It’s a light switch.
Off: Everything is a bit hazy. Like my brain says, “Move, walk, go!” but my body is disconnected and doesn’t hear the commands. Like cotton balls are stuck in my ears ,and I see people’s mouths move but have no idea what iterations are being spoken. Like my glasses need cleaning, and all that I see has a faint blur around the edges.
On: The sun shines a bit brighter. There are possibilities and light. Cobwebs are brushed out of my mind. There are sharp lines and details. This is living.
It’s a light switch: Living in food fear and with exercise rules running rampant in my brain–off. Living in food freedom and training for strength and love–on
For the past twenty-one years of my life, the light switch has been off. That’s a pretty scary and gut-wrenching statement. But, don’t get me wrong. There have been instances when it was flicked on for brief moments (when I was pregnant with the kids, oddly enough, I didn’t have food or exercise hang-ups), but for the majority of my adulthood, I have played the balancing game, surviving in perpetual darkness.
As I’m typing this, I realize that saying me “living in darkness” sounds quite, well, bleak. Horrific. Awful. How could I have let myself stay in this state for so long? And was I REALLY in “darkness”? The short answer: Yes, I was in “darkness” but didn’t realize it. The “darkness” eventually came to be so common place, so normalized, THAT I DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE I WAS LIVING IN IT. And once I did realize it, I felt helpless to change my situation.
That is what an eating disorder can do. It can cause you to forget what living in the light truly looks like. How does an eating disorder cloud one’s vision so discreetly, so maliciously? For me, it was all about balance. I had to have balance in everything I did.
If you think about it, balance in itself is not horrible. Everything needs balance. There is a time for rest and a time for play. A time for joy and a time for peace. And if you know Ecclesiastes (or the Byrds), you can probably find many more antonyms to complete the theme. But with an eating disorder, balance is not great. It kept my light switch off. Heck, even if I wanted to turn the light on, balance prevented me from even walking to the switch to start the action.
Let me explain.
Here are just a few of the major eating disorder thoughts I had about balance:
You are going to eat xxxxx food, so you need to exercise beforehand to offset the amount of calories you are going to eat.
You did not exercise today, so you cannot eat xxxxx food.
If you eat xxxxx food, that has a lot of carbs, so you cannot eat food with a lot of carbs later in the day.
What is crazy, is that I hear A NUMBER of people saying these statements, AND THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE AN EATING DISORDER. For an individual that has major health complications and is in dire need to lose weight, sure, he may need to watch the amount of calories he’s ingesting or he may need to be considerate of how much movement he is doing. But for me, a person recovering from a restrictive eating disorder, I don’t need to worry about the macronutrient make-up and timing of my meals or if every meal I have contains fruits and veggies. Balance is great for those with an “on switch” mind. My “off switch” mind, however, JUST NEEDS TO EAT.
And for me, that is one of the hardest parts about eating disorder recovery: realizing I am NOT like the majority of the population with their switches “on.” I cannot afford to balance out my calorie intake and expenditure. I cannot afford to plug in macronutrient numbers to MyFitnessPal to see if I am in a caloric surplus (dealing with calories and all that right not would send my head spinning). I cannot make sure I get vegetables at every meal (some of my food rules revolve around having to eat vegetables at every meal and eating these fibrous products at the moment would just take up room in my stomach…not what I’m going for). I cannot afford to restrict eating because I didn’t go to the gym. I am retraining the way I see food, training, and recovery. Recovery now means that I cannot “balance” like the general population. I need to eat more the the average person. I need to rest more. I need to air on the side of “there’s no such thing as too much food.”
Basically, I’m flipping my entire eating and training life upside-down.
And for the past two weeks, that is what I have been doing. Yes, I gained some kilos. Yes, I feel uncomfortable in my growing body. Yes, it is still a struggle to challenge the rules that have plagued me for twenty-one years of my life.
But every time I do, every time I eat an extra snack or choose to not run on the treadmill, I can feel the light switch going on…and staying on.