Wait. There’s another side? I thought it was only our side. Eating less, moving more, setting goals, intuitive eating, counting calories, eating clean, using the scale, not using the scale. What could the other side be? And what could it possibly have to do with us?
I spent some time catching up on magazine reading yesterday. In the last magazine* I looked at, a picture caught my eye. Man, I thought. That lady is too thin. Then my eyes turned to the other side of the page and I read the giant words:
” I WILL NEVER FULLY RECOVER FROM ANOREXIA. THAT’S SOMETHING I’M REMINDED OF EVERY DAY.”
Never fear. I will NEVER suffer from anorexia. But the similarities in this woman’s struggle were all too similar to the struggles that many of us face. And I felt like we could learn from her.
This woman is 44 years old. She is an emergency room physician. She has three kids and a husband. Her anorexia started in high school. She pretty much got it under control in her 20’s. She had therapy, and she even figured out what exactly triggered her eating disorder.
But all that work, therapy, even identifying triggers (“I know now that what triggers my eating disorder, perhaps more than anything else, is the feeling of inadequacy,”) did not stop ‘the flip from switching.’ Fifteen years later she had a disastrous bout of anorexia that almost cost her her life, and ended up taking 19 months of inpatient treatment.
Now, she hasn’t had a relapse in five years. But listen to this paragraph. I think there are some lessons in there for us ‘on the other side of weight loss.’
“My anorexia is not going away; I just have to live with it. Some days, if I have a difficult shift at work, I go home and make sure I don’t have a good dinner. And I do not look in the mirror except once, quickly, in the morning to make sure my shirt is buttoned correctly. But I try not to restrict foods or count calories. I weigh myself every day, but only as a reality check. I need proof that just because I “feel” fat,this doesn’t mean I have actually gotten larger.”
I just really related to this woman’s struggles on so many levels. Including my need to weigh myself this week because I was afraid something terrible had happened and I had gained a zillion pounds. (Now I think it was the air from the ‘procedure.’ Weight at the gym this morning: 167.5.) Including my fear that it could all disappear. Including my need to have a treat because I made it through another shift at work. Including having a clear understanding of what contributed to my overeating, and what still triggers it.
And yet, this woman’s struggle gives me hope. As Lynn has written about, it is okay to be vigilant in our maintenance. For us on the other side, it might be okay for us to restrict food or to count calories. It might even be okay to get on the scale once in a while.
*This article was in the October 2010 issue of Real Simple Magazine.