Sunday, October 28, 2012

Freedom from nutrition labels

Hey everyone. I think through some logic (I know me....logical...ya it happens sometimes) I just reasoned my way into freedom from ever looking at nutrition labels. For some this may not seem a big deal, but for me nutrition labels and certain information on them has always governed whether or not I eat something. And since with an eating disorder food is pretty much the center of your life....nutrition labels have been the center of mine. Even being on an exchange plan where calories shouldn't matter I have nitpicked things off the nutrition label to count, but today my frustration from wanting something (I know a food craving...those happens sometimes too) and not liking what was on the label pushed me to try and reason with myself why I should eat it. This is a good thing for me...I feel a little guilty and a lot strange for using my reasoning to get me to eat something instead of to avoid eating something....but I guess it is good. 

Anyway, I thought I would share my logic.  WARNING: this does have some specifics about which food groups I avoid but no numbers or anything (blocked them out). So if that will trigger you STOP READING. However I am going to post this despite the risk of it triggering some people, because I think for others who obsess with nutrition labels it may bring freedom. 

To summarize it though if you are too busy to read now: if you are on an exchange based system monitored by a dietician (which if you are not I would highly, highly, highly recommend doing that) then you have no need to look at labels. It may be scary, but think of the freedom that means. It means choosing a starch because its a starch exchange and not having to worry about anything else about it. Is it a half cup of grain? Then it is a starch exchange and you are good to go. Literally something so simple blew my mind. I have been on so many meal plans and in treatments that do exchanges so many times and right now the logic all hit. I must thank my nutritionist for hammering this stuff into my head (feel bad that it took over a year for it to to click...whoops) and prayer for this enlightenment being revealed. So here goes. 

It all started when I wanted to have rolls and graham crackers but my brain freaked out about the miniscule amount of fat in them (something my brain loves to do). I decided to reason my want into eating the rolls and graham crackers and try and forget about the fat using some goes. 
In everything I have read and been told its not the amount of fat/carbs/sodium/sugar in a food that will make you gain weight....your body works on calories. I know this from animal nutrition. To make an animal gain weight you give it extra energy so it has an energy (aka calorie) surplus. You can alter the pro/carb/fat ratio to help them in whatever performance they have (beef cows to get good cut, horse racing endurance, etc), but the rate of their gain comes down to calories. So in this logic...the fat in my rolls or graham crackers or whatever don't's the calories. So my whole fear of ballooning because of the fat in the items is irrational and the calories are right for one exchange so I can eat them.  This is where my brain went off into freedom mode (maybe from the increased energy I have been giving it).

Happy cow free from worrying about fat
You see I don't even have to worry about calories. My nutritionist takes my caloric needs and packages them into exchanges. After our last session where she had me help build the new plan I realized exchanges are calories....I mean they are based off calories. Each starch exchange, fat exchange, protein....whatever fits into a specific caloric range and that's how portions are decided.My nutritionist formulates my meal plan based off her knowledge of these caloric ranges.  My nutritionist does the exchanges to make sure I get the nutrients my body needs. The calories are the big picture, but she fills in the picture with the right "colors" to make it complete. These colors are the exchanges which give me the nutrients I need. It's basically like she calculates my caloric needs which spits out a coloring book page all outlined and everything. And then she takes the knowledge of my nutrient needs and fills in the spaces to make the beautiful picture (aka my health and healthy body). Therefore I should concentrate on exchanges (especially since I don't really know how many cals I need) and portions. 
Well...exchanges and portions I already know. A roll is 1 starch, 1 sheet graham cracker is 1 starch....I know these things. So the information on the nutrition fact label for any food is what makes it a certain exchange. But my nutritionist already takes all the numbers and everything into account when she builds my meal plan based off of the exchanges. And the exchanges she gives me are based off the portions the meet one exchange (which she gave me in a nifty sheet) the nutrition fact label serves no purpose for me. It doesn't tell me exchanges, just extra info that my nutritionist already calculated for me. 

