21 Jun 2011

I wish......

I often find myself obsessively wishing that food wasn't such an issue in my life. But when I stopped to imagine what I would change about myself if I had a magic wand, I realised there would be lost of contenders, many of which are not directly to do with E.D. (although they may have been part of the underlying cause of my E.D. in the first place). Here are just a few:

I wish I could stop obsessing about food and calories.
I wish I could eat spontaniously.
I wish I didn't care so much about what other people think of me.
I wish I was warmer and friendlier.
I wish I could be more spontanious and relaxed.
I wish I wasn't so concerned about how I look.
I wish I had more energy.
I wish I had more confidence.
I wish I wasn't so afraid of confrontation.
I wish I was better at speaking my mind.
I wish I was less sensitive to criticism.
I wish I was better at admitting my vulnerabilities to others.
I wish I was better at asking for support.
I wish I was happier and less prone to depression.
I wish I was more optimitic.
I wish I didn't worry so much.

Looking at this list, it occurs to me that maybe food is not the real problem. And that may be, just may be, I won't find the answer in food either. I'm not suggesting that I should abandon my eating plan or anything, but I think I need to start to acknowledge that an eating plan will only help me eat better. It won't solve all my deeper problems. 

If you had a magic wand and could only change one thing about yourself, would it be your E.D.? Or would you be torn between that and other things?

14 Jun 2011

A Confession

I’m feeling dizzy and confused. I’ve just eaten lunch. Before lunch I probably couldn’t have even focused or thought clearly enough to write anything. I was just so hungry and light headed. I felt angsty and angry too. I dreaded the possibility that my boss might stop me to talk about something and DELAY MY MEAL. I get so angry and scared when I think my meal might be delayed. I even get pissed off with people who aren’t delaying me in any way, JUST FOR BEING THERE. Before lunch I chatted with a work colleague it the kitchen. I couldn’t focus on what she was saying. I couldn’t answer the questions she was asking. I was just too damn hungry. I couldn’t do my work properly either – about the last hour of my working day prior to lunch was wasted, taken over solely by hunger.
This is not a one-off situation. The other night, I was on my way home from the train station after a weekend away and I found myself praying that my flatmates wouldn’t be in - not because I didn’t want to see them, but because I did not feel like I had the tolerance, patience or concentration to interact with them before I’d had a chance to eat dinner. 

Part of the reason I'm finding it so difficult to honour my hunger at the moment is, I think, that I'm actually not eating that little. I'm pretty much eating what I normally eat, which is generally sufficient (although admittedly tends towards restriction); yet, for some unknown reason, I'm much much hungrier than usual - real, dizzying, stomach-gnawing hunger. If I knew why, perhaps I'd be better able to up my food intake accordingly - perhaps my immune system's working over-time to fight off some illness I don't know about or perhaps I've lost a little weight without realising it or perhaps regular exercise has jump-started my metabolism? But ultimately the explanation isn't the point. Our brains can't always fathom what's going on for us physically, but they don't need to know because our bodies do. I need to learn that my body knows what it needs even when I don't. I need to learn to trust my body's physical signals.
I realise that this is a slightly depressing post. It certainly exposes the fact that I have fallen off the intuitive-eating-wagon (the most important rule of IE being to EAT WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY and not let yourself become famished). But it is important to me that I write this post so I can re-read it and remind myself that this is why I want to get better. I want to get better so that I can experience life fully rather than in a blur of hunger; so that I can interact properly with others and give them my full concentration and energy; so that I can be mentally alert at work; basically, so that I can function normally, mentally and psychologically. 

But why is it that even when I know exactly why I need to change, I'm still finding it so hard to put that change into motion?

22 May 2011

Intuitive Eating: Making Peace with Food

I thought it was about time for another Inuitive Eating post. The my last post on the subject was about honouring your biological hunger. This one is about the next (and in my view, more challenging) stage: making peace with food.

'Stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself you can't or shouldn't have a particular food, it can lead to instense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings & often binging [...] and overwhelming guilt.'

ET & ER emphasise the psychological effects of hunger:
  • 'hungry orphans adopted from poor countrues often cannot control their compulsion to smuggle and hide food, even long after actual deprivation is over'
  • In an experiment in which WWII GIs were put on a restricted diet, the GIs developed a primal obsession with food, as a result of the diet.
Psychologically, depriving yourself of something you want actually heightens your desire for that very thing. So when you forbid yourself certain foods, you 'wreak havoc with your peace your mind, triggering cravings, obsessive thoughts and even compulsive behaviours'.And 'the longer foods are prohibited the more seductive they become.'

Anyone else recognise this? I know I do!

The only way to escape this hell, is to give yourself unconditional permission to eat by:
  1. Rejecting the idea that some foods are good and others are bad.
  2. Eating what you really want.
  3. Eating without doing penance (e.g. over-exercising or forgoing something else later.
Making peace with food is about allowing all food into your diet and letting yourself eat them in an emotionally neutral and nonjudgemental way.

