What most people don’t realize is that although someone with an eating disorder may look like they’re at a healthy weight, there are still underlying thoughts and struggles constantly going on in their head. Even though we have managed to get to a healthy weight, it does not mean that we are “cured”. For example, some of the things still going on in our head could be “You better not eat all of that, Rachel, you already look disgusting and this will just make it all worse. That food looks disgusting and you can’t afford to have all of those calories in your body. You went how long without food before and were still able to manage and run, and now you don’t run nearly as much as you used to. You already gained so much weight you don’t need to eat any more because the weight gain won’t stop.” This is just a tiny peek of some of the thoughts that come.
It’s a constant battle against those thoughts ALL. THE. TIME. Treatment has taught me to battle those thoughts and see the irrational distortions that my ED is feeding me (or NOT feeding me… haha..). I refer to my eating disorder as ED for a reason. Many of us call our eating disorder “Ed,” as in a guy, from a book that spells out eating disorders well – “Life Without Ed.” Ed is controlling and manipulative, like an abusive boyfriend that is constantly telling us what we can and cannot do. But each time you meet Ed’s expectations, he raises the bar. It’s not good enough to lose that much weight – now you have to lose more!!! Once you hit that mark he’ll say, “great… but that’s still not good enough; you have to lose 5 more pounds” and so I comply. If you haen’t read the post on “The ED is a salesman” you can get more info about how much he schmoozes here. This cycle never ends and for some reason I kept thinking that the next 5 pounds would be the difference – it just never was. Truthfully, no weight (no matter how low) would be good enough. Ed has an amazing ability to schmooze you, and sell you what you need, and his offers are unbeatable. I hate to admit that I am weak enough to fall to something like an abusive boyfriend!!!
Going into treatment (as I like to call it – Skinny Camp – we all need humor in our lives!) last year was the hardest thing I had to do. I was embarrassed that I had to go to a center to learn how to eat again and I didn’t want anybody to know what my struggle was about. After all, I am an educated teacher and my friends didn’t really understand. Often I was asked, “You’re so smart, Rachel, how could this happen to you?” They were right… how does this happen to somebody so educated!!??? (I’m only starting to figure that out)
Ed is still with me. All. The. Time. Screaming in my head telling me what I can’t do. Ed makes me a people pleaser and wants me to do everything to not “make waves” or “create issues,” and the solution for everything is to not eat (it sounds absurd, I know). However, after spending a summer in treatment I’ve been able to gain the tools to argue back against Ed.. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t always win, but I get many great sucker punches in!!!
Treatment has taught me to see that restricting food will not “fix” my frustration, but only help me avoid the fact that I feel frustrated. I’ve learned how to fight back against the ED thoughts and rationally think through things. Before, I couldn’t rationally think through things because I was malnourished. It was impossible to see things rationally when your brain is not properly fed.
All this time I’ve wanted everyone to think I’m healthy and strong, but the truth is, it takes a lot longer than I thought to overcome an eating disorder. The more I try to pretend to others that it’s not a big deal, the more I open up the opportunity for me to try to pretend to myself that it’s not a big deal.
So, I admit that I’m still a little weak and that this battle is very HARD. Often I’ll smile and say “things are going well” but it’s not always the truth. What I do know is, of the times I’ve slipped and went back to Ed and restricted I can see how much I HATE him! I can see how much he lies and how much I don’t want to go back to him. It took me almost 7 months to get to goal weight and now that I’m there I can see how awful it feels when I miss a a meal and think restricting is the answer. Truthfully, his offer is not worth the price I pay with my health. In the time that I went through the refeeding process, I had to reverse a lot of health problems that the eating disorder gave me and I’m not looking to go back. In fact, I’m still attempting to follow a meal plan 100% in attempt to fix my metabolism so this uphill climb seems to be nowhere near over.
One thing I realized with Ed is that you don’t really live life. You just get by. You go through life like it’s a blur. You don’t see the little moments that are fun; you don’t live in the moment – like these moments inEuropewith my students: (these photos made it to facebook so they are allowed to be up here). [note – the “duck lip swag” phtos are us mocking the “duck lip” pictures that girls take. We can’t stand them so we tried to take them everywhere – this started in the classroom]
I realized that I experienced every moment of this trip abroad because I wasn’t worrying about food or the next meal. I was focused on my students, their fun and taking these ridiculous duck lip swag pictures to mock people.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I always thought that you can’t show your weakness and that I always had to be strong. What I’m finding is that showing weakness is actually a strength and can make you strong. We live in a society with a stigma that showing weakness is bad, but we all know that everyone has fears. If you try to claim that you have no fears, I will call you out on it and say you’re a liar!
So, I’m on day 11 of following my meal plan 100%! I won’t lie – day 10 was quite a struggle… but I made it over that hump, and now I have my “butt kicking” boots on and it’s about to go down today!!! HOLLA!!!!
The girls from Skinny Camp who are following their plans with me are on track 100% as well!!!! So Boo ya, Ed!!!!
Something to think about — What are some of your biggest fears? Do they control you? Do they drive your life and/or your thoughts? Are you able to push your fears aside and still do what you love? Do you consider yourself strong or weak based on what you’re going through?
Always remember – your perceived weakness is actually strength!