Food is causing issues again. It’s been creeping back in for a while. I put on weight over the winter and then I start restricting and then all hell breaks loose and I’m here with a stone to lose and wondering how someone so adept at starving themselves can end up needing to lose weight. It comes in cycles. It is all part of the same eating disorder. It goes with the territory of attachment trauma. I know all this. Yet I am left feeling ashamed and helpless and totally disgusted by myself. I found my relapse with anorexia last summer far scarier, but it feels much more shameful to be battling with the other side of this cycle. Usually the restricting parts balance out the over-eating parts and weight stays relatively stable, but this cycle plays out most days. Restricting parts have been less prominent lately which I can see is a good thing because they take over primarily when attachment anxiety is high. I find restricting easier to deal with though, easier to admit to, easier to seek help for.
I am not fat, I cycle loads and I know I am fit and strong, I can still fit into most of my clothes, but I am bigger than I would like to be. I’ve been a stone lighter for most of the past six years, and I’ve had times during those six years when food and eating has been a ‘non-issue’ and I’ve felt happy and content and not really thought about food much at all, other than making sure I am eating healthily. So that weight feels like the weight I am genuinely comfortable with. This weight now does not. In part I can see that in the past few months I’ve really taken on board just how much I am holding in adult life, every day, with my crazy full-time job, solo parenting, running a house and driving Nina to swimming training 3 or 4 days a week, on top of therapy and growth and healing. So I’ve tried to lower my expectations around food and not think about it so much. This strategy doesn’t seem to work. It’s almost like food needs to be quite a big part of normal life in order for it not to take over completely. Counter-intuitive but true. Maybe I’m starting to see I will always struggle with food, having had disordered eating nearly all my life so far, and so I need to find ways that work for me and don’t cause me to cycle through the different aspects of disorder so rapidly or cause the pendulum to swing in such a way as to leave me feeling totally out of control and overwhelmed.
I’ve needed to raise it in therapy for a while. I did today, with the caveat of “I don’t want to talk about it but it is an issue again”. We did talk about it, but I cannot tell K I need to lose weight because teen parts silence me with their terror that she will then notice the weight gain and think how disgusting and out of control we are. I’ve been waiting to lose the stone before talking to her about food. Clearly that strategy was never going to work! She validated and normalised it, asked for some examples of when it has been problematic lately. I said how it starts as me being determined to eat well each day and then something goes wrong, one thing eaten that ‘shouldn’t’ have been, and then everything goes wrong and too much food is consumed and we resolve to start again the next day. I said how I know people who comfort eat and yet just acknowledge that it was a reaction to a bad day and don’t completely shame themselves with it. My comfort eating happens in secret, even when it is not much extra than normal. Any deviance from ‘the rules’ is a shameful secret. I know food causes issues for so many people but that seems to cause more shame rather than comfort.
I get so lost in this stuff. Food causes me so many problems. I hate it. I hate how much energy it takes up. I end up putting on weight when I try to take the focus off food. I try and be less restrictive and just chill about it and then it’s like binge parts and comfort-eating parts go wild because ‘no one is watching’. And often it is like ‘fuck it, who cares??’ but the problem is I do care. I avoid seeing people I’ve not seen for a while because I want to have lost this extra stone before I see them. This strikes me as a little insane but it is how my system works. For some parts there is nothing more terrifying than being overweight/over-our-ideal-weight, not necessarily because we look ‘fat’ but because people will think we are out of control. Being out of control, not being able to control what I put into my body, is something I find immensely triggering. I see this is all about boundaries and attachment trauma. I get that, but I want to move past it. I want food not to dominate my life. Ironically when I stop worrying about food so much is when it takes more of a hold over me.
Anyway, so K and I have a two and a half week break between sessions now and she has given me homework over the break of writing down everything I eat so we can look at it together and start to work with the triggers – “CBT-style” as she put it. She said if I’d come to see her with an eating disorder this is what we would have done. It seems so fucked up that something which would have taken many people into therapy in its own right has had to take a backseat to all the other craziness that has needed to be dealt with in therapy. The thing is, I think writing down everything I eat will help me through the break, give me something to focus on, and it will definitely get my eating back on track for now, but I also know that for the next 18 days I will completely regulate my eating because I am accountable to her. This is obviously good for the weight loss which is objectively needed, and it will be good for my health as I will want K to see I am healthy and not out of control, but long-term I just don’t know how to get past this. My food goals are so far away from what is possible, so rigid and restrictive, that they are impossible to sustain. And I don’t want to lapse back into orthorexia either. Ugh. It’s a mess.