Sarah is infinitely better at describing the challenges than I am. Good thing, since she’s writing them. Here’s what she has to say about day 5:
We’ve been focusing on adding behaviors this week, but [today] I want you to try taking something away.
This could mean removing old clothes, magazines that promote unhealthy body image, or unhealthy photos of yourself. It could mean that you don’t watch makeover shows for the day, don’t weigh yourself, or don’t put excessive foundation on. It could mean that you take a step away from a behavior or relationship that isn’t in the best interest of your body image. You know yourself best—honestly evaluate the factors that are keeping you from having positive self-image, and try taking one of them away, just for the day.
It may seem like a small step, but the reality is that every time you give into the disordered thinking or feed yourself material that encourages it, you make it stronger. So even if you can’t do it consistently, breaking out of the ED habits once in a while is important. Powerful. Necessary. If you don’t believe me, go eat some lobster or some other fear food that is currently freaking you out, then bask in the high of knowing that you mastered your ED for once. (After the anxiety passes, of course. Which it will. I promise.)
So I started thinking about the behaviours that are leaving me most entrenched in my eating disorder these days. Compulsive exercise – which is better than it used to be though probably still a little excessive – but I’m definitely not ready to tackle that one yet by doing something crazy like taking ANOTHER rest day this week (THE HORROR!). I don’t count calories every second of the day anymore. I eat a wide(r) variety of foods. I go out to eat occasionally, though I still couldn’t bring myself to partake in “Pizza Thursday” at the office today.
What eating disorder? (Hahahaha.) Oh right. The eating disorder that says I need to eat foods in a certain order, always leave something on my plate, avoid entire categories of food, and always know where I am on the calories in/out spectrum.
I decided that my challenge today would be to not count the calories in each meal. See, while I don’t have the running tally in my head all day long any more, I still count calorie at every meal and snack. It’s second nature. It’s also a way that my ED convinces me not to eat when I’m genuinely physically hungry. Jess! it says, You cannot possibly be hungry again – you just ate XXX calories an hour and a half ago! And I usually listen because this seems like decent logic. The reality is, if I’m genuinely stomach-hungry, I should fight back and say to the ED, “Screw you. I’m an athlete. I trust my body. My body says it wants a muffin right now.”
(Seriously. The number of muffins I’ve eaten lately is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous if you know just how terrified I was of them only a month ago.)
It was not easy. It was, in fact, incredibly nerve-wracking and more difficult than I would have imagined. I have been living with the idea that since I don’t count calories every moment of the day anymore, or carry a calculator and food journal in my backpack, or strive to stay below some absurdly low calorie count…I’m okay. The calorie thing isn’t an issue.
At least 15 times today, the dialogue in my head has sounded something like this:
ED: How many calories in lunch? Okay, the sandwich thin has …
ME: No. I’m not counting today.
ED: But the sandwich thin has..
ED: Okay, 100 calories for the sandwich thin, the salad was…
ME: I SAID NO. My lunch had 2 proteins, 2 carbs, and 1 fat. That’s all I need to know. SHUT UP.
At which point I turn up the radio and start singing loudly to distract myself from the constant stream of numbers that are trying to add themselves up in my head. I had to do this a few times after every meal and snack. The fact that the far right columns of my Excel Spreadsheet (where I enter intake and net calories) are currently blank for today is causing me no small amount of distress.
So I don’t really know how successful to count this exercise. I did it. But I didn’t feel good about it. I keep trying to justify the calorie counting – in fact, the whole reason I started counting calories and logging exercise in the first place was to ensure that I ate a minimally acceptable number of calories. And I get tremendously panicky at the thought of trying to do it again tomorrow. Terrified, really.
The fact is, I just don’t trust my body. I don’t trust it to use the fuel that I’m giving it properly, don’t trust it to not explode if I eat a hot dog, don’t trust it to tell me that it’s hungry when it’s really hungry and not just bored or scared or hormonal.
My nutritionist handed me an index card halfway through our session yesterday. It had a question on it for me to bring to my counselor and discuss with her next week:
What are the benefits for me in hating my body and not trusting it despite evidence I know to be true?
I almost laughed when I read it. She has no idea how well that matches up with the counseling homework I’ve already got and the discussions we’re having.
Five days down, two more to go. How is everyone else liking these experiments?