Routine is king

I did a NHS psychoeducation course about bipolar disorder a few years ago. It was surprisingly informative. I thought I was pretty well read already but I learnt some useful things. I also met some people who I am good friends with now.

A lot of the information about bipolar disorder was relatively basic and would not have been out of place on a standard educational website for people newly diagnosed. The interesting bits were two metaphors that they used to ilustrate this information.

The first was the concept of a stress bucket. Everyone has a unique capacity for stress (the size of the bucket) and has different stressors in their life (fluid filling the bucket) and different stress relieving techiniques (a tap or holes emptying the bucket at the bottom). How much stress you can take before you develop symptoms (the bucket overflowing) is mostly genetically determined, so the theory goes. To stop the bucket overflowing, some people need to work harder than others to bring their stress levels down and to reduce the amount of stress coming into their life. I think I liked this metaphor so much as it made me think that I wasn’t to blame for how little stress it takes to destabilise me. I just have a small bucket in my head. Also, it made sense to me to link reducing incoming stress to increasing stress relieving activities. I can adapt to having a small bucket filling up quickly by putting in lots of taps.

Secondly, the psychoeducation course used the metaphor of a mood thermostat. Just like the thermostat for your central heating, a ‘normal’ brain tries to keep your mood within a certain range from sad at the bottom to happy at the top. It has mechanisms to lift up your mood (such as drives to do things that bring you pleasure or make you happy like seeking social contact, eating, sex, etc) and mechanisms to dampen down your mood (such as making you feel tired so you sleep or rest). A bipolar brain isn’t very good at keeping your mood in this normal range and veers up from happy to mania and crashes down from sad to depression. The psychoeducation course talked a fair bit about things that we could do to help regulate this mood thermostat. These days, this is called self-care. The strategies that I use are eating regularly and nutritiously, getting enough but not too much sleep (it took me years to fully apply sleep hygiene but it has worked very well for me), exercising, taking medication as prescribed and avoiding alcohol (nine years) and recreational drugs (sixteen years, yes, I am bragging now). I don’t think there is any actual clinical evidence for the recommendation to try and have routine for your daily activies but it seems to be common advice from healthcare professionals. The psychoeducation course’s wording was “routine is king” which has stuck with me because it’s such an odd way of putting it.

My central heating thermostat dial with a post-it note with a blue unhappy face on the left and a post-it note with a red happy face on the right.

For many years in my twenties and the first half of my thirties, I had no routine at all. I got up when I couldn’t make myself sleep anymore (I would have preferred to have been dead but sleeping as much as possible was close as I could get) which could be any time of day. I went to bed when it finally occurred to me and that could be anytime from 9pm to 7am. I didn’t eat at particular times. I didn’t exercise at all. I certainly wasn’t taking my medication regularly and several times got scunnered of it and stopped it all entirely. The only thing I was doing ‘right’ was that I wasn’t drinking or taking recreational drugs.

Now, I have somewhat swung the other way and have a very scheduled routine. I get up at 5am and go to the gym or for a run at 7:30am except for one, or sometimes two, rest day a week when I sleep in and get up around 9am (that is a very much against sleep hygiene but hasn’t, so far, disrupted my sleep). I have breakfast when I get up and a snack/second breakfast when I get home around 10am. I eat lunch around 1:30pm and dinner around 6pm and have snacks in between. In the afternoon, I try to get out the house and see a friend or at least walk around other people. I am an extrovert and I get lonely if I don’t talk to other people for more than a couple of days. Something happens in my brain and I get this numb, stretched feeling like everything is wrong. Took me a long time to connect that feeling to not having social contact. Phone calls help so sometimes I phone family instead. I try and read a book and play the guitar every evening. It doesn’t sound like much when it’s written down. I imagine the ‘normal’ people are wondering what I do all day. Manage fucking symptoms, of course. But that’s another post.

