At this point it has been six days since I stopped actively restricting or counting calories.
It is hard. Really hard.
I don’t have any intention of stopping anytime soon, but I’m not sure how long I can keep this up. Every moment of every day is a struggle. I feel like I’m standing right on the edge and fighting to keep from sliding right back into the disorder.
Part of what made me want to stop restricting is that my therapist does not want me to have to go into inpatient or residential treatment again. I don’t want that, either. I think it can be tempting to surrender all control over to a treatment team that tells you exactly what to eat – how much should be starch, protein, dairy, vegetables, fruit, etc. They decide when you eat, where you eat, how you eat, what you do before and after you eat; they essentially make every decision around food for you.
Which can be very helpful, especially for someone in the throes of anorexia who is so malnourished and trapped in the disorder that they are in danger of dying if they don’t get calories. It can be simpler to follow the rules someone else is enforcing than to have to break your own rules.
But, in the end, it’s still about rules. And that is what my therapist and I are trying to avoid. Neither of us want me to trade my own rules around food for someone else’s. Part of why I have this disorder is because so much of my life was controlled, particularly regarding food. I was told what foods I liked and disliked. I was put on a diet as a toddler. I was deprived of the foods that I loved and forced to eat foods I hate.
So the challenge now is about trying to figure out how I feel about food and how to connect with my own body’s cues to eat based not on rules, but on what sounds good and what my body needs at any given time. I have been trying to listen to my body and learn what it means to be hungry or full. I’m trying to learn what foods I like, what I don’t like, and what I tend to eat or avoid simply because of the many rules I’ve created around food.
The problem, unfortunately, is that I have absolutely no practice doing this. I think the foods I identify as something I “like” are really just “safe” foods. Even if I eat safe foods, but not at the correct time or portion, they are scary. All of this “rule-breaking” makes me feel completely out of control and unsafe. I hate it. I don’t trust myself to make the right decisions and I constantly wonder if I am doing the wrong thing in eating more food.
I find myself running numbers in my head, calculating calories and trying to ballpark how many I’ve eaten to get a sense of how much damage I’ve done. I don’t mean to do it and I don’t want to do it, but I can’t help it. It just happens so automatically. I’ve been counting calories and macronutrients for so long, it’s difficult to imagine ever NOT counting.
I guess I thought that once I chose to recover, it would be enough. I thought wanting to pull away from the eating disorder would somehow be all I needed.
I was wrong.
Not only do I have the actual eating disorder itself, but then there’s orthorexia and a moderate level exercise addiction. It is a LOT to take on at once.
So now I’m wondering if perhaps I need more support. It terrifies me to think about bringing this up with my therapist. I always feel like she somehow misses something whenever we’re talking about my ED and I don’t want her to feel like I’m giving up or something. I don’t know, it’s confusing.
But I just don’t know if I can do this without more support. I don’t necessarily even know what that would mean, but I think it’s worth investigating.