Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stories: Part III

Posted with permission. . .

I remember using food to comfort myself from the time I was a small child. I had (have?) father issues, I could go on and on here but I won't. When I was 19 my step dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I had been working out and making healthy dietary changes, but over time as my life seemed to spin more and more OUT of my control, I tightened the reigns on my eating and exercise. Very textbook, though I had no idea what was happening at the time. I thought I was simply "being healthy". At 5'5" I dropped from 145 pounds (a healthy weight for my height!) to 88 pounds and 5.5% bodyfat. I remember the day my weight read under 100 pounds. I couldn't believe it, it was very surreal, almost like a dream (nightmare?). But I didn't know what to do; I still wasn't satisfied with my body, I couldn't stop working out or carefully measuring my food, planning all my meals, counting calories... I was TRAPPED. I lost a handful of "friends", the love of my life... I shut out the real world so that I could maintain this strict, regimented lifestyle. This lasted for about 4 years. What a sad, dark, black hole in my life.

After about a year of nutritional therapy, when I was 23, I began to gain weight. I don't know how else to put it... when I say that something just CLICKED, like a switch being shut off, I mean it. Something finally gave and like THAT I was bingeing, something AWFUL. I couldn't focus in college, all I thought about was hitting up the vending machine for junk that I hadn't let myself have in literally years. My stomach was always horribly distended and bloated... the skin on my belly, hips and thighs was always SORE from stretching at such a rapid pace... in a matter of months, maybe 9 or 10 months, I gained over 100 pounds. I finally topped out at 205 pounds. I could not stop eating and with each bite I hated myself more and more. Again, I was stuck in a cycle that I didn't know how to stop.

I finally got a grip (somewhat) and am back to 145 pounds, but I stay here with rigid "dieting" throughout the week (6 small meals of veggies, protein and fruit each day) and inevitably bingeing my brains out on the weekend. I always say oh, I won't binge this weekend. I'm doing so well! It is the worst feeling ever to not be able to have just one cookie without it sending me into a total downward spiral of carb coma madness. It's shameful. It's not healthy. I'm always striving for something better, always telling myself that life REALLY starts once I'm a size 6 or 4 (I'm currently an 8/10)... I'll pursue my dreams/take that class/decorate the house/BE HAPPY once I reach a certain size or my body fat drops past a certain level. IT IS INSANE. And I ask you, why? WHY? Why does this make sense to me, why have I WASTED 27 years trying to fit that mold? FOR WHAT? I am the only one that really cares. I have a wonderful family, a loving husband, an amazing 2-year old boy, a great job... life is good. But it would always be BETTER if I could lose 10 or 15 pounds.

So yesterday I came across your blogs (editor's note: mine and Margaux's, Size Ate). I read through them during every minute of my free time. I'm missing out on life. Why not eat what I want? Go have lunch with my coworkers, order something that sounds delicious, eat slowly, enjoy everything the meal has to offer, leave feeling satisfied but not stuffed, and without that pesky internal calorie counter that just won't quit. I have an established exercise regime that I enjoy... I LOVE working out, love to move my body... but within reason. It's food that is my issue. And it has got to stop. I have got to stop obsessing. Every day I thank GOD for not giving me a baby girl. She'd be a total mess from the start. And my boy deserves better than a mom who looks at life as something that happens between unenjoyable protein and carb balanced mini-meals. How fucking sick is that?

There's so much more to it all than I've said here. Just know that I am going to FIGHT to get my life back. It's scary, I haven't listened to my internal hunger signals in YEARS... or ever? I know it won't be easy, but given that my other option is to STAY IN THE HELL I AM IN NOW, I'll take my chances and give it my all. I have nothing to lose! (Well, I could make a joke here but I won't. Sheesh.)

