With anything in life, recovering from ED comes with its own fears, and recently I’ve experienced a type of fear that I’ve not really had before that’s made me question the types of thinking I still hold on to that impede recovery.
I love running. And dancing. And basically physical activity that makes me sweat. I like working out, period. And obviously when you work out, you need more energy to be able to work out. And more energy means you might need to eat just a bit more to give your body the energy it needs to move.
Recently however after eating I started becoming scared of feeling full. It makes me think like I’ve done something wrong and that this will impede recovery. I start panicking. Additionally, I almost immediately start thinking that I’ve eaten too much, and you know what that sometimes can lead to. For me, it led to thoughts like “I’ve eaten too much this isn’t good” or “oh I’ve eaten too much I’ve failed I might as well as stuff my face since it won’t make a difference anyway“. The feelings of anxiety and guilt start settling in like unwelcome house guests and I start thinking of whether or not I should work out extra hard the next day just so i can alleviate my guilt.
I spent the next few days in introspection, assessing my thoughts and emotions and why I was thinking and feeling the way I did, and I suppose still do. And I came to this conclusion: my body is signaling for food but my mind is ignoring this call. On the days that I start to run and work out more intensively (e.g. going for spinning classes oh my goodness have you tried that?), I start to eat more, but I am somehow refusing to give in to this physical need.
It seems that I am holding on a somewhat inflexible thought: that my body by right needs a certain amount of food and I’ve been consuming that particular amount since I started mindful eating. It’s as though I’m (not deliberately of course), keeping a mental log book of the amount of food I’ve consumed as I practice mindful eating and telling me that I should keep to eating this amount of food. So as I begin to run more and my body demands more energy, my mind rejects it.
I know I know. This completely goes against mindful eating because one of the principle notions of mindful eating that I’ve been trying to follow is to eat when you experience hunger and stop when full yet here I am, displaying such erratically contradicting behavior and not even wanting to eat despite my body’s call for food.
I think this happens because some part of my mind is maybe holding on on to the thought that eating more food will make me gain weight, and that is something that my alter-ego simply wouldn’t allow. After all, she’s been in control for the last 6 years and even in recovery, there are times when she sneaks in and calls the shots and makes me question why I’m even eating in the first place. She’s terrified that I’d gain weight.
I won’t lie to you and tell you just because I’m in recovery means I’ve totally abandoned all thoughts of wanting to be thin. Here’s my deal: I work out not because it makes me feel more active, but I do also want to be slimmer. The only difference between the old me, and the present me is that the old me was completely bent on being skinny. Exercise served only one purpose. Her self-worth was defined only by her weight and body shape. The present me is, however, understanding that there is more to her life than body weight and she no longer wishes to be trapped by the mentality that being thin will make you the happiest woman on Earth. Exercise now serves more than that one purpose and she exercise less to be skinny and more to be strong.
I’ve always been talking about my journey with mindful eating and how it played a helped me regulate my eating and hunger signals at the beginning of last year. I don’t always practice what I preach in the most perfect of ways; I go through ups and downs and am trying to find the right balance that works for me. But ultimately, if your body is signaling hunger, then feed it. You don’t need to experience anxiety, panic or guilt when you feel hunger because it means your body needs to eat for energy. And that’s normal for everyone.
I think one of the things that can help if you see food as fuel instead of fat. If you don’t eat, obviously your body will start breaking down because you’re not giving it the energy it needs to function properly. If you see food as fat, you’ll start avoiding it and fear feeling hunger. Probably another thing that will help is to actually acknowledge that there is a change in your lifestyle which requires that you consume more energy. I’ve probably been denying that I need to consume more food even though I work out more on some days. And one more thing that just crossed my mind, eat instead of diet. When you think about dieting – or at least when I do – I think of cutting out calories and eating less and eating a specific way. When you diet, your end goal is mind is to be thin. When you eat, you allow your body to eat whatever it needs. When you eat, the end goal is nourishment and satisfaction. Focus on the latter instead and you’ll think less about dieting.
Recovery means learning to trust your body, so learn to listen to your body because it knows what it needs. We don’t act what it tells us right, because for so long we’ve been listening to our ED instead. But the important thing is that you’re making an effort to create change and that’s already something.
Have you experienced a fear of hunger or fullness, and if so how did you go about changing that?