I have definitely taken the advice of getting and maintaining a routine to heart. I think it has improved my quality of life but maybe things would have improved anyway. The disadvantage is that I have become a bit rigid in when I am comfortable doing things during the day. I feel unsettled when I can’t eat or go for a run at my usual times. If my mood is already bad then I don’t just feel unsettled and uncomfortable, the change can totally derail me and my entire routine breaks down for a few days or sometimes longer. Now that I am using intuitive eating, I hope that I will learn some flexibility with my eating at least as you eat when you are hungry and not according to the clock. I have been more flexible with my exercise routine over the last few months too.

So routine might be king in my life now but it wasn’t always. On the whole, things have improved but it is not the silver bullet that some people have suggested.

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.

Why can’t I stop

[eating disorder, calorie numbers, suicide]

I binged on Tuesday. I don’t know how badly as I didn’t count it up but would guess around 2000 calories, maybe more, on top of a normal day’s intake. It was nearly three weeks since I had last binged, which was when I had properly started intuitive eating, and the ‘clean streak’ of no binging had become magnified in importance in my mind. I feel bitterly disappointed in myself and despise myself for ruining everything… hang on, hang on, getting a bit carried away there…

As is my pattern, I had been saying to other people that things seemed to be going well in the days before it all went to shit. I had been trying to introduce one of my online friends to intuitive eating by talking about how it had stopped me binging and allowed me to become much calmer around food. Now I have pretty much ghosted that group though I do plan to return. It makes me feel so stupid that I could have convinced myself that I was doing better when obviously I was just kidding myself. I feel pathetic and like I am always going to be stuck in this pattern. However, I suppose it is possible that going from binging regularly to not binging at all was an unrealistic goal and that simply binging less is still progress. I could scream in frustration right now because I don’t know what is going on or what anything means. I don’t know what to do for the best.

I had been having a couple of ‘hungry days’ where I seemed to be getting hungry more often than I felt comfortable with or thought was reasonable. For example, having a substantial snack at 10am then hungry for lunch at 12pm then hungry again at 1:30pm. It fucked with my head with all the “am I really hungry?”, “this is too much food”, “my clothes are tight”, “my abdomen is much bigger”, “I’m not doing this right” and just an overwhelming torrent of critical and doubting thoughts. I had a lot of diet mentality thoughts that I was eating an unacceptably large amount of food and was gaining an unacceptably large amount of weight. I didn’t weigh myself but I measured my waist and it’s gone up from 30.5″ at my lowest weight to 32.5″ now which is above the cardiovascular risk cutoff. I had packed away my size 10 underwear as it was too tight and a pair of fitted trousers are now too tight as well. I just felt unacceptable and abnormal and hyperaware of this deformed, ugly body that I want to be rid of. I spent two years managing my anxiety about my body by saying “it’ll be better soon, you’re losing weight, it’ll be better soon” and dealing with the feelings of being suddenly huge by remembering that my weight that morning was pretty much the same as yesterday’s and the day before. Now I am adrift. I have never developed any other coping techniques.

The binge sneaked up on me. I had gone to the gym in the morning so was even hungrier than usual but had had breakfast, a morning snack and lunch. By mid-afternoon, I was suddenly very hungry so had a substantial snack that the dieting mentality thoughts said was far too high calorie. I finished it and sat at the table with my head in my hands and my thoughts spiralled out of control from “you can’t possibly still be hungry” to “you are going to regain all the weight” to “you should be dead” to “you’re pathetic, you might as well binge”. I meant it too. I really would rather die than go back to how I was treated as a fat person and have all that self-hatred too. Of course, I have plenty of self-hatred now so maybe I won’t notice a difference. I wrote in my diary, “I just want peace and quietness and to feel free”.

At first with the binge, it was very pleasurable. I ate sweet foods that I liked and I ate them slowly and mindfully. I don’t have much pleasure in my life so this was nice. There was comfort. It’s also exhilarating to just go with the out of control, falling feelings.

