Cants into Cans Wednesday: My Struggle with Disordered Eating

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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One comment

  1. Calorie counting is definitely not for me. It’s how I wound up with a big ED way back in high school. I know some can do it just fine, and it can be a great tool for those (who need) to lose weight, but not me either!
    I love that you don’t view foods as “good” or “bad” – it can be an unhealthy way to look at it!

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