ER & ET acknowledge that there are many fears that prevent people from taking this huge step, but these fears need to be faced. They include:
  •  The fear that you'll never stop eating. Actually, the opposite will be true once you've truly made peace with food. Habituation studies have shown that the more a person is exposed to a food, the less appealing it will become. But to get to this 'noncraving' point, you have to go through the scary process of actually eating the things you want as much as you want.
  • The fear that you won't eat healthily. ET and ER acknowledge that nutrition should become a factor evetually. But before you can take a psychologically healthy approach to nutrition, you need to make peace with food by eating whatever you want, without judgement or guilt.
ET and ER give some practical tips on how to start making peace with food.
  1. Pay attention to the foods that appeal to you and make a list.
  2. Put a tick by the foods you actually eat, and circle the remaining foods.
  3. Give yourself permission to eat one forbidden food, then go and eat it.
  4. While eating, check in with yourself: does the food taste as good as you imagined?
  5. If you find you do like it, then continue to eat it when you wish. (You may need to keep the food in the house, so you know you can have it whenever you want.)
  6. Continue with the list until all foods have been tried.
So, here are a few of the foods I'll be putting on my list (some of which I do eat, but very rarely and generally when compensating for the extra-calories in some other way):

  1.  Krispy Creams (can you believe I've never tried one!)
  2. Cakes (especially cheese cake), brownies etc
  3. Granola cereal
  4. Real ice cream
  5. Any kind of cream!
  6. Full-fat salad dressings
  7. Creamy pasta dishes (generally only something I crave in restuarants)
  8. Meaty pasta dishes (see above)
  9. Mashed potatoes
  10. Cookies (non-diet ones)
  11. Avocado
  12. crisps
  13. Curries (or anything involving coconut milk) 
  14. Shop-bought sandwishes with a calorie value of over approx. 300cals (absurd, I know!)
  15. Chips
  16. Pizza
  17. Pastires
I'll be challenging myself to eat some of these over the next few weeks.

Question: what foods would be on your list? Have you started reintroducing them? How have you found it?

16 May 2011

Health Food Blogs - Friend of Foe?

Back in 2010 I wrote a post about ‘healthy living’/food blogs: http://beyondthin.blogspot.com/2010/12/health-food-bloggers.html.
For those of you not in the know, these health food blogs are a hot trend on the blogosphere. They’re mostly written by women, who detail their efforts to live full and healthy lives in minute detail. This usually includes details of their exercise regimens and what they’ve eaten. I must admit I’ve got pretty into them recently. My favs are Carrots n' cake, Oh She Glows and Kath Eats Real Food. The ones I follow are all written by women who seem to eat plentiful, wholesome food, who don’t calorie count obsessively (usually not at all) and who exercise pretty regularly.  So they’re not ‘pro-ana’ in any way; in fact, you could say they’re pro-health and anti-ana. Some of the writers have even had eating disorders in the past and have now recovered. But, even though these blogs are only showing me healthy eating patterns and habits (many much healthier than my own), I sometimes worry that it might be psychologically unhealthy for me to follow other women’s eating patterns in this way. On the one hand, I worry that it could fuel my obsessions with food and exercise, but on the other hand I sometimes feel that these blogs may inspire me to focus on health instead of calories and weight. What do you guys think? Do any of you follow these kind of health food blogs? How do you find they effect you psychologically?

22 Apr 2011

The importance of taking care of yourself

Hi everyone. First off, sorry for being MIA for so long recently. I've been very busy with job interviews, work etc. Anyway, I've been running around like a headless chicken recently, trying to do a billion things at once, working all hours and generally pushing myself a little too hard. It all came to ahead at the beginning of this week when I had 2 final-round job interviews booked in, one of which I had to do a presentation for and the other of which I had to do a written test for (among other things). I spend the whole weekend prepping for the interviews, even though I felt exhausted and knew I should have taken more time to sleep and rest. By the Sunday evening, I had a slight pain in my mouth, around one of my widom teeth on the left hand side. I sometimes get a slight wisdom tooth infection when I'm run down, so I didn't let it bother me too much. I went in for my job intervew the next morning but by the evening (Monday) the whole left side of my face had swollen up horribly and I was in excrutiating pain. I had to give the presentation for the next interview at 10am the next morning. My doctor gave me antibiotics and I went to bed hoping I would wake up better. I woke up worse. But I went to the interview anyway. I did the presentation and felt it went ok under the circumstances. After it was over, I booked myself in for an emergency dental appointment as my doctor had advise. I felt tremendous relief to be able to focus on getting better instead of on interviews. Then, just as I crawled into bed, I got a call from the interviewers. they'd liked my presentation, but still weren't sure - they wanted me to come in for another interview on Thursday. I could have cried (actually I did). How could I possibly prepare for a job interview when I was in this much pain! Anyway, when I dragged myself into the dentist, he made me realise that the problem was a lot more serious than I had acknowledged. The infection in the tooth was aggressive, had spread and wasn't responding to the antibiotics I was taking. He wanted me to have an operation to remove the tooth and drain the infection as early as possible and then I'd have to stay in over night to have antibiotics via a drip. I told him I couldn't because of the interview. Fortunately, he made me see sense. I had to cancel the interview. It was a disappointment, but a lesson too. Pushing yourself beyond your personal limits is ultimately self-defeating. You have to make your health your first priority in everything because without it you can't even strive to achieve anything, let alone succeed.

