Happy Wednesday! June sure is flying by…can we slow down this summer a little bit please?
Today’s post jumps into some territory that was a major struggle for me at one time and has been something I have worked hard to get under control: disordered eating.
First of all, disordered eating is not the same as an eating disorder.
According to Brigham Young University (which, by the way, has a fantastic Q&A page about disordered eating), disordered eating is…
“eating in a way that could or does harm you physically or psychologically. The disordered eating can be a result of a desire to lose weight, control weight, and to manage emotions.”
There is a long list of common signs of disordered eating on the BYU page, but here is what they were for me:
- Very strong fear of gaining five pounds
- Following strict food rules
- Cutting entire food groups from your diet
- Thinking about food more than 50% of the time
- Obsessive calorie counting
- Eating a lot of no- or low-calorie foods
- Lying about how much you’ve eaten
- Considering foods to be good or bad
So, here is how it all started.
When I ran my first half marathon, I had this amazing sense of accomplishment that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was recently getting back on my feet after a difficult time and was really struggling with self confidence. This half marathon gave me a huge boost.
After this race, I was hooked. So, I began to plan what I wanted to do differently for the next time around. One of the things that popped into my head was that I had gained a little weight during training. I’m sure you know how it is…I ran 10 miles today so I can eat some extra pizza and all that.
So, I peeked around at some blogs and found that many people have this same issue. Many suggested tracking food and counting calories. So, when I started training for my second half, I downloaded an app and began counting my calories. I had a range that I wanted to fall under at the end of the day, and I made sure to hit it.
At first, it was really interesting. Then, it got harder than I thought. So, I started planning my meals in advance. This way, I knew what I needed to buy at the grocery store, it took away the annoyance of standing in front of the fridge trying to decide what to have for dinner, and I knew I would fall into my goal range.
Before I knew it, I was becoming addicted. Somehow, I always “failed” (in my eyes) by eating more than I had planned (therefore, “too much”) at certain times. I would beat myself up about this incessantly.
The next half marathon came around, and I finished, but didn’t meet my goal. Commence more beating up on myself. And more calorie counting.
I continued this way for another 8 months, at least. I planned and counted every day for nearly a year and a half, only allowing myself a day “off” on my birthday and Christmas.
Finally, one day, my friend at work asked me if I wanted to go out for chips and a margarita on Friday afternoon. I searched all day for an excuse not to go, because those calories were not factored in to my plan for the day (I typically scheduled in times I knew I would be going out). Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was going to miss out on time with my friend because of “bad” food. Yikes.
I clearly remember texting my sister that day about how ridiculous that was. At this moment, I knew it was time to make a change. So, I deleted the calorie counting app. And, man, did it feel good.
After deleting the app, I never turned back. That is not to say, however, that is wasn’t easy. I started going to therapy to look at my rules and thinking and try to change it. From there, I have come SO far. I even finally PR’d and met my goal for the half marathon that I couldn’t hit when I was restricting my eating.
Now, looking back, I still don’t know what truly made me go there with my eating. Maybe it was a search for a sense of control in my life that I wasn’t getting otherwise. Who knows. Today, I still have moments when I go back to some of my old ways, specifically viewing foods as “bad” and “good.” Now that I deal with numerous diet restrictions for my stomach issues, I don’t allow myself to view foods as “bad” and “good” (if I can help it). With so many things I actually can’t eat, I allow myself to have what I can. I try to focus on whole foods, since those are what make me feel good. I guess that would be my biggest help, being mindful about food and focus on how it makes me feel.
I will admit that I have definitely put back on the weight that I had lost when I was restricting. However, I feel totally different. There are certainly moments, many of them, when I am not mindful, but I try to do the best I can and not beat myself up about any of it. Despite the step up in jeans size, I have more confidence now than I think I have ever had in my life. That is WAY more meaningful to me than some number that I made up because that is where I felt I “should” be.
A couple disclaimers: When I started calorie counting, I was most definitely not in a situation where I needed to be losing weight. Calorie counting can be really beneficial for some, but, for me, it turned in to a source of negativity. I am not saying anyone shouldn’t count calories, it just really didn’t work for me.
Also, if you experience symptoms of disordered eating, I can’t tell you enough how much it helped me to talk to someone about it. We sometimes feel like there is a stigma behind these things, but I could write for days on how much this helped me.
Wow, that post got long. No question today. Comment if you want, don’t if you don’t. 🙂 I just really hope this post helps someone who might be struggling with these same issues. Even just writing it was a help to me. So, thanks for reading.