It’s Been Over A Week!

It dawned on me last night that this blog has now been up for over a week. It’s only been about a week, but so much has changed it seems. Here’s a recap:

I have had two (small) binges during the week, one yesterday and one on Thursday (or was it Wednesday..?). I have discovered that when I go for long walks in the morning I start to crave sugar in the afternoon and find myself snacking uncontrollably. I have had to force myself to stop each time, but it was still a challenge.. though not as difficult. As for overeating, I’ve only done it a few times (maybe 3-4?) this past week, which is remarkable, because it’s usually during every meal.

I’ve discovered that by a) exercising for a good hour in the morning, b) not overeating, and c) working hard to control the binges, I have started to recognize some of my hunger cues and am starting to remember again what true hunger feels like. I have also improved a bit on being able to differentiate between being hungry and actually being thirsty. As for drinking water…. I still need some major improvement in that department. I am trying. I think part of my problem is I am cold 24/7 here in the winter (think of it as a damp cold with all the humidity we get from being on the coast) and the last thing I want to do is drink a glass of cold anything. Perhaps I should start drinking lots of tea again. I was on a bit of a tea kick last year around the holidays and loved it! Especially having green tea in the afternoons.

I’ve started wearing my FitBit again (if you are on there add me as a friend and we can compete in challenges with each other 🙂 ) during the day to track my steps and I have also been wearing it at night to monitor my sleep. I’ve forgotten how much I enjoyed using that device. Maybe later this year I will buy myself the wristband. I have the FitBit One that clips onto your waistband and I swear it’s going to pop out one day and I will lose it forever. I like using the FitBit though because it also tracks the number of floors you climb each day (which is great, because I live on a hill, surrounded by hills) and also reports back the number of calories you’ve burned each day. I don’t focus too hard on that number, but use it to guide me when I select meals each day.

Though I have been going for some long walks in the morning (~3 miles, ~1 hour), I have also tried to switch them into intervals of walking and running. The first day I tried this was Thursday and I did pretty good. I actually just went for two small sprints and my legs felt a little tired, but nothing too bad. On Friday I tried switching between walking and running and ended up having to stop because my shins started to hurt again. I am not sure if it was the running that did it or the running down a hill that did it. I am going to let my legs rest for a couple days and then try the intervals one more time on a flat (maybe softer.. so less impact?) surface and see how I do. I have to remember to be patient with myself though. That’s often the hardest part for me.

Earlier in the week I forgot to mention that I won a book in a contest on GoodReads! It’s called New Life, No Instructions: A Memoir and is written by Gail Caldwell. I am excited to read this book, because I think it will give me some insight and hope into new beginnings in life, especially those that come unexpectedly, with little warning, and no instructions. For those who know me personally, you’ll probably know what I’m referring to.

If you like reading books (or could live in a library like me), you should check on The FirstReads Giveaway Contests on GoodReads 🙂 Each morning I scroll through the newly listed contests and enter contests for the books that interest me the most. I also stay active on the website and use it to update my progress as I read books and keep track of previously read books. Ever so often I (sometimes a couple times a month or twice a week.. depending) I will win books. I always say it’s how I “support my (reading) habit”, otherwise I would go broke in a bookstore in under thirty minutes flat. The only catch is if you do win a book, it is highly requested (and recommended) that when you are finished you provide an honest review on the site 🙂

Finally, this week I finished reading A Life Apart by L. Y. Marlow. It was one of the books my sister sent me for Christmas and I absolutely loved it! It was one of those books that grabs your attention from the beginning and keeps it through the entire book. I also started reading Black Canyon by Jeremy Bates and hope to have that finished by mid week next week. Although I didn’t win the contest for Black Canyon, I did win a separate contest held by the author in which he was kind enough to send me an electronic copy of his book 🙂


Stereotypes (and Misunderstandings) of Eating Disorders

The last week or so I have spent some time thinking about some of the stereotypes and perhaps misunderstandings that surround eating disorders. I think part of these thoughts have arisen from my own issues in admitting to others that I have an eating disorder.

