I had been so wrapped up in studying disordered eating (among other things), that I didn’t even realize–until Lindsay let me know– that it was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. A little bit ago, I received a comment on a post requesting an update on my series about overcoming disordered eating–which were excerpts from a behavior change journal I was keeping for a health behavior theory class.
Introduction: Disordered Eating Past
Kitchen Elves & The Chocolate Cake Conundrum
Meal Planning (Or Lack Thereof)
Imperfect, Intuitive, Illogical Eating
Disorder is the New Black
This reader insinuated that I had not made progress. My immediate thought was to get defensive. I actually wrote up a whole second half of my Just to Clarify post explaining WHY I had so many egg whites on had, and how you can’t judge a girl by her Instagram (or blog) photos. I was happy to know what unintentional messages I was portraying, as I am very much involved in studying (social) media images of health and their effects on young women, and strive to be part of the solution, not the problem.
But it was that word judge that stuck out in my mind.
The theme of NEDA Week is “I Had No Idea,” and I do have some issues with that–most people who are truly close to you DO have some idea, and it is YOU that often need the wake up call–however what I DO like about it is the concept that you cannot judge someone or something based solely on the images they present to you. To quote MTV’s Diary:
You think you know, but you have no idea.
In this world of social media, it is so easy to learn how to have an eating disorder by modeling what you see others do. You can think something is normal and align your own behavior to it. You can project your own thoughts onto photos of others, without knowing what’s happening all around that one moment in time. Something I wish we could all remember is that pictures of food–at least in my case–are often more a reflection of artistry rather than actual food consumption.
But for those of you wondering, here is MY truth:
When I started researching eating disorders, I only knew my personal experience with eating, and that it was probably a bit screwed up, but I never made myself throw up or restricted to the point of anorexia, so I couldn’t name it an eating disorder. What I didn’t know was that eating disorders fall along a huge spectrum, and can very often begin in a well-intentioned place. But whatever you want to call it, I was very much along that spectrum, and I do believe that while I’ve shifted back into the range of ‘normal’ I do not think that one ever truly ‘beats’ their disordered thoughts and habits.
So, yes, there are times when I find my internal calorie counter chugging along or I get irrationally nervous about the timing of meals or where we will be eating, but I also know that those habits and patterns are generally triggered by either a sense of losing control in other areas of my life, or reactions to feeling physically uncomfortable in my own skin. When things seem out of control, food has always been the thing that I could get a handle on.
But while I cannot control school, weather, other people’s sadness, or a whole host of other things, what I CAN control is my reaction to the little bumps and hiccups and thoughts that run through my head.
Buying jeans in a bigger size was tough, I’m not going to lie.
But I didn’t react by restricting or doing compensatory cardio or quitting squats in boot camp. I reminded myself that this is a sign of hard work, and a healthier body. [And Laura reminded me that many people would kill to have glutes like mine.]
How do I eat now?
I try to avoid cognitive eating, and focus on eating for hunger, energy, fuel, and, yes, sometimes just for fun.
I munch when I’m hungry, and try to put a finger on just what my body needs–whether it is salad, or seafood, or a veggie burger, or just a snack.
I go out to eat with friends, or dine with my family, and I can eat what I want and say no to what I don’t.
I can let my friends cook for me.
And bake for me.
And that might be my favorite part.
Do you know how much time I wasted NOT having a social life because I needed to be in control of my food?
I LOVE food again. For food’s sake.
But I don’t think about it 90% of the day.
I am not perfect. I will probably never be. I have moments where I feel fabulous in my body and think I look stellar in the mirror, and moments where I don’t. I have days when all I want is vegetables, and days where the thought of eating any more carrots is unfathomable.
But I just try to keep moving along.
And if I ‘slip up,’ and find myself not eating when I’m hungry because it’s not the right time, or overeating peanut butter because I didn’t get enough to eat at dinner, well I don’t beat myself up about it.
It’s often not the behavior, but the intention behind the behavior that’s the problem.
My intentions are good. I’m happier and healthier than I’ve been in a long time. Is there chaos in my life? Sure. Will I probably have lingering disordered thoughts forever? Most likely.
What I really want to express, however, is that we cannot judge each other based solely on what we see in social media. Just because someone posts a picture of pizza or cake, doesn’t mean they ate it. And if they ate it, it doesn’t mean they didn’t have self-defeating thoughts the whole time. Just because someone posts a picture of salad, doesn’t mean they only eat lettuce. Or that they weren’t eating something else along with it.
We think we know, but we have NO IDEA.
That being said, I DO want to project a healthy mindset around food. If you think I’m not please tell me. I can’t always get an accurate picture of my own presentation.