It is a common misconception that people with eating disorders hate food. The reality is quite the contrary. In most eating disorder sufferers, food is obsessed over, constantly thought about, and researched.In the depths of my disorder, I constantly baked and cooked high-fat, delicious dishes that I wouldn’t let my own tongue even nearly close to, but that I served with glee to those around me.
Edema and Joint Pain and Night Sweats, Oh My!: The Signs of True Physical Recovery No One Talks About
Cold all the time? I used to be known for it. Also for genuinely never sweating, never turning red when I worked out, and having dryer than dry skin, especially in the winter. Well, guess what? I typically sweat easily now (the underboob sweat I […]
Frustrated is my word of choice.
I am overwhelmingly frustrated.
I’ve read every blog post about hypothalamic amenorrhea.
I’ve spent months eating as much as my insides could take without exploding and remaining sedentary. Then I’ve tried adding in light exercise, eating high high fat contents without restricting other food groups.
Here is what I ate yesterday (As much as I remember, any way):
Whole goat’s milk yogurt with oatmeal, berries, and peanut butter
Fried eggs with white toast, hash browns, and bacon
Spicy Turkey sausages with rice and oily tomato sauce
Tons of crackers & bread with goat cheese, peanut butter, and jam
More oatmeal with brown sugar, full fat goat yogurt, peanut butter, and berries
Dairy-free chocolate ice cream with cherries and peanut butter
Today, I am stuffed. Painfully stuffed. TMI, but even the thought of food makes me want to barf.
I eat as much as I can and am hungry for one day, and suffer painful and debilitating consequences the next. I’m told I need to “eat more and exercise less,” and I am truly doing that to the best of my ability. But it constantly feels as if people don’t believe me, or think I’m not well.
I’ve experienced the extreme hunger noted by specialists, but also extreme fullness. I experience horrible digestion problems pretty much whenever I eat processed foods. And I truly believe that the more I eat these things, the better my body will be able to process them, but, if I’m honest, I’m frustrated with this physical recovery process. I’m frustrated with not having proper hormonal function, with feeling unwell, and with feeling as though my doctors don’t believe me. That I’m trying.
The number of times that I have been *certain* I’d gained weight, only to have lost half a pound or something on the doctor’s scale… it’s discouraging. It’s hard to know how to go about recovery.
And, to be honest… it’s even harder in the midst of planning for my wedding, especially when my dress has gotten tighter and tighter with each fitting.
The world says your dress should be getting “looser.” The message to brides is to take up less space, to lose pounds, and to look thin. And when you’re like me, and your most consuming battle in life was years spent in a restrictive eating disorder… these messages can easily be triggers.
But rather than allowing them to permeate me, I have focused on some key things that have shifted my thinking:
- What do I want my relationship with food to look like as a full time writer, wife, and, one day, mother?
- What do I want my relationship with food to look like at my bridal shower, bachelorette party, and wedding?
- What do I want to be consumed with leading up to my wedding – and for the rest of my life?
Here’s the thing: I weigh more than I have in months and months, and there were voices that told me I just couldn’t let that happen.
But it’s happened… and I’m okay with it. I’m really okay with it.
I’m finally realizing that my body wasn’t meant to be underweight – that this probably makes sense, too, haha. That in order to have a child one day, my body has been screaming at my slightly messed up mind for some time now that, hey, can you help me out a bit with some stability in order to maybe house a human being one day?
I’d heard all the things eating disorder patients hear:
-Your body wasn’t meant to be this low weight
-You need to eat and eat and eat. You will not get fat. You will heal.
-You will feel out of control for a bit. But it will become normal.
And I have to tell you, friend-who-is-reading-this who is where I once was, and doesn’t believe it either:
It is all TRUE.
It is wonderful to eat without measuring and counting. But it took YEARS, literally years for me, in order for it to be wonderful.
