Step one: admitting you are powerless, and that your life has become unmanageable.
So, what exactly is this thing I refer to as ‘my eating disorder’? Below are some examples. None of these issues are every day things. Sometimes I can maintain a perfectly healthy body image and diet for weeks at a time, until something traumatic or upsetting (or even exciting) causes me to “go off the deep end’, so to speak. This list outlines things when they’re at their worst. They’re pretty embarrassing when compiled together, but I’m banking on there being a few of you out there who can relate to at least some stuff.
-When feeling restless, depressed or angry (or any host of other emotions), I’ve been known to go through a drive-through and order a super-sized number something rather. I will then drive to a gas station and stop in for a king-sized candy bar (usually a Snickers), a bag of chips (usually Cheetos), a pastry of some sort (usually Snowballs) and if I’m feeling particularly gross, another non-chocolate snack such as Twizzlers. I will then drive around and eat everything in my car (as quickly as possible) and find a trash can to toss all the trash/evidence in, so that when I get home, my roommates will not know I have eaten anything at all. The decision on whether or not to throw it all up when I get home depends on a) how bad or uncomfortable I feel, b) what’s for dinner at the house and c) who else is around. (This is something I don’t do so often anymore-especially since living alone and going back to my vegetarianism- but it was a classic move back in my twenties when I felt like I never had any time to be alone with my thoughts.)
-I still purge when I’ve eaten so much food that I feel uncomfortable. Other times I might force myself to keep it down. On those occasions, the voice in my head usually goes something like, “Haley, you don’t deserve to purge. You are a fat, disgusting binger so you let that food sit in your stomach and go straight to your thighs and arms.” Then there are the occasions (and this is totally disgusting), I might ingest something like an entire large pizza by taking bites, chewing it up, and then spitting the chewed bites into a plastic bag or garbage can. The irony is, as gross as this is, it’s probably my inner voice trying to do its version of ‘what’s the healthiest way to get through a binge session’.
-I will sometimes throw up my food even if I didn’t binge. (Keep in mind I don’t purge at every meal- I have way too much guilt and disgust over it). I have been in situations at work or social gatherings where I have anxiety, and excusing myself to go throw-up just helps me feel better for some reason. When the signs of vomiting my food are obvious (I sometimes get broken blood vessels all across my face…which usually happens when I eat without chewing enough, which unfortunately happens a lot when I’ve been eating anxiously), I will lie to everyone and say I had an allergic reaction to something in the food. I did this at work about a month ago with a quesadilla from Baja Fresh. How I got everyone to believe I had an allergic reaction to a tortilla and melted cheese, I’ll never know.
-I may try on every outfit in my closet before determining I am not fit to be seen in public that particular day/night. I will cancel on friends by claiming to be sick, or perhaps leave an event early. I do it when I’m alone, too. This evening I was planning on a solo outing to the movies. When I got there, the parking lot was crowded and I decided too many people were inside for me to have the guts to go in. (I had already determined on the car ride over that my knee-length shorts showed too much of my cellulite-covered legs and that my t-shirt was too tight). I circled the parking lot and even found a place to park as I debated this with myself, but I ultimately I ended up turning around and driving home. What’s worse are the times when I call in sick to work because of it. What’s even worse is when I call in sick to work because I do not want the children I interact with to see me.
– I will sometimes put off going to the doctor because I know the nurses will probably make me get on the scale. Sometimes I will even cancel pre-scheduled appointments for this reason.
-I have stopped going to OA meetings, AA meetings, Eating Disorder clinic meetings, etc…because I feel like everyone there doesn’t think my problems are valid compared to theirs, or that they think I’m too disgusting to help. Basically, at the OA meetings, I felt too skinny and at the Eating Disorder Clinic, I felt too fat. At the AA meetings, I felt like I wasn’t struggling with my sobriety enough to be taken seriously.
-I have weird food restrictions, and they can change at the drop of a hat. I always need to throw away refrigerated food way prior to the actual expiration date. I only like fruit up until it’s just ripened. Same with vegetables. Meat disgusts me…except the few times a year where I crave fish or shrimp. Some days I can do dairy, other days I cannot. Eggs I can generally handle as long I don’t have to cook them myself or didn’t just read a book about them. Some months I won’t eat anything with artificial ingredients, but I will binge on whole foods. Obsessions come and go- I’ll be vegan for a few months, then gluten-free, then sugar-free, then something else, it’s always changing.
