Sunday, July 21, 2013

Food and Control Issues

***No, this is not a dissertation but it's long enough to be one***

There has been something that's been causing me to shy away from blogging and I feel like I need to share it both in the hopes that it may someday help at least one person and also so that I can get it out there and move on.

Last summer that I finally realized I needed to let go of my rigidness and rituals, especially regarding food (see this post)  During the period of time when my life was somewhat free-falling (end of a relationship, quitting grad school, moving home, trying to figure out what to do with my life, etc), I found it necessary to cling to some semblance of control anywhere I could get it and my diet was a great place to start.  I started trying to eat healthier, paying attention to nutrition for pretty much the first time ever. I started using a calorie counting app and was shocked to see how much more I was eating than my body really needed per day (according to the mr. internet).

For awhile, it was very liberating to make all these discoveries about what foods made me feel good (protein, veggies) and which ones made me feel just ick and not full for long (junk food, bread).  I naturally lost weight and gained confidence but what started as a healthy outlet quickly turned into something else entirely with me deciding which foods were 'bad' and not okay to have any of, ever. I was in fear of gaining back the weight and thus, losing the new confidence. While I began my nutrition journey by logging calories after a meal and thinking on the bigger time scale, I soon switched to logging calories beforehand to make sure I didn't go over my 'limit'. I lost even more weight but instead of feeling healthy and great, I started feeling weak and delicate. Of course, our society being the way it was, I got even more compliments with people expressing admiration for my weight loss and general skinny-ness so the thought of gaining back a pound was associated with losing people's respect and admiration. It was at this time that I was posting a lot of outfit pictures for fashion weeks like the ones below...

This is me, with not enough food

Constantly feeling hungry and counting calories was mentally distracting, to say the least and I'm not going to go into all the details of how much it took over my life for a few years but last summer, I finally crossed the line, mentally, where I realized I couldn't go on like that. It became clear to me that I could survive, but not live, with that amount of food and control mentality.

With the support of select family, friends, boyfriend-fellow and a therapist, I worked my way up to trying foods that were on my 'bad' list and began the journey to relearn intuitively eating. For several months, I was doing pretty good. But then Christmas rolled around with all of the cookies, candy, and general home-cooked comfort food. Like the rest of America, I gained a few pounds but unlike most of my peers, it was far more distressing to me in my fragile state.

It's been a journey since then to find my balance. The balance between eating healthy and enjoying food - between feeling in control but not too in control.  The thought of restricting my food is distressing but so is the consequence of eating whatever I feel like.

Obviously, this has been a huge part of my life for the past three years and there have been a lot of topics I've wanted to blog about that have stemmed from this larger issue but I needed to get this out in the open first. I've also been hesitant to post any outfit posts (i.e. pictures of myself) when I have gained a few pounds compared to the photos above. But I'm tired of that. So here's to moving forward.


5 comments:

  1. You are beautiful no matter what weight you are! Remember that! I will e-mail you back soon xo :)

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  2. Hi Rachael,

    I thought about writing you an email, but I wanted to put this in a comment, for others to read. Maybe it will help them too.

    What you described is almost exactly what I fought with in high school, and a little in college as well. I became obsessed with the calorie count of my food. I would sneak a calorie count book (one that showed the amount in non-labeled food, like an apple) out of my dad's desk to check. There were food I absolutely refused to eat. It was a constant battle to continually decrease the amount of calories I ate. If I ate "too much", there was overwhelming guilt. If I ate "the right amount", I felt proud, but hungry. It was a reflection of my self-esteem at the time, and a way to control my environment. Talking to other girls, to Jordan, and eventually becoming fed up with feeling the way I did helped me pull out of that mindset, though I did experience setbacks in college.

    As I've learned since, it falls under the category of "disordered eating". There are estimates that as many as 80% of women and girls experience disordered eating. There are things I don't allow myself to do, like weigh myself (that's a trigger), or put food on a "never eat this" list. It's always going to a factor in my life, but it's not going to be an overwhelming one.

    Thank you for sharing your struggles. I think it's important for women to talk about. Please let me know if you want to talk more about it.

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  3. It was encouraging to read this. Thank you for sharing your story, Rachael. I'm in similar boat: wanting to lose the last of my pregnancy weight, but knowing that I can't face another "diet" (because a "diet," for me, quickly becomes serious disordered eating). Intuitive eating is helpful...and kind of scary. It's wonderful and terrible to be eating things that I deprived myself of (sometimes for YEARS) because they were on the "bad" list.

    Balance, as you say, is key. I hope you find yours soon.

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  4. i don't think we were 'following' each other back when i wrote this, but i have gone through something very similar in my past. it's like you're trapped, when you're stuck counting calories and restricting yourself all day long.

    http://delirious-rhapsody.blogspot.com/2012/02/one-where-i-talk-about-eating-disorders.html

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  5. Judging by the comments, it seems like most of us ladies have gone through this at some point. And it's a hard cycle to break because of all the feedback you get. Those positive comments were like fuel to the fire for me. It happened years ago for me and I still can't count calories or weigh myself. When I really struggled with it, I even turned around on the scale at the dr and asked not to be told my weight. It was just too much of a trigger for me. But on the flip side, after that I became the heaviest I had ever been and that was a depressing battle for me to get "healthy" again. I'm sorry you have been going through this.

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