26 Jan 2011

Update on yesterdays experiment in eating what I want when I want

So, my attempt at eating 'what I want when I want' bombed massively. Who'd have thought it'd be so hard to follow your instincts? I ended up basically eating what I always eat and I was pretty sure of the calorie content of most of the things I ate. I even ate at the times I generally eat (according to a self-imposed 'eating schedule' that I've stuck to pretty much since I was 16 - 8 years). My single concession to the experiment, was a spontanious capaccino.

I have a theory that it was harder to be spontanious because I was at work, where I have quite a standard routine. So I'm going to try again on Friday, when I've taken the day off and have also planned to go to the cinema at the time I normally have my dinner, which should compel me to mix things up a bit. Fingers crossed I'll do better this time.

24 Jan 2011

Unconditional Permission to Eat

I don't know about you guys, but sometimes I still find it hard not to obsess about food (and by sometimes I mean most of the time, if I'm honest). Even though I'm managing to obsess about calories and weightloss food much less, I still find that thoughts of food dominate a lot of my day. And, even though I'm no longer worrying quite so much about calories and fat content, my thoughts about food are still often very  anxiety-ridden. For example, I often find myself worrying if the meals I'm planning are nutritious enough or if I'll get enough protein that day etc. Other times, I'll worry about when I'm next going to eat, whether I'm going to get hungy before dinner because I didn't have a big enough snack or whether the meeting will overrun and I'll end up ravenously hungry because my lunch was delayed etc, etc.

It seems like such a shame because I've made such progress in terms of not worrying about calories and weightloss so much, yet I still have these annoying, obsessional, food-focused thought-patterns. Does anyone else find this? Or is it just me?

Anyway, this evening I decided to flick back through Intuitive Eating to see if it shed any light on the matter and it made me wonder whether I'm still obsessed with food because I haven't really made peace with food yet, in the way Tribole and Resch describe. According to Intuitive Eating you have to make peace with food first in order to truly be able to eat intuitively. (For those of you who don't know, eating intuitively means deciding what/when/how much to eat by listening to your body rather than following a set of external rules). Making peace with food means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what you want when you want without compensating by denying yourself later or punishing yourself at the gym. Tribole and Resch acknowledge that, if you've been retricting yourself for a while, you'll probably go a little crazy when you first give yourself unconditional permission to eat, which can be scary.  But they say that, once you've gone through the experience of eating all of your 'forbidden foods', your body and mind will learn that they are freely available and therefore won't crave them so much. This means that, after a brief period of indulgence, you'll settle down to a more normal eating patter. I suppose I haven't really done this yet. It seems a little scary to me, and I don't really think I feel ready to commit to doing it forever, but I've decided to at least give it a try. So tomorrow, I'm going to experiment with giving myself unconditional permission to eat. Its all about baby steps......

21 Jan 2011

Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance

Hi all! First of all, thanks so much for your supportive comments on my last post about coming to terms with my new weight. The wonderful women who wrote Intuitive Eating (Evenlyn Tribole an Elyse Resch) have some really interesting things to say about how to reach and accept a weight that is healthy for you. Since a few of you aleardy expressed an interest in learning more about intuitive eating, I thought I'd share a bit of what they had to say.

1. Be realistic - don't strive for a weight, dress size or body type that is totally outside the ball-park you know you're supposed to be in. Put simply: 'If maintaining or obtaining your weight requires living on rice cakes and water while exercising for jours, thats a glaring clue that your goal is unrealistic'

 To 'get realistic', Tribole and Resch advise you to do some research into what weight and shape is likely to be nartural and healthy for you: for example, look at your parents size and shape; think back to the weight you were before you started dieting; think to a weight you've maintained in the past without any effort.

2. Get comfortable - For ex-anorexics like me, who are now getting bigger, this means chucking out your old clothes the moment they get too tight. You'll never learn to love your new body if you're not dressing it properly!

