Monday, April 26, 2010

Myths of food and eating disorders....

I promised a friend over a week ago I would write this post, but it got lost in the Mayo clinic chaos so here it finally is A! My friend is struggling wth her own demons on this front but I don't feel at liberty to share her story, so I will share as much of mine as I can to make this all make sense.

First of all I want to address some common "mis-truths" related to food, weight and eating disorders. Some of this I have said in previous posts but they can't be said enough...

1) Not everyone's body works the same! What works for me will not work for all of you, what works for you won't work for me. We all spend too much time and energy trying to convince people to eat the way we do as their solution. Each person's body has its own metabolism and issues and the best way to find the right answer is to work with a professional (dr, trainer, nutritionist) to find out what works for you. Journaling what you eat is a totally invaluable tool. I used for this.

2) For a segment of the population, myself included, the equations "burn more than you take in" does not apply. I heard that spouted to a friend this weekend and nearly screamed. This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the world. For some of us, when we eat less we GAIN weight. Let me make this very clear, for me I lose weight when I eat more and gain weight when I eat leass. Obviously the eating more has to be realistic, but my body does not function well under the "eat less, work out more" mentality. I have said for as many years as I can remember I never ate enough to weigh what I did, despite all the "noise" in the world that I was fat because I was over eating. I have lost the weight I have because we have doubled my intake. As soon as I skimp and start cutting back on calories, I start gaining. I hate this reality, it seems totally illogical to me, but Gui has proven it out to me over and over again.

3) People with eating disorders weigh 70 lbs and look like skeletons. This is the most frustrating off all for me of the inaccuracies out there. I am here to tell you that it is total crap. Yes there are those who are what I call "Phil Donahue Anorexics" (btw I need to change that because half the people reading probably dont even know who Phil is but oh well *smile*), but there is also people like myself who have been in situations where they became extremely ill from long periods (months) of not eating yet were either still obese or actually gaining weight through it. Don't assume what you see doesn't mean there isn't a serious problem.

4) The only form of bulimia is vomitting. One of the most dangerous types of bulimia is one we hear very little about, exercise bulimia. Where people will exercise to excess, often hours at a time, to purge the food they have eaten. This can be just as dangerous and deadly as purging. And as with the amount of food, someone can be doing this and still gaining weight. Exercising more does not work for everyone as a weight loss tool. Especially if you are exercising in a way that you are burning carbs and breaking down muscle instead of burning fat.

Ok my story. First of all I need to say, I believe eating disorders run in families. Whether it is genetically programmed (which I tend to believe it is at least partially) or socially developed by sharing bad habits who knows, but it definitely is familial. My sister and I have both fought this battle, although in very different ways. She become the very thin anorexic/exercise bulimic and I was an obese anorexic/bulimic (purging) and exercise bulimic.

Like I said I have never eating enough to weight what I did, I never ate breakfast until the last 4 months, lunch was minimal and dinner was average. I didn't eat healthy food. I liked fried, heavy sauce, heavy carbs. But I have always eaten overall far less than my friends.

Eating when I am stressed is not a norm for me, I am just the opposite. When I feel stressed I don't want food, I stop eating. Eating does not make me feel better, often it makes me more anxious. And to this day I battle with that.

My true realization of having an eating disorder came in the 90's when I was fighting Pseudotumor Cerebri. I have probably had it my entire life, but this is when it went into high gear. I was stuck with a horrid disease that every piece of literature claimed was because I was obese and I was determined no matter what I was going to get thin. For the better part of a year I ate next to nothing, I exercised 5-6 hours a day (I was on disability so I had the time) and I purged. The result, I was a 225 lb eating disorder patient who was ending up weekly in the hospital with electrolytes so low they wondered how I was even alive. And through it all I GAINED WEIGHT!

In hindsight I was incredibly blessed with having the right person in my life, not sure I would be alive if it wasn't for Deb. She dragged my butt to eating disorder support groups, she helped me try to find inpatient treatement, she pieced my body back together every time I got in trouble.

