Monday, November 30, 2009

"Now It's All Ruined": Perfectionism

Art therapy has been a mild letdown until today. I have artistic impulses but little artistic skill, so I was looking forward to having a roomful of chalks and pieces of felt and watercolors and told to "run with it," with little import placed upon the final product. But more often than not, I'm left feeling confused by what I've created, or I intellectualize it.

But today, I was in a sort of haze all day--which, before I started treatment, was my default state. But in the past month, I've only rarely felt foggy or out-of-it; part of that is eating correctly, part is awareness, part is unmasked anxiety vigorously surfacing through the shroud of depression. So when we were told to create the "here and now," I wanted something muted, foggy, hazy--gray felt and olive mesh over periwinkle paper, with strips of black funneling through.

When I was explaining my piece, I used those words: muted, foggy, hazy. But the therapist noticed that letters were peeking out underneath pasted-on bits of felt, and asked me to share the words if I felt comfortable. I did: "Don't Pass Me By" (the Beatles song came to mind); "There's Luck Around Every Corner" (a tune that only came to me in-session--I'm not normally a songwriter, so it's Words and Lyrics By ED-NOS, I suppose); "just say it." I'm not sure what that means--but the obscured phrase that made my face go hot was: "Now it's all ruined."

I was referring to the piece of white paper that was covering the words. I'd intended to lightly chalk it with yellow and wound up getting it dirty--ruining it. But my reaction made me see that I meant more: the days I felt were ruined by bingeing, the "diets" I felt were ruined by me sating my hunger; the afternoons with my father that would be ruined by him exploding. One of the most hurtful things anybody has ever said to me was that I ruined his birthday. (He was a jerk and said it to be hurtful, which it was.) I am petrified of things being ruined. It's why I'm so eager to sweep personal tensions under the rug--tension might ruin the day. It's why I quit my first job and why I never gave editing a bigger chance. It's why I don't wear my prettiest dresses. It's why I follow my meal plan practically to the letter and yet still play games with myself about what I can "get away" with while doing so.

It's why I restrict or binge, and find it so difficult to do neither. A day is good or a day is ruined. I haven't considered myself a perfectionist since dropping AP history in high school--perfectionists, after all, are perfect, and I wasn't. But my non-perfect academic record and long (long!) bouts of slackerdom don't mean that I don't have perfectionistic tendencies. If anything, the slackerdom indicates the opposite: I don't want to write unless what I'm writing is good. Which makes me never want to write. This blog is freeing for that reason--I'm structuring my thoughts here, yes, but I'm not trying to let loose perfect pearls of recovery wisdom that will make the reader weep with perfectly worded recognition. I'm just sharing. It's good for me.

Friday, November 27, 2009


My stated recovery goal is to eliminate my disordered eating behaviors and develop better coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression. My ultimate recovery goal, however, goes farther and will take longer: to turn off my mental treadmill of disordered thoughts and poor body image.*

Since starting recovery, I've found that I'm hyperaware of my eating.
(Obviously, hyperawareness of my food intake is nothing new to me. And this is a far cry from the disordered hyperawareness I've engaged in before...mostly.) Even when I'm not resisting impulses to restrict my intake, everything I eat takes on a new level of meaning. I'm having a salad for lunch, so I don't have to find an extra vegetable at dinner; I had a glass of juice midday, does that count as another fruit serving or just as a snack? There's no such thing as grazing from the potato chips bowl or having a bonbon anymore. I give myself those things as allotted exchanges or scheduled snacks, so it's not like I'm falling into good-food-bad-food thinking--but neither am I eating normally.

The whole idea of going on the meal plan was to regulate my eating behavior, which is working. But the thing is, as much as I restricted before in order to compensate for my bingeing, 70% of the time I wouldn't have been in a space where I wouldn't let myself graze from the potato chips bowl. That 70% of the time, I'd munch from the bowl at parties; would have a beer; might have an afternoon cookie. That 70% of the time, I'd at least appear normal to an observer, regardless of what I was doing for meals or at night. But now--now that I'm in treatment and feel as though everything that goes into my mouth means something, whether it means that I'm getting my protein exchanges or having carbohydrates where they still feel odd or am having one of my thrice-weekly desserts--now that observer would see me refrain in most instances. Now I don't appear normal.

