I slept in again today. It’s Saturday so somehow I feel like the workweek pressure is off even though the day of the week doesn’t matter much with my job when I haven’t yet logged my minimum hours for the week. Still getting almost 9 hours sleep feels like a million bucks. I love to open my Fitbit app and see those stars across the board!
My weight went back up this week which makes sense. For me that confirms that the 5 or 6 lbs I lost during Residency was due to stress and anxiety and serious loss of appetite a couple of days. Now that I’m back to the norm, I’m also back to trying to solve the health/diet puzzle. I just need to press on pushing up on all the fronts to keep elevating myself.
Jim loves me just the way I am and has encouraged me just to accept my current status. In a way, he doesn’t understand the issues I have with the way I look, like most people wouldn’t. However most people also don’t know my struggles and my history and what it’s like to live in a body with a mind whose self-image mirror has been broken. Correcting that..Lots of people do or would understand but I rarely talk about it with people.
Hell, there’s really only a small percentage of people who have ever talked with about my discontent. If I told someone I was on a diet, they would look me up and down and wave me off like a crazy person. So I just don’t. Jim knows I’m not happy with the way I look and doesn’t quite understand but he’s smart enough to suspect there’s more to the story.
He’s been nothing but supportive when I tell him “I’m not eating gluten this week” or “I’m fasting from 8 pm to 11am” or some other random thing. He reminds me that I’m beautiful just the way I am and then says he’ll support me no matter what. Writing this I feel like I should probably let him in on the backstory. I don’t want to repeat mistakes I’ve made in the past, keeping things inside, and somehow I just know he will take it in stride. Perhaps one night next week when the kids are at their dads, we can have a conversation about it. Perhaps.
When I started writing today, like most days, I don’t know where it’s going to go. I just start and end up where I end up. I rarely have a topic I want to go after and write about that specifically, so finding myself here, now on a lazy Saturday when I have no-where else to be, feels serendipitous somehow, because I can just keep writing. (spoiler alert – this could get long)… I’m feeling a desire to write in more detail about the history and my beautiful broken mirror. It’s a metaphor for my past and present struggles with self image issues and living with/dealing with having or having had an eating disorder.
I’ve always been thin. I was a skinny kid, a short thin teenager, always smallest in my class, and as I matured into adulthood, that really didn’t change. In my 20s I gained weight and lost weight and really didn’t think too much about diet and exercise because I didn’t have to. I didn’t eat healthy, because I hated veggies, and was just living those years enjoying all my favorite things and not caring much about my weight. I had great metabolism and even late in my 20s, when I was 10 lbs heavier than I am now, I still never thought about it. It was only when I started trying to get pregnant that I started paying attention to what I was eating and my weight.
I struggled to get pregnant and like many American women in my situation, sought medical help for answers. I was diagnosed with PCOS which is a disorder more commonly occurring in heavier women. I took metformin/glucophage (which is a medication they give to diabetics) to get my blood sugar in check which, in turn, regulated my hormones and helped my body begin to function normally with regard to monthly cycles (which it had never been in the past). It worked and I was able to conceive my daughter.
While pregnant I gained a lot of weight and ate to my hearts desire and didn’t realize how unhealthy that was. At the time, I was ignorant and just thought that since I was eating for two, it was OK. It was OK, but not great and after I had her, I literally broke down and cried because I was left with what looked to me like an ugly body and was faced, for the the first time in my life, with the challenge of losing weight. I did a lot of research into my “condition” and came to the conclusion that I had made things worse by my diet and eating choices. I started eating better and lost the weight, so much so, that when I started trying for my second child, it was a lot easier. I’d figured out the magic formula, which worked, and in no time I was PG with my C.
The second time around I was smarter about choices while I was pregnant and didn’t gain as much weight. The pounds still added up though and after having him, I struggled much more than with my daughter taking the weight back off. In fact, at one point I got down to 140 and then started gaining again. Something in my metabolism had changed and I was not able to loose the weight with the same magic formula as I had used before. I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw. I made losing weight a priority and it became extremely important to me. Almost obsessively important.
All of this backstory is just accounting. It’s all just facts and figures that contribute to the story as a whole. The other puzzle piece that is of importance was my husband and our relationship and the parallel struggles I was having with that. He’s attracted to thin women and thinks that super-skinny is super sexy. It’s probably one of the things he liked about me when we were dating. I was his type, physically. Once I gained weight and didn’t look the same, I wasn’t really fitting that same type anymore and it was just one more problem to add to the pile of problems we had with the life we were living. I wanted to be thin and I very much felt like if I wasn’t attractive to him, then I was failing as a partner. At the time I didn’t see it, but looking back, years later, it seems clear.