I'm finally getting to the point where I truly believe that it really isn't about food at all. Friends and family were (are?) aware, and lots of the questions I asked myself in my email to you were prompted by things that were said on your site. Let me tell you, years of therapy and two Geneen Roth books later I was STILL struggling, and your site is what FINALLY crossed me over to the other side. I just ate a bowl of raisin bran with soy milk. I love raisin bran. I haven't LET myself eat cereal in YEARS (but I sure have binged on it!). When I'm done I will move on with my day, ready to face whatever is thrown at me. And guess what? I didn't gain 100 pounds from letting myself have a bowl. Who knew? Freedom = an allowed, calmly eaten bowl of rasin bran.


Anonymous said...

It's hard to read something like this know how much I can relate because my biggest fear and why i don't try harder to get better is because I don't think it( my e.d.) will ever end no matter what I do. Sometimes I think it would be easier to just give in than to try so hard because I'm not any better than I was before even thought I weigh more.

Beth said...

I relate to the inability to "eat" a bowl of rasin bran. One usually turns into the whole box.

April said...

Ugh. How horrible. Wish I knew this girl's name so I could more effectively pray for her.

Interesting to me how counting calories can be easy, not trigger obsessive behaviors, and actually be life-affirming for some, while it is obviously a dangerous behavior for others. What's the difference here?

Meanwhile, Dr. Stacey, here is a challenge for you. One of my readers, in the spirit of self-love, tagged me with this challenge: list eight things you love about your body.

I did it, and it was easy to list eight things I love about my body. But I was afraid to do it because of the times when I've received some pretty harsh criticism for being body-positive.

So what do you think? Can you do it? Should you do it?


Marianne said...

Why do you want to stop overeating?

This question seems so trivial at first, but it isn't at all. I wanted to stop, because it made me bigger than I wanted to be. I always dieted away most of it, but still I wasn't as thin as I could have been without. Another reasons was, because I was ashamed of eating so much, so fast. I thought it indecent. So I hid. So I tried to stop myself, hold me back from overeating. I thought overeating was superfluous.

This eastern I tried another path. I allowed myself to eat and didn't hide it from my family. They didn't judge me, but they were confused. I think they never believed me, when I told them that I overeat from time to time. They clearly thought I exaggerated. I also had a very swollen belly then and I started to think about why I really want to stop.

Some time later, in May, I fasted for spiritual reason and to cope with being in love with a married man. Afterwards I was thin, really thin. It looked good and I didn't care about gaining five or ten pounds. So when I found myself overeating then - it was okay from the body-perspective. I didn't fear becoming ugly. But I was truly uncomfortable with my behaviour.

For me it was a turning point to have the situation of not wanting to overeat, but not minding to gain weight. And now that there wasn't this scream of fear "you'll become fat, you'll become fat" in my head I could listen to the smaller voices.

And: even if I could have the body I want no matter what I eat or how I move - I do not wish to obsess, I do not wish to eat until I feel sick. What I wish for is to do what I really want and to nourish me with the things I truly long for.

Since then, my life and my eating habits changed a lot.

Overeating was necessary as long as I didn't know another way to rebell against certain voices and assumptions in my head. But slowly I begin to make even better choices.

Overeating is not a problem in itself.

Now that I have written all of the above I notice I might have missed the topic, but I'll post anyway.

I am happy for the girl with the bowl of rasin bran! I hope she will find what she is searching for.

CGgirl said...

Hooray for calmly eaten bowls of raisin bran!
I think this story is really inspiring, and good for you for turning a new leaf in your attitudes about food and your body. You are doing a really good thing for your son as well. I think you're right that it's worse for girls - plus girls emulate their mothers more and boys emulate their fathers more - but it still will positively influence your son to see you feeling more and more confident and natural about your body and your appetite.
And I'm sure you will be so much happier, I wish you all the best and you should be very very proud of yourself for being brave enough to make a change in how you think about these things.

Spectra said...