Triggers have made it un-wonderful again at times. But, overall, the not-being-consumed by food thoughts has been magical. Worth it BECAUSE I’m convinced of the truth of it. Fully and completely convinced by the Word of God that the food rules were not in alignment with how He calls me to live.
My knowledge about nutrition is most definitely a God-given tool, accompanied by a lot of Truth. But if that knowledge is seen as THE ULTIMATE TRUTH, it isn’t Truth anymore, because it is accompanied by untruths.
Here is what I mean.
My nutrition knowledge says that refined sugar isn’t healthful. This knowledge has equipped me to be in tune with my body’s cravings for natural sugars, healthful sugars, ie. fruit, etc.
My Biblical knowledge says that I am free from rules, including ones of abstaining from foods. It also says that I am called to eat what I am served, focusing on the people and the conversation rather than the food itself. And so, if someone goes out of their way to make a delicious dessert, or buys me dairy-free ice cream, you bet I’m going to eat it if I want it (which – I usually do).
THIS is the place I want you to get, my friend. But if you are in the trenches of restriction, know this, too –
Your hunger signals are out of whack. They simply are. You WILL NEED to eat more than your friends and family, than you perceive to be “normal,” in order to repair the damage. It is just the way it goes.
I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as bingeing in amenorrhea or anorexia or restrictive eating disorder recovery.
Believing this doesn’t mean that allowing my extreme hunger to actually run its course was always easy. It was not. I fought it for years. But allowing it to operate is the SWEETEST thing. You WILL stop feeling afraid all of the time. You WILL begin to feel “normal” once again. You just have to keep going.
Another HUGE lie that I have had to bring to the light was this: (I see you, Friend):
As long as your BMI isn’t any higher than 18.5, you’re okay.
Well, guess what?
I don’t get my period at BMI 18.5. Which means that, for MY body, that is underweight.
There are women who get a regular period at this BMI, because that is how their body was made. Their bone structures are probably much smaller than mine. But I have wide hips and a naturally larger frame that requires more weight. And – I could cry – I am FINALLY okay with this. Happy about it, even. Excited to see where my natural body wants to land.
It takes speaking these things that you’re so afraid to speak, for fear of shame or embarrassment or even being made to believe differently, in order to see the Truth. Each time I’ve spoken what the devil has tried to keep me from speaking, I have been nothing but amazed by the results produced.
What lies are you believing that you are called to bring to the light?
You look healthy.
It tops the list of things NOT to say to a recovering/recovered/suffering person with an eating disorder. While, to most, this is a compliment; a good thing; the mental illness that is an eating disorder is a pro at twisting positive things into negatives.
There was a time that this compliment “triggered” me quite severely. A person’s well-intentioned “You look healthy” would automatically translate in my mind to “You got fat,” “You gained weight,” “I guess she finally lost that amazing will power.”
It is often the result of a simply relieved, caring loved one or acquaintance who is truly so happy to see health back in a sufferer’s body. And today, when I ran into a former co-worker and she barely recognized me because of the “pep in my step and health of my hair,” I was joyfully teary eyed when she said, “I’m so happy to see you look healthy.”
We worked together at a trendy-health-food cafe. I didn’t see it at the time, of course, but the environment was a trigger for old habits and thought patterns. It sounds like this co-worker saw it in me, though.
“You seemed consumed in it,” she said, “When you were there. But I had to come over here to tell you that I remember you for your kindness. You were so genuinely kind to me and everyone like I’ve never known. That shone through whatever you were dealing with. I didn’t know if I should come over here and tell you that, but I thought you needed to hear it. And I’m so happy to see you looking so happy and healthy… I barely recognized you!”
