It’s been about a year since I admitted to having an eating disorder (non-purging bulimia & binge). Previously, I identified as a foodie who was preoccupied with food most of the time.
Until one day, a simple question shattered my illusion:
Does the thought of gaining 5 lbs terrify you?
It terrified me throughout my teens, college, 20’s, 30’s, and it terrifies me still.
Especially after understanding that having an eating disorder is as serious as being an alcoholic from Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More and hearing my favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert comparing alcoholism to food addiction.
…the way I’ve heard it said is that in alcoholism, you take the tiger, put it in a cage, and you throw the key away, and you never open the cage.
With food addiction, you have to open the cage three times a day, and take the tiger for a walk around the block, and then put it back in the cage, which is really, really hard.Elizabeth Gilbert – Talking About Addiction on Episdoe 95 We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle
At every meal, I struggle to eat the recommended amount for my weight/height/exercise level which is about 600 calories. I always want to eat between 1500 to 3000 calories per meal because that’s what it takes for me to feel completely full. Currently, I try tricking myself by flossing immediately after eating, singing, drinking 16 oz of water, going for a walk, and sleeping (my old go-to) to prevent myself from continuing to eat.
Eating with friends is no longer an activity I enjoy especially as it’s not emotionally safe to eat around some of them. One of the most hurtful comments was when someone who I considered a dear friend said “Oh it’s your stupid eating disorder isn’t it,” after I politely rebuffed their offer of in-season cherries. I don’t blame them though because that friendship was rooted in a shared love of indulging in great quantities of quality food.
As a foodie for most of my life, I realize that I have made a lot of foodie friends who love to make unsolicited comments on how little or much I’m eating because we used to make comments like that to each other constantly. It’s a hard habit for some of my foodie friends to break even after I tell them about my eating disorder. Some of them think they are helping me overcome my eating disorder through their comments despite my telling them that not commenting at all is what helps me.
From James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I learned that the context that surrounds your behavior often triggers cues. It is easier to build habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.
I no longer eat at my computer desk or on the couch. I’ve greatly limited eating out because overeating at restaurants is a 25+ year habit. I also tend to eat most of my meals by myself in pre-plated portions. When I do eat with other people, I only eat with people who do not comment on how much or little I’m eating.
It’s not that I mind overeating once in a while. It’s that for every 1000+ calorie meal I eat, my brain feels like I’m starving when the next meal is around 600 calories. It takes me about 3 days of constantly feeling hungry before my brain grudgingly re-adjusts to healthy for my height and activity level meals. During those 3 days, I’m highly unproductive in my writing because my willpower is mostly depleted from preventing myself from gorging on food.
In the past year, I’ve noticed that not getting a good night’s sleep, feeling cold, and being around highly anxious or argumentative people trigger my eating disorder. This includes my mom at times because she can get highly anxious when a small matter goes wrong.
Some people may think my eating disorder is a small matter because I’m not overweight or underweight. What they don’t realize is that I’ve experienced 25+ years of chronic constipation due to my eating disorder. Did you know that eating disorders are common in patients with chronic constipation?
In the past year of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same time every day and eating around 1500 calories a day, my chronic constipation is mostly resolved. They only pop up after I binge eat.
Going forward, for my mental, emotional, and physical health, I need to monitor my eating disorder daily so that I don’t binge eat more than a few times a year if at all.
When I feel the urge to binge I will first:
- Drink 16 oz of water.
- Drink 1 can of flavored carbonated water.
- Brush my teeth.
- Meditate for 5 minutes.
And if I happen to binge eat after that, I will remind myself that my goal is to better not perfect. 😃