I don’t know what it is about me, but it seems like in life I always have to learn lessons the hard way. I can’t just trust the wisdom that I am given or do what I am told to. I either rebel, or question or think I’m the exception to the rule and then find out I’m not and I should have just done what I was told from the beginning.
My recovery process has proven to be no different and this past week I made some mistakes and yet again (deep sigh) had to learn my lesson the hard way. So here is the story…
I learned about two weeks ago that my body is starting to lose weight.
I want to give a teensy bit of a background about this before I proceed. Because of my anorexia and prolonged starvation my body had started to gain weight while eating very little. Some people call this starvation mode. It is WAY more scientific and intricate then I want to go into for this blog, but in the end, my metabolism slowed waaaay down and my body was turning anything I ate into fat in order to make me gain weight, thus keeping me alive. Part of the process of recovery has been learning to eat normal again. When I started to eat normal again MY body (this doesn't happen to everyone) shot up in weight. I mean shot up. Like went up to my normal weight and zoomed past it by a lot. In recovery we call this overshooting. There are a lot of reasons that this happens and I’ll save it for another blog, but the point of this background story is that the process for me has been that I have to eat a normal amount of food (if not more, with no restriction, or over exercise) despite being very over weight and allow my body to overshoot my normal weight and then, when my body feels safe enough and healed, my body, on it’s own, without me eating less or exercising more, will slowly lose the overshoot weight and go back down to my normal set point weight. Basically for me it has been, gain, overshoot, plateau, wait for the body to slowly lose, all while eating without restriction. This is a VERY hard process to trust. First, because this process can take three to four years and second, it is counter intuitive and counter diet culture to eat more and eat everything and lose weight. Also, one of the keys to this process is that I CANNOT STOP EATING. If I restrict in any way, my body starts to gain again because it does not trust me and therefore will say, “oh no, here she goes again, I should hang onto this nutrients because it doesn’t look like she is going to eat again…” So it is absolutely CRUCIAL that I keep eating.
Back to my story…
So, I have been plateau’ed at my highest weight for about a year now. I have continued to eat during that year and tried my best to trust that at some point my body would do this whole “lose the overshoot weight on it’s own” thing. Sure enough, my dietician told me that over the past few weeks my body has steadily been losing weight. (I just want to say that this weight loss is not because I started dieting or exercising, it is solely because I am trusting the process and eating well and allowing my body to figure it out. In fact, I’m eating MORE today then I was three months ago and starting to lose weight, my body is just starting to trust me. I am not going to share how many calories I eat because I don’t want to be triggering, if you want to know this information or what I’m doing, feel free to message me!)
To be honest I didn’t really believe her at first! It’s was almost too good to be true. I have worked SO hard to maintain my eating while being overweight and I have been waiting what felt like forever for my body to make this turn that I just almost couldn’t believe it! This is what I had been waiting for. This is what “trusting the process” was all about. I finally had made it to the year where my body was going to “go back down!!” Now I know that the overshoot weight will come off VERY slowly and it will take a very long time to go back to normal, but I was also just really excited that I had made it this far and it was finally happening….
and then… I slipped up. It wasn’t a full blown relapse, but it was enough to give me a solid dip back into the Eating Disorder pond and it was devastating.
I’d like to say that I don’t know what happened, but the truth is I know exactly what happened. Recovery is a lot of work. It’s honestly like a full time job. I have to be proactive all the time and stay on top of all my thoughts and triggers and behaviors in order not to relapse and keep going. I think its just like anyone recovering from anything, you have to stay on your A game for a really long time or else something happens and you find yourself flat on your bum wondering what the heck happened. It’s also hard because being on your A game all the time is incredibly draining!
I think I became a little complacent. I had been working really hard in recovery and feeling a lot better. So I wasn’t testing my thoughts as much. I wasn’t doing as much self care. I wasn’t really making sure that ED was remaining outside the fence. I was doing maintenance I would say, but not being proactive. I was just going about life.
So, I received the news I was losing weight. I was really excited about this and then snap, something in my mind switched. It was like I immediately became obsessed with the weight loss. I was bombarded with thoughts of “Well, how much weight have I lost?” “Will I lose it every single week?” “How long until I’m back to my pre-ED weight?” Then ED, the sneaky little bastard that he is, comes in while I’m eating and says, “Is that slice of bread going to help you keep the weight off?” or “maybe if you have a grapefruit instead of a nutty butty bar you will lose an extra pound this week and this will go faster,” and before I FREAKING KNOW IT, I’m restricting foods again, counting calories and obsessing over which foods will make me lose weight faster or not.
