Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wake-Up Call

*** OK, this one is a bit of a length (sorry about that) but also for me to write. I couldn’t decide if I really wanted to share some of this information or not, and most of it is really embarrassing. In fact I seriously debated even hitting the "publish" button, but in the end it's all part of who I am and I want to be honest. So I hope you don’t get grossed out...and I also hope that if you know me, you still feel like you know me by the time you get done.

I really don’t want to be triggering or anything, so if that’s a worry please please PLEASE don’t continue. That said, if you decide to read on, I am not responsible for any insane food cravings that follow :) ***

Everybody needs a wake-up call once in a while. Mine came when I finally decided to see a nutritionist. My sports doctor had recommended it after my heel fractures, which she blamed on my low body weight contributing to osteopenia (low bone density, but not low enough to qualify as osteoporosis). I think my poor family was probably relieved beyond belief that I finally agreed (several months later) to go.

I finally made the appointment because I was so tired of my routine, my food, life in general. I consumed very little during the week, which usually ended up with me consuming nothing but cookies--lots of them--every weekend. I was sick of eating so much sugar and chocolate, and yet I craved it every. Single. Night. My body was not happy with me, I constantly felt fat, and I just couldn’t bear to think about going another day like this.

I wanted somebody to tell me exactly what to eat, how much, and when to eat it. I wanted total loss of control over my diet, to eat this or that because someone else said so. I felt like it was the only way to break out of my daily food rituals.

I didn’t exactly get what I wanted--more like a rough outlines of what kinds of foods (fats, starches, fruits, veggies, etc.) along with a list of some common foods and what they “counted” as. But the nutritionist did boost me a fair way out of my warped mindset.

She weighed me. I was 99.8 pounds.

I’ve said before that my scale was high. I have never (knowingly) been under 100 lbs. (except once when I had a terrible upset stomach, caused of course by what I ate the night before), and had I ever seen that number on my scale I would have immediately started shoveling food into my mouth, starting with Ben & Jerry’s (or some other calorie-bomb, like peanut butter).

This, along with the nutritionist’s recommendation of around 115-120 as a healthy weight, was my wake-up call. I know there are people out there struggling with gaining 30, 40, and more pounds, but to me even 15 was a LOT. Certainly enough to make me realize that I needed to eat. And along with that, I could afford to eat.

I was so free. So happy. Yay! I can eat lunch now! An entire world of possibilities was opening up before my eyes. I envisioned heaping plates of things I’d denied myself for so long. Suddenly everything I’d convinced myself I didn’t like sounded delicious. Waffles and maple syrup; bagels toasted and smeared with butter; cereal (dry, I hate milk); my mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese; slices of pizza with the cheese stretching when you bit off a chunk; and oh, peanut butter! On apples, sandwiches, marshmallows, whatever. There is nothing as vivid as the mind of an eating-disordered individual dreaming about food. It's telling that my mind conjured up no images whatsoever of sweets or candy.

When we left I asked my mom if she needed to go to Walmart, and to my utter delight she said yes. It was like going to Disney World. I spent forever in there, gawking at the bread and lingering in the cereal aisle. I probably looked like an idiot, craning my neck around trying to look at everything at once and veering off on detours when I saw something interesting. But I loved every second of it.

I went home and actually felt guilty about skipping breakfast that morning, so I had half of an apple (it was almost lunchtime anyway). Then I toasted and buttered two English muffins for lunch. And I ate pizza with my family that night--two slices, with ice cream afterwards! It was such a huge leap from even yesterday that I almost felt normal...and yet being normal felt so satisfyingly weird.

There’s so much evidence that eating disorders are all about control. You can’t control other situations in life, so you control your food. I was certainly obsessively controlling about what I ate and what time, and I didn’t know what to do if something messed that up. I was wound so tight that I couldn’t live with myself anymore. So I welcomed the complete lack of control over my food.

It’s kind of ironic, how sometimes we want someone else to take total control of the one thing we have total control over. But look at it this way: You do not have control over your food, it has control over you. Eating my veggies and cookies and chocolate was not a choice, I genuinely felt like I “had” to do it that way. My wake-up call opened my eyes to other options. I have a choice.

Are there certain things/rituals that you feel like you “have” to do? Are they really necessary?
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