I continued a recent instagram post (Just_Do_Today ) due to the unexpected progress I have steadily been experiencing.
I was weighed last night at Renfrew. My therapist kindly covered the numbers because last week I told her I don’t like looking. “Please move your hand. I don’t want to be afraid of the scale anymore.”
I briefly looked and stepped off. I was surprised. I was disappointed.
But 5 minutes before this weigh in, I was completely content with my body. So why would I allow a meaningless number to change that now?
Fuck you ED. I now knew the godforsaken number and felt as though I had taken back control.
Did I love the number? No. But I’m not afraid of it anymore.
It’s my dad’s bday today and he wants to go to a buffet for dinner (ED thrives in these places).
Knowing this, my mom asked if I wanted to bail. But these are the little things ED takes away from me–an evening with my family, sitting around laughing and bonding. Since I don’t have the funds to buy an extravagant present he deserves, I really want him to be surrounded by his family in his favorite restaurant. He would appreciate that. ED, you are losing your grip on me. I am taking my life back. Food does not control me. I control my life.
This morning I woke up with nagging anxiety. I grabbed my journal and asked myself the questions that my therapist suggested when these fears come up.
“Do I have plausible evidence to support this worry?”
Answering this usually lessens the fear’s intensity. I realize how unlikely it is to happen. Instead, the feeling is being triggered by something similar happening to someone else, or old insecurities playing out in my brain.
But sometimes I have a hard time disputing that I’m experiencing a “gut feeling”…(although, 9 times out of 10 these fears are simply caused by anxiety)
That’s when I ask:
“What would I do if the worst case scenario actually happened?”
I wrote about the strong woman I am, and how hard I fought to become her. I’ve worked too hard and too long to crumble under an undesirable circumstance. I can do one of two things: work to prevent it–and if that is impossible, repeat to myself that “Everything happens for a reason.”
From waking up with worry lines, I was now driving to work with a mile wide smile. As I realized this, I turned the music up and sang a little bit louder. I touched the rosaries hanging in my car (I am not a very religious person, but this action has always represented my gratitude for the current situation and trying to have complete serenity for my future).
I haven’t always gone to my journal when I should. Especially when my irrational worries arise. I can’t ignore the little twinge inside me that tells me it’s the right thing to do. However, I’d convince myself that another coping skill will suffice. This”easy way out” sort of thinking usually leads to symptom use because I’m not dealing with my emotions. Then ED will slither his way into the rest of my day. The importance of picking the right coping mechanism was something I specifically remember learning at Renfrew! At that time, I’d never dream of ignoring the twinge that told me the right coping skill to use–I was so thankful for it! And since then I have lost sight of it’s importance.
I wondered why it is so much easier to do “the right thing” while I’m in Renfrew.
It has now been two full weeks without symptom use.
I have used the proper coping skills when I needed them. I have tackled planned and unplanned challenges (two big ones listed above in my Instagram post). I have been practicing very kind self-talk.
Finally, I’ve managed to take back control of situations ED has been hopelessly controlling before entering back into treatment.
Last night at the buffet, I repeated “slipping up is not an option” over and over again to myself. Regrettably, this is a line that hasn’t always worked in the past. But, last night I took it very seriously.
Why do I feel so much stronger in treatment? Is it truly because I’m surrounded by women that think and feel and fight the way I do? Is it the accountability of having to check in multiple times a week? Is it because I am forced to make myself a priority on these days.
I still worry about messing up. And I worry about discharge day. But, I have to take it one breath, one moment, one meal at a time.
Numbers are very defining to an Eating Disorder. No matter how bad you may want recovery, if you suddenly have to go up a pant size, all bets are off and ED is back to controlling your actions. When in treatment, I took recovery very seriously—I was doing pretty well and for that reason I was afraid to go shopping; what if I don’t fit into the same size clothes?
Shopping during recovery:
I decided to grab three sizes (I knew my roundabout number). Without looking at the tags, and making sure I did not WATCH myself in the mirror as I was putting them on—I changed clothes until the right pair fit. Then I bought the most comfortable ones WITHOUT checking the number on the inside. “It doesn’t matter because these look the best on me” I repeated to myself.
