Choosing Love: The Ties That Bind

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?


4 thoughts on “Choosing Love: The Ties That Bind

  1. If you did it, I’d say it was successful. I wasn’t fully successful with mine, either! It’s impossible to change a habit in just one day, but I thought having one day of trying to break a bad habit would help me become more aware of how often I do it, why I do it, in what circumstances I do it, etc. and could help provide me with some insight and some desire to take more steps to break the bad habit. It sounds like you learned how much you depend on this “count” to keep you going. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to count calories, as long as you are truly doing it to keep yourself eating enough and not to remind yourself of how “bad” you have been or to deny yourself food when you’re hungry. Heck, I still count calories most days (though I’ve finally stopped doing it all day, and now don’t do it until the end of the day when I try to determine whether I need to have a snack or not before bed.) Only you know how much it’s affecting you. Don’t beat yourself up if you need it to keep yourself on track. Just my .02 :)

  2. You’re right, I shouldn’t beat myself up if it’s keeping me on track to count. When I relapsed last winter, I attempted to put myself on a meal plan (where I forced myself to eat meat, no less!) and started tracking calories then. I started out with the best intentions and it went horribly, terribly awry. The calorie count scares me because it has a tendency to take on a life of its own – though I’m finding that as long as I don’t write them down, I seem to be able to keep track in a relative sense without becoming so hyper compulsive.

    Being fat – sorry, “at a healthy weight” – seems to help, too, as my brain is less likely to get tripped by these sorts of OCD possibilities.

    I just wonder sometimes – will I ever eat something and not wonder about the calories? What happens when I find myself in a third world country as a missionary without the benefit of high-speed internet and the ability to know the calorie count of anything within .00089 seconds? Will I completely go postal?

    • The meal plan thing seems to trigger me too! I am posting about it soon. Weird huh?

      I think it works at first…so you learn to eat….then after a while it is just another diet and you need to let go of the wighing and measuring and writing it all down.

      But what do I know?

      We’ll see.


  3. Ahhh!!! I SOOOOO get that dialogue girl.

    (Sorry I am beind in your blog but you are not one of my “mark all as read” ya know?)

    Any….Here’s a tip.
    It sort of works for me.
    Remember that saying “Let’s not and say we did?”

    Well…you get it.

    Everytime my craziness sets out to calculate the day’s tally (the meal is almost automatic, though isn’t it? You like, know what you are putting on the plate automatically).

    Any. I always say …wait. Sometimes say to myself “let’s not and say we did.”

    And thinking bout what would happen if I DID…is enough.

    Let’s not. Ya know?
    It’s old and tired and enough is enough.

    Let me know if you try this.


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