Trade ‘Em Up Tuesday: Recovery
I really enjoyed the last Trade ‘Em Up Tuesday I participated in (thanks as always Alex for the idea!) and Carly’s amazing and honest post yesterday inspired me to take a similar topic and combine it with Trade ‘Em Up. There are plenty of moments when I still find myself missing the days of my eating disorder and the various sources of the “high” it gave me. But there are also plenty of sacrifices I made that I would not want to have to make again. So today I’m going to share what I would not trade, and what I sometimes want to trade, about recovery. Please be aware that the trades are not things I plan to do or think are a good idea to do! But it helps to take the voices in my head and put them here on this blog, so I can sort out those thoughts of temptation to slip back into old habits. I would not trade…cheese and nut butter. I remember the first sandwich I ordered with cheese on it, once I started treatment. I did it so I could tell my nutritionist I had done so, and not feel like I was lying to her (except I was already lying about a bunch of other stuff). But that first bite was…heavenly. My body seriously reacted to the fat in an almost scary way…that’s how deprived I was. I ate that sandwich SO freaking slowly, savoring every last bit of the cheese, even though there wasn’t all too much on there (of course I’d asked for light on the cheese). I also used to freak out if I ate nut butter more than two days in a row, and even then only one serving was okay, measured out and all. Now I love cheese so much, more than I ever did even before my ED began. I adore trying new nut butters and think a banana almost tastes sad without one (unless Chobani is involved).
I would not trade…healthier hair and skin. On a related (as in not getting enough fats) note, my skin used to be itchy and flaky ALL the time. My hair was thin and broke so easily. I could literally feel the fat depletion in my body. I am feeling the dry skin a lot lately with the winter but even at the end of summer 2010 when I’d hit my lowest weight, I felt like a dried out prune who would end up going bald. It sure is nice knowing that once winter passes, the more frequent lotion applications will too. I would not trade…carbs. I still have carb fear, but I eat a hell of a lot more carbs than I did a couple of years ago.
I would trade…not needing a belt with my pants. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I loved the feeling of my loose pants and I miss it. I feel bad about myself each morning I put on pants that I used to wear a belt with and now don’t.
I would trade…not being able to restrict or cut out something I love. That sounds bizarre…who wouldn’t want to be able to keep eating and drinking the things she loves? But I swear whenever I enjoy something I eat or drink, I automatically assume I shouldn’t be consuming it. Enjoyment of my food makes me nervous because my all-or-nothing mind tells me that I will overdo it. I used to get a high too from restricting and/or not allowing myself something I truly wanted. It made me feel like I was being good, disciplined, and perfect. Now whenever I find myself restricting, the high ends when I realize what I’m doing and the path it led me down previously. It’s almost like I miss not being aware that I had a problem, so that my ignorant self could go on hurting my body and not realizing it. I would not trade…a life without the scale. Now that I don’t use a scale I don’t have a number staring me in the face several times a day, telling me I’m not good enough or that I’m worthless or had “been bad”. A number does not define me. I would trade…missing out on the high an acceptable scale number gave me. That being said, I sure did feel pretty damn good about myself whenever I saw a new lowest number on the scale. However that was quickly followed by a new goal to get the number even lower. Or if I ever saw a higher number ever again, I felt like a failure. I would not trade…being able to be around people eating food without staring at them and said food. Almost every time I went out to eat or ate around other people, I would noticeably stare at their plates to the point of it becoming embarrassing. Sometimes I was even called out on it outright, or indirectly in the form of the person looking up at my practically begging face and offering me a bite of the food. Which of course I always declined. Now I can eat more of the foods that I truly desire, so I have no need to be jealous of others, because I’ve got my own drink or dessert or carbohydrate.
I would trade…feeling full. Whenever I feel full, no matter what I ate (I’m looking at you, baby cabbages), I feel bad about myself. Back in the ED days I had the “discipline” (aka disease) to not let myself get full, ever. And if I did, I could at least say it had been weeks since the last time I felt full. That was my source of comfort, though it rarely worked in the end. I still always found a way to beat myself up. I would not trade…wine and cocktails. I recall the days when I’d go out to eat with my family and repeatedly decline their offers for wine or a margarita (my I-just-turned-21-and-I-can-drink-now former go-to order). I’d say, “I don’t like drinking. It doesn’t taste good.” No, actually my ED didn’t like drinking because that meant it had to worry about empty calories and said calories making me fat which clearly, they haven’t.
