I can’t help it – every time I think of obsessive navel gazing, I look to the master. Of course Inigo Montoya was completely awesome.
Having a year-plus of Intuitive Eating* under my belt and counting nary a single calorie, fat gram or carb in that time has made me a bit cocky, I’ll admit it. I’ve even referred to myself as “recovered” a few times. I like absolutes. I’m a black and white thinker! I swing wildly back and forth between I’m cured! and I’m sick!. But as anyone who has ever had an eating disorder take up residence in their gray matter knows, it’s really not that binary. Which is how I have found myself in a deep funk for the past month or so, thinking that because I’ve made some mistakes that means I’ve failed at Intuitive Eating.
By “mistakes” I mean this: While I haven’t done anything major, I have ended up crying in my closet again. Over some rather silly things. One thing, actually. And this one this is so pernicious that despite all my IE progress, I’m baffled as to how to let it go. This thing is a thought that possess me, obsesses me, far more than I like to admit. But I’m not as subtle as I like to think I am. I was looking back over old posts tonight trying to decide what I hadn’t blogged recently. I’m weird that way; I’m never at a loss for topics to blog about – my brain is so frenetic I’ll wake myself up with ideas and scribble them in the margins of a crossword puzzle book I keep next to my bed – but I tend to get stuck in ruts. And tonight I noticed that I’ve been blogging a lot about diets, dieting, food and even weight loss over the past month or so. There was a period of time where I didn’t blog about these things (truly!) and now they’re back. Why? It’s the thing come back to haunt me. It’s the one piece of Intuitive Eating I simply can’t figure out.
It’s the thought that I’m never thin enough. I tell myself that 5 pounds, that’s all I need to lose and then I’ll be happy. Lie.
Even though I don’t restrict food anymore, I’ve let some old food neuroses creep back in. My anxiety over eating is back. Hunger is starting to feel more like failure and less like the natural, healthy, body cue that I know it to be. And all of it always comes back to the thought that I’m nothing if I’m not thin. I’m slipping, you guys. I’d be embarrassed to admit this to you all except that I’m guessing you already noticed.
But my brain is wrong and this time I’m fighting back, before it goes any further than just thoughts. I am more than the circumference of my thighs or the width of my waist. I am more than any stick-figure ideal touted by a few sick people in prominent places. I am more, even, than this body as flawed and beautiful as it is. I am worth so much more than this.
The hard part for me is really believing it. I know it on a cerebral level but through all my recovery I have never been able to fully exorcise that dream of perfect thinness. Just typing that is laughable – what is thin, after all? It isn’t happiness, nor health, nor longevity. And the “dream of” it turns into a shallow, self-serving obsession. Madness lies in a perfectly unattainable goal, always one step (or one pound) out of reach.
The thing that I hate the most about this Thought is that I can only really think about one thing at a time so if my brain is obsessing over holding my stomach in just so then I am not listening when my son tries to show me the apple he drew or my friend tries to tell me about her doctor’s appointment or my mom calls to ask about birthday party plans. When I’m consumed with not consuming, I can’t hear the little voice that tells me to write a note of encouragement to a neighbor or notice when a Gym Buddy looks sad or take cookies to the beloved teacher who just lost her job. I don’t hear the deep belly laugh of my toddler as she figures out how to throw every possession she owns over the side of the back deck. (The mystery of the missing shoes, solved!) All these blessed opportunities: missed.
But it isn’t enough to just write these words here. So, I’ve taken the real-world step of hiring a nutritionist and going back to therapy. Yay! The nutritionist (thank you to Quix for the inspiration!) is because I need to not think about food right now. I need to stop trying to figure out the exact best healthiest way to eat. I realize that at first glance it may seem counterintuitive to hire a nutritionist to help with Intuitive Eating (shouldn’t my body be telling me what to eat, not someone else?) but right now I need someone to just tell me what to eat so I can focus on rewiring my brain to think about other things again. And to give me a reality check about my food rules etc. I’ve tried seeing a nutritionist once in the past and it ended rather badly. I didn’t return. I have higher hopes for this one and we have our first official meeting tomorrow! The trick, of course, will be to trust her judgement. I think I can do that.
This isn’t a black-or-white test that I pass or fail. Eating disorder recovery and Intuitive Eating are going to be a lifelong process for me but it doesn’t have to be a lifelong struggle. My dear grandmother was bulimic to the day she died and, forgive me if this sounds weird, but I’ve felt her presence a lot this week. When I was younger I used to think this disorder was the tie that bound us even across death but now I think that she does not want me to suffer like she did. She wants me to learn faster than she did that being more does not make us less. I will not miss this opportunity to listen. I am a fast learner.
What do you do when your thoughts don’t match your actions? Have you ever used a nutritionist? Any other advice about how you conquered the “thin at all costs” mental demons? I’ve returned to writing in my gratitude journal daily and pulled out the old CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) workbook!
*Every time I post about IE, people ask me which program I follow and which books I recommend so I’ll just get a jump on it here and tell you that I LOVE Geneen Roth’s version of IE. It’s been absolutely life changing for me. The first book I usually recommend to people is WHEN YOU EAT AT THE REFRIGERATOR, PULL UP A CHAIR: 50 WAYS TO FEEL THIN, GORGEOUS, AND HAPPY (WHEN YOU FEEL ANYTHING BUT) because it’s a simple (and funny) overview of her methodology. It’s short and very easy to read. (It’s also only $3.95 right now!) After that, I found Breaking Free from Emotional Eating to be very helpful on a practical level and Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything to be more meta. Although I’ve read all of her stuff and it’s all great.