Monday, November 10, 2014

Cleaning House

I was dusting the other day and noticed some papers poking out of my birthday book. It was an article from Self magazine, December 2006. Why had I saved it? There was nothing written on it, not passages marked. It was just folded in half and stuck in the front of the book.

The title of the article was "Done with Dieting," and while that is certainly a topic that would be of interest of me, I typically don't save stuff like that.

 I started reading it and almost threw it away. It didn't seem applicable. And then of page 2 of the article, I realized why I saved it. 

The author, an obsessive dieter, was meeting with a professor of psychology.

I was sold by the experts' arguments and vowed to swap my dieting addiction for a less extreme approach. No restrictions, no obsessive daily weigh-ins. She liked that idea but warned me that it would be a challenge. "You are what psychologists call a 'restrained eater'" she explained. That sounded good to me. "Not really," she said. "It's a sub clinical eating disorder, an anxious state where you want or you're always watching what you eat. If a restrained eater finally gives in and eats what she is craving, she generally gets out of control. Many chronic dieters are restrained eaters, depriving themselves and then binging, over and over again."

I asked if ther was a psychological term for a person who aimed to make healthy choices, wasn't worried about every forkful and could have a piece of cake without feeling horrible about it. "That's healthy, normal eating," she responded. "More specifically, 'normal' is being able to to be flexible and eat a variety of foods in response to hunger." I told her I didn't know anyone like that. "In our research, we do have a hard time finding women who are normal," she conceded. "Most don't come close."

It was the cycle I have been on for at least the last 10 years, straddling between normal and restrained and somewhere in between. When I was first diagnosed with my eating disorder, it was never quite explained in this way. Obsessive. Afraid of food. Exercise bulimic. Net negative calories. Those were the buzz words.

But I never was able to work with someone where I could have a good relationship with food, where it wasn't my enemy, it wasn't my support system, it wasn't my reward, I didn't think about I all the time.

A friend from Baltimore, who leads fitness challenges on FB (I love that this has become this decade's version of the side businesses of sex toy parties of the 2000s or Tupperware of the 70s), wrote something pretty amazing to me today. She posted her planned meals for the week. I, of course, asked her how many calories, what was her ratio of protein to carbs to fat, etc.

Her response was as profound for me as finding that article from 2006. 

I haven't been tracking as much anymore. I've just listened to my body. I don't want to become too obsessed with it, which I know I could if I let myself. I still enjoy food, I just make a conscious effort to grab healthy stuff now, and that's made a huge difference....making sure it doesn't become an obsession was key for me. I knew plugging in those numbers would be. Seeing them in black and white, and then stressing about when I go over. 

I've been told that I'm very aware of my mind set, I know when to make a change, when I need a check-in with my therapist, when it's time to think through a situation. For almost every 
situation in life -- work, friends, relationships, sex -- that is true. Food has always been my kryptonite.

One of these days I will figure it out. I hope.

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