A month ago, I wrote about the difficulty I’ve had writing lately.
That was only part of the story.
The other part stems from these posts. After they were published, I found the people whose support I was seeking were harshly judging me instead. My faith in the D-OC was shaken but I refuse to let a few bad apples ruin the generally awesome bunch.
I haven’t been writing because these issues with food and my body have been at the forefront, even moreso than diabetes, and I was afraid to open myself up to judgment when I’m already judging myself. But it’s something I need to deal with, and I deal with things by writing, so here we are.
Disclaimer: this post contains a discussion of body image issues and harmful eating patterns.
Before I joined the gym over 10 years ago, I wasn’t in the best shape. I was a healthy eater but between an injury abruptly ending my dancing career, and medication for a reproductive issue that was nameless at the time, I gained some weight. I didn’t feel “fat.” I wasn’t unhappy with how I looked. I was comfortable in my own skin and didn’t mind being curvier. After my freshman year of college, I decided to join the gym with my mom to work on really rehabilitating my injuries. The first thing they do when you join a gym is weigh you. When I looked down at the scale, I rapidly went from feeling ok with my body to feeling like I was disgusting.
My eyes welled up with tears and I went into the locker room to hide. I was ashamed of myself. I couldn’t believe that I’d gone from a dancer’s body to weighing that of 2 ballerinas. In that moment I decided I had a choice. I could either look at that number as something I’d never be again, or I could let it defeat me.
I decided that I had gotten my body into that “mess,” and I could get myself out of it.
As I started incorporating exercise with my already healthy eating habits the weight flew off. A year later, I had lost 40 pounds and reached my goal weight. I felt great and exercise was by far the best stress reliever I had ever found, it was even better than playing my guitar.
Then my weight loss plateaued as often happens. I gradually stopped taking rest days. I started questioning my food choices. I wouldn't allow myself the occasional "treat." I started counting my calories. I started working out longer and became obsessed not with how I was feeling, but with the number on the scale. Whenever the number on the scale would fluctuate upwards, I’d be overcome with fear that I was getting “fat” again and fear that everyone would be able to tell that I’d gained weight.
This was where the stress eating started. I had no problems eating healthy but when the stress became more than I could manage through exercise, I turned to food. As soon as I got around the foods that I wouldn’t let myself have normally (ice cream, potato chips, etc.) I’d start eating and wouldn’t be able to stop. It literally felt like I was blacking out mid calorie-fest and the next thing I knew, whatever I had been eating was totally gone and I felt like crap.
When I realized what was happening I went right to the counseling services at school. That worked for me for a while. My weight became just another number but I still refrained from taking rest days from the gym and made healthy food choices as often as possible.
A few years later, my body inexplicably started to change, I started to feel sick, and I was eventually diagnosed with diabetes. I had an excuse to become obsessive over my weight and food choices again. Since diagnosis, I’ve found myself in this pattern where I’ll experience a stress weight loss and then I’ll beat myself up to keep it off. Every time this happens I think I look great at my new weight and the mere thought of getting back to my previous weight (which I had been content with) makes me sick to my stomach with fear. Last summer I ended up losing a considerable amount of weight when I started working. While I expected it to come back during the semester, it didn’t, and I was proud of myself. Even my doctors didn’t think I’d be able to maintain that weight, but I did. I’ve accidentally become a vegetarian. I’ve gradually cut healthier foods out of my diet (like almonds) because they’ve become binge foods for me and once I start eating them, I can’t stop. It feels like I can make ANYTHING a binge food and make anything that’s healthy incredibly unhealthy. I can’t even have saltine crackers in my pantry for the occasional stomachache because once I open them I’ll eat a whole sleeve. I even found myself a eating peanut butter out of the jar as if it was ice cream. Yes, I know this is disgusting. The only way I know how to stop it is to just not buy things I could potentially binge on because I have no restraint when I’m around foods that aren’t fruit, vegetables, or lean proteins.
When I was home for 3 weeks at Christmas, I gained 10 pounds despite consistent exercising. I’m used to such clean eating that when I have a cookie or two, my body holds onto those calories for dear life. This has been met with dismissive comments of “oh you’ll get that weight off in a week,” "where? I can't see a difference in you" and “well I guess you’ve gotta get yourself to the gym.” Because, ya know, I’m not already in the gym 60+ minutes a day or something.
I’m so stressed with school and work this weight isn’t budging. I feel disgusting. I can’t stand the sight of myself. I put on more layers of clothes because I don’t want anyone to see me so out of shape. I workout until I’m completely exhausted. I run until I feel like my still injured knees are about to snap. My healthy outlet for stress has once again become destructive. When I workout or eat I have to stop and ask myself whether I’m respecting my body or abusing it. The very things that are lauded as part of a healthy lifestyle are the things that have made me battle with my body. The things that have made no weight light enough, no workout long enough, and no dress size small enough. And I’m stuck. I’m stuck turning healthy behaviors into self-abuse. I’m stuck hating what I see in the mirror. I’m stuck looking at my body and my weight as a point of shame.
And I can’t get myself out of it.