Before going shopping:
Goals during ED’s reign over me: Buy the smallest size. Buy the sexiest belly shirt. Keep these in my closet in order to motivate myself to lose weight and work to look like the skinny models that wear them.
Goals during recovery: Search pinterest for models/actresses with REAL bodies (tweak the wording to find different size beauties ex: plus size, curves, real bodies). I discovered so many celebrities with sexy bodies that were not a size 0. (After finding women I admired I started searching specifically for them and copying their style)
(Below: Kelly Brook, Iskra Lawrence)
Honestly, I have no idea if their figures were bigger/smaller or the same as mine, I just know that they inspired me to be proud of my shape just the way it is. They accentuated their best features instead of focusing on bones the way my ED always wanted to.
I made collages of these woman and hung them up on my mirror.
I also made collages of things I wanted in my future, things that only a life without ED could give me.
Grab a small mirror and spend lots of time on your make up and hair. Focusing solely on your face, as to not get distracted with your body.
I would carefully curl my lashes, paint on my cat-eyes, and line my lips. I pampered myself until I genuinely smiled and felt beautiful. Then I threw on my clothes. I took a quick glance in the full length mirror and tried to focus only on that smile.
Make a List of Go-To outfits:
Getting dressed with ED can be really difficult. I took hours and I changed clothes every 5 minutes. Whenever I thought I was happy with how I looked, he would point out an imperfection that forced me into changing again. Truthfully: ED was full of shit–when you stare at something long enough, your bound to find a flaw. Therefore, I devote all that wasted time and effort coordinating the outfit I want to wear before it goes on me. Trust your style! They are your clothes after all (and get help from those pictures you’ve pinned).
The trouble is that this is not always realistic. Sometimes we get caught up trying to make sure we look okay, and spend a little too much time analyzing. Suddenly before we know it, we are getting badgered by ED.
That’s when I turn to PLAN B:
Lay down. Take a deep breath. Distract yourself with a show or texting a friend. After ten minutes throw on a GO-TO OUTFIT.
What’s a GO-TO outfit? These are outfits that you’ve worn in the past that you’ve been complimented on; that you’ve found yourself attractive in; that you’ve actually managed to smile about when looking at yourself in the mirror. Write every single detail of this outfit down and DO NOT question how you felt last time you wore it. Throw it on and walk out the door.
My only disclaimer is that you have to be VERY committed to recovery. Do not get tempted by ED when he tries to lure you in (checking the tag inside your pants, scrolling through social media) Be proactive.
I was sitting in my car outside of work, sobbing. My mom was in the driver seat watching me fall apart.
We both knew I needed to get out and go to work. I was already late. We knew I needed to pull myself together.
But every time I wiped my tears, more would come. I was exhausted. Before finally getting out of the car, I said
“I have to do something different…”
I’ve said those words countless times over the last few years regarding my Eating Disorder.
That morning, I had binged and purged relentlessly. It was ongoing from the night before. And this had been a cycle I got stuck in for the last 3 months. I hadn’t experienced a lapse this bad since the dreaded act had crept into my life 6 years prior. (My ED started with restriction at 17, but I didn’t realize my diagnosis until the binge/purge symptoms started at 18)
(At 18): I would count the months at first: “Wow, 8 months later and I still have an eating disorder. I need to do something different.”
I’d buy books, I got a job, I went to therapy.
Before I knew it, I was counting each year that passed: “My twenty second birthday, and I still have a problem. I really do have to do something different.”
I went through new therapists, I went back to school, I was put on medication.
(At 22): All my efforts seemed to be paying off. I didn’t restrict for days on end anymore. I didn’t stay in to binge and purge on nights my friends were going out. I was experiencing milestones with my anxiety and accomplishing goals that I set for myself with my body.
I began to go days without binging and purging. Pretty soon I was going weeks—
2 weeks to be exact.
