The benefits of the atypical anorexic

So last night I had a good old rant about how I was annoyed that I have never looked like the ‘classic anorexic’. It felt good to get it out of my system, however silly those thoughts are.

Then this morning I was just out for a gentle run in the rain in my local park on top of a hill with stunning views and I thought…hang on, there’s probably a flip side to that, surely there has to be something good about being a healthy weight? This is what I came up with:

I get to run. This isn’t about calorie burning for me, it’s about being able to stop on the top of the hill, look across the valley, take a deep breath and think that I’m lucky that my body lets me do this. If I was severely underweight running would just be a form of torture. Plus I love my social running with my club, if I was I unhealthy they wouldn’t let me run with them.

I get to be at university. I know of two people at the moment who are out of university because their bmi is too low for them to be there. My PhD is taking long enough with that happening!

I get to work with children. Being severely underweight would result in referral to occ health who would probably sign me off. I love my job and would hate that.

I can look after my cousins. I’m really close to my cousins and we have a delicious new baby who I get to see when I go home. There is no way my aunt would let me mind him if I were really ill.

I have a relationship. For sure we have our ups and downs, and ED is definitely responsible for some rifts, but we have fun and I am loved and get to love. When ED is all consuming there is no room for anyone else.

I’m fertile (hopefully!). I have a fairly regular period. I will hopefully get to have children some day. Not everyone wants this, but I do, and being a healthy weight allows that to happen. 

I have energy. Sure some days I am exhausted and run down but I have enough energy to do the necessities like breathing, self-care, walking places and then still some left over for things like fun with friends, running club, reading etc. Energy is a precious commodity when you’re severely underweight I imagine.

So, while a part of me may always resent that I was never thin enough, another part of me knows that being a certain weight isn’t a badge of honour; it’s a thief of joy, it’s isolating, it’s exhausting, just like all EDs are. Also it’s genetics, my set point is just always going to be higher than I like, I can’t keep fighting that. 

There’s my rational thought for the day/ and it’s only 7.15! 

The plight of the atypical anorexic

Warning! Ranty and irrational post ahead.

I was feeling down this morning and couldn’t quite identify what was upsetting me. I’d felt so good yesterday, why was I now feeling bad? I was having a terrible food/body day – after feeling like I was ready to say goodbye to ED last night it reared back up and clawed its nails into me and was all I could think of.It persisted all morning until I went to the park at lunchtime.

On my stroll I saw a girl with anorexia. I know she has it because I know of her from the University and because I’m a pretty good internet stalker where eating disorders are involved (sad and creepy? absolutely) and plus she’s extremely thin at the moment. She was eating lunch in the park and I could feel something bubbling over me. After a while I identified it as being something along the lines of anger, or annoyance, or just general pissed-off-ness.

I’m annoyed that I have raging ED thoughts and yet I’m a healthy weight.

I’m annoyed that I only ate half my lunch before abandoning it because the change in food was too much, and yet I don’t look anorexic.

I’m annoyed that I’ve spent 20 years of my life feeling crap about my body and dieting and purging and exercising and yet I was never ‘too thin’.

I’m resentful that I went to the gym this evening even though I ached, and there were girls there who were far thinner than me and probably had eaten enough that day.

I’m annoyed that I have no ‘thin’ photos to look back on to compare how healthy I look now, as I was fat then and I’m fat now.

I’m annoyed that I eat less than what you’d think would be required to maintain and yet I still don’t lose weight.

I’m annoyed that I run twice as much as some of my friends yet they are skinnier and faster than me.

I’m annoyed that I do strength and resistance work consistently and yet any potential muscle is surrounded by flab.

I’m annoyed that even though I gave it everything- the restricting and purging and exercising- that I never got the results for it.

I’m annoyed I never got thin enough for people to insist I got help, so it was years and fully entrenched by the time I reached out, to then have a stupid psychiatrist say stupid things.

I’m envious of those who get to be the classic anorexic, even though I know that is a hurtful thing to say.

I just wish that at some point along my journey of illness to recovery that how I looked on the outside showed the terror that was going on inside. I wish that now I am fighting tooth and nail to be better that it would show on my body where I have come from.

I want people to know that my fear foods cause me real fear, that I exercise so much because I can’t eat otherwise, that I weigh out new foods, that I have to put the cottage cheese in the blue container and the yoghurt in the pink container because otherwise it’s just not right, that new supermarkets freak me out, that I can freeze in panic about the amount of blueberries I add to my porridge, that there I foods I will never eat without purging, that the anxiety about weighing starts 24 hours before it happens, that I avoid shopping because I don’t want to undress in bright lights, that I pinch my stomach and my arms every time I walk past a mirror, that I obsess over the biscuits in the cupboard two floors below me and I compare myself to everyone walking down the street. I want them to know how much bloody energy I spend on just getting through the day sometimes.

I want to be the girl on a park bench that people walk past and think- she must be anorexic. I hate myself for wanting that, but I do.

 

 

 

 

Rational voice says hello

I had a session with Lovely Counsellor this morning. She is pretty impressed with my progress and it felt good- I’m impressed with myself! Have been sticking to structured eating and have definitely noticed the return of the rational voice. It’s so good to feel it coming back as ED voice was definitely calling all the shots the last while.