We would go to Hockey games and he would point out women he thought were attractive. “Look at that one”, he’d say. I remember the show Alley McBeal and how skinny Calista Flockhart was and how he always comment on how sexy she was. Or Lara Flynn Boyle who was on a show right after and even thinner. What was I supposed to do with that? I’d look at myself in the mirror and compare myself to others, in a very unhealthy, unrealistic way, and then resolve to loose more weight. And I did. For a long time, I stuck to a very strict diet plan, counting calories using some web application I had found and joined a gym and was working out (for the first time in my life). I lost a bunch of weight and got myself back down to LESS than I had been in my 20s.
Yeah, in my 30s I weighed less than I did in my 20s yet somehow that was still not good enough. I had gone from 140 to 135, 135 to 130, 130 to 125, 125 to 120, 120 to 115, and every time I lost another 5, I would say to myself, just 5 more and then I’ll be satisfied. But I was never satisfied. I bottomed out at 115 and my marriage was shit. In my mind, I had associated my weight and the way I looked with my failing relationship. If I could lose 5 more pounds, maybe then I could turn things around. It’s crazy now when I think about it, but at the time, it made sense, even if I wasn’t aware that that is what was going on.
Then, along the way at some point, and I don’t remember the timing exactly but I became upset with the fact that I had gotten stuck at 115 and just wanted to loose 5 more pounds. I already knew the “calories in/calories out” equation and didn’t want to sacrifice eating what I was allowing myself to have any more than I already was so I started purging after meals. If the calories don’t go in, then they don’t get counted. It wasn’t too often at first, just after I had a big meal or a desert. It wasn’t long after that when the binging started. I wanted to eat and be full and satisfied and started over-eating, enjoying the food so much and then purging right after.
I would eat 4 large slices of pizza (when normally I would only have one or two) and then feel so guilty and bad and full and sick to my stomach after that I would go to the bathroom and just get rid of it. It always made me feel better, but never really had an impact on my weight. I didn’t get any validation that it was doing anything for the way I looked, which in hind sight was probably a good thing, because it made it easier to eventually stop.
It wasn’t until 6 months after my divorce was final and I started trying to date again that I really came to terms with what I was dealing with and forced myself to stop. I still remember, as clear as it was yesterday, going out to Olive Garden on a date and eating way, way too much food. After dinner we went to his house and sat on the couch. I was in agony with how I felt, yet I forced myself to just sit there and suffer, digesting the food. Minute by minute sitting, fighting the urge to excuse myself to the bathroom. When the night was over, and I finally felt better, I realized I had just had a breakthrough. I did it and I knew I could do it again.
After that, I was able to continue to control my behavior and recognize situations which put me at risk. I stopped binging, and eventually re-occurences of the scenario became rare. Rare, but not extinct. That’s a key point, now. The recognition that I was suffering from an actual disorder and couldn’t even see how harmful it was. I was in denial that it was a problem and not healthy and detrimental on so many levels to my physical, mental, and emotional well being. I couldn’t see that until I was some distance in the future away from it all.
I really never sought professional help, outside of telling some counselor I had during my divorce that I was binging and purging. That counselor didn’t do anything to help that I can recall, which is a sad commentary on professional services. Only a few people even knew about it, my ex husband being one. He just made a joke of it, which was probably payback since I had ruined his life by asking for a separation and subsequent divorce. I eventually told the person I dated for 6 months (the one I went to Olive Garden with), and then Matt knew too after we had been dating for a while. Matt always hated my “fad diets” and was never very supportive in that regard. I was between 115 and 120 pounds then which was fine in his eyes, so he could not understand why I was always so unhappy with the way I looked or sometimes obsessed over just a few pounds.
The fact of the matter is, the eating disorder and the thought processes that go along with it never really leave my mind. They are always there with me even if not active and probably always will be. This story will always be a part of my history and I may never be satisfied when I look in a mirror. I still struggle daily with worry about the way I look and I don’t know if I will ever be able to fully get away from that. Having someone who loves me just the way I am now helps tremendously and I’m extremely grateful for that even though I have not yet been able to talk about it openly or articulate why I feel the way I do or why I think the way I do.
Writing this is helping me too. Just the act of formulating my thoughts and going over the history and putting that in perspective with where I am at now is extremely valuable. In a way, I’m probably more prepared to have that conversation with Jim because of it. I really didn’t intend to spill my guts on this today (terrible, horrible pun – I know), but there you go.
In any case, that’s probably enough for now and I’ve lingered too long here and need to get back to doing the rest of the Saturday things which includes work, house chores, and a party at Jim’s later with his family. I’ve got to make the most of what is left of this day.
Peace and Love,