I would eat healthy and exercise during that time. But as soon as those two weeks were up, I’d slip back into binging and purging. It was a vicious cycle that I felt tied to. Each time I climbed out of the binging and purging, I would say THIS IS IT: THAT’S THE LAST TIME I PURGE. I didn’t anticipate another lapse. In fact, I worked my ass off to push through that 2-week check point. Why couldn’t I do it? I wanted recovery so bad.
Finally, Halloween 2014 (The evening that started my 3 month tailspin)
I felt like I had accomplished my goal. I was still purging, but only on rare occasions.
I could keep some of my “unhealthy” foods in my tummy (that is, if the guilt didn’t force it back up)
I was very close to eliminating the binging (which is the part of my ED that I hated most of all).
And I wasn’t restricting (I didn’t go days without eating and only replaced some meals with a very hardy protein shake).
I looked in the mirror October 31, 2015. I was in my Princess Leia costume and I looked great. I had finally reached my goal of lean muscle and losing weight—oh yeah, right, and recovering, too.
Then I ate dinner.
I ate a salad. It caused indigestion–“why did I use all that dressing!?” It caused bloating–“I should have picked something that digests faster!”
(Looking back of course, the real reason my stomach hurt was related to how little I had been eating those last few weeks. The acid from the dressing hurt my stomach because I had recently purged. And I’m sure some of it was mental, and some of it is unknown. Stomach problems are magnetic when it comes to having a relationship with ED).
Relax, it’ll pass–I said to myself. Fighting for recovery was really important to me. I hate ED and all the things he makes me do.
The boys are on their way to pick us up.
“Crap! Do something to get rid of this feeling… Exercise!”
I started doing crunches with weights until I could feel my abs burning. Adrenaline coursing through my veins as I kept thinking: “I have to look good. I have to look good.”
I stood up and that indigestion/boating feeling was still in my stomach.
“Fuck it, I’ll just do it this once. I’m wearing a belly shirt in public, after all. And I really need to go through with this. Wearing this costume is one of my goals.”
I purged. But, I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again (as I always did).
I was so proud of my body. And yet, still insecure. I had to keep body checking and I absolutely HAD to wear stockings because my thighs jiggled.
Fast forward to crying in the parking lot. Halloween was the last time I actually felt good about my body (if you even call that feeling good).
I thought I was on the brink of recovery. The scariest part is how well I THOUGHT I was doing at that time.
That night spiraled me into 3 months of binging and purging—which was, without a doubt, a godsend. If I didn’t feel the helplessness I experienced through this horrific lapse, I would never have realized how sick I was. My thoughts were consumed by ED. And most of my eating disordered actions were completely ignorant to me. I was only working to rid myself of the obvious symptoms (binging/purging and starving myself). But, I was still tied to the symptoms because they gave me the easy out when I needed to feel good.
And I would have never finally said to my mom: “I need to do something different… I want to go to treatment.”
I wish I could take you step by step thought what treatment did for me, and all the things I learned. It truly granted me freedom. And although I’m not ED free, I have the tools to combat him.
“I have an ED, but I don’t really restrict. I eat,” I thought as I entered treatment.
“I want to lose weight and my eating disorder makes it very difficult for me because I end up binging and purging and messing up all my hard work. This place will teach me how to lose weight the healthiest way.
I’m not like the other girls here. They will need to gain weight because they can’t see how thin they are, but I’m definitely at a healthy weight and my weight loss goals are realistic”
I was weighed by my assigned nutritionist immediately.
She told me that I was a ‘healthy weight’ (I was a little disappointed even though I anticipated that. I just wished I was thinner). She wanted me to stay at that weight.
I started to panic. “Are you kidding, I’m in an eating disorder facility. If I don’t need to GAIN weight, then I’ve clearly failed. At least let me lose weight so I can be happy.”
But I want to be subordinate. I want to be here. How do I put this?
“I was really hoping I could lose, like, 5 pounds.” I said meekly (and I was compromising)
She clearly saw how bad I wanted recovery. And I wasn’t asking for anything crazy.
