Archive for the ‘Eating Disorders’ Category

+++ religious triggers +++

I am a big fan of Beth Moore, who is a well-known leader of Bible studies for women. In my last study, The Patriarchs, Beth Moore talked about strongholds in our lives and God’s desire to free us from them.

One of my biggest strongholds is my battle with the eating disorder of binge eating/compulsive overeating. This stronghold has plagued me since I was a “tween.” As I shared the other day, I feel ready to conquer this for good, and I have set a goal to transform my body into a healthier one. I have set a schedule with a deadline, giving myself 6-1/2 weeks to make this transformation. (Of course, I would like this to be a forever thing, but I cannot wrap my mind around “forever,” so I am only staying focused on the next six weeks.)

Sure enough, on Day 2 of my transformation time, things blew up in my life. Nothing sets me off faster than something going wrong with my kid, and his new ADHD medication is not working, which affected his ability to learn at his new, very expensive school. I spent an hour in frustrated tears, and this triggered the despair of my childhood – that nothing is ever going to change.

I am now into Day 4 of my transformation, and I am happy to report that I did not binge eat!!!!!! The stage was set for failure – I had to bake brownies and my favorite bean dip for Bible study this morning, and I could have easily binged on either of them, but I truly was not even tempted. When I was upset, I cried and called a friend. I took Xanax to pull me out of the panic attack, and I drink a little wine last night to try to calm the anxiety. At no point did to return to my former stronghold.

That got me thinking about something that Beth Moore said in her study: She said that, when God has freed you from a stronghold, he will allow you to be “triggered” (my choice of wording here) to test whether you really are freed from the stronghold. The reason for this is that, until you are tested, you will always be vulnerable to returning to that stronghold.

I was a bit annoyed that God/life only gave me until Day 2 to test me out. Seriously, couldn’t it wait a week!?!! However, I passed the test!! Now, I am not saying that I won’t be blogging later about struggling and failing, but these past few days have given me hope. The stage was set fully for my failure, but I didn’t return to the stronghold. I used new tools – exercise, expressing my emotions, calling a friend, Xanax, and wine – to get through it. I didn’t return. Hooray!

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How is this for weird? I think I must have just found my “inner anorexic.” This is really weird, and I don’t know how long it will last … but let me back up…

Since I was 11 years old, I have used food to help me “stuff down” the bad feelings. I just thought I had no self-control. I was well into adulthood when I learned that there was a label for what I did – binge eating/compulsive overeating – and I was shocked to learn that it was a real eating disorder. Since I wasn’t thin and did not vomit up my food, I did not appreciate the severity of the eating disorder. It was validating to call it what it was and recognize that the problem wasn’t just me being “lazy” or lacking in self-control.

I generally succumb to the urge to binge eat at this time of year and wind up putting on weight. Because most people tend to overeat to some degree during the holidays, nobody ever seems to notice this pattern in me. However, this year I have an added stressor – next month, I will be seeing my mother/abuser for the first time in six years as we both attend my sister’s college graduation. I expect to battle the eating disorder in spades, so I have been trying to nurture my body during the times that I am doing okay. I am actually making some progress!

I went to battle with an alter part recently. I finally “met” one of the parts that drives the eating disorder. This little girl believes that being bigger makes me safe, so she is always hungry. Once I recognized this in myself, I started putting energy into fighting this false belief. I have been telling myself that, as an adult woman, I am no longer a small, vulnerable child. I am about 20 pounds overweight, and the extra weight actually makes me less safe. If I need to run away or fight back, then I will actually be safer if my body will get a little bit smaller.

I guess I got through to that part of myself because the urges to overeat have all but stopped. (This has only been for about a week, so I am hardly holding my breath that this is permanent.) In fact, there have been a couple of days where I started feeling lightheaded and could not figure out why. I finally realized that I had not eaten anything other than rice milk all day, and my body was reacting to having so few calories in it by lunchtime. Still, I did not feel hungry.

This is not normal for me, and I am curious to see how long it lasts. In the meantime, I am perfectly happy to drop a few pounds before the next wave of binge eating rears its ugly head. I would love to believe that I have conquered it, but it will take me prolonged periods of eating in a healthy manner for me to believe it.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I shared here, here, and here, one of my focuses (obsessions??) over the past five weeks has been fighting my eating disorder (binge and compulsive overeating). I am happy to report that I am making good progress. I measure progress in two ways – by what is going on in my body as well as by what is going on in my head.

Let’s start with my body. Since I braved stepping on the scale five weeks ago, I have lost ten pounds. That averages out to two pounds a week, which is what, by all accounts, is considered a healthy rate of weight loss. I am feeling better about my body physically. My “fat pants” are annoyingly loose, and I am now wearing a pair of jeans that I have not even bothered trying to wear in a very long time. So, I am on the right track physically.

