30 Dec 2010

Numbers, numbers everywhere.......

Calorie counting - a lot of us do it. But we do it to varying degrees. For me, it became a kind of obsession for many years. At the peak of my calorie-counting-mania (around this time last year) I kept a detailed journal detailing the calorie content of every scrap of food or drink that passed my lips. It lasted for months. If I wasn't sure of the calorie content of something, I'd look it up online. When I started seeing a therapist, one of the things she asked me to do was calculate how much time I spent looking up nutritional content online. On bad days, it could be up to 4 hours! I would add up the total points for each day before bed time, but I'd regularly 'check-in' over the course of the day to make sure I wasn't going above my self-imposed 1,000 - 1,200 calorie limit. Even worse, I'd get competitive with myself. In the same way that marathon runners try to beat their own best time, I would try to beat my lowest calorie intake. 

Thanks to therapy and hard work I managed to get my behaviour under control. But 'under control' is not the same as 'gone'. 'Under control' is good enough for my therapist but not for me. I don't want calorie counting to play any part in my daily life and my food choices anymore, because I know its preventing me from making healthy food choices that respect what my body needs. But unfortunately my internal calorie calculator has not been totally switched off yet. When you've counted calories for as long as I have, it becomes second nature: something you do without thinking. I'll often be day-dreaming, letting my mind wander (last thing at night, for example, or when I'm walking to the shops) and suddenly realise I've accurately calculated my calorie consumption for that day. And, once I have that information, I find it very difficult not to start worrying or obsessing about it - deciding I've either eaten too little or too much based purely on the numbers, no matter how full or empty I feel, and then making 'action plans' to compensate later by eating more/less. Years of calorie counting also means that I now have a pretty good memory of the calorie content of most foods and I find it very hard not to make food choices based on that, even though I know that's not the healthiest way to be. I also find it difficult not to check the labels on food and not to let the numbers influence whether I eat it or not. I know that this is not a way to be healthy or happy, but how do you break the habit of a lifetime (almost)? If you have any hints and tips, or have your own calorie counting stories, please share them with me.........

28 Dec 2010

The Whole Sausage

So, now that the festivities are over I have a loaded question to ask: did you enjoy Christmas? Like most people who have had or still have an ED, I have a love/hate relationship with the festive season. I love getting together with my family, I love crowding around the Christmas tree and I adore getting and giving presents. But ultimately there's no getting away from the fact that a lot of Christmas is all about food. Lots and lots of food. Rich food, creamy food, meaty food, stodgy food. Whereas most of the year you can get away with refusing something that's out of your comfort zone with the old 'I'm not hungry'/'I'm trying to be healthy'/'I just don't like that' excuses, at Christmas excuses cease to be socially acceptable. You just HAVE to eat. And this year, for the first time in years, I wanted to. I really did. I desperately wanted to be normal and enjoy Christmas in a normal way, but I just couldn't quite break the old habits. I've made some progress, but I'm still not able to completely let myself go and quit restricting for just one day. I ate a few chocolates on Christmas afternoon but ended up 'compensating' by  refusing canapes later; I said 'yes' to a chocolate biscuit on boxing day but then didn't allow myself a snack when I was hungry later; I took a sausage at Christmas dinner, but only ate half. Still, given that my last few Christmases have been well and truly sausage free, I guess half a sausage is kind of progress. Perhaps next year it'll be a whole one. Here's hoping! 

23 Dec 2010

Health Food Bloggers

First of all I have to say sorry for being silent so long! I moved out of my parents house and into a flat and things just started getting a little manic. Anyway, the good news is I didn't use food to cope with all the change etc.

Anyhoo, I recently read a (now out of date) article on Marie Claire online about health food bloggers, entitled 'The Hunger Diaries': http://www.marieclaire.com/health-fitness/news/articles/health-blogger-controversy. The basic argument in the article is that these bloggers purport to advocate healthy eating and healthy living but, in fact, their detailed chronicalling of their exercise routines and eating habits is obsessional and borders on disordered. The article goes on to suggest that these bloggers might actually encourage eating disordered behaviour in others.

 I decided to check out some of the blogs myself to form my own opinion. Some of the blogs mentioned include katheats.com, carrotsncake.com, graduatemeghann.com, healthytippingpoint.com), hangrypants.com and  eatliverun.com/. Well, after checking them out I have to say: Marie Claire, I think you're wrong! I actually really liked the blogs, particulary  katheats.com and eatliverun.com/. The blogs seemed more like celebrations of food and eating, than the diaries of obsessional, punitive undereaters. Most of the bloggers described healthy, varied diets; if you follow them, you're just as likely to come across a recipe for rice pudding or peanut-butter cookies as a grilled chicken salads and there's not a diet food or weight watchers ready meal to be seen. It's true that many of the bloggers do have weight loss stories to tell, but all of the seem to have gone from being genuinely overweight to a healthy weight, none of them resorted to drastic diets and only one of them mentioned calorie counting. I suppose describing what you eat and cook each day could be described as obsessional, but then, surely you can be passionate about food without having an ED. I mean, has anyone every accused Gordom Ramsey of having an ED? I can't help thinking the fact that the bloggers are (1) woman and (2) young and attractive, has something to do with Marie Claire's spin on their blogs. No, I think these blogs are more about health and balance than obsession and starvation. If anything, I've learned something about the difference between 'normal' healthy eating and the kind of disordered-eating-marquerading-as-healthy that I engaged in in the later stages of my own disorder.

Finally, here's an extract from a post I read on eatliverun.com/. It's the author's explanation of why she chose to quit the gym:  'I realized the gym made me miserable and I really didn’t like running, cycling or the elliptical. [.....]So I quit the gym and really, quit working out all together.[...]Now, my exercise comes purely in the form of walking (hiking in the summer) and yoga. Sometimes days go by and I’m too busy to do either…and I’m totally cool with that.'
She adds: 'I’m really not scared of gaining a few pounds because of something extremely delicious. I’d gladly gain five pounds if it means I get to indulge in a daily sweet and bacon every once and a while. I honestly can’t imagine life any other way.'
Does that sound disordered to you? Me neither. Now, if only I could be a bit more like that.......