’t much I could do about it in just a few short weeks without making drastic changes.

Yesterday, I woke up and got ready for work. Standing there in my underwear and looking at my abs, I actually felt pretty good about the changes I’ve made. Am I perfect or where I want to be? No, but barre, running, cycling, and healthy food choices are making a difference. My first thought was “I wonder what I weigh?” I immediately pushed the thought aside and swore to myself I would not weigh myself, lest I get depressed about the number. But then I thought, if I think I look good now, what difference would it make to assign a number to it? Why would that possibly change how I THINK I look? This in itself was revolutionary.

I promised myself that I would keep that feeling regardless of what the scale said. And then I weighed myself.

After all that hemming and hawing and hating myself, it’s the same weight as it was right after surgery, the one I thought I couldn’t possibly still weigh. Maybe I did gain some and then lose it again, I don’t know. And yes, it’s a higher number than I’d prefer to see overall, and at first, I cringed, but then I thought to myself “Who the hell is going to notice 3 pounds besides me?” NO ONE, that’s who. No one. Is 3 pounds really worth crying in the mirror and hating myself? Is 10? No.

I’ve been working a lot on positive self talk and on guiding myself to make good choices based on things that have nothing to do with my weight and outward appearance. That’s a pretty hard thing to do when you’ve been doing the opposite for your entire life, but I’m working on it. For example, in the past, I might have said something like “You have to go to barre tonight because you’re going to look like a fat pig in that dress next week if you don’t.” Now, I think that first. But THEN, I think “No, you need to go to barre because it makes you feel good and strong and your back needs a strong core to support it.” If I find myself stressed out and craving a big dessert after a long day, I normally would think “Well, you’re fat anyway and you can’t lose weight so you might as well.” Now, I still think that first. But THEN, I think “You deserve to make choices that make you feel good about yourself. Will this choice make you feel good, or will it make you feel bad?” And I try to answer that question honestly; the answer changes depending on the day.

Eating disorder recovery isn’t linear, and it isn’t easy. I will probably never call myself “recovered;” I’ll be perpetually “recovering,” at least, I hope, since that is better than relapse. It’s a process and something that takes a lot of hard work. No one can do it for me. While some days it seems hopeless and that I’ll never be able to change the way I think about myself, some days are days like yesterday. And then I think, “Maybe not today, but one day.”

 

30 thoughts on “Life With Ed, Part 9: A Good Day

  1. Your ED posts always hit me right in the feels . I really love your approach to recovery – Recognizing that a misstep or bad day isn’t a total failure, and also not an excuse to give up entirely, and that it’s not linear. Just getting to that thought process takes a lot of work.

    I think your examples of positive self talk are really constructive – because they have nothing to do with appearance. Various sources from therapists to Dove ads to healthy living bloggers tell you you need to love your body and believe you’re beautiful…but that doesn’t really work for me because I just don’t feel that way after so many years of self loathing.

    1. Thank you, Katie! I completely agree. I wanted my affirmations to have NOTHING to do with appearance, because just telling myself I’m beautiful seems like bullshit, and saying that every body is perfect seems like bullshit, so I figured I would focus more on the things my body can do and on the way I feel. I’m not the type of person who takes compliments easily, from myself or anyone else, so I wanted to work on changing my actions through a different thought process and hope that those feeling will follow.

  2. Wonderful and honest post … and again, such an inmportant bunch of points you make.

    Thinking negative stuff doesn’t mean you have failed, it means you are an imperfect person as are we all.

    Anyone who has struggled with their weight and appearance jumps to self-judge as a matter of innate habit, but it is what we do next that is more important. Having that sundae is neither good nor bad by itself, it is the WHY of doing it.

    And I totally agree with the ‘recovering’ … I honestly believe we are never ‘done’ dealing with weight control issues … so long as we need to eat everyday, it will always be a struggle.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I agree – the WHY is the most important. I think the first step is at least thinking about the “why.” Whether we use that information to make a choice or not, it’s good to at least think about the motivations behind our actions. Self-awareness and honesty is one of the most important components in eating disorder recovery, in my opinion.