I'm nervous about treating my meal plan as a diet--as another plan for me to get freaky about. My body will respond much better to a wholesome meal plan than it would to, say, my raw-foods phase (I felt great while doing raw foods, but "great" in that "I'm restricting every day and feeling TOTALLY AWESOME because of it" ersatz narcotic way, not in a truly healthful way). So at least my body is taken care of, but what about my mind?

So here comes my refrain: It took me 25 years to get to recovery; recovery will not be complete in my six weeks at Renfrew, or six weeks beyond that, or six weeks beyond that. I am hoping it won't take a lifetime--I'm hoping that I will get to a point where I'm able to eat intuitively and stop the whirring of mental calculations. But it will take time. I know that my body feels miles better, and my mind scads sharper, now that I'm nourishing myself properly. That is a victory. I think that the meal plan will eventually settle in and my vigilance will wane, if I pay as much attention to the rest of recovery as I have the meal plan. I'm ready for my thoughts to go elsewhere.

*Here's another place where finding "normal" feels impossible. It's hard to find the mythical "normal" eater, but doubly so to find an American woman with a wholly intact body image. I don't want to set a goal for myself that's unachievable; is it possible for anyone to feel only thanks for her body, no forgiveness, exceptions, or qualifiers needed?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why Kate Moss Doesn't Matter

One of the most remarkable surprises I've had in recovery is how little I'm thinking about my shape or weight.* My body size has preoccupied me for even longer than my eating disorder; I remember being eight years old and trying to decide between letting my stomach go au naturel (pooched out but with a slight indent at the waistline) and sucking in my stomach (flatter stomach but with no waistline). There have been periods of my life where I have thought about my body fat every single waking minute of the day.

Logically, I'm not surprised. I know that eating disorders are about control, not about losing weight or even about food. So in recovery, my thoughts are certainly food-oriented--but instead of thinking about food I want to eat and will deny myself, or about food I'm going to binge on, I'm thinking about food combinations, satiety, getting my proper exchanges. I still daydream about food, but overall it's been non-disordered.

More important, though, when it is disordered I'm able to look at it and examine it. Sometimes I merely tell myself to stop; more often, though, I ask myself, Why this? Why now? Why is that image popping up now; why are those words affecting me now? In short, I'm finally able to look at the cause, not the symptom.

And that's what I like about Laura Collins's take on the Kate Moss "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" bit. A month ago, prior to entering treatment, I would have pshawed the thought that the skinny-model phenomenon wasn't a primary cause of eating disorders. But--hello!--I have an eating disorder: I have a myopic focus on the body. Whatever anger I managed to take outward instead of inward, I targeted toward what I perceived as the problem: I wasn't skinny enough, and the reason I thought I wasn't skinny enough was because of the images I was absorbing. That anger, plus the righteous anger that comes with awareness of the double standard surrounding women's appearance, creates a laserlike focus on those images.

But those images weren't the problem, or at least weren't the locus of the problem. My desire to be thin was a symptom of my eating disorder, and my focus on those images a secondary symptom of that desire. If my true problem were merely a sheer desire to look like a model, I'd be abusing my face and hair the same way I have my body--plastic surgery, expensive hair treatments. But while I've certainly looked in the mirror and wished my teeth were more even, my pores less visible, my hair more naturally picture-perfect, it pretty much stops there. A bit of makeup, a deep conditioning, and I'm through. I treat my face much the way I imagine a non-disordered woman treats her body--wishing it were more to her liking and taking certain means to ensure that it's closer to her desires, and then directing her energies elsewhere.