This isn’t the only thing that caused the short relapse. I saw my wedding rings on my dresser one day. I don’t know if I have mentioned it in past blogs, but I am unable to wear my wedding rings. I haven’t worn them in over a year because they don’t fit. If I was mentally in a good place I would accept this and remind myself I am in the middle of a process and they will fit again some day, but no, I am now in full blown ED mind and frantic because yet again something doesn’t fit because of how my body is and I’m desperate to get the weight off, which further flames the “I HATE MY BODY” fire and my ED behaviors and obsessions.
I was triggered by my family talking about wanting to go out to the local pizza shop. A place that I do not want to go because there is an 100% change of being seen by people I know and the anxiety and shame that comes along with that is too much to handle. I get tired of missing out. I get tired of feeling bad. I get tired of not feeling supported. I get tired of feeling like I’m holding people back and my mind tricks me into believing that this would all just go away if I could have my body back. Which further eggs on my ED behaviors and thoughts.
I was triggered by people I know going on diets and counting calories and relocating their evenings to the gym and losing weight fast while I lose a measly pound a week and try convince myself to trust the process. It’s obnoxious and confusing and difficult to trust this process.
I was triggered when I went through old photos to find a specific scenic photograph I had taken only to be bombarded with hundreds of photos of how I use to look, thus leaving me nostalgic and overwhelmed with emotion of how badly I wanted to feel good in my body again and get this extra overshoot weight off of my body as quickly as possible.
All of this lead to a week of restriction, calorie counting, dieting, anxiety, stress, confusion, emotion and relapse. It was terrible. If I’m being honest, it even FELT terrible. I had headaches, I didn’t sleep well, I argued with my husband more, I was in a bad mood, I isolated myself, my body image went WAY down and I was mean to myself.
On top of all that, I went into my treatment center on Monday, had my weekly weigh in and guess what?! The restricting made me gain weight. (Imagine me screaming in frustration$&*(@*#&$@(#*$&(@*!!!!)
So what did I learn?
1. Restricting my food is shooting myself in the foot. It hinders my recovery process and actually has the opposite effect I want it to have. Instead of helping me to lose weight faster it actually makes my body freak out and gain weight.
2. ED is sneaky. When I think I’m all good he is just waiting on the side lines to take any opportunity to destroy me. He saw the vulnerability in the excitement that my body was losing weight and decided to take full advantage of it and attack me in my weakness. It reminds me of the verse 1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” It’s ok for me to be excited for my overshoot weight to come off. It’s just not ok for me to turn to my ED to speed up the process in an unhealthy way.
3. Don’t get cocky Sara. I have come a really long way in my recovery process, but I learned this past week that I need to keep working and continue to be diligent and proactive with my recovery. I can relapse at any moment. I am strong, but I am not infallible.
4. Your weight loss goals are not mine. I am on my own health journey. It seems crazy that I have to eat a lot in order to lose weight, but guess what?! It’s the truth! So while you restrict and try that out, I’m going to be over hear eating a lot and doing what needs to be done for me.
5. I need to pay more attention to my triggers and instead of minimizing them acknowledge them and work through them so they don’t build up and explode the way they did last week.
6. Anorexia and all the behaviors and anxiety and hunger and fake control that comes with it is all BULL$&IT. It took one week of being back in that mind set to remind myself how draining (mentally, physically, emotionally) it is. I don’t want it. I want freedom. I would rather be heavier and work hard to accept it, then go through another week of anxiety over calories and all the self hatred and unfulfilled promises that anorexia brings. This week ED promised me weight loss. I got weight gain. ED promised me control. I got anxiety and stress. ED promised me confidence. I got more insecure. ED LIES.
7. I am SO SO SO SO SO thankful for my team and my support system. It took one week of relapse for me to be called out. My husband looked at me and said the way I was talking and eating was reminding him of how I was two years ago and it was freaking him out. My dietician looked at my food logs and my weight and asked me what I was doing and talked me through how to get back on track. My therapist helped me work through my triggers and how ED just slips in and takes over. My support group was kind to me when I shared I was struggling as well as held me accountable and helped me to realize how far I had come and that I need to keep going. I put these people in place for this exact reason. Sometimes I get ashamed because I am so dependent on them, but this week proves that they are there for a reason.
Last week was a doozy. But you know what? I’m glad it happened.
I learned my lesson!
- Sara -