First, let me say that it’s extremely weird to say that out loud, or even in my own head. It’s weird to think that I have an eating disorder, or to even type it here. Although I have never been officially diagnosed, nor have I ever sought diagnosis, I do exhibit all predefined symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder except for purging. Regardless, whether I have a clinical diagnosis or not, I do know from my own patterned behavior that my eating is disordered.

I remember the first time I thought to myself, “I might actually have an eating disorder”, I paused in reflection, only to look in the mirror and think to myself how absurd that sounds because I am not underweight, I am overweight. I suppose I always assumed that having an eating disorder meant you were malnourished and underweight, but I recognize now that isn’t always the case. In fact, in recent years a variety of different eating disorders have been newly recognized, to include Orthorexia and Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID.

This long-held assumption made it difficult for me to tell others about my issues and extremely difficult for me to even admit it publicly, through this blog, because I figured no one would believe me or take me seriously.

In talking to others about my experience and eating disorders in general, I also started to realize that some people tend to forget that even though it is an eating disorder it is still associated with mental health. In my case, food has become an addiction and a vice. I am addicted to it, because I use it to make me feel better about different things in my life. I am also addicted (in a different way, I think… and that will have to be addressed in a separate post) to certain foods, namely those high in sugar.

Addiction to food is a tricky thing. If one is addicted to cigarettes, the ultimate goal is to quit smoking them. If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, the ultimate goal is to quit using those substances. We can’t quit eating food though. It is a necessity. And I often find myself wishing I didn’t have to eat or think about or deal with food, because it would make things so much easier to manage. So instead of quitting the substance I am addicted to, I instead will have to find a way to live with it in some capacity that is healthy and not damaging to me.. and that is what I need to figure out how to do.

Knowing When I’m Hungry or Full

First, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day. I hope you all enjoyed your day, whether single, dating, or married. I definitely enjoyed mine!

I’ve noticed in the last month that I often have a difficult time noticing when I am truly hungry or truly full. I don’t think that my stomach is incapable of sending the right signals to my brain, nor do I think my brain is incapable of receiving those signals. Instead, I think over time I have lost the ability to be mindful of these signals. My stomach may send a signal to my brain telling me to stop eating because I have had enough, and my brain will register it, but consciously I have forgotten how to listen. The same applies to hunger. Under normal circumstances when I am in a period of stability, I am able to clearly recognize when I am hungry or full and I act accordingly. These days, I have to stop what I am doing and actually think about how my stomach feels, whether it feels empty or full, whether I am craving a specific type of food or whether I am truly hungry and would eat anything edible, etc.

I feel kind of silly admitting that I have forgotten how to listen to myself. I honestly don’t know when this occurred. I don’t think it was something that occurred overnight, but rather something that I transitioned into over a period of time. It’s also disheartening when I think about it, because I shouldn’t be in a state of existence where I am so disconnected from my own body. I have everything I need to overcome this, but somehow along the way the pieces have become disjointed and I have lost my ability to reconnect them.

The idea of being able to listen to my body, to know when I am truly hungry or full without assuming I am or having to stop and really think about it, reminds me of the idea of being mindful. I think in my case mindful eating is of extreme importance and will continue to be of importance as I focus on my eating disorder and my road to recovery, however it shouldn’t stop there. Eventually I would like to extend it to other areas of my life.. but that’s a topic for another time and another post.

A Little Bit About Me and Binge Eating..

Hmm. First post, ever. I figured I would use it to talk a little bit about my binge eating habits. Most people think binge eating is the same as overeating, but it’s not. I do have a habit of overeating during my meals. I usually will eat more than would be necessary to satiate me, but I usually do this because I enjoy the taste of the food and do not wish to stop. Binge eating, however, is more of a compulsion for me. When I binge eat, I select foods that I normally do enjoy, but I feel compelled to keep consuming them, in large quantities, until I am so full that I am uncomfortable. I often think of this as trying to “fill a void” within. Sometimes I will catch myself in the act and force myself to put the food away and go watch TV instead or maybe just go to sleep. I find that if I try to switch to a different, non-food related activity, I will still think obsessively about the food I was consuming. Recently, I thought about eating more dessert after I had already eaten some after dinner one night. Not wanting to give in, I finally laid down and fell asleep, only to wake up throughout the night. Waking up every hour or two is normal for me (I have problems sleeping), but what I noticed was different about that night is each time I woke up I would be thinking about the dessert I forced myself to stop eating. It’s incredibly frustrating. There is such a strong psychological component associated with this and I honestly have no idea where to begin to work through it.