This isn't to say that we shouldn't continue to object to the iron maiden of beauty presented to us. What woman in the western world hasn't looked at a cover-girl model and felt inadequate? What woman hasn't cursed her body for being too fleshy, or too flat-chested, or too short, or too wide-hipped--the standard being the image of a model who is paid to look the way she does, and that image manipulated to inhuman proportions? Every day, women feel robbed of our own brand of beauty because of these images, and I'd love to see our culture's definition of beauty expand thousandfold. As a feminist--as a woman--I'll continue to seek out those images, applaud outlets that dare to use a wider definition of beauty, do my best to avoid those who take the narrow path.

This also isn't to say that those images don't play any role in eating disorders. Besides being fantastic fodder for using symptoms, they normalize body dissatisfaction and "fat talk," making it easier for those with EDs to engage in disordered behavior without others noticing. And, of course, the desire to be model-skinny has kick-started many a diet, which creates hungry people, which leads to disordered eating, if not eating disorders. But I'm happily signing on to Ms. Collins's rant nonetheless. The woman and feminist in me cares. The eating disorder patient in me doesn't.

*This may seem contradictory to last week's Rice Meltdown, which was, on its surface, provoked by appearing to have gained weight. But given that at its core I've always been more preoccupied by calories and food than by my body weight, and that an inconsistent up-down of less than two pounds has never bothered me because I know full well that it likely has nothing to do with my actual body fat, I can now see that it was about trust, not weight. Again: Weight was a symptom, not the root problem.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sitting With It

We have weekly weigh-ins at Renfrew. I'm guessing that the idea is that the staff can monitor by our weight whether we've been following the meal plan. Some women are weighed blind; I'm not one of them. Today I wish I were.

I have followed the meal plan very closely. I'm not always 100% perfect with it--but my slip-ups have been negligible. (I didn't eat enough for lunch on Saturday to pre-compensate for a big meal that night, which turned out to be not that big; I went over on exchanges a couple of times, but in the course of a normal meal, not bingeing--two starches over because I had two slices of pizza to get enough protein exchanges, for example.) And I have accepted on blind faith that my nutritionist is right: I will not gain weight with this plan, and in fact will probably lose some weight.

But this week I was up 1.5 pounds from last week. Now, I know full well that that means exactly nothing. Nothing! The clothes I was wearing, my water retention--1.5 pounds is utterly meaningless. But it still sunk me: I had been doing everything right, and I felt like my body was repaying me in fat.

I think I acted out at dinner as a result--I was supposed to eat a cup of rice and it felt like punishment. Punishment for having been fat in the first place, even though I'm not overweight by BMI standards. Punishment for every minute slip-up I've had; punishment for years of fucked-up eating that may have damaged my metabolism. Punishment for wanting to eat, punishment for being soothed by foot; punishment for having gotten to this place, even though "this place" is far, far away from where some of my fellow patients are. (I'm certainly on the healthier end of the spectrum there.) I didn't finish my meal, and the more the therapist intervened, the more upset I became. She gave me a supplement--which I think a part of me wanted (I wanted to get it, not to drink it), as a weird sort of badge of defiance. I think there was a part of me that was curious to know what would happen if I wasn't the model patient for once; if I said "fuck this" and didn't eat what I was supposed to. And doing so at Renfrew was a safe place to do that. There was support around me afterward; there was a therapist reminding me via the supplement that, yes, I really do need a cup of grains; nobody was going to either boot me out or treat me somehow "special" because I didn't eat my meal.

We talk a lot about "sitting with" a feeling. As in: You're anxious; can you just sit with that? "Sitting with" a feeling is a positive coping mechanism in and of itself, up there with reaching out for support, or going for a walk, or distracting yourself with a movie. It's not something I'm very good at. But the only way to get better at sitting with a feeling is to just do it.