Then the feelings changed and I started getting this strong push to eat more and more to punish myself. I had images in my mind of me lying in my bed and another me standing over myself hitting me with a thick stick. I’ve had images like that before. The Intuitive Eating book talks about how emotional eating is a spectrum from sensory gratification to comfort to distraction to sedation to punishment. I think I went right along the spectrum. My most common reason for binging is for the sedation as it quietens and slows down my thoughts. It actually works very well for that, for me. There is also a massive relief in being so full that even the thought of food is impossible. It feels very safe like I am finally complete and don’t have to want anything anymore. The self-punishment aspect is less common with me though when I first developed binge eating disorder it was a frequent reason to binge.

I have not reacted well to the binge. I have been taught that practicing self-compassion and being kind to yourself rather than reacting with harsh, self-critical guilt is more likely to allow you to change your behaviour. But I can’t get over my feeling that this is just lying to myself and letting myself off the hook. It feels right to punish myself. It feels like I am doing the right thing. However, it’s not helped me bounce back, that’s for sure. I haven’t exercised, I’ve cancelled seeing friends and I’ve basically shut down. I have spent so much time thinking how much I despise myself and how I am going to kill myself. The latter brings me some comfort. It seems the better my mood is when I binge, the worse the fall is. When I first developed binge eating disorder, my mood was so bad that I barely noticed the guilt after a binge. It’s devastating now.

That has listed out all the negativity in my head. Now to take some swings at it.

Two squares of chocolate

[eating disorder, food, calories numbers]

I have been throwing myself into intuitive eating for a fortnight now. In some ways, I am astonished with my progress as I haven’t binged and binging feels very far away. In other ways, I am frustrated that I am still getting all those disordered and painful thoughts.

For around a week before I really committed to intuitive eating, I tried some of the techniques of mindful eating (the book calls it ‘conscious eating’ in places as it predates the rise of the term ‘mindfulness’) but was still calorie counting, weighing and measuring all my food and weighing myself every day as I had done every day for nearly two years. My eating definitely improved with the mindful eating as my binge urges were easier to cope with but they were still frequent and insistent. Even looking back from a fortnight, I am amazed that I coped with how bad those binge urges were. It was pretty fucking horrendous at times and felt really desperate. No wonder I binged and binged so badly sometimes. I had a 4500 calorie binge on Monday 27th May and that was my last totally out of control binge. When I say 4500 calories, I mean that I added it up from the packets so it’s not a haphazard guess. I have had bigger binges in the past but I still find that number pretty shocking. I had a further, smaller binge of 1500 on Thursday 30th May which was triggered by seeing that I overeaten according to my calorie counting app during the day and then thinking “fuck it, I’ve ruined everything anyway”. This is a cognitive distortion called dichotomous thinking and also known as ‘black and white thinking’ or ‘all or nothing thinking’. I felt less out of control during this last binge but it was still a binge.

Now I am continuing the mindful eating, as much as I can while trying to be realistic and not fall into rigid perfectionism, and have stopped my dieting behaviours. I haven’t weighed myself since Monday 27th May and the only food I have measured has been while following recipes other than rice which I don’t know how else to cook a reasonable amount. I have sometimes been calorie counting roughly in my head. It seems to be a way to soothe and reassure myself that I am not eating ‘too much’ but it often backfires and I get anxious about the number I come up with. I spent two years determining how much food to eat based on a glorified calculator on my phone. I picked up rules and advice and recommendations some of which, maybe all of it, is bound to be bullshit and applied them to how many and what kind of calories my body received in a meal or a snack. No flexibility. Nutrition is so incredibly complex and I thought I could work it out in a few minutes on free app on my phone. Instead, now I am using my inbuilt system of analysing how many and what kind of calories my body needs. These internal hunger and satiety cues will supposedly meet all my body’s nutrtional needs and do it in real time too. I am still not 100% convinced that it will work on me as I am worried that I have broken my internal cues beyond repair by dieting. But I know that this last diet, while successful in the conventional sense in that I lost over 100lbs, also gave me binge eating disorder again, hammered my mood and took up swathes of my time and energy. It couldn’t continue as it was.