I have memories of binge eating as early as five or six years old. I really don’t know what triggered those episodes then. When I think about my childhood and what I might have been experiencing at the time, I suspect it might be linked to stress at school from bullying and perhaps low self-esteem. Regardless, I have memories of eating a huge plate at dinner, and then snacking ALL NIGHT long. My parents would notice me snacking and warn me to slow down or pick one snack and stick with it. Instead, I would eat some candy, and then switch to potato chips, and then scarf down some corn nuts, then perhaps some M&Ms, cheese snacks, popcorn, bubble gum, etc. In the end I usually wound up with an upset stomach or worse – I would vomit it all up by the end of the night. I recall as I ate and ate I never felt truly SATISFIED. Which is disturbing to me, because I was so young at the time.

I slowly (somehow, I don’t know how) worked my way out of this, only to fall back into it as a pre-teen. My sister picked up on it then and started talking to me about it. I remember she never made me feel ashamed about it, she just explained that it wasn’t healthy for me and that there were things I could do to cope.. like drink extra water, or if I really must have another snack, snack on fruit and vegetables.. not junk food. She also taught me the importance of listening to your body and being able to recognize when it’s hungry or full. Again, with time and struggle, I was able to regain control.

After that time in my life I didn’t really binge eat as much, at least not enough to warrant a binge-eating diagnosis. I still overate at meals sometimes, but was pretty good about eating right and not overconsuming food. Sometimes throughout my college years I would eat in response to stress or depression, ESPECIALLY when I would study for exams. I also discovered I have a massive sweet tooth and often found it difficult to cut back on the sugar!

During the summer of either 2007 or 2008 (I just can’t remember for some reason) I made the decision to give up eating meat. I did this slowly, first only consuming fish and eggs, and eventually letting those go as well. It was something I had thought about since I was about 12 and something I a) wasn’t entirely sure about and b) knew I would never be allowed to do until I was 18 either. I was scared of living without meat (I mean.. honestly, what would I eat? Lettuce?!), but was even MORE disgusted (for both taste/textural reasons and ethical reasons) at the thought of continuing to eat it. So I gave it up.

Over time I slowly transitioned into a vegan diet without even realizing it, because of my progressive inability to digest lactose. Me and dairy are not best friends. I am not severely lactose intolerant. I can still eat cheese and some (small amounts) of ice cream, but things like yogurt and milk will make me sick for days. I would say by about 2010 I was fully vegan and did not find it difficult at all to maintain. By that point in my life I was doing pretty good. I was finishing my degree, had plans for the future, and felt I had finally grown into myself and understood what I wanted out of life.

Then in 2011 my father died, rather unexpectedly. On paper, he died from heart failure. But the heart failure arose from complications brought on by stage three small-cell lung cancer. He died October 20th and had been diagnosed in late July. I didn’t know about it until August that year. I was in grad school at the time. The stress of school, teaching, and watching him die was enough to drive my anxiety beyond my breaking point. I began to use food to compensate for the stress and I ate ALL THE TIME. This point in my life marks the worse period of overeating and binge eating that I have ever experienced… and I am still in the middle of it.

Throughout my early twenties I gained about 30 extra lbs. I suspect part of this is from all the muscle I put on from hiking and field work. Since my father’s death though, I have put on an additional 60-70lbs of weight and am still struggling to get it off.

And so here I am.. present day. It’s now 2015 and I still don’t have much of an idea of how to stop my habits. I suspect that most of my struggle is psychological.. and so I have to start there. But the reality is I am not getting younger and the more I continue to abuse my body with food, the closer I bring myself to obesity-related diseases, such as heart diesease and.. diabetes.. which is extremely common on my Dad’s side of the family – ironically, the same side of the family I take after the most.