I would not trade…being able to wear shirts without worrying about how bony my upper body looks. I remember going out my senior year of college and always wearing my hair down to cover my shoulders, or deleting 50% of the photos I took after going out because in those photos, I looked sick.
I would trade…how skeptical I am now of magazines. Ignorance is sometimes bliss and I remember reading something in Shape or Self and taking it as gospel. No carbs after 7PM? Okay, I could run with that and feel confident that it was correct and would help me lose weight, because a magazine said so. Now I know that a lot of what’s in those magazines is bullshit. I’ve got improved media literacy. But that also means one less resource I can rely on to tell me the do and do-nots of being healthy. I still fear relying on myself to know the “correct” way to eat and work out, so the more outside sources I have to listen to, the more secure I feel. Also, being jaded is sometimes just no fun. Hello nostalgia.
I would not trade…having boobs again. My size C bras are back in use and I am even considering myself a member of the Bitty Titty Club lately, not Itty Bitty Titty Club (IBTC of course). I would trade…not knowing how many calories are in what I eat. I used to rely heavily on labels and online restaurant nutrition calculators so that I could know (as best as possible; I’m well aware neither of these tools are 100% accurate) how many calories I was taking in. I had that magic number 1,200 in my head and aimed to be at or below that. Now I purposefully try to avoid nutrition labels or other resources that will tell me the calories in what I’m eating, because knowing totally ruins the food/drink for me. But like any control freak, I love certainty. Now I find myself playing a guessing game in my head and still at times adding up the calories I’m netting so far in a day. And I tend to overestimate how many calories I ate or underestimate how many calories I burned, just to “be safe”. Still I know that estimating is preferable to knowing for sure because it could lead me down the slippery slope of calorie counting, that is the opposite of the intuitive eating I’m trying to adopt.
I would not trade…having a schedule that consists of less doctor’s appointments and gym trips, and more nights out and weekend trips. Yes I do still get overwhelmed by those late nights or time away from home. But it’s still way better than the sleepless nights I spent before weigh-ins, worrying if I’d be threatened with in-patient treatment again. It’s nice to go to the gym for less than an hour and not feel completely awful about myself (still some anxiety but not enough to keep me in the gym longer than I want to be there). I can squeeze in a quick gym trip after work and then go meet friends (in fact I’m going to do this tonight), instead of spending over an hour there, without making myself sick with worry. I would trade…not having a “cushion” to gain weight. I remember when I first started recovery, even though it was SO hard to eat more, being able to tell myself, “But you need to gain weight. You have a cushion, you have wiggle room.” Now I don’t feel like I can say that anymore I would not trade…knowing that I now worry my family less. Of course parents always worry but I used to get a lot more questions about what/if I ate. I know for a fact my mom would never be comfortable spending all the time she does now at our FL condo if she had the option to do so 2-3 years ago. And I wouldn’t have wanted her to leave either! Moving back home after college was not just about saving money, but also about being directly around the support system I needed as I was trying to gain back weight.
I would not trade…being able to be a more “normal” restaurant patron. Though I still ask for some things on the side and make some substitutions, I used to embarrass myself whenever I ordered ANYTHING while out at a restaurant. I pretty much would destroy every dish I ordered and reconstruct it to fit my disordered needs. I also would send back anything that wasn’t EXACTLY as I’d asked for. Now if I ask for the dressing on the side, and I get a salad with dressing on it, 9 times out of 10 I’ll just keep it and eat it. I’m also more likely now to order a dish “as-is”. Plus that way I can do more sharing with friends! Again, I want everyone to be aware that I know that recovery is the healthiest path forward but just because I’m on that journey doesn’t mean I don’t miss some of what came with the ED territory. And I’m working on being okay with giving that up, because we all sometimes miss whay we know are bad for us. The next step is to stop missing them, and I hope you’ll all continue to read along with me as I work toward that point. Do you ever miss what you know is bad for you? Can you relate to any of my trades and/or not trades? What would you trade today? What wouldn’t you trade?