Taking a swing back

[eating disorder, weight numbers]

Yesterday, I listed out all the negative thoughts about my binge on Tuesday. I am feeling a lot better today and want to record how that has happened because chances are that I will binge again at some point in the future. I don’t want to but it’s a very entrenched coping mechanism with me and I am very early on in my learning of intuitive eating. I also have pretty poorly controlled bipolar disorder which means I have some periods of intense, painful emotion that are difficult to deal with (ha, look at me being all reasonable… “difficult to deal with”? More like fucking impossible to deal with.)

It’s all very good talking about challenging thoughts but the thing that really started to even out my mood was going a run yesterday morning. I ran four miles with some one minute walking intervals as per my physio’s instructions as I am recovering from an injury. I felt such relief after I had finished running that I had managed to go. I didn’t really enjoy the run (I don’t think I’ve ever 100% enjoyed a run other than when I was hypomanic and that’s how I got injured) but the sense of achievement afterwards was very soothing to my self-hating thoughts.

I also had a good friend round for lunch and confided a little in her. That made something inside my head unclench and feel relief too. I find it very hard to confide in people. I think I am afraid of being judged and shamed. I feel such overwhelming shame so easily with my own thoughts and I just can’t bear to have that happen in front of someone else. I cry very easily when the shame is triggered and I don’t think I could bear that either.

Going back to the binge: I really thought the intuitive eating was going to stop me binging. I was looking at absolutes: I used to binge and now I don’t. It’s a poor way of trying to deal with the uncertainties of life. It isn’t accurate and it doesn’t work. I don’t have to keep doing things the same way. It was dichotomous thinking (otherwise known as all-or-nothing or black-or-white thinking) and it piled the pressure on myself to be ‘perfect’ and not use this coping technique that has actually given me a lot of benefits over the years as well as the obvious harms.

While I was binging and cruising my kitchen cupboards I kept thinking “oh I can have this now, wasn’t allowed it before”. I have been turning intuitive eating into the hunger and fullness diet. I would only ‘allow’ myself to eat when I was the appropriate level of hungry. That sounds sensible: eat when you’re hungry. But how hungry and for how long? Normal eaters eat for other reasons sometimes too, e.g. celebration, to be socialable, occasional comfort. Whatever new rules I had created in my head, I wasn’t meeting my needs and was triggering feelings of deprivation. Along the same lines, I repeatedly thought I was finished binging only to eat more because I felt like I had to get my fill while I could. I haven’t given myself unconditional permission to eat like the book says is essential. I think I have to really feel like I can eat what I want whenever I want without plunging myself into overwhelming guilt or negative thoughts or any kind of emotional sanction. I let myself eat but then I let my self-hating thoughts punish me for it. No clue how you’re supposed to fix that.

I promised myself that I would not weigh myself in June. I weighed myself almost daily for the almost two years I was dieting. I got very adept at interpreting the fluctuations in my weight caused by my cycle, time of day, my food intake, my salt intake, changes in exercise, etc, and not to mention unexplainable normal variations, but I put much too much value on that number. An unexpectedly low number always cheered me up and a high number would upset me and make me feel hopeless. When I started intuitive eating, I had been dieting so my glycogen stores were low meaning that my weight would naturally bounce up when eating a normal amount of calories. I also thought I would gain some weight as I would be overshooting my eating while trying to discover what comfortably full felt like. So it would be a terrible idea to see that higher number and feel compelled to go back on a diet. It would be another battle in my head that I’d almost certainly lose.

I was feeling better after going a run but still felt like my body was utterly unacceptable and deformed and ugly and had expanded disproportionately in some places. I have had these feelings all throughout my time dieting and they have been significantly worse since I stopped weighing myself daily and having that objective, but imperfect, measure to backup the thought of “your judgement is off again, like it often is, just look at the fucking number”. I told myself that if I was under X+1 stone then I would keep on with the intuitive eating and if I was under X st 7 then I would be delighted. I looked in the mirror and told myself it was a bad idea and then went and weighed myself anyway. I have gained 1.4lbs. Even my relentless thoughts were speechless in shock. I really did expect to be well over X+1 stone going from how my body felt and what it looks like in the mirror. My judgement isn’t worth shit when it comes to assessing the size of my body.

I cried in the shower in overwhelming relief saying “I’m still okay, I’m okay, I’m still okay”. My mood improved considerably, I was almost dazed by how my thoughts lightened and I suddenly had the ability to shut the fuck down the negative thoughts about my body. Talk about overvaluing the number on the scales! I was incredibly lucky to have got that number and to have responded in the typical way to intuitive eating. This could easily have gone the other way and I would have had the opposite, equally extreme, response of self-hatred and plunging back into dieting. Then the inevitable binge-restrict cycle would have started back up.

I have to make the most of this reprieve and make progress on my thoughts and feelings about my body, my weight and my eating. I can’t go back to dieting/restricting and binging. I am working through The Intuitive Eating Workbook which is helpful but I don’t know if it will be enough as these thoughts and feelings are so strong. I think I have learnt from this last binge and my reaction to it though. Blogging about it has made my thoughts more concrete too. I will keep trying.

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