The funny thing about my disordered eating . . .

Now, I have to preface this by saying that disordered eating is NOT the same as an Eating Disorder.  I know it sounds like semantics, but the former is MUCH easier to “get over” than the latter.  For the record, when I was in college, I considered myself a disordered eater, even though my calorie intake was low enough to “qualify” as anorexic-level.  But when I stopped starving I just . . . stopped.  I had about a month where it was tough, but after that?  I was fine.  Sometimes when people ask me about my eating habits in college, I say I was mildly anorexic, but that’s not really the case.  It’s just a term that most people understand, and it’s easier than going into serious detail about the differences.

My Eating Disorder (ED) was/is binge eating.  I really do refer to this one as an ED because I COULDN’T STOP.  There was no, “wow that was hard” for a month and then poof! I was fine.  Even today, sometimes when I’ve had a really bad day I will come home and take my dinner to bed, because if I don’t go to bed, I WON’T STOP EATING, and I know it.  I know the warning signs.  (I always get a lot of sleep those nights, LOL.  You’d be amazed how good you feel when you turn out your light at 8:00pm!)

But in college, although I didn’t have an ED, I definitely was seriously disordered.  What i was going to eat, how much I was going to exercise – those thoughts figured prominently in my day.  I learned that if I sucked on hard candies most of the day, I didn’t get hungry – the sugar was enough to fool my blood-sugar into thinking there was food in my body.

Hm?  What’s that?  You want to know how the hell this relates to the post title?  What post title?

OH, YEAH.

See, here’s the thing: a lot of the behaviors I engaged in while I was in college are not inherently unhealthy.  I was looking at the “Go, Bucky, GO” post and realized that low-fat, low-carb, dairy-free, high-protein bit?  Was not all that far from what I ate in college overall (despite my rather excessive intake of Tootsie Roll Pops – hey, they were only 50 calories and no fat!  STOP JUDGING ME! LOL).  And as a rule, I did not exercise excessively by current health standards: 40 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of wieghts, 5-6 days a week (though I did not cut back when my knees started hurting, which was a BIG mistake).  I still ate the occasional fried chicken sandwich from Burger King (though NEVER with fries, and only after waiting 3 days, in case the craving went away).

But you can see, even just in the paragraph above, how intertwined the disordered habits (exercising in pain, waiting a set number of days to eat something I wanted) were with the healthier behaviors (regular exercise, a diet that made me feel good – well, when I ate it, anyway).  And that’s part of the reason that I look around almost frantically for a “diet.”  I’m looking for something that doesn’t relate to that time in my life, that doesn’t make me wonder if I’m sliding down the rabbit hole, with wax paper under my butt to speed up the slide.  (Anyone else do that when they were little?  Use wax paper on the slides so you could slide faster?  No?  Too bad.  That was my mom’s idea, and she was a freakin’ GENIUS.  Either that or she was trying to kill us all: i remember taking some SERIOUS faceplants.  It could go either way.)

So the last couple of days I’ve gone (carefully) back to eating more like I did in college.  Not the Tootsie-Pop obssession (although I have always had them in my house, ever since college), but the food angle.  I’ve been trying to carefully (so, SO carefully) tease out the behaviors and habits that were healthy and made me feel better from the behaviors and habits that made me feel like the most worthless person on the planet.  It’s pretty much a tightrope: “Put your left foot there . . . No!  Not THERE!  Over THERE!  Don’t move too fast, or you’ll fall, but for God’s sake don’t put your foot in THAT spot!” 

So in some ways it’s more stressful than following a diet.  But in other ways, it’s LESS stressful.  I had a 6-inch Turkey sub from Subway the other day, and it was SO good.  I love those things, I really do.  And I haven’t been eating them because “OMG, the carbs!  The CARBS!”  LOL  I ate it with oil but no mayo, which is the part that is more like my college days.  And I had to make an effort not to wonder how many calories EXACTLY the oil added, and how many mintues of exercise EXACTLY it would take to burn off, say, 100 calories.  Well, the oil might be more than that, better round up: how much exercise to burn off 200 calories?  That was the hard part.

The easier part?  Eating what I want.  And it’s entirely psychological, because I’m STILL looking at menus, discarding anything with dairy in it, anything with white flour (I ate the Subway sandwich on a wheat bun – though I think there might be more white flour in it than they let on), and making choices about how much fat/carbs/protein I want (or don’t want) to eat.  But (here’s where the psychology kicks in) it’s MY choice.  I’m not getting it from a food list, someone else’s version of what’s “good” or “bad” for my body.  I get to remember that those sugar-free cream cheese cupcakes?  Make me feel SO MUCH WORSE than a fun-size Snickers bar, even though the cupcakes are sugar-and-carb-free, and the Snickers bar . . . well, not so much with the “-free.”