My major obstacle to trying intuitive eating is my fear of gaining my weight back. I was treated like shit when I was a fat person and my life is a lot easier now. It is partly aesthetics too but I actually look worse undressed as I am on the bad end of the spectrum for how much loose skin I have been left with. I just feel much more acceptable and therefore safer in an average sized body. So I am afraid of gaining weight and going back.

Two of the principles of intuitive eating are giving yourself unconditional permission to eat and to eat when you are hungry. Because I have dieting for so long, I have intense feelings of deprivation and don’t feel secure at all that my need for food is going to be met. I feel like I am just going to force myself to go hungry. I am lucky in that I still feel hunger despite my dieting, though I don’t feel it with much subtly, and I am trying to eat whenever I am hungry and what sounds the most appealing and gives me the most satisfaction (another principle). It is common for people to have a healing process at the start of trying intuitive eating where they eat a lot of ‘junk’ or ‘treat’ foods (which the authors call play foods) as a rebound to the deprivation of dieting. The foods you weren’t allowed are the ones that look the most appealing now you can have anything. They say that if you eat them when you are hungry, really savour them and stop when you are satisfied then those foods will lose their power and hold over you and you will eventually genuinely only want them occasionally. Ha, I thought, bet that’s rubbish and just another mind trick to make you eat less calories with less effort. Ha, I have found out that it’s actually true.

Like a lot of dieters, once I opened a packet of something not usually allowed, like a bar of chocolate, I feel compelled to finish it. It’s because I didn’t know when I was going to be allowed it again so I felt like I had to make the most of this current laxity. Never could manage “just one biscuit” or “just one square of chocolate”. One slip of the rules and it was often a full binge. But I currently have four opened and partially eaten bars of chocolate, and two unopened bars, in my cupboard. I have a craving for a particular type of chocolate and I go and buy it. Some wait in the cupboard as they then don’t appeal anymore. After dinner, when I want something sweet like I almost always do, I put one or two squares on a plate and eat them at the table as mindfully as I can. Somehow, and it feels like magic, something feels soothed and completed and when I think “I could have more now” then I think “nah, maybe later” or just not really bothered. It’s very strange. The fact that I know the chocolate is there and I know that I can go and get it whenever the hell I want makes me seriously consider if I really want it. I am not even sure anymore if I actually like milk chocolate. It doesn’t taste that special. If I had read this a month ago I would have thought that the writer was just lying to themselves in an effort to eat less but it seems this isn’t a mind trick as I thought but just the way (most?) human brains work.

Four opened and two unopened bars of chocolate from my cupboard which even a few weeks ago I would have binged on but now forget about because they are not appealing anymore.

I am trying to reassure myself that the other intuitive eating techniques will work as well the ones as I have used with the chocolate. If that bit works then maybe the advice that I won’t gain much weight if I thoroughly follow my hunger and satiety cues will also work. It’s a leap of faith and I think I am finally ready to take the risk.

How big a binge

[eating disorders, description of binging, calorie numbers]

There was research released this week about how much exercise the human body can endure over the long term. Their conclusions were that people can expend two and a half times their resting metabolic rate consistently every day. Above that amount, tissue starts to break down and it isn’t sustainable.

The thing that interested me is that the limiting factor is how much energy the body can digest from food. That is around 4000 calories a day for the average person. You can physically eat more than that but the body can’t digest it. My binges, at their worst, can add up to 7000-8000 a day. That’s three or four big binges plus some other eating over the course of a day. These days, I don’t do any attempts at compensatory behavious like self-induced vomiting, use laxatives or fast. I do overexercise and restrict (diet). Just realised that I’ve written this all in the present tense. My attempt at intuitive eating feels so new that I don’t deserve to say that these things are in the past. I’ve not binged in ten days which is the longest for a long while for me and the binge urges are much more manageable as they are weaker and less frequent.