Rational voice told me to eat breakfast before my appointment to test if it would make weighing horrendous. ED voice told me I would show 3 kilos heavier if I did. Guess what? I weighed the same!

Rational voice told me last night that I was under-fuelled for the day I had and that eating yoghurt and fruit on top of my dinner was a sensible (and tasty idea). ED voice told me that that would be like eating two meals in one go and I would balloon. I ate it, it filled me up, I slept better.

ED voice told me yesterday that everyone in my core class is skinnier than me and that I am a lesser person because of it. Rational voice noticed that I’m actually about the same size as three ladies there and the population of the class is not representative of the general population.

ED voice felt proud when my counsellor described my lunch as ‘very eating-disordered’. Rational me felt sad that I would make that the highlight of my day. So I can pack a funny lunch- big whoop- as if that is making the most of my life!

ED voice told me to lose weight over the next month until my appointment. Rational voice said let’s test it- let’s add in what I need and relax where I need to and let the scale (and more importantly my reaction to it) be the evidence when I get back.

ED me got a bit sad thinking that the more progress I make the less support I will get from Lovely Counsellor. Rational voice says that we’ll deal with that when the time comes, for now I have a safety net, I’m being supported, things are okay.

I like things being okay.

Has your rational voice been trying to tell you anything recently?

 

The evidence

I saw my counsellor today and got to update her on how I’d done for the last 3 weeks. My structured eating went a bit out the window as I was on holidays etc. but in general I tried to keep to it. I only purged 5 times in 3 weeks which is amazing for me, and I felt quite free around food, not really feeling at many points over the pst while that I was restricting.

So the dreaded moment of weighing had to happen then, and I got to see the impact of this more relaxed approach to eating and exercise. The outcome of me eating and not purging was a gain of 800g.

Now I know any gain might make some of you freak out and panic, and I used to be there too, but this time I just stood on the scales (normally I am off them like a shot once done) and smiled. She asked me how I felt – and was I worried about the gain. I could honestly say that I wasn’t, for lots of reasons:

  • My weight fluctuates anyway- it’s meant to go up and down, that’s normal
  • I’m under what my set point is based on when I was stable last year, so I do actually have weight to gain, so I can understand that my body is trying to get me there
  • I ate more and exercised less over the past three weeks- a gain is natural, but it was a tiny gain really, and people’s weight do fluctuate depending on times in their lives
  • I estimated I had gained about 2 kilos and was very worried it could be more, so to see a number still in my ‘safe range’ was a relief.

I explained that I had committed to the experiment of the three weeks not focusing on weight loss, and that it had paid off. My ED mind had told me that if I went on holidays and ate what others were eating I would blow up, but I didn’t, I now have evidence that my body will adjust as it needs to.

She was really pleased for me but re-focused me on the goal of being able to feel okay about eating etc. while in my normal routine which involves stress and real life, as that tends to be what trips me up. So I’m back to structured eating and food diary for this week before setting some new goals next week.

The worry about weighing next week is already starting to creep in- what if I gain again and I’ve eaten ‘normally’? I’m trying not to worry about that just yet – for the reasons listed above –  and if it happens we will process it and move on. It’s just a number. Just a weight. My life is so much bigger than 800g.

A bad evening

ED won tonight. I tried to battle but I wasn’t strong enough. I felt so positive last week and now back home I feel like I’ve just crashed. I know I need to fight ED to live a full life, but it seems impossible at the moment to try and live a full life at the same time as fighting.

 I’m just a bit fed up in it all. I know it’s only temporary, tomorrow is another day to get back on track, and that’s all I need to do really, just keep getting up after I fall. That’s all any of us can do. Just keep swimming. 

Day 13 and back to reality

I arrived back home today and it’s been a bit of a come down. It’s only natural after holidays but I have felt it creeping up over the past couple of days. It’s a fine balance between feeling ‘yay I’m going to beat this and I can eat anything I want and feel okay about it’ and ‘oh crap what have I done I’ve totally lost control the past week’ and I feel I’ve crossed it now. I’m feeling huge and wobbly and can’t believe I let go like I did, yet at the same time I’m trying to keep telling myself that one week won’t be the undoing of me, I won’t have gained 2 stone and I will get my fitness back (I haven’t run in more than a week and freaking out about it now).

I have been roughly sticking with structured eating but it has been a little all over the place. That’s only natural with holidays though I guess, this was always going to be a challenge. I think it’s better that I went with the flow rather than being too strict, but I can see I’m not ready for intuitive eating yet. The last two days have been a bit pants, with some purging on Saturday and overeating on Sunday.

I pulled it back though and did well today: breakfast, large lunch, large snack then another large snack. I have four more days where I can stick to routine and then I’m off again on Friday for a wedding which will be another challenge. After that there will be two days left then I will see my counsellor on Tuesday and get weighed. I am DREADING it, but I will do it because a) she’ll make me! and b) I need some proof of what happens when I let go so that I can make an informed decision about how to proceed.

Now though I’m going to bed bloated and uncomfortable but will keep telling myself that the memories of the last week will be worth it.