When it comes to an eating disorder, emotional progress is a completely different animal. You do not want to go from one extreme (binge eating) to the other (starving yourself). Instead, you want to find a healthy medium that enables you to feel like the eating disorder is not controlling you. I really battled the first couple of weeks, but I have now worked out a rhythm that is working for me.

Another part of emotional progress is how you feel about yourself. Most of the time, I drive a diet by degrading myself. I tell myself that I am a fat cow who does not deserve to eat, etc. I use my self-hatred to fuel the weight loss. I am not doing that this time. Instead, I am trying to listen to my body and feed it small portions whenever it is hungry. I might eat five or six times a day with most of those times being a healthy 100-calorie snack.

Another measure of progress is my reaction to messing up. Let’s face it – I have been binge eating since I was 12 years old, so I am going to “fall off the wagon” from time to time. That happened when I went to the movies last weekend. A friend bought a huge tub of popcorn for us to split since I paid for the tickets. I was only going to eat “a little bit” of popcorn. Uh … that’s not exactly what happened … the best laid plans and all…

Instead of getting angry with myself, I went to bed with a slight stomachache and began the next day back on track. I am coming to realize that one overindulgence from time to time is not going to make or break my weight. My body size is reflective of how I am treating my body over time, not one instance.

So, right now I am feeling pretty good about myself. I am eating in a way that works for me. It is not a “diet” so much as a lifestyle change. I am still very susceptible to feeling the pull of the eating disorder, but I am trying to meet those emotional needs in other ways. When that doesn’t work, I have a glass of wine or take a Xanax (this is mostly an issue in the evenings). If that isn’t working, then I’ll have a small snack rather than a binge. Then, I start fresh in the morning. So far, so good.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I shared here and here, my eating disorder (binge & compulsive overeating) has been on my mind pretty much non-stop for the past week. Yesterday was not a good day. So far, I am doing okay today, but the day has just begun.

This is not the first time that I have tried to overcome this eating disorder, nor is it the second, third, fourth, fifth … you get the picture. Perhaps this is the first time that I have been this present in my body while doing this – I don’t know. All I know is that I am overwhelmed by the amount of anxiety I feel from minute to minute.

There is nothing in my day-to-day life to account for this. Yes, this is a busy week with my job (which is why I am frantically typing this out and will post this blog entry in real time), but that would not make me feel shaky and anxious. I think I am finally beginning to appreciate why I have battled this eating disorder since I was 12 – I eat all the time because I am anxious all the time. Eating medicates the anxiety. When I stop eating, there is nothing to temper the anxiety, which drives me back. Bottom line – In the short run, I would rather be fat than live feeling that way.

Yesterday, the anxiety was so bad that, by 2:00 p.m., I took a Xanax. Within an hour, the anxiety eased, but it was replaced by depression. I just wanted to curl into a ball and cry. It was awful. I tried to slow down. I actually watched an hour-long show on TV without exercising (I had exercised earlier in the day) so I could sit and do nothing for an hour. That got me so sleepy that I went to bed early.

This morning, I was still feeling blah until I stepped on the scale and saw that I have lost seven pounds. That bumped me into a lower set of numbers, which made me happy. So, I guess I now have the drive to continue fighting again. It is really hard, though.

What kills me is that I was a skinny little kid before the eating disorder took hold of me. Without an eating disorder, I would probably be a naturally slim woman. However, my life is what it is. I cannot change was happened in the past. I can try to work through the anxiety of today. I just have to take it one day at a time.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I wrote my blog entry entitled Me, My D@#$ Eating Disorder, and Physicals last week right after I saw the doctor. It is now almost a week later, and I guess I am doing okay. It depends upon how you look at it.

I have already lost five pounds since I saw her because getting triggered like that forces me to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. (Like most people with a history of child abuse, moderation is not my strength.) It really does not feel like a choice. Something inside of me takes over, and I am simply along for the ride.

For six days, I have had rice milk for breakfast (which is normal) and an Ensure for lunch (which is not). The Ensure wasn’t that bad. I chose the chocolate flavor, which is tasty, so it was kind of like eating something “bad” that was chalk full of vitamins … but I digress.

I ate a light dinner, and I would eat a couple of snacks of fruit each day. None of this is “bad” for my body, but it is “bad” for my emotional self. That pretty much captures my lifelong dilemma. When I listen to my emotions, I will pass up anything good for myself and consistently choose junk. When I listen to my body and feed it with healthy things, it is more of an “up yours” to my emotional self. For whatever reason, I have a very hard time achieving a balance.

I actually was successful for 11 months in eating in moderation, and I lost a lot of weight. It was so easy, too! But, since I “fell off the wagon,” I cannot seem to get myself back to that place. Instead, I stay at war within myself, either eating way too much or avoiding healthy choices like fruits and veggies, or I eat what is good for my body but for the wrong reasons, which does a number on my head.