Maybe this is what Intuitive Eating really is.  Not eating whatever I want because I WANT IT NOWNOWNOWNOW but eating what *I* know will make me healthier and happier in the long run.

Now I just have to work on filtering out the Shamebots that accompany the college habits that were healthy.

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8 responses to “The funny thing about my disordered eating . . .

  1. This post makes a lot of sense. You are trying to take the healthy part of caring about your body without the unhealthy part of obsessing.

  2. Emily, ezzzackly. But sometimes it’s hard to tease out what was wrong from what was right, you know?

  3. I know! Me me! I loved what you said about the tightrope, it’s exactly how I feel. When I was losing that first fifteen pounds of refeed weight I was so anxious the whole time about what it meant that I was dieting at all, but now I’m so, so glad I did because the extra weight was genuinely making me unhappy and making it hard to run as fast and for as long. But the whole process was extra-hard because I was constantly anxious about falling into bad habits again. The minute I felt I was getting too compulsive, I stopped, and that’s where I still am.

    Getting control over the anxiety about going back to old habits is almost half the battle I reckon – more so than the habits themselves. The fact that you said going back to these older, healthy habits was comfortable and easy because it harked back to a time when you didn’t have to worry – that’s a great thing. I think it may be the way forward. When I was at university I used to eat clean most of the time, and even though I didn’t work out at all I was never overweight while I stuck to that simple guideline. I’m doing that again now, and it really suits me, and it’s not scary because I’ve done it before and it didn’t trigger my eating disorder or connect to it in any way so it doesn’t make me panic that I’m doing it.

    I rambled!

    Hope that makes sense.

    I find it cool in a weird way that you refer to your BE as your eating disorder and anorexia as part of your disordered eating and I’m EXACTLY the opposite of that (there were definitely BE issues while I was refeeding) and yet we still find ourselves in the same limbo.

    We musta met halfway!

    TA x

  4. Your timing is impeccable. I really needed to read something like this just now. I’ve got a whole lot o’ squash and some cool recipes, but I want to eat something bad really bad! Argh!

    Okay. Deep breaths. Calm thoughts. Go re-read post.

  5. TA, I think it is FANTASTIC that you recognized the compulsiveness and STOPPED. I would argue that that’s a sign of recovery, there, and that even if you’re not totally recovered, it shows progress in the right direction, you know? And the food thing is both hard and easy for me, I have to admit. Ironically I ate the healthiest when I was disordered (well, WHEN I ate). So I’m glad to be listening to my body, but I’m also freaked out because the neuroses are so insidious, as you know. 😉

    Sisters from another mother, I tell ya. Seriously.

    LOL, Merry! I know exactly, EXACTLY what you mean. Sometimes the best thing I can do in that situation is to just zap a veggie with some butter or cheese (well, SOY cheese for me, dammit) and eat it. Also, I can sometimes short-circuit that voice if I eat something with a really strong taste – preferably something SPICY. I keep Wasabi-Soy Almonds in the cupboard, because 3 of those? CLEAR MY SINUSES. And get rid of that voice most of the time.

  6. I personally think that intuitive eating is about eating what your craving and if you can make it healthy as possible. But today Im not sure if we actually know what is healthy and what isn’t. I just eat the fuck what I want. But that works for me.

    As for the eating disorder. I remember when I was eating 1000calories a day and then going to the gym and burning that off at the treadmill. People were telling me to stop losing weight but I didn’t see it as a problem. It wasn’t untill years later that I thought hmmmmm was that a eating disorder or what? Im still not sure. I guess thats the insidious nature of that type of eating and exercise pattern you don’t know its happening while its happening.

  7. The sad thing? My first thought was, “hard candy hmmm?”
    Sometimes I’m surprised at how screwed up my brain is when it comes to food and weight issues. I really think I am only now starting to see it too.

  8. Dan, the only issue I have with the idea of IE being solely based around what we’re craving is, what if what I’m craving makes me sick? Seriously. I could live the rest of my life on cheese, but my stomach doesn’t digest it well. I have a stomachache all day, sometimes longer. But that doesn’t stop me from craving it. So according to IE, do I eat it or not? Somewhere in there I think there has to be a balance between what I want and what is good for me. (Also, what about vegetarians? My mom freely admits that she misses bacon, but she’s a vegetarian, both for health reasons and on principle. Does following IE dictate that she eat bacon, depsite her health and ethical principles? I just don’t think it’s always that black and white.

    Sassy . . . I KNOW, RIGHT!?!?!?! I kind of had that reaction just WRITING it.

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