So: I feel fat. Part of that is literal; I run my hands over my stomach, feel my flesh, feel my roundness, am upset. But "fat" is not a feeling--so what exactly is it I'm supposed to sit with? I feel disappointed in myself for not having exercised enough. I feel ashamed at having acted out at dinner; I feel sad and weak that a number on a scale can mean so much to me. I feel sad that I will never be as thin as I once was; I feel sad about no longer leading the life that symbolized (I was confused, but I was also having a lot of fun--everything felt new to me). I feel angry that I care about my weight; I feel angry that I'll never look a way I'll never look. I feel angry that I feel angry. I feel sad that I feel sad.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Light Like a Feather

Joy at What I Weigh Today has a timely (for me) post about what actually happens to your mind and body when you eat three square meals:

It has taken me eons to realize that I’d rather weigh 150 pounds and have my full energy, intellect, creativity, and concentration at my disposal than be a 125 pound version of myself so clouded by chronic imperceptible hunger that I don’t even notice how dull my mind has become.

I'm beginning those eons now. I mean, I've been trying to "come to peace" with my body all my life, no matter if I was overweight or not. But I've always framed it in solely in terms of body image, of approval and acceptance of what I look like. Trying to hold onto those brief moments when I'd catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and like what I'd see; trying to dispel the distaste and shame that fills me when I cross my arms over my belly. At best, I'd frame my body in terms of its function: I can run several miles without stopping; I'm muscular; as a result I have an athletic heart rate and overall good health.

It has never occurred to me to think of bodily acceptance in terms of what I can gain by not being thin. It has always, always been a question of being at peace with what I thought I would lose by not being so.

I've been thin once in my adult life. I wasn't underweight, but I had the kind of body that salespeople felt free to comment on, for being "able to wear anything." (It was a very weird awakening, to find that people felt more free to comment on the body of a thin person than of an average or slightly above-average one.) I'd look in the mirror and see these little hips, these hips that weren't mine; I was constantly touching my hipbone because I'd never felt it so sharp before. I got attention from a certain kind of man I hadn't before. I liked being "able to wear anything"; I spent a lot of money on cute little dresses.

And. I was hungry. I smoked a lot and drank a lot of coffee. I went to bed hungry. I spent meals, say, ripping away any bread that wasn't necessary to hold together the sandwich. I knew I wasn't anywhere near fat, but the number of "fat days" I had decreased by maybe 10%. The "certain kind of man" I was meeting at that time was more often than not also sort of a jerk, so I was a faintheaded wreck, anxious over my love life and too hungry to have both feet on the ground. I was feeling great about running, but would come back after 3.5 miles so exhausted that I'd nearly pass out in the shower (what was I doing to my muscles?).

Okay, enough life-while-thin horror stories. The point is: It came with perks, but not one of those perks is worth its cost. I was hungry all the time. I was more motivated to "do something" with myself during that time than I'd ever been, before or since. I took writing classes; I joined writing groups. And it was impossible to concentrate during those: the anxiety, the lightheadedness, the hunger robbed that precious motivation of its rightful place in my life. It robbed me.

Fuck that shit. I'm going to have 1.5 ounces of hard cheese. NOW.

What do you do when you're hungry?

The good news is that my meal plan no longer seems like it's enormous quantities of food. My body has adjusted; I can eat a bowl of cereal with milk and a cup of berries and a piece of toast for breakfast, and then have a big salad with a half-cup of quinoa and tortilla strips and 2/3 cup beans and so on and so on.

The bad news? I'm now hungry. I think. I don't know. All of last week I was feeling stuffed--I don't think I genuinely felt hungry until Friday (I started the plan on Monday). I was so focused on the stuffed feeling that it took me a few days to realize what I wasn't feeling: irritable, lightheaded. I wasn't ever feeling that floaty high I'd feel when I was eating what I thought was right and not bingeing--I do miss that feeling, I admit--but I wasn't feeling the negative side of hunger either.

So this week I'm feeling cranky and a little lightheaded and spotty, and I don't feel that way immediately after eating. I think it is hunger--but if over- and under-eating has been masking my emotions for so long, what if I'm just actually feeling like a big ol' grouch?

"Eat something and find out which it is, hunger or true irritability," says my sensible mind.

"You should relish this meal plan until you're bumped up to a higher-calorie one," says my eating-disordered mind.

They flip a fictional coin. Last night sensible won; today the other half wins. I am following my meal plan, after all; I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. On Monday I will be honest with my nutritionist, and I suspect she will move me to the next meal plan--right now I'm on a "transitional" plan, which is used for people who restrict, or for people who are very short. That is: It's not supposed to be quite enough. Not yet. So: not yet.