What concerns my doctor is that my father dropped dead from a heart attack when he was only three years older than I am now, and he was overweight. I am fully aware that moving from medicating myself through food to Xanax is exchanging one crutch for another, but that feels like the most appealing option at the moment.

I guess what bothers me the most is how out of control I feel about this area of my life. In so many other respects, I have been successful in healing myself. When it comes to food, though, I feel just about as lost as I always have. Objectively, I have made progress, but even my progress seems a long way away from healthy.

Some of you have offered some great suggestions. I do plan to check out the links and video. (This is a busy week at my job, which is why I am writing in “real time” instead of writing ahead.) I am trying not to judge myself but, instead, have compassion on the hurting little girl inside who needs food for comfort while, at the same time, take care of my body. It is not an easy balance.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I had my yearly physical, and I entered into it with trepidation. Last year, I told the nurse and doctor not to tell me my weight. I was up front with my doctor about having a long history of an eating disorder. She was so cool about it – much better than any doctor I have worked with before. Then, her nurse left me a message that included the dreaded number and advice to lose weight. I was incredibly triggered, and that kicked off another round of eating disorder h@#$.

So, I decided that, this time, I would flat refuse to step on the scale. That was my game plan up until that morning. Then, something inside of me said that I needed to treat my physical reality the same as my emotional reality – quit hiding from it, face it head on, and heal it. So, I stepped on my home scale for the first time in years and was shocked by the number – the highest I have even seen. (Ironically, I still wear size 8 jeans, which is what I wore in high school, so the number really took me by surprise.)

I went to the appointment shaky but not afraid of hearing the number. The doctor forgot to review my chart about the eating disorder and began a candid discussion about what has changed in my life because I have gained 8 or 9 pounds since last year. I had a panic attack right there in her office, complete with uncontrollable crying and shaking. (She immediately wrote me a prescription for Xanax.)

I then went on to talk about the horrors of my childhood and that it is by the grace of G*d that I am only struggling with weight and not a drug addiction or prostitution. She was very kind, patient, and apologetic.

The doctor then asked what I eat for breakfast. I surprised her by saying a cup of rice milk with my vitamins along with a cup of orange juice. I told her that my eating patterns are just fine during the day. It is as the sun goes down and I feel unsafe that I eat. This, combined with my attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) child being out of control in the evenings, puts me over the edge, and I eat to stay sane. She encouraged me to drink more red wine in the evenings (I drink ½ a glass a few days a week – she said go up to 1 to 2 glasses a day) and/or the Xanax (which is the lowest dosage they make) every evening to help manage my anxiety. Her thinking is that, if I can manage the anxiety in other ways, I will not need to rely so much on food.

I am going to try this and hope that it helps. I am trying very hard not to fall back into the trap of destructive thinking that goes along with the eating disorder. I am trying to be kind to myself and nurture the wounded little girl who wants to wrap herself in fat to avoid being raped again. It is just very hard. Of all of the aftereffects of my hellish childhood, the eating disorder is my strongest and most persistent enemy.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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What is Binge Eating?

Many people are not even aware that there are more than two types of eating disorders. When they hear the word eating disorder, most people think about anorexia nervosa. Many people are also aware of the eating disorder of bulimia nervosa. Not as many people would identify binge eating as an eating disorder.

Binge eating has a lot in common with bulimia except that the person does not purge after the binge. People who struggle with binge eating tend to wrestle with their weight because they eat very large quantities of food in a single sitting. Many people who struggle with binge eating also struggle with compulsive overeating, which is a “cousin” of binge eating but not necessarily the same thing.

A person who struggles with binge eating feels a very strong urge to consume large quantities of food in a single sitting. The person might go through multiple “courses” of food, such as eating a big bowl of popcorn, following by a candy bar, and then another “snack.” If a binge is particularly strong, the person might not be able to get the food into her body fast enough, shoving the food into her mouth with intensity.

Compulsive overeating is a little different. A compulsive overeater might still consume a large amount of food in a single sitting, but the intensity is different. The person might have already eaten dinner but still feels a strong pull toward eating a large dessert, even though he has had plenty to eat already. He eats the dessert because it will make him “feel better,” even though he is not still hungry.

The intensity of the binge eating is the big difference between the two eating disorders. For example, I went on a diet (very bad idea for anyone with an eating disorder) and removed all junk food from the house. I had such an intense compulsion to binge that I dug out the cocoa from the cabinet and made a cake from scratch, just so I would have junk food to binge on. When the cake was ready, I could not get large pieces of cake into my mouth fast enough.

People who struggle with binge eating try to hide the quantity of food that they are eating from their family and friends. They will binge when nobody else is around. They hide the wrappers so nobody will see a whole bunch of them in the garbage.

In the short term, the binge eating is quite successful in short-circuiting the deep emotional pain. However, the person winds up feelings guilty and ashamed, which adds to the bad feelings that are fueling the behavior in the first place. This creates a vicious cycle that is very difficult to break.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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