I can definitely relate to this girl. A few years ago, I got really strict with my eating and running and I got down to a low weight for my frame. My mom pretty much FORCED me to eat more, so I did. I gained weight, but I didn't feel in control of it. I felt like I was only doing it because I was being forced. So when I got engaged, I cracked down on the working out and eating again so I would be able to fit in a smaller wedding dress. Now I'm back to where I was...too skinny. I've been depriving myself of so much and I'm kind of sick of it. I've been living my life focused on working out and not eating enough and I think I'm finally starting to get's about more than that. I'm going to stop obsessing and start living.

Katertot said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and I relate 100% to everything you said. Especially about your skin being sore when you eat too much. I don't feel alone suddenly and when I read your posts I feel like you are blogging my life a little. I've been 160 lbs and 98 lbs in the last 20 years over and over again. I wish I could tell you how much you just blogged my mental state since being 13 years old.

Sara said...

I am the one who emailed my story (this story) to Dr. Stacey... I didn't know if I should show my face on the comments or not but what the hell... I wanted to give an update. It's been nearly a month since I wrote that and I have never felt better in my own skin. Right now I'm reading Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth and though I didn't think it would apply to me, it's actually as though the book was written FOR me. I have gained a few pounds but I am eating what I want when I'm hungry, buying clothes that fit and look great on the CURRENT me, focusing on living in the moment and being good to myself and my body... I'm doing more of what feels good to me rather than what I think I "should" be doing, and that might mean a nap or a gooey grilled cheese sandwich or a good cry or a hard kickboxing workout. I've given myself permission to LIVE and it feels SO. DAMN. GOOD. Finding Dr. Stacey's blog was life-changing for me. I feel like I've just been released from prison after almost 20 years of being trapped, held hostage by my own visions of what I THOUGHT I should look like.

Oh, and for the record, I've moved from raisin bran to granola. Yum. :)

PalmTreeChick said...

Yay Sara!! That's awesome. I'm so happy for you!! Keep on trucking. You're heading in the right direction.

PS, I can totally relate to the cereal thing, well more like the not letting myself eat things part.

nutterbug said...

You go girl!

drstaceyny said...

beautiful--I understand what you're saying, but I'd argue that it's worth the fight.

beth--I'm sure many can relate to this.

april--see below! Re: your challenge--game on! Stay tuned. . .

marianne--no worries about missing the topic. Thank you for sharing YOUR story.

cggirl--I, too, think it's incredibly inspiring. . . .


kt--glad you're relating--but, I should let you know that these weren't my wise words or my experience (see sara).

sara--thank you for showing your face (and taking claim of a story that is clearly inspiring to others). Yay for granola!

ptc--she sure is!

nb--that's right!

Anonymous said...

Bravo. Your freedom is knocking... Hurray for your bravery in letting her in to help.

I have Geneen Roth's books also. Her 'Why Weight? A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating', in workbook style: I could only do a few pages of answers in before it got too real, too sad to see my own answers, and too much. She has real power in her questions, and I'm hoping I can fill out the rest of them soon.

p.s. My name is Sara too, just with an "h" :)

Rachael said...

I too have lived in "both worlds."
Ive been 367 lbs and anorexic. Ive been diagnosed with every ED in the DSM.
And Ive been in recovery from ALL of it for almost a year now. It IS possible and it IS worth it.

Peace, Love and Revolution
Rachael AKA Twisted Barbie

Anonymous said...

Reading this story made me cry... is just me. I binge I puke and I hate how I look. By no means I'm fat no even slightly overweight (So, other people say...) Few years ago I used to puke most of what I eat. Now because Im afraid of damaging my teeth I use laxatives instead... When I used to weight 108 pounds and fit a size 0. I remember was the happiest time of my live, now I weight 127 and constantly wish I can go back. The only thing in my mind is adding the calories that ate, and if I realized that is too much I know I have to do something about it. Every time that I binge, I hate my self for being so weak. I just can't stop thinking about it.