Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can't just stop eating...

So this blog post has been on my mind for a long time ... like since I started this blog a couple of years ago. I've actually started a post on this topic at least 2 other times and have written it in my head a few other times on top of that.

For about 5 years I struggled with an eating disorder.  Not anorexia or bulimia but a compulsive overeating disorder (and specifically the binge eating disorder part of that). It's also considered to be food addiction.  It's like the fun part of bulimia. But not really.

So what exactly does it mean? Well, it's not "oh, well everyone does that sometimes." Sure, we all eat a little too much at Thanksgiving, or maybe you decide to have a second piece of the cake you made or a third chocolate chip cookie, which you know might be a little excessive but in the long run isn't that big of a deal. No, this is eating that second piece of cake, and the third cookie, and then a fourth and fifth piece of cake and then you've eaten that much so why not finish it, and the batch of cookies, with a glass of milk. And then an apple because at least that's healthy ... but maybe with some peanut butter because apples and peanut butter go well together and then as you're putting the peanut butter away you have one last spoonful, and then another, and then you remember you have leftover chocolate chips so you add some on top of the spoonful of peanut butter and then the bag of chocolate chips is gone and the jar of peanut butter is empty and you had just opened a new one when you sliced the apples. That's what my compulsive overeating was like. About 4 or 5 days a week when I lived by myself.  But I didn't really gain much weight since I had a gym membership and exercised every day and lived in Cambridge and didn't have a car so I walked everywhere.

So what about just not stocking sweets in my kitchen? Boxes of cereal ... jars of peanut butter ... bread and butter.  Those work too.  At least I never ate bags of flour like a friend's roommate once did. I was never quite that extreme.  And on the topic of peanut butter -- it's evil. One of Jen's friends who was bulimic and went to a treatment center for food issues said that peanut butter was a trigger for nearly all of the women she met.

Once I figured it out, I was somewhat open about it so some friends knew what I was going through and I did start seeing a therapist about it.   It really is an addiction. And abstaining isn't a solution. Can't just quit food. I also thought about food and what I was going to make ALL THE TIME. I didn't realize how much I thought about food until I did a 3-day juice fast with my church when I was eating and I still found myself starting to plan out my meals.

The therapy did help me figure out the reasons. Didn't immediately help with stopping but helped me figure out what was going on.  Of course it was about control and stemmed from body image and trying to lose weight and wanting to be thinner. The control was wanting to control what I was eating and trying to follow a diet and not having a good attitude about what I thought were failures in my diet.  So if I told myself I wasn't going to eat any sweets, or I was just going to have 1 cookie but then I had two it turned into "well, fuck it then, might as well just eat them all."

What made it go away? I got roommates with whom I was honest about my problem. Then I fell in love and got married. One day I realized it had sort of just stopped being an issue. Now I kind of do the more typical "oh whoops, I ate 2 pieces of cake" thing now and then but haven't binged since we lived in our apartment before we got married (nearly 7 years ago).  Being pregnant was tough because all my weight issues came back. Seeing the weight go up and up was hard until I gave up and realized it was going to happen and there was nothing I could do and I'd worry about losing the weight after the baby was born. I did try to keep active though by going for frequent walks.

And now I can even go "on a diet" without having the "oh I fucked up so might as well just eat the world" reaction.  I just let myself have the treat and don't focus on it.

I don't really have any good conclusion for this. Just "yay I don't have this problem anymore" because it totally sucked. And I have total sympathy for anyone with any eating disorder because it's not just something that is easy to ignore and get over.

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