I don't know what to do when I'm hungry--are you "supposed" to eat when you just had something that "should" have filled you up? Or are you supposed to wait? Are you supposed to eat fruit, or string cheese, or graham crackers? Are you supposed to have whatever you want? What if you don't know what you want? What if you feed yourself and you can't stop?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Heading into week 2

Eating "so much fucking food" has gotten easier over the past week. I was incredulous--as in, I literally did not believe it--when my nutritionist said that she thought my binges were provoked in part by hunger. But already I am seeing that she was right. Certainly hunger is not the entirety of it, but it's a much larger chunk than I was able to see, in part because I WAS HUNGRY AND WASN'T THINKING CLEARLY.

I mean, I was just as likely to binge after a full meal as I was after a skimpy one. I don't think I'm triggered to binge by hunger or by a big meal; it's more complex than that. Days of not eating enough cloud one's judgment, making one more prone to not-great choices where the primary focus on one's mind--food--is concerned. (Note that the people in the oft-quoted study that re-created dietary conditions of concentration camp victims--the one that showed that they all became seriously preoccupied with thoughts of food--were given food. They just weren't given enough.) So when I'd finally get proper nourishment, instead of feeling sated, I felt somehow wronged for what I hadn't been eating--like I wanted to go on a roll, but not with healthy food. When full portions are denied, they become the forbidden. I'd heard plenty that denying yourself one food was the surest way to make sure you'd eat in in the future. And I've only rarely denied myself any particular food; I'd just deny myself enough food in general. So food in general would become my preoccupation.

At some point I hope to be more focused in this blog. For now, I'm just sort of putting my thoughts out there.

I didn't follow my meal plan this weekend as closely as I'd planned to. I decided to make pancakes on Saturday, which required a trip to the store, and then it took a long time to actually make them. More than two hours passed between waking and eating; that's too long. I was ravenous and exhausted by the time I ate (I did eat an apple, but it wasn't enough). Not eating until noon threw me off for the whole day. I got in all my portions, but questioned myself more on Saturday and Sunday than I had the rest of the week. My weektime meals tend to be pretty structured--I welcome the variety that a meal plan steers me toward, but a structure is just easier to follow. So instead of "follow meal plan," I think my goal for this week should be to "plan meals." I was telling myself I shouldn't over-plan because that's not "normal." But the fact is, I'm not a normal eater yet, and won't be for a while. Years from now, I hope to not have to plan out every meal. But for now, I need to.

That's actually a recurring theme--two, really--normality, and patience.

1) Normality: NOBODY IS FUCKING NORMAL ABOUT FOOD. I hung out with a friend on Friday night, someone I consider "normal" about food. At one point she said that a coworker brought in a bag of candy corn specifically for my friend, because the coworker knew that my friend loves candy corn. Which she does. But it was Halloween last week, so my friend had had her fill of Halloween candy and didn't want any more. In order to not hurt her coworker's feelings, she put the candy corn in a bowl between their desks, and my friend makes a show of grabbing some whenever she walks by. She then throws it away.

Now, this is "normal" in the sense that she recognizes the emotional connection to food (her coworker doing something nice for her), and "normal" in the sense that she's not eating more sweets than she would like to consume (she had had enough candy for the week and didn't want to have more). So this behavior is normal, because she's a normal eater. But it's also weird! It's just weird! Weird in general that anyone would have to put a show into taking candy corn. I get why she did it, and obviously it's not disordered eating. But for me, it would be. My boyfriend will throw a fit if there's mayo on his sandwich. That's not normal. He's totally normal about food, but not in that way. Nobody is fucking normal.

2) Patience. I don't consider myself a patient person. I'm not necessarily impatient, but during my time in therapy I would repeatedly get frustrated by how much time it took for something to sink in. Like, I'd intellectually recognize that X was a problem for me as a kid, which makes me do Y now. I'd get that. But I'd still keep doing Y. I couldn't understand why an intellectual understanding of it wouldn't just make it poof go bye-bye.

