Personal reflection

NEDAwareness week

I don’t know if you keep up with this kind of thing, but National Eating Disorder Awareness week is February 24-March 2 this year. I’ve never had a personal blog during this particular week, so I’ve never really written in detail about my experiences. Maybe I still won’t be able to write in any significant detail.

How much does the internet-at-large need to know about how I would meticulously count every calorie I ate– even gum. Did you know gum has calories? I do. I also know how many calories are in full-size carrots rather than carrot sticks and which breakfast cereal has the most grams of fiber per calorie per serving. I could tell you how many notebooks I filled with my daily calculations of every meal, snack and mouthful that I ate over the course of 2 or 3 years.

I could tell you how I woke up before dawn every single day, rain or shine, even when it was below freezing outside, to run at least 3 miles a day. I’ve already told you about the time I fell one of those mornings and twisted my knee, then I got right back up and kept running. What I didn’t tell you was that the reason I didn’t rest was that I was afraid that if I skipped even one day of running, I would gain weight.

Or I could tell you how, when I finally got down to 97 or 98 pounds, I panicked, realizing that I was losing my hair, my nails were brittle, and my periods so irregular, I needed to go on birth control pills. They don’t tell you on the package how many calories those have.

Then I could tell you how I would occasionally lose control completely and eat everything I could get my hands on. I would steal food from roommates, and if there was nothing else available, I would eat plain brown sugar or plain peanut butter by the spoonful until the whole jar was gone. I could tell you how I nearly made myself throw up once after I ate so much I felt like my stomach was about to burst open. I could hardly move at all, and spent nearly 2 hours sitting on the floor of the bathroom in pain, hating myself.

I could try to explain to you how after a binge like that, I would starve myself the following day. I would exercise like mad the next morning and not eat all day long. Then I would get home and binge eat again.

I could tell you about moving into my own apartment that I shared with no one and how I kept the fridge and pantry as bare as possible, but it didn’t help. After I would finish eating all the regular snack foods, all my leftovers, and my breakfast cereal, I would eat cocoa powder and white sugar mixed together, since I had more than likely already drunk all the milk. I could tell you how I gained almost 30 pounds.

I hated everything about myself.

I could try to explain how I stopped the cycle. It didn’t happen when I got sick of my behavior, because I was sick of it from the beginning. It didn’t happen when I cried and swore I would never again clean out my pantry like that as I washed my dishes. It didn’t happen the first, second, or fifty-third time I prayed to God for help. It didn’t happen when I went to counseling.

But somewhere in all that mess, I found one day that I hadn’t awoken that morning thinking about what I was going to eat or how much exercise I was going to do, or how the exercise would compensate for the food. I no longer went off the deep end every night and ate everything in sight until I felt sick. I no longer picked the lowest calorie food on the restaurant menu no matter whether I actually wanted to eat it or not.

I was free.

I still am free, but like a recovering alcoholic, I know that the destructive thought patterns and behaviors are always lurking in the back of my mind, waiting to take control again. I recognize that there are things that I should not do or think about if I want to remain free.

I cannot read the latest nutrition-related articles proclaiming how terrible the average American’s diet is and what they should be eating and how much. I cannot go on a diet; even good, dietitian-approved diets could open the door to that old, calorie-counting mindset again. I haven’t done a full fast in several years. I know that allowing myself to fixate on food in any way could cause me to slip back into a disordered mentality.

I believe and am entirely thankful that God rescued me from this disorder, but I know that it could all come back in an instant if I allow myself to make food, dieting, or exercise so important again that it takes over my rational thought processes.

But I absolutely can’t explain to you how good it feels to not wake up every morning thinking about what I’m going to eat. Or how great it is to order what I want from a restaurant menu, even if there’s something more low calorie available. Or how awesome it is to exercise because I want to, not because I think I have to. I love my body, most of the time, and I can look my reflection in the eye. And you can’t possibly understand how amazing it is to me that I can eat what I want, provided I listen to my body and don’t eat more than it needs.

I eat when I’m hungry and don’t eat if I’m not. And if it’s 10pm, but I want a plate of nachos, then hell, I’m going to have a plate of nachos at 10pm.

The nacho recipe is forthcoming, but it’s midnight, and I’m not hungry. So I won’t eat.

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