20 Mar 2011

Inspiration from an Unexpected Source - Who Wants to Sacrifice Their Life to Anorexia?

Warning: Some Content May be Triggering

Inpsiration comes in all forms. In general, in my recovery, I've been motivated by positive inspiration from those who have recovered from Eating Disorders. However, I recently found motivation to recover (and recover completely, forever) from an unexpected source, when I came across an article by a middle-aged woman who has been borderline anorexic for most of her life and has clearly given up on all hopes of recovery (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1191429/Fatten-What-happened-anorexic-Liz-Jones-eat-normally-weeks.html#ixzz1GgeXNXhk).

The article was by the British journalist Liz Jones, (a Daily Mail columnist and former editor of Marie Claire). It was, for the most part, a very sad article. Now in middle age, Liz Jones is starting to experience the very real health consequences of chronic under-eating, such as osteoporosis. But worse still, Liz Jones’s life and her lack of motivation to recover, has clearly left impoverished emotionally and personally. The life she describes is lonely and empty. She says:

'My spartan* lifestyle ….has kept me tiny, but it has also isolated me.'

'Being this way made me not just socially awkward, but unlovable: I've always hated being touched, hugged....'

Not only that, she admits that it has prevented her having children (she has only menstruated about 6 times in her life) and she hints that her obsessional self-denial may have also been responsible for the collapse of her brief (and apparently quite dysfunctional) marriage.
She draws a very apt contrast between herself and the British TV chef, Nigella Lawson. Unlike Liz Jones, Nigella is a curvaceous, chocolate-loving foodie. She also seems to exude a zest for life, has a happy marriage and a rich family life. Liz says: 

‘I look at Nigella Lawson, with her lovely packed life and overflowing fridge, and think how much happier she is than me, how much more fulfilled. How much sexier, definitely’

She also lets us in on how much she weighs (i.e. I won't share numbers, but its not very much) and observes - quite rightly- that, maintaining such a low weight, at the expense of happiness, fulfilment, children and family life, seems 'a silly, empty half-century achievement.'

The bottom line is, when I approach 50, do I want to be a Liz Jones:

Or a Nigella Lawson:

It seems like a bit of a no-brainer really.

18 Mar 2011

Do you restrict more than food?

In 'Goodbye Ed, Hello Me', Jenni Schaefer makes the point that eating disorders tend to be all about restriction, and this restriction isn't just about food. For her, Ed was like a destructive anti-superhero, who promised to give her superpowers, including 'not needeing food, sleep, people, or fun.' Even after treatment and after learning to let go of the food restriction, she tried to keep the other 'superpowers' and continued to restrict sleep, people and fun. But for full recovery she realised that this had to change: 'I wasn't even 30 and I was physically and emotionally exhausted most of the time [....]. I had found balance with food, and now I had to find it with life. I couldn't live like I had before only without Ed. Sooner or later, this type of inbalance in my life would have led me back to him'. Now, she says, 'I can finally say that I do have needs'.

I really relate to Jenni on this one. Restricting friends and fun is something I have really struggled with, since long before my eating disorder. From the age of 11 I can recall turning down invitations and writing-up strict homework schedules for myself that left little room for freedom or fun.

 I inherited the attitude from watching my father , a prestigious doctor (a Psychiatrist in fact but that’s a whole other ironic story) who not only runs his own world-renowned treatment centre but is also a Professor at a prestigious University and flies around the world giving conferences and lecture. When I was little, I remember him coming home from work late and then staying up all hours in his study writing the academic books or papers he churns out. He manages to survive on exceptionally little sleep and will often be in about 3 different time zones in a single month. Next to him, I have often felt lazy and inadequate and filled with guilt and self-disgust if I so much as lie-in on a weekend. I don’t really feel like he’s done much to counter this, as he can often be harsh and critical, and has always pushed me hard academically. My workaholism and restriction of fun, friendships and rest, was not exactly positively reinforced by him, but because it seemed ‘normal’ to him and to be expected as a minimum, but it was positively reinforced by teachers at school, which I think was unhelpful. I distinctly remember the maths teacher I had when I was just 11 years old, asking to see my homework schedule for the Christmas Holidays. I hadn’t given myself a single day off except Christmas and Boxing day, and was planning to work 4 hrs a day (I know that sounds like nothing now, but I think it’s a lot for an 11 year old who’s supposed to be having a well-earned break from school!). The maths teacher praised me and told the other students in the class they should be more like me.

Now, trying to unlearn habits of a lifetime sometimes seems impossible, but I know that I need to, otherwise, like Jenni Schaefer, I’ll be heading for burnout. I actually feel dangerously close to the edge at the moment, like the least thing could make me snap. The worst thing is it makes me angry and resentful of other people – my flatmates and my boyfriend especially – who live fuller, happier, healthier lives, who get to take holiday and sleep in. But I have to accept that, I’m the only one who’s stopping myself doing the same. They have a perfect right to rest and fun…..and so do I.