It is going on (almost) a solid week of recovery. TRUE recovery.
Dang. This is hard.
I knew that I had a lot of eating disorder cognitions and voices running amok in my head for, oh, about the past twenty-some-odd years of my life. I knew I would do “fasted cardio” (aka not eat anything before training) because I thought doing so would burn fat and thus keep me lean (when in actuality, I had no reason to lose weight!). I knew I would not eat much prior to training because I didn’t want to feel “heavy” when I hit the gym (even though I knew I needed energy to be able to lift the way I wanted to).
So many food and exercise rules circulating in my brain. So. Many. And the only way for me to become fully free of them was to challenge those thoughts. After scouring my social media accounts and google searching “eating disorder recovery”, I stumbled upon Tabitha Farrar, and let me tell you, her podcasts are now on repeat in my car. On one such broadcast, Farrar spoke about neural rewiring, and I was intrigued. So I started reading one of her books about the subject, and I immediately recognized myself in the words she said/wrote.
I had been in treatment before (here in Hawaii and on the mainland) and had gotten weight stable. Yet, getting to that place was done with a lot of bargaining and without food freedom. Breaking the thought pattern behind the disorder never materialized. If my meal plan called for a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin meal, I would instead create my own breakfast sandwich using a low carb English muffin, egg whites, low-fat cheese and lean turkey slices. I thought I was “following my plan” because my breakfast sort of resembled a McDonald’s meal, but in reality, I was afraid of fast food and so finagled my way to eating the same amount of calories without the fear that I felt whenever I saw the Golden Arches.
I could not let go of many of these eating disorder cognitions, and as a result, I felt like a failure. I thought I had done something wrong, that I was a horrible “patient” (because I had gone through a number of in and outpatient facilities), yet in actuality, I really needed to change HOW my brain thought about food and exercise. I needed to create new pathways of thought, and all of the treatment I gotten before hadn’t gotten me to that point.
So in order to actually DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT this time (and make my recovery a full recovery), I wrote down my food and exercise rules and dedicated myself to challenging them. Every. Day. Among the many rules are the following…
- After training or before working out, I can’t eat a lot of food OR a lot of fat.
- If I don’t exercise, I can’t eat much food.
- Packaged snacks are horrible for you.
- Eat only half of a dessert or meal and if you still feel hungry after, eat another half of the half.
- More training = more gains
- Caloric beverages are a waste and shouldn’t be drunk.
- You should only eat at prescribed intervals (every 3-4 hours) and not in-between those intervals.
- Sweating a lot means you got in a good workout.
Dang. And this isn’t even all of the rules I had swimming around in my head. I look at this list and what I see are a bunch of fallacies. Actually, wait. No. There are some ideas here that MAY be good for someone looking to lose weight or have some kind of medical illness…or maybe even for an Olympic level athlete looking to make a weight class for an international championship…but for the average almost-forty-year-old-mother with a full-time job, two children, and family? Especially one not fully recovered from an eating disorder? Eh, not really.
So far, I’ve challenged the packaged snacks misnomer and dessert rule (I also made videos about it on my YouTube channel), and I am not content to stop there. I will continue to eat peanut butter cracker snacks and dine on donuts after dinner. I will continue to disrupt these cognitions. Why? Because I need to. Because what kept me sick for so long was NOT doing something that the eating disorder voice was beckoning me to do (“Eh, you don’t need a full rest day! Active rest is best! Go on out to the gym for seven days! It’s ok!”).
And I am so dang tired of that voice.
Thankfully, my friends and family have been extremely helpful throughout this whole process. My daughter picks out my snacks. My husband serves me dessert (and he also washes the dishes after…ha ha). My friend from my marathon running days will text me every so often to check on how I’m doing with eating. These people are gold. Their actions are what I need to continue helping me on this path to wholeness.
I’ll be updating more of my recovery on this blog and on my YouTube channel–so please check it out! My latest video is about desserts…and sorry, but I’m not a videographer. I just use my iPhone and iMovie to put everything together (ha ha!!!). Despite my technological shortcomings, my hope is that what I’m doing via this recovery journal will not only help me in this journey but also be away to encourage others going through the same trials as me. :-). So if you are reading this blog and it resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you! I am strong, WE are strong and we can find true wholeness, strength, and health.