I'm glad I met with a nutritionist before jumping into the program. Because that showed me that I really don't even have an intellectual understanding of eating disorders, or at least of mine. I had no idea I was restricting to the extent that I was. I was utterly blind to that. I saw quickly and dramatically how I had to just sort of close my eyes and put myself into the hands of this program--that is, I have to do the work. And I have to put my own individual effort into it, and it has to be real effort. It will work. I don't know exactly in what ways it will work; I have no idea, realistically, how I will be in five years. But it will work in the sense that I trust that my life will be more livable because of this program. I have to do the faith fall. That means following all the rules and listening to myself while doing so. That means not brushing off my reactions as overblown or inauthentic; that means not creating food issues for myself where there are none. That means not looking at raw food diets; that means not entering my intake into calorie calculators. That means using my food diary. That means planning for meals, and planning for weekends, and not spacing out in group. That means effort, and I will do it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day One, or: The Wheat Germ Meltdown

I entered Renfrew because my binge eating felt out of my control. So I pictured my treatment plan as focusing on stress-relief techniques other than bingeing ("take a walk!" "call a friend!") and, I don't know, drawing some sort of picture of my body that would then give me a Big Happy Magic Moment when I realize that my body is just fine. The nutrition part I figured would be a snap--my meals are complete and healthy; the problem comes after 10 p.m. on nights when I'm alone.

What I didn't expect was that not only would I be put on a meal plan, but that it would be SO MUCH FUCKING FOOD. When my nutritionist began asking me about my meals, I interrupted her: "I know you haven't seen my chart [my nutritionist was switched at the last minute] so you don't know this, but mealtime isn't my problem; it's bingeing." She asked me to articulate my meals anyway, which I did, expecting gold stars for my daytime eating: six ounces nonfat yogurt with berries and two tablespoons muesli for breakfast; spinach salad with bell pepper and chicken or beans for lunch; five prunes and eleven almonds for a snack; dinner, depends. (Yes, I know that eating the same thing pretty much every day is also a sign of disordered eating. What can I say--that works for me.)

"How many calories do you think you're taking in on a given day?" she asked.

"Probably 1,600 to 2,200, depending on my dinner."

"You're not taking in anywhere near that amount." I felt--proud, tight in my solar plexus, scared. Then she began saying what I should be eating, how I can make my meals more complete: Add half a cup of muesli instead of two tablespoons. Have bread with lunch. Have a cup of rice with dinner instead of "a bit." These are all things I've purposely cut down on in order to either lose or maintain weight. The thought of having bread with lunch--not because I'm at a restaurant and the bread basket is good, not because it's homemade, not because I'm choosing a sandwich over a salad, but because bread is a part of a normal meal--fills me with panic. I thought panic would be reserved for the mythical anorexic 12-year-old I had in my mind; I'm a big girl (heh heh), I can have a goddamned piece of bread without freaking out. This is a part of my recovery; I'm signing up for this.

But I had underestimated how strong the power of restriction had become for me--how easily I'd made it a part of what I considered "normal" eating. I didn't think I'd done any restricting for years--but then, my definition of "restricting" was "not eating," not "not eating enough." I had been so focused on the enormous volume of food I had been consuming that I hadn't looked at what I hadn't been consuming.

I looked at the sheet of meal plan guidelines, looking at how I could update my breakfast. A half-cup of muesli is a lot; I could instead have...three tablespoons wheat germ? I pictured three tablespoons, saw the fullness, the richness of wheat germ--a health richness, a nutrient-filled richness, a richness I had forbidden myself more than a tablespoon of, ever, without really thinking about why.

I occasionally make breakfast bars for my boyfriend, who used to be prone to skipping "the most important meal of the day" (there's an irony in there, oui? He's not the one with an eating disorder). I pack them full of wheat germ, thinking that will help him power through the day. I usually give him the whole pan minus two bars, which stay in my freezer until I throw them out. My preteen-sized nonfat yogurt is waiting.