This screenshot shows my calorie intake from a week of binging this year:

Screenshot of the MyFitnessPal calorie counting app that shows my high calorie intake over a week of binging.

I gained around 5-7lbs that week once the water weight/bloat settled. It should have been more if I had digested all the food I ate. This research explains why.

Of course, the eating disordered part of me thinks “ooh, I can eat as much as I want and it won’t count”. A pound a day of weight gain still! I can’t exercise when I am eating that much as need to be near a toilet for the inevitable gut distress. Not to mention the intense negative thoughts and guilt and shame and self-hatred and suicidal thoughts and pain pain pain. No, the binging still would ‘count’. But it’s interesting to have outside confirmation of an effect I had noticed in my body and dismissed as me being stupid. I’m still aiming to not test it again though.

Why I am trying intuitive eating

[eating disorder, mention of weights, calories]

My eating has been so much better since I read Intuitive Eating a fortnight ago. I have seen snippets and opinions on this book and its concepts on the internet for years. I’ve made attempts at that style of eating before including after my second diet when I gained back 150% of the weight I lost. I wrote it off after that. Reading the book and really paying attention to what I was reading has made me realise the parts I didn’t understand and given me much more complete, authoritative information.

A key part of intuitive eating is giving up dieting and putting weight loss on the back burner so allowing your weight to drift to your natural set point. I have a problem with this concept as from the way I understand set point theory, you can’t really change your set point and mine is (or was, it is likely higher now after dieting again) well into an obese BMI. Yes, I know BMI is bullshit but it’s a rough illustration without using numbers. In the past, if I eat to my appetite then that is the weight I go to. I have gained a lot of privilege and freedoms by changing from a fat (why I am using this word) person into a straight sized person and I don’t want to give them up. The fact that I may have no choice makes me despair. I am still thinking that I would rather be at war (and it is a goddamn war) with my body, my hunger and food than go back to being treated the way I was when I was fat.

For nearly two years, when I decided what to eat, I did it in the calorie counting app MyFitnessPal and followed the rules that I had picked and chosen and labelled ‘healthy’. It was actually a pretty big surprise to me that most people use internal cues (what food looks appealing, noticing when hunger starts inside their body, stopping when their body signals ‘full’) to chose when and what to eat and when to stop. When calorie counting I had a relentless drive to try to feel full and often did not. My hunger signals were numbed though. I just felt stretched and under pressure. That’s because my body was stressed by the calorie restriction. The disappearance of that stretched feeling is lovely. It’s not gone completely though and that makes me worry that I am going to gain a lot of weight. Everything is making me worry that I am going to gain a lot of weight. I am preoccupied by this.

This is what I wrote a couple of days before starting intuitive eating but was reading through the book:

I haven’t given up dieting though I’m considering it. I am very worried about what will happen to my weight if I stop restricting my calorie intake. There are good clinical studies that say that intuitive eaters have lower BMIs than emotional eaters but I think my natural set point is much higher than my current weight (and I am currently five pounds above my chosen target). I had pretty much come to terms with logging my food for the rest of my life. But it was such a battle as I had frequent urges to binge and overeat (or what I would consider overeat) and periods of fucking horrendous binging. The part I am doing is the mindful eating which is no phone, no book and no TV when eating even a snack let alone a meal and really feeling the sensations of eating, slowly and deliberately. I bathe my brain in the sensations of eating. I am trying to eat the foods that sound appealing to me and I really want rather than what is arbitrarily considered ‘healthy’. I have noticed that I do a lot of not eating when hungry in the morning after exercise and eating when not hungry but have scheduled snacks in the evening. My satisfaction in eating has increased dramatically and the urges to binge have fallen away a lot. They are no longer as overwhelming although I have binged three times this month, it was less out of control and much better than the days of multiple binging I’ve had before. I even have moments where I feel at peace with food: like it’s all okay. Which is just goddamn astonishing to me. I would like to reduce the fat on my abdomen but I would also like to have more of these feelings of peace. More dieting or take a chance on doing intuitive eating properly and hope it doesn’t make me gain weight.

