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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eating Disorders

I've been working on this post for a while now. In my life I've had every eating disorder listed. Treating them is another issue. With all the fad diets, products and medical/surgical treatments done, nobody has found a successful way to "cure" eating disorders. Ask anyone in the psych profession. Eating disorders are the trickiest problem they deal with. There's little that works, even in residential programs. And nearly everyone treated goes back to their old behaviours. Of course, in order to make the changes necessary to be free of eating issues, the person has to be committed to doing it. Somehow, that commitment can wane and then in a fit of defeat, the entire program goes out the window.

Certainly there's an addiction element to abnormal eating. Whether it's eating too much or too little, it's an addiction to behaviour. Other types of addicts can abstain from the substance, but food is necessary to live so overeaters must confront their substance 24/7. Anorexics are the flip side; self-controlled to the max, denying themselves even the minimum needed to support life. Body dysmorphism plays a role, too. The too-fat and the too-thin don't perceive themselves as others see them. Food becomes tangled in emotions. We all know those who eat or don't eat when emotional.

When I started gearing up for the Greg diet I came across this article
and was thrilled with the brutal honesty and courage of this guy to tell it like it is. Too often there are all sorts of excuses around overeating, but the reality remains, stop eating all that food.

In the area of anorexia I can relate only my experiences. During my college years I could barely afford to eat and that became a habit. Living on coffee and cigarettes and recreational drugs, I shrunk. While the obese are ridiculed, the thin are encouraged. And so the "positive reenforcement" of becoming a stack of bones was addictive, too. When I would eat, I'd rush to the bathroom and get rid of it. Then I started making money cooking professionally and could eat whenever I wanted and gained weight until I blew up to 280 pounds. In my thirties I went thru a second bout of rarely eating. Didn't go down to bones that time. That was accompanied and followed by a few years of heavy drinking, when I gained a lot of weight and developed the joint and bone issues I have now. I'm sure my lifelong eating irregularities contributed to the condition I'm in today.

Though I have no special insight on the baffling problems of eating disorders I know what's worked for me. Eliminate the things I can live without- flour and sugar. Don't eat until my stomach growls, independent of what time it is or what everyone else is doing. Eat until I'm 80% full. Don't buy foods that are triggers- if they aren't at hand I can't eat them. If I cook a lot of food at once, freeze all but a portion and give some away. Don't even think of food as "a treat". Eat all I want of veggies but nothing in big portions. Schedule any off-program breaks and go right back on-program after. I have to be my own police.

And somewhere along the way of my determination to be in better shape to meet Greg, a change of attitude about food happened. I don't worry about eating too much or too little, I just stay on my program. It's self-control, sure, but it's not obsessive. I eat with my head screwed on now. I'm mindful of nutrition. I buy much less food, but good things. I don't starve nor overeat. This is all new to me, because I lived in extremes through so much of my life. But it's a sort of peace that I've never known. And I don't worry about blowing it, because I know it's in my control. Every choice I make matters. And it is, at heart, all about choice.

I wish I could pass it on to others but the hard truth is that everyone has to do what works for themselves. Which is probably why eating disorders are so hard to fix. There's no one system that will work for anyone, we must each find our own way. All I can say is keep trying. Get to know yourself and be rigourously honest with yourself. And never give up.


mybabyjohn/Delores said...

You got ir right. An alcoholic or drug addict or cigarette fiend can give up the substance completely but you can't give up food completely. You have to think about it, plan for it, shop for it, cook it and it is always at the front of your mind. The very hardest thing to control I find for myself anyway. At this point in my life there is so much I can't have anymore that it is actually starting to get easier. name is Delores and I'm a food addict. (no joke)

Austan said...

Hi Delores! Addiction is habit backed by reenforced action. Food issues can really kick your ass and you'll get no sympathy. The only point I can state as absolutely necessary is being totally honest with yourself. And I agree, having lost things already makes it easier to choose to lose your psychological crutches.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I have been, or chosen to be,a person who has had a battle with food most of my life. At 100 lbs at age 13 ,I was ashamed. Now, being a senior citizen, I still fight that battle. It is all about self worth. Nobody cares about my weight, except me. It is about health, and that is important to me, now more than ever. However, there is still a part of me that is concerned about howi look. I wish it wasn't so. I love that I have lost a few sizes this year, it makes me feel younger and healthier, but it is an obsession that I wish I did not have. I know now that I am a good person, but am I good enough?

Austan said...

Arleen- I'm so glad you brought that up. There's a piece of it that's all about caring for yourself and self-worth. I think we tend to care after others more than ourselves. But I find it a kind of chicken and egg deal. Do we care more for others to avoid caring for ourselves? Or do we avoid caring for ourselves in order to care for others? Do we compensate for that lack by eating or do we eat because it's lacking? We're out of balance somewhere.

The Elephant's Child said...

Ouch. A teary/wincey response here. I have been caring for someone else for much of this year. I have used this as an excuse for not caring for myself. I am fatter and less healthy than ever which disgusts me which gives me an excuse to say that I am so gross that nothing will help and it is just what I deserve. Do I know this is stinking thinking? Yes. How far have I got in addressing it? Not very.

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

I know that most of us live just a hair's breadth away from going one way or another.

I've really got to watch my alcohol intake, and possibly steak and cheese pies, because I know if I slacken my vigilance I'll be away.

Every day.

Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Cigars always hover in the background as well.

Austan said...

EC- Well, once you're onto it (and you are) it'll dance in your head and poke you with pointy sticks until you do something about it.

Austan said...

TSB- I don't understand how we can view hurting ourselves as comfort. But we do.

Alcohol piled pounds on me.

And they pile on much faster than they come off!

CarrieBoo said...

The day I stopped obsessing over what food I ate, checking calories and content, being overtly strict and down on myself about certain foods, starving or stuffing, exercising like mad and monitoring body fat... The day I threw my weighing scales in the garbage and decided that when I did eat, I was going to just enjoy it and not look at labels anymore, eat when I was hungry, and start listening to my body -- that I didn't want to play that game with those type of people who care about that crap anymore... I realized what I needed was to work on the "inside", fill my brain with knowledge and work on my emotional issues... that is the day I stopped having food disorders.

Diet is a four letter word. It makes you obsess even more about food, and that's not good. At least it wasn't for me. What worked for me, was to stop thinking about it, stop caring and tell myself that when I did eat: enjoy it.

Austan said...

Boo- Diets don't work. They only last a short while and are unsustainable. There has to be a change of lifestyle and attitude. I'm glad you found what works for you.