-I have trouble making decisions with food, or sticking to ones I’ve already made. There is a cupcake shop across the street from my house. I will go in to buy one cupcake, and come out with four. I will then promptly eat one cupcake, and then leave the box sitting on my counter for approximately five minutes. Then I will need to have a taste of one of the other cupcakes and it’s frosting. Then I will leave it alone for five minutes. Then I will need to have a taste of one of the other cupcakes and it’s frosting. Then I will leave it alone. Then I will need to have a taste of the last cupcake and it’s frosting. Then I will leave it alone for five minutes. Then I will come back and eat the rest of the second cupcake…and so on and so forth until all the little cupcakes are massacred. It’s a disturbing sight to see. Along the same lines, I have near panic attacks making decisions on what to eat in places like food courts (especially when I was a kid) and I always end up buying more than I need at the grocery store.
– I have been known to eat things off the top of the trash, a la’ George Castanza. (Generally because I threw it away hoping that would give me the strength to avoid eating it.)
-Clothing rules I have set for myself either now or in the past have included the following: no shorts, no skirts above knee-length unless you’re wearing tights underneath, no skirts that hit you exactly at mid-calf because it makes your ankles look bigger, no sleeveless shirts, no capsleeve shirts, no backless anything, no horizontal stripes, nothing in the color white, orange or yellow, nothing with a collar, no khaki or light colors on the bottom half of my body, no light-colored shoes (because it makes my size 10 feet look bigger), etc.
-If I go out in public and I’m actually feeling good about myself, but then catch a glance of myself in a mirror and the reflection doesn’t hold up to how I saw myself earlier, my mood can shift on a dime. From happy and care-free to moody, depressed, snarky and generally no fun to be around…in an instant. Or, like I mentioned before, I will find a way to leave.
– I’ve thought I’ve lost job interviews or made bad first impressions strictly because of my body or clothing. “I would have nailed that interview if I had covered up my arms”. “That person thought I was annoying because they saw my belly roll through this shirt.” Along the same lines, anytime someone isn’t sexually attracted or interested in getting to know my better, my first reaction is generally that it’s because I have the world’s most awkward body and unfortunate face.
– I talk down to myself on an almost daily basis. I’ve referred to myself as everything from a drag queen (when I’m dressed up) to a homeless dog (when I’m in workout gear). I am probably worse to myself than any nemesis would ever be. My sister often says “I’d hate to live inside your head, Haley.”
– I don’t like working out in gyms because I worry that people are using me as the gauge for who they don’t want to look like. I fear women are looking at me and saying “I need to keep working out so I don’t get big like THAT chick.” I only join gyms that have a private women’s area, because men looking at me is somehow worse. I will not sign up for personal trainers because I can’t handle anyone talking about my body, even health professionals. I once told off a personal trainer who tried to sell me while I was working out. I also never went back to that gym after that incident, even though I kept paying for membership for another several months. I don’t like working out outdoors either, because I assume people driving past in cars might be saying things. People could be looking from the window of their houses thinking, “Look at that gross woman huffing and puffing as she runs by our house.” (I do realize on a logical level that it is much more likely that no one is doing this, but these are the thoughts that go through my head when I’m trying to convince myself otherwise.)
-Don’t get me started on going to the beach or pool. That issue probably deserves its own post.
– My issues with my vagina and the area surrounding my vagina probably deserve its own post as well. My vagina is a foreign object as far as I’m concerned. I feel like we know each other because we have a lot of mutual acquaintances, but she’s not someone I know personally. Or necessarily trust, either.
And you just can’t get much more personal that, can you? I think that’s a pretty good summary of things. So yeah. Step One…checkity check check, done.
Anyone else out there want to share? Remember you can always email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org you don’t feel like posting in the comment section for everyone to see. I promise, I’m not one to judge- and I’m just as invested in helping others overcome their issues as I am in tackling my own.