Happy and healthy… healthy hair… pep in my step…
The enemy in my mind wanted to turn those words, for a split second, into
You lost control… you got fat… you “fell off track”…
But, as today I embarked on the beginning of a new set of trials with new doctors to hopefully restore my menstrual cycle and hormones; as I look back to the food I’ve eaten with friends and family over the past few years with little obsession and much joy (not perfectly, but miles ahead); as I look to JESUS, my example, my purpose, who says not to think or worry about what I put in my body for a single second…
I replied with sincere thanks. That it meant SO much that she could see the changes in me, even in my step. That she looked at me and saw health and happiness, and still, above all, kindness, meant the world.
I wish I had told her that that kindness was empowered by the Living God, but I pray for the opportunity to see this woman again.
For now, I thank her for the reminder that health and happiness are good good things from my Good Good Father. They empower me to do His will, and that is all I desire from this life.
Good Wednesday! It’s been a while since I’ve had even a moment to update you here, but today I am finally able to sit down and write a bit about something that has been on my heart to share for some time: Multiple Streams of […]
Here’s what they don’t tell you about eating disorders:
They’re usually pretty innocent at first.
An endeavour to “be healthier.”
When my restrictive illness first developed when I was fifteen, I never would have considered that I might still be terrified of white flour and sugar, baked, frosted goodness with unknown nutritional values when I was of age and stage to be getting married.
But in the depths of my sickness, the worst times of eating nothing but spinach and the occasional piece of broiled, skinless chicken breast, I would have told you there was no way I would ever touch a baked good again.
If you know me today, you know how far I’ve come since those days.
It’s the memories of shivering cold due to lack of nutrition, feeling faint and zombie-like that no longer cause me to crave numbness, but to feel so truly, desperately sad for that lost girl, and anyone else going through the same deception.
It’s the reminder of conversations in which I was barely engaged with the other party, and more engaged with the adding of meaningless numbers – caloric values – in my mind, constantly finding new justifications for not eating that has made me, finally, so pleased to have engaged, meaningful, undivided conversations.
And it’s the knowledge that my engagement to the love of my life is one, fleeting season that involves so many beautiful friends gathered around good food with endless reasons to be thankful that makes me more determined than ever to block out the diet culture, the “Aren’t you gonna diet for your wedding?” questions, and the little voices that sometimes want to convince me to thwart my recovery by eating the delicious, dairy-free cake my mom bought for my bridal shower with a coffee and a beautiful friend.
Doing so pertained to so much more purpose than simply for enjoying a piece of cake for a few minutes.
It’s also about the memory made. Because, truly…
My experience of recovery has been that time has been fundamental in healing the little wounds that have surfaced.
When I experienced transformational healing a few years ago, I thought I was in the clear in terms of mental eating disorder recovery. This has made it easy for me to feel guilty about ever struggling, and potentially more likely to ignore any mental triggers. But slowly, these things have crept in in small amounts… and I am so, inexpressibly happy, and indebted to my God, to say that I am very aware of them, and rarely give in to old behaviours. My God has given me an awareness and conviction of the Truth I want to live by, which does not involve tracking food eaten.
From a tangible standpoint, the longer I have lived this way, free from measuring, counting, and obsessing, the more NORMAL it has become. And, most interestingly and amazingly, the more physical hunger has actually made me WANT and NEED food than been a mental trigger for restriction. The more normalized my understanding of “just eating” has become. The more naturally and simply my hunger cues take over.
It has been a journey– and if there was one time of my life I was afraid triggers might take over, it was that of wedding planning. But, rather than giving into the messages of the world, this season of engagement has been more motivation than ever to completely redeem my relationship with food, passionate about none of the ugly, disordered stuff sneaking into my marriage or home. To heal my physical body fully is truly my desire.
So I had my Bridal Shower Cake, and I really did eat it, too. And it was absolutely stinkin’ delicious.
Thank-you, Lord Jesus, for your Word that I know to be True. Make me more like you, in all things. Amen.
In storybooks and seasons past, “Church” is seen as a service to attend for one boring hour on Sunday mornings in order to “keep right” with a distant God who might otherwise look sourly at us from His lofty place above. I think, when Christian […]