3. Quit the body check game - STOP comparing yourself to other people. You might think another woman looks good, but you have no idea what's going on inside her head. She may have an ED too; she may be tortured by hunger; she may have no time to see her friends because she's always at the gym; or she may hate her body and wish she had yours. Anyway, bodys are diverse and we should celebrate that. We celebrate cultural diversity, religious diversity, racial diversity etc - why should bodies be any different. The bottom line is, body comparison is a peculiarly cruel form of torture. And torture's illegal. So stop. 

4. Stop Body Bashing -  Every time you catch yourself thinking about a body part you hate, force yourself to think about a body part you like instead. If nothing comes to mind, then take some time to come up with something. It can be as small as an eyelash. It doesn't matter, just focus on it instead.

I found all of those tips very helpful, especially the first one. I hope you all do too!

19 Jan 2011

Coming to terms with my new weight

Last night I went to see my therapist. It was the first time I'd visited her in ages which meant it was the first time I'd been weighed in ages (I moved my scales into the attick a while back). Since June to be precise. In that time, it turns out, I've put on 4 pounds. Bearing in mind that my weight in June was the heaviest I've been in my adult life (a weight which for ages I saw as the 'scary' weight that 'must not be reached), this was a pretty confusing thing for me to discover. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't upset and disturbed. Before I knew it, I'd reverted to ED-style thinking. At first I was angry: 'This isn't fair' I thought, 'I've been going to the gym and haven't even been eating that much. How can I have put on weight??'. Then I became paranoid - 'My clothes must all be too small and I hadn't even noticed! People must've been laughing at me!'. Then I panicked - 'If that's what happens when I haven't even completely stopped restricting my food intake, imagine what would happen if I really let go and ate what I wanted'. At last I felt stuck. 'If I stop restricting my food entirely then I'll put on even more weight' I thought 'but if I don't, then I'll never achieve a full recovery'.

When I got home I told my mum about it. In her typical matter of fact fashion, she simply shrugged and said - 'Well, you were severely underweight before and you were hardly eating. Now, you've been taking steps to be healthier and look after yourself - you can't expect to be healthy and maintain an unhealthy weight'. What she said was so obvious and so simple, yet I'd failed to realise it. The reason why I felt so confused was because for years I'd been lying to myself - telling myself that,  even though my BMI was well below the 'healthy' range for my height, even though I was hungry, tired and emaciated, I was okay, I wasn't unhealthy. I'd convinced myself that I was the only person in the world who's actually meant to have a BMI of under 18. Now, I was having to face up to the fact that that was a lie: my body isn't meant to be super skinny and when I look after it and nourish it this is refelected in an increase in weight. I need to learn to embrace the new, higher number that I saw when I stepped on the scale yesterday - its a testament to how far I've come and how much I've achieved. Its proof that I've been looking after my body and that I'm healthy. And surely that must be a good thing.

15 Jan 2011

Overeating and Anorexia - more similar than different?

I'm currently reading 'Intuitive Eating' by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It's a really interesting (if old fashioned) book about how to ditch the 'Diet mentality' and learn to eat in a way that is insync with your body's needs. A lot of it is actually focused on overeating and binging rather than on permanent, longterm restriction but I was amazed by how relavent it was to me.

For instance, ET and ER talk about how overearters often binge as a way of distracting themselves from negative feelings. In the same way, I would regress into undereating when I felt unhappy or scared in my life. It made me feel safe and secure to hide away in a little world where the only things that mattered were the numbers of the scale and the number of calories I'd consumed. The hunger would numb the emotions I was afraid of, like anger and sadness. ET and ER point out that binging to avoid your feelings is ultimately counterproductive because it inhibits you from discovering the true source of your feelings and taking healthy steps to change them. Of course, the same is true of undereating.

ET and ER also talk about people who overeat 'in an angry, forceful manner that allows them to feel beaten up'. Now, I had now idea this could be a part of binge eating! Certainly, undereating and turning yourself into a waif, can be about punishing yourself and making yourself feel like a victim too.