She looked at me for a little while. Her response, so simple:
“When you get there, would that be enough?”
She sparked a chain reaction in my brain: the last 6 years of my life all mapped out by my weight
**(I’m using ridiculous numbers. There’s no need to put real lbs. The actual weight is not the focal point. Focus on how much and why these numbers fluctuated over the course of 7 years.)**
When my ED started, my goal was 12 lbs. Then, after a brief celebration of accomplishing that, my goal became 8 lbs.
Binging and purging among other things sent my weight up a bit,
Feeling disgusting and ashamed, the goal is to lose X amount of pounds.
I exceed that goal. But I wasn’t as unhealthy as when my ED started. I totally know how to eat and exercise to lose weight without starving myself. I could be a pro.
Now I’m back to my goal being 12.
Binging and Purging sends it up,
Goal weight: 14.
And so on and so forth,
Reflecting on that, I’m staring back at my nutritionist as she waits for an answer. And to be perfectly honest: “No, it wont be enough.”
You see, all this time I thought I wasn’t restricting. But, while I was attempting to “recover” by myself, I had a conflicting goal of desperately needing to lose weight.
I was asked in an interview before treatment: Do you restrict? To which, I responded “No.” What the interviewer should have asked was:
“When was the last time you ate white bread without purging?”
—“7 years ago”
“How often do you accept sweets?”
—“God, never. Unless I plan on purging after.”
“Can you eat just one cookie?
—“I can have the INTENTION of eating just one, but it will inevitably turn into the whole box. So, I’d rather avoid them, as well as many other foods.”
“Do you have a “binge/puge” list of foods and an “everyday” list of foods?”
—“Hmm, yeah, I guess I do. But the binge/purge foods don’t count when I’m talking to others. They are all accidental mess-ups.”
“If you eat anything outside of what you deem ‘healthy,’ what is the result?”
— “The inability to stop thinking about food. Perhaps purging. And endless guilt.”
“What’s usually the deciding factor when you are choosing a meal at a restaurant?”
Those are just a handful of ways ED tricks us into thinking we are not restricting. My answers don’t necessarily have to mimic yours, but if you suffer with ED you will see similarities.
Alas, the mysterious cycle was resolved. What caused the binging and purging episodes as I attempted recovery by myself: restriction!
The best decision I ever made was going to treatment (I’m sure I will write a whole ‘nother article on that: I could give you 1,0001 reasons why I’m forever grateful to Renfrew).
It taught me so much about myself: how to shut down ED, how to have real confidence, how to counter the idea that ‘I need to lose weight,’ and most importantly how to be a badass in this fight for self-love and recovery.
And although I am still working on these things, I have the knowledge and coping skills I need (and amazing people who can relate to me in ways I never thought possible).
I love writing, sometimes I don’t know what to write about. I decided to go on this tangent because I want to share the love I have for those who experience the struggles/successes that I did and do. The binging and purging is an obvious issue that we usually want to put an end to (but never be ashamed, it is an illness that many share, and your story will inspire others to work towards recovery, even if you are still in the process of ridding it).
But the constant body checking, and fear of being fat/undesirable;
The (short-lived) satisfaction of reaching a number on the scale, as well as the worthlessness you feel when going above that number;
The tiny high you have when your reflection rewards you, and then having it ripped out from underneath you after a simple meal or night’s rest;
Competing with yourself to eat less than the day before;
Using ‘nutritious’ drinks, or the lowest calorie meal to fill the hunger you feel. Or ignoring hunger cues completely (especially when out and about, distracted with friends);
The lingering sting of comments made by peers about your image, comparing yourself to others in the room, feeling judged each time you do or don’t reach for food.
Life isn’t meant to be lived in this way.
No mirror or meal should be feared. No person should be adorned for their bones or shamed for their body.
Life is short and meant for so much more. Let us work towards that together.
And I am so grateful for every moment of my journey (all 7 years of it—even the struggles you may be going through now) because it got me here. I know what I want out of life, and I am here living it.