If things had continued like that with the reduced binge urges, and maybe even some small binges, then I think I would have just went on calorie counting with mindful eating and putting up with my disordered eating. But I had an out of control binge (thousands of calories) and was plunged into low mood and intense suicidal thoughts. It just seemed ridiculous to be affected so badly. And I was curious what would happen if I followed the principles of intuitive eating properly. I am just so tired of all the fighting. The moments of peace were beautiful and I wanted more. I like routine, and some of mine are quite inflexible, but I was bored of my routine of calorie counting and restricting. The main thing was the out of control binges and the resulting weight gain. I have a hope that if I don’t binge anymore then my weight will drift down again. I also won’t have the mood disturbances and suicidal thoughts. I have the fear of weight gain driving me to try intuitive eating and the fear of weight gain sabotaging me from fully committing to intuitive eating. Maybe I will eventually realise that weight is just not that important. Feeling at peace is important.

A start at an introduction

I need someone to talk to but I can’t bear to talk to anyone because of overwhelming shame about how I have got myself in this situation. As good a reason as any to start a blog.

I have bipolar disorder, the multiple-drugs-multiple-hospital-admissions-count-the-things-you’ve-lost kind not the awareness-week-celebrity-headline-revelation kind. I sound bitter because I am bitter. At least today, anyway. A few months ago I was running in the frosty, winter dawns feeling super-connected to the Earth (I could feel it breathing under my feet) and in love with everything. Those thoughts and feelings were just misfirings and too much of the wrong neurotransmitters, surely? Pathological and not real. Are you so infallible that your thoughts and feelings are always sure to be counted as real and never generated by a brain gone wrong? Start dividing thoughts and feelings into what is real, valid, genuine, counted and what can’t and you’re fucked. It’s the same path that ends with “there are the superior humans and these are the inferior humans” or even just “these are the humans and these are not”.

Over the last few years, I have lost over 100lbs. I have had a normal BMI (though BMI is bullshit) for over a year. I have gained about ten pounds back from my lowest weight when I was last manic. I want to go back there despite the fact my GP and various family and friends thought I had lost too much weight and that I have reactivated my old eating disorder. I read the seminal Intuitive Eating this month after reading lots of people’s opinions on it over the fifteen years since I first discovered fat acceptance with Shapely Prose and the fat-o-sphere. The first time I crash dieted, I gave myself binge eating disorder which took a couple of years of no dieting to resolve. This time I have given myself binge eating disorder by strict calorie counting (I weighed and logged everything) for nearly two years. My plan was to continue strict calorie counting permanently so as to maintain my weight loss. My binges have escalated in size and frequency and are now every few days on average. But I still have this desire to lose weight. And to organise my life around calorie counting and eating by what I have (pretty much arbitrarily as there is a lot of conflicting information) decided are the correct rules. This gives me feelings of control and achievement. The rest of my life is on fire so this is pretty much the only area of my life where I feel those things. Except I keep binging and slowly gaining weight and every time I do, I get intense suicidal thoughts for a few days and these episodes are now merging into each other. I feel very hopeless that I can keep the weight off at all let alone keep the weight off and have some kind of peace with food and quality of life. The thought of going back to living life as a fat person and being treated with such hatred sounds impossible. Am I literally deciding between an eating disorder and dealing with fatphobia? Probably doesn’t matter what I decide, my body will make its own decisions.

There is a lot more that I want to get out of the maelstrom in my head but that’ll do for now.