ET and ER also point out some of the commonest triggers of overeating including anxiety, depression and stress, all of which are classic triggers of anorexia too.

All of this has made me think that, if undereating and overeating are so similar, then surely the cures must be similar too. For this reason, I'm going to continue reading 'Intuitive Eating' and will share with you some of the advice and insights it has with you.

14 Jan 2011

How I ate my veg pot

Success! Last night I managed to make my Innocent Veg Pot into a healthy, filling meal. On my way home from work, I picked up some Halloumi cheese and tinned sweetcorn. I grilled 3 large hunks of Halloumi, chopped it into little pieces, and mixed it in with my Wild Mushroom and Pearl Barley Veg Pot, then added the sweetcorn on top. I followed it with a rice pudding with jam. It was delicious, satisfying and I slept like a baby. Most importantly, I managed to eat it without freaking out at all. I guess sometimes the thought of doing something is scarier than doing it.......

13 Jan 2011

Eating proper meals

I had to eat dinner on the hoof last night as I was meeting a friend for an early film showing, so I decided to grab a mocrowavable meal. I decided on an Innocent Veg Pot - about 300 calories of vegetable deliciousness in a mocrowavable pot. I thought I'd be fine, as not so long ago that was a perfectly filling supper for me, that I probably wouldn't have topped off with more than a yogurt or so. However, by the time I got home from the cinema I was ravenous. One of the scariest things I've found about recovering is regaining a decent apetite. While I was dieting, I guess my stomach must have shrunk, so tiny meals could keep me feeling fullish.....but not any more. I've been eating normal portions for a while now, so little dieters meals won't keep me satisfied. I ended up snacking on a yogurt and cereal after I'd got in last night, but even that proved to be insufficient and I woke up at 2.30am ravenously hungry and had to eat more cereal. It made me feel out-of-control and panicy, but I knew I'd have to eat to be able to sleep again. I don't want to find myself in that position again but, the alternative is equally scary - binning dieters meals for good, even on days when I'm feeling weak or out-of-control and  want the comfort of reverting to old behaviours, for just one meal.

The Veg Pots were selling on a 2-4-1 offer, so I have another one awaiting me in my fridge back home. I'm seeing it as a challenge - I'll have to find a way to eat it that won't involve reverting to old habits that leave me sleepless with hunger pangs. I could add some chickpeas and cheese to it to bulk it out or follow it with a substantial pudding, like a rice pudding or flapjack. However, both of these options will involve admitting to myself that my body's changed and right now that feels like a very scary truth to face.

6 Jan 2011

Can you have a boyfriend when you're still recovering from ED?

I've been seeing this guy for a few months now, and I feel like it's about time we moved from 'dating' each other to 'being in a relationship'. Setting aside the (glaringly obvious) issue of whether he feels the same, I have my own qualms about it. I want to make a concerted effort to eat more healthily and take care of my body and meet its needs (as my New Years resulotions show). But I worry, if I put on weight, will he still fancy me? When we met, I was still pretty thin.  If he fancied the skinny me, will he also fancy the healthy me? Perhaps skinny is his type and curves will turn him off. The fact that I'm having these worries put me off getting more involved with him, as I'm concerned that the worries will escalate if we get more serious, and throw me off track with my healthy eating. I know that AA members aren't supposed to start new relationships until they're sober. Maybe ED recoverers need a similar rule. On the other hand, maybe I should just try not to worry, and try not to let my issues with food effect what could be a potentially good relationship. Afterall, part of ED recovery is committing to not letting your relationship with food dictate the rest of your life. What do you guys think? Is it possible to get into a relationship before you're fully recovered?

4 Jan 2011

How I cut down on calorie counting

A few people have asked how I managed to get calorie counting under control and stop it ruling my life. As I said in my earlier post, 'Numbers, numbers everywhere...', calorie counting still plays a bigger part in my life than I would like and I'm by no means 'clean' of that particular addiction. However, it is true that it doesn't rule me in the way it once did. I can't give any on-size-fits-all rules for getting calorie counting under control, but I will tell you a few things that helped for me.