  3. Wow. I’ve never struggled with an eating disorder–never (never) restricted my food intake, never binged and purged, never exercised at the expense of other things (well, except if you count long runs on Sunday mornings during marathon training season, which is another story–“see you, honey, in four hours or so” 🙂 ). But, it is amazing how similar your thought patterns and self-arguments are to mine. I’m listening to Amy Poehler’s “Yes, please” on cd and at the beginning she talks about a little positive voice in our heads, and how there’s also that negative voice that is in a lower register and typically demands more attention. Here’s hoping in 2015 you and I hear more of that quiet positive voice. Merry Christmas, T-Rex. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Judy! I have been wanting to read her book, as I’m hearing great things about it. I don’t think you need to have an eating disorder to struggle with body image issues, so we’re definitely not alone here!

  4. You know that I always love how you write these posts. I have, increasingly over the past year, come to a similar realization–why should I tie a number to happiness? Granted, in my case, sometimes this was indeed a precautionary measure for my own safety (because with my disease I am currently tending toward the skinny side), but it was a really freeing moment, nonetheless, when I decided to just trust myself, go for a look and feeling that I knew was better for me, and to let go of the number.

    1. There is definitely a health component that has to be considered, but our bodies are only capable of so much. It’s silly to obsess over a few pounds either way, although that doesn’t mean we can always stop ourselves from doing so!

  5. The honesty of this post is simply…beautiful. Your last paragraph says it all. Most people just don’t get it. They think you can flip a switch and just be better. It truly is a daily (sometimes hourly) struggle. Thank you, Danielle, for sharing. I KNOW your mind may not let you believe this, but I will still say it:
    You.Are.Beautiful.
    You.Are.Strong.
    You.Are.Brave.
    You.Are.Inspiring.

    1. Thank you so much, Caroline! I think many people think you can “flip a switch” because sometimes that is how people who claim to have struggled with eating disorders talk about their recovery process. Honestly, I have a hard time believing anyone who has struggled with a full blown eating disorder ever just one day decided to stop worrying about their weight. It just doesn’t work that way, and I get so frustrated when I see that type of thing on blogs. Sorry for the rant!

  6. Beautiful post. I completely recognize all that chatter in your head. I have the same. One moment I can feel good about myself, after I have run a couple of miles… The next moment, I look in the mirror and see my body, and I can just hate everything. Reading you write this down…. thank you

    1. Thank you for sharing, Mo! I think many people are struggling with this exact same thing. We’re not alone!

  7. It’s incredible how our thoughts and thought journeys are so similar except that I was never anorexic or bulimic; I used to be obese. I still struggle with the stupid number even though I hit my original goal weight about 10 lbs ago. Keep working on that brain, girl. You inspire me to keep working on mine.

    1. Thank you so much, Katie! I actually read a lot of weight loss blogs because I think a lot of the thought processes are so similar and I really relate. Let’s keep working and we will get there!

  8. That is a huge aha moment that a lot of my friends seem to struggle with in regards to their weight. It is more about health than a number.

    1. It’s very hard to get to that point, and I certainly don’t think I’m there 100% of the time, but I will try to embrace it when I am!

  9. Your words came right out of my mouth. You gave voice to everything I’ve been feeling, right down to the recent weight gain because of my back surgery. I feel you have given some normality to the insanity in my mind. Thank you.

    1. I’m sorry you can relate, Becca, but I am so glad you don’t feel alone! You are not . I completely understand how you feel! I hope your surgery was successful!

  10. I relate to this so much. I consider myself more or less recovered and pretty much have been for about a year now after spending years of my life struggling. But the weight thing is the one thing that will set me off. I will still cancel doctors appointments because I don’t want to be weighed. I had to go get my leg looked at this week and I actually requested not to be weighed. The last time I stepped on a scale I was 10 pounds heavier than I’ve ever been and it was really hard to see. So I feel for you. Having realizations like the one you had are huge for someone recovering, which as anyone who has been through this knows is a lifelong process. Thanks for sharing- you’re DEFINITELY not alone!

    1. I COMPLETELY understand! I always turn around on the scale at the doctor’s office and insist that they not tell me my weight. Just stepping on the scale there causes me anxiety because I know I have on clothes, shoes, etc and I always worry they are silently judging me! It is so ridiculous since I’m sure they couldn’t care less. Thank you for telling me some of your story!

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