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disorderly eating

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Dear Eating Disorder

by Heather Loeb

Dear Binge Eating Disorder,

I have to let you go. It has served me in the past to have you near, but I can no longer run to you to hide from my emotions. You and I lived together for many years, and I know you started out with good intentions, but I’m becoming another person, and those intentions are now holding me back from who I want and need to be.

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The person I want to become no longer needs a crutch, no longer needs a distraction and to hide from uncomfortable emotions. I have to sit with those feelings and grow into them.

Oddly enough, I appreciate you and everything you’ve done to protect me and help me. I know you tried hard to protect me, to give me comfort when I was in pain. You saw me through depression and anxiety. And so much more.

But things are so different now. You’re hurting me; I’m hurting me. Lately I’ve been turning to you everyday because things have been hard, and I’ve been struggling. It’s easy to turn my higher brain off and plan a binge. And so easy to enjoy the first few bites of food and forget what made me sad or mad in the first place. I love shoving food in my mouth ā€” but wait, it’s not food I’m shoveling in, it’s my emotions. I can’t keep doing that.

I’ll miss the feeling I get when I binge, that high that makes me forget. I’ll miss the anticipation of a binge; the feeling that I’m about to feel happy and full.

But I won’t miss the pain that bingeing brings. The indigestion and guilt. Oh the guilt, is so strong and partnered with shame. I won’t miss the scale going up, up and up even though I’ve had weight loss surgery. I won’t miss hiding food from my family. I definitely won’t miss eating so much that I throw up (because my stomach is surgically smaller, or was).

As I write this, tears are streaming down my cheeks. There’s a huge part of me that doesn’t want to let go. You’ve been a security blanket to me. I always used you to feel safe and comforted and now it feels like I’m losing it all. Like we’re breaking up.

I’m scared. There’s so much fear inside me that I’ll never feel safe and comforted again ā€” that you’re irreplaceable. But my higher brain tells me you’re not.

This is will be hard, and I will likely stumble along the way, but that’s OK. The need to be a new person propels me forward, whether I’m ready or not.

Again, I’m grateful to you because you helped me survive. I’m just not that person anymore. I’ve been surviving; now it’s time to thrive.

Goodbye, old friend. I wish you no ill will.

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I’ve found myself saying “personal growth is so annoying” all week — to my husband, therapist, best friend. It’s been a week of intense introspection where I’ve realized I haven’t been taking care of myself as I should. I’ve fallen off the wagon of self care, careening right into binge eating and negative self talk. All these negative thoughts have been ruminating in my head.

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Iā€™m beautiful, and my body is beautiful.
I need to appreciate and nurture it

But the thing bothering me the most is my binge eating. Last year I had weight loss surgery — the gastric sleeve — and I really can’t eat a whole lot. But I find myself pushing my limits, eating until I’m uncomfortably full and can hardly breathe. I’ve gained about 15 pounds since the start of COVID-19, and I’m so ashamed. I should be thinner almost a year after my surgery. I shouldn’t be drinking Diet Coke. I shouldn’t be eating junk all day long — so long that sometimes my jaw hurts from chewing all the crap I put in my mouth.

I feel like a failure, but today I hit a breaking point. I’d been eating all day. It felt like my skin didn’t fit anymore and suddenly I was aware of every inch of my skin. I took a bath and tried to wash away my overeating sins and shame.

Then it hit me. I have to stop doing this. There was a reason I got the weight loss surgery, and it shouldn’t be a quick fix, it should be a tool, and I need to start using it as such. I’m not a lost cause. Sure, I’ve gained 15 pounds, but who hasn’t in the midst of the pandemic? Not that it’s an excuse. But I have to start eating more healthily or I truly believe I’ll put myself in an early grave.

For the first time in a long time I feel hope. I told David what I was thinking, and he was very understanding as always. I know sometimes I put him in a hard spot because I ask him to help me be accountable but then get mad when he tries to help.

He told me he believed in me and had a suggestion: I need to quit Diet Coke. This hit me hard. I’ve struggled for a decade trying to quit Diet Coke. When I got the surgery, I did for a bit, but then started taking sips here and there, which turned into a 12-pack every week, then two 12-packs.

I love Diet Coke. I love that when I come downstairs in the morning with the kids, who are usually arguing and not telling me what they want for breakfast, that the first thing I do is grab a Diet Coke. The first few sips are the best — it burns all the way down and is so crisp. I usually down the first one fast, then maybe one or two more before I take the kids. Then a couple throughout the day. It feels like a treat. Why I feel I need a treat that often, I do not know. It almost feels like a security blanket.

But diet soda just isn’t good for you (especially if you’ve had the sleeve), and although I love it, I must say good-bye. I need to bid farewell to disorderly eating. Logically, I know it’s not good for me, but in the moment I think it will be great. And it might taste amazing, but any pleasure I get is temporary.

Any pleasure I get is temporary. What’s not is the shame I feel. The discomfort and pain, too. That seems so permanent.

After my discussion with David, I threw out all the Diet Coke I had in the house, even the ones that I just bought today. It’s silly, but it made me so sad. I threw out the Butterfinger I had hidden in the fridge, the bag of white cheddar popcorn and a box of Fruit Roll-ups. The food I don’t care about. Eating healthy seems so much easier than forgoing my diet soda habit.

But I have to do what I have to do, because isn’t that all a form of self-harm — bingeing on junk food and chugging Diet Coke? I’m only eating my feelings, trying to bury them down deep and hoping for the best. I think it’s safe to say that this is not a healthy or productive way to deal with life. And someone like me, whose brain doesn’t function properly, can’t live that way. Nobody can, actually.

I have to learn to sit with my feelings. I have to retrain my brain on what constitutes as a “treat.” I have to rein in the negative ruminations. I have to get uncomfortable, be more vulnerable and let go of these actions that once served me but now do not.

Personal growth is so annoying.

But necessary.

Stay in the light.

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