I never was able to get inpatient treatment, which is partially why I find the myths so frustrated. Every treatment center we contacted turned me/us down because I was overweight and didn't meet their criteria of an eating disorder. Luckily I was able to find decent outpatient treatment and got it under control. Truth, until the last few months I would have told you I was past it and "cured".

I have come to realize in working with Gui that this is not something you ever really get past. As I have said multiple times in this blog, I fight on a daily basis to eat enough. The anorexic tendency part is definitely still part of who I am. And that frustrates me, because on a logical level I totally get it. I understand now how my body works, I know I have to eat to lose weight, I totally get that. Yet on another level I still feel bombarded by that message "eat less weigh less". I still have many days where eating is work. Where food is not appetizing to me and at times it even makes me feel ill after I eat. I do my best now to eat all I need to, but it doesn't come easy or without work. If I am not careful and get busy I still find myself missing meals and not eating enough. Eating is not natural for me, which sounds so bizarre but it's the truth. And that is really hard for people to understand. It is not about me being stubborn or difficult, it just isn't naturally wired in me.

Related to the exercise bulimia (or over working out). This one sneaks up on me periodically, but it is easier for me than the food. When I get stressed this one tends to show up, I want to go work out for long periods of time. I want to do double or triple workouts. I think these days it is as much about having weight issues as it is just also being able physically to work out that makes me want to keep going. I went 14 years unable to do much exercise wise, so now it has become something I really enjoy and it does make me feel better. I have to watch myself though, because I have seen that burning too many calories shuts down my weight loss.

Purging is a hard topic for me right now. First of all this is the grossest thing on the planet as far as I am concerned and is not something I have actively done in probably 14 years. It was an act of desperation for me when it was going on that then became habit. What many of us don't realize when we start down this path is that it does retrain your body. You get to a point that even when you want to keep food in your can't. It does a lot of damage to your body also, beyond just the lack of nutrients it ruins your teeth, your esophagus and other parts of your body.

I have promised all along to be honest about where I am at, so here comes the confession. The day I was in Israel (the Tuesday before I left) and I was having such a hard time, the purging thing reared its ugly head, and I was really broadsided by it because it is not something I even consider any more. I had forced myself to go to breakfast and eat, despite not wanting to. And it was one of those days where I felt sick after eating. More than normal. And all of a sudden I found myself pondering the option of purging. The mere fact that I was thinking that upset me more than anything. I am proud to say I didn't go through with it, I came back and emailed Gui (although didn't tell him these throughts were going on, just that I was over my head on food) and called my friend Laura (also didnt tell her all the details). I didn't tell either of them because 1) I was worried about being judged and 2) I just needed distraction. I needed help getting through long enough to where it wasn't physically possible to purge and then I knew I would be fine. Which is what happened, Gui and I exchanged some emails (sorry Gui I know I wasn't exactly pleasant at your response that morning but hopefully now this makes more sense why) but he was there and that is what I needed. He kicked my butt in the right way at the right moment.

I have to admit I have really beat on myself since that day about even having those thoughts, and struggled with whether I say anything, whether I keep it my little secret. I have gotten mixed advice on what to say to whom. Half of my friends have told me, you didnt go through with it so let it go. The other half have said be honest. Finally saying something comes back to the friend who I promised I would write this post. The bottom line is that for the most part I would say now I have anorexic and exercise bulimia tendencies, it is not in "active phase" as a disorder, but a lot of people ARE struggling. They are fighting alone and misunderstood. So I spoke up for them!!!!!!!!

The reality is a lot more people stuggle with these tendencies and the full blown disorders than we all realize. It is a really lonely place to be, and I hope if me sharing my story makes A's or anyone else's battle a little easier than this post and this blog has been worth it!

1 comment:

  1. I'm proud of you. Part of living life to the fullest is findng the balance in all aspects of it whether its food-related, work-related, relationships etc. Not an easy task by any means! LED