1. I threw out my calorie-counting book. Physically seeing that thing in the bin was very cathartic and symbolic for me. It also meant I destroyed what had amounted to a near perfect record of the calorie contents of most of the foods I eat. At first I was able to recall many of their calorific values from memory, but eventually, without my 'calorie Bible' to peak in, I forgot most of them.

2. I stopped writing down the calorific values of the foods I ate (even when I did know the values in my head or from looking at the packet). It's much harder to keep track of how many calories you consume without a written record. At first this was scary, but over time it was liberating not to be able to calculate each days total.

3. I made a conscious effort to eat things that I was unable to know the calorie content of. A few good examples are: dishes containing lots of ingredients that you've deliberately measured by guesstimation; meals cooked by friends or family; meals in restaurants (not the kind of restaurants that listr calories on the menu though, obviously); foods that don't list calorie contents on the packet or don't come in labled packets (eg. loose fruit and veg from a green grocers).

4. I threw out my food scales, so I couldn't weigh my food portions precisely, making it harder to know the number of calories in portion of food I ate.

5. I made a mental list of things I found MORE interesting than calories, and tried to think about those every time I got the urge to calorie count. A few things that worked for me were:  the plot of Desparate Housewives, the future of the world economy,which of my friends I'll invite to my wedding (if I ever have one), what I'll name my kids (if I ever have any), what the hell Brad and Angelina talk about when they're alond together etc.

6. I tried to focus on the nutritional benefits of food rather than the calories (e.g. how much iron it contains, how much calcium, fibre etc).

It took me a while to truly get my calorie obsession under control; it was ages until I could get off to sleep at night without suddenly panicing and trying to calculate the calories I'd dutifully not noted down that way. But eventually, by deliberately making it hard for me to accurately count calories, I got used to not really knowing how many I'd consumed. Now I just want to keep on not counting.

2 Jan 2011

New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year Everyone! I don't usually make resolutions but this year I have. Alot of them are to do with improving my health and my relationship with food and my body. Here they are:

1. To make choices based on how my body feels and what I know I need.
(I talking about emotional needs here, as well as health needs.) This means eating as much as I feel I need, when I feel I need it; it means not going to the gym when I'm exhausted; it means not choosing nutritionally void, low calorie foods when I could have something healthy and natural instead.

2. No more calorie counting!
This is kind of implied in the first one, but it's partciularly tricky to do in practice so I think it counts as a single resolution. 

Pretty self-explanatory.

4. Relaaaaaaxe
I talking mostly about cultivating a relaxed state of mind here: worrying less, obsessing less about what people think of me etc. I also mean having fun in a more relaxed way - I don't need to get crazy drunk to have a good night and I don't need to be the loudest one at the table all the time (two traps I often fall into!).

This is a tough thing to change, so I'm going to begin by following Gretchin Rubin's advice (http://www.happiness-project.com/) and 'acting how I want to feel' by not vocalising my anxiety, trying to keep my body language relaxed, and acting calm even when I'm not. On a practical level, I also want to make sure I'm fitting in plenty of actual 'down-time' in my life too, so its not all work-hard-play-hard.

5. Have a 'can-do' attitude
It worked for Obama......

6. Keep my space neat and organised.

6. Get a new job that's challenging and rewarding.
I like my current job, but I know I could be doing something better.

If I had to sum up my resolutions in one, it would be to Look After Myself Better, Body and Mind.

Fingers crossed I'll be successful! What are your resolutions?

I had a great New Years Eve yesterday night, with a small group of friends in a lovely little pub in my old university town. It was nice to get out of the city and enjoy a low-key night catching up with good friends, instead of the usual, over-priced NYE madness that you get in London. Let's hope it bodes well for the New Year ahead. I hope you all have a
great 2011 too!