"You're flushing," the nutritionist said. I hadn't noticed; instead, I was noticing my shallow breath, the tears, the world seeming vivid, almost hallucinatory, my nutritionist's face coming into hyperfocus. A panicked reaction I never thought I would have--a reaction, in fact, that I'd read about in my "learn all about eating disorders so I can learn how to do it right" and both wanted and couldn't at all imagine--a reaction to three tablespoons of wheat germ.

"Does that seem like a lot?" she asked. I nodded. "It doesn't seem like a lot to me," she continued. "You have an eating disorder. You've had one for twenty-five years. This will seem hard at first, but this is what will help you know what's normal." We went through the meal plan, me recognizing that my reaction was borne of those twenty-five years--of a whole box of cereal in one sitting, of day after day of starvation, of Amy's Organic Brown Rice Bowls for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which was during a period I thought I was being sensible.

So I'm sitting here with index cards, putting together meals that I think I can eat, enjoy, finish. I had two of those meals today. It is a lot of food--I went onto a calorie-counter website (which is probably verboten, but hell, the literature said "No diet books" so...) and by the end of the day I'll have consumed almost 2,100 calories--which, as it happens, is about my daily caloric need. It seems like a lot of food, but it is what I need. More than that, doing this--sticking with it, slogging my way through a full serving of yogurt with the goddamned wheat germ and toast--will help me figure out hunger, and need, and satiety. I won't have to have two grains, one fat, one dairy, one fruit every morning for the rest of my life. But until I know what my body needs, and until I have worked my way through my food compulsions, until I know what is actually, truly, really normal for me, this is what I have to do. I am already dreading when I have to step up to the next level of meal planning, which will be even more food. The nutritionist assured me at the beginning that this meal plan wouldn't make me gain weight, and I believed her--until I figured out what my caloric intake would be (which, duh, is probably why they don't want us reading diet literature). I will figure that out, with her aid, when I get there.

I thought the hardest part would be sitting through the nights when I wanted more than anything to black out with food. That might be the hardest part, eventually--I don't know; I haven't had that kind of night yet. But this part--the eating part--is already harder than I'd imagined.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

eve of treatment

The thing about announcing to people, even just a handful of them, that you're beginning an official program to rid yourself of an addiction, is that then they're going to expect you to live up to it. I enter the Renfrew Center's intensive outpatient program tomorrow and am nervous--scared. Nervous that all the ideas of addiction and illness are bullshit and I just lack willpower. Nervous that it's too late. Nervous that I'll walk in and it will be a bunch of anorexic 12-year-olds and me. Nervous that I'll get worse instead of better. Nervous that I'll get off the binge eating cycle and onto the restricting one. Nervous that I'll enjoy restricting if that happens. Nervous that I'm just lazy. Nervous that this will lead me to say "fuck it" and I'll eat whatever I goddamn want and will become fat. Nervous that I don't really have a problem. Nervous that I do. Nervous that my insurance will crap out. Nervous that I will be too ashamed to look anyone in the eye.

Honestly, I am a little bit petrified. But now that I am writing it out, I see that I am indeed terrified and that it's okay. It's a feeling I can handle. It's better than numbness. I hope I can remember that when feelings stronger than "a little bit petrified" begin to kick in.

I want to sit here and vow that I will give this my all. Because I have to; because it's been 25 years; because this is my chance. Because it's time. Because it could be the rest of my life like this if I don't. But I don't know if I can make that promise--I don't want to make a promise I won't be able to keep. I don't even know what "giving this my all" would mean--I've made so many halfhearted promises to myself and broken them in the light of morning. Write every day / No sugar / Spend 20 minutes cleaning my apartment every day / meditate every day / call my brother once a month / write a letter once a week. These are not impossible promises to keep, but I've broken every one. So if I were to say "I promise to give this my all," I would be lying.

What I can say: I will do my best. I will be kind to myself, while noting that "kind" does not equal permission to numb myself with food and television. I will approach this with an open mind. I will trust that this can work, but that I will have to do my part for that to happen.