 I really have no need to ever look at or obsess over the nutrition facts label. This thing that has dictated my food choices for so long...really doesn't matter because my dietician takes all of the info on it  that is important to me into account when creating my meal plan.  So she does the hard work to make my life simpler....just live by exchanges....1/2 cup grain is a starch, a fruit is a fruit, 1/2 cup cooked veg is a veg, I know the fat exchanges, and protein is based off oz, dairy is simple (yogurt cup, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cottage cheese). So really I am free to choose whatever I want if all of this is logical and true....I think I just ventured into freedom.  Why not come and take a step with me? Put the labels down, and pick exchanges up :) 

Friday, October 26, 2012

A big driving motivation

So I lost weight at nutritionist and now got a meal plan makeover and huge increase. Luckily my nutritionist worked with me and talked numbers with me and did me a plan based off of exchanges but also showed me how she does exchanges based off the calories I need. We restarted with a new plan based off of the calorie range that must be my maintenance based on information we know from when I logged calories. So this really is a fresh start and realizing my exchanges are based on portions that are based off the calories my body needs makes me realize I really can't restrict portions.

Another important realization from my appointment was that weight gain can be healthy. Right now, my body is underweight. Sure when I was 14 I was obese and needed to lose weight but that is not my reality now. That was 6 years ago and things were different. Then losing was what I needed for my health and now it is to gain. I need to eat the right calories to gain. This doesn't mean eating too many calories. It means eating the calories and nourishing my body to health. This means more than maintenance intake, but maintenance intake would actually be too low.

Still these two aren't my biggest realization. My biggest one actually came through the hours I spent praying after making the new plan. I had to get rid of the anxiety (or at least cope with it) so I stayed in continous prayer, retreating to the peaceful embrace of my Father. It was in this time He revealed something very important to me. I am going to have to gain this weight no matter what. I can either do it outpatient where I have freedom in food choices and get to do it slowly and am in more control of it. Or I am going to be sent to a hospital, inpatient, or residential facility to do it quickly and way outside of my control. Obviously given the two choices I want to do this outpatient. I love the freedom in food choices and the freedom to have a life outside of therapy and nutrition...but outpatient is a privelege and I will earn it by showing progress.

So this has been a big motivation for me. Every time I get an urge to restrict a portion, or skip a snack, or overexercise I remind myself this weight is going to be gained one way or another, and I want to do it outpatient. I deserve to do it outpatient. It really has pushed me through. When that motivation doesn't seem enough I remind myself I need to get the intake necessary for my goals. I mean if I wanted an A in a class I wouldn't skip homework or not study for a test, so why skip my snacks or tax my body with working out when my goal is to gain?

With continual prayer and these motivations I have actually done the best ever these past few days. Sure I am scared as we are having to double the amount I gain this week to make up for the loss, but you know is just one week....and my plan isn't really that bad. Actually I have to face a dining hall bagel every day (huge fear food) and now it is becoming too easy and I am looking for other ways to challenge myself. That is in just three days. Imagine where I will be in three weeks, three months....or this time next year.

So find your motivation. Whatever it is that makes that rational side of you a little louder than your ED. Also, try looking at each meal as practice for the future you want. Maybe be specific. Like for me I want to be able to eat what I am craving, so I take each meal as practice for that...sometimes it means just choosing the fruit I want regardless of calories and some days I can manage to choose my whole entree that way. Well, off to do my super shake :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just Keep Moving

I am sitting here now typing this in hopes that maybe, just maybe it will keep me from going to compulsively exercise. You see right now my mind is saying how lazy I have been today. How I shouldn't have eaten the whole bag of skittles and shouldn't have challenged myself to chickpeas. But there's a solution for my "bad behavior." Just a few crunches. "An 8 minute ab video won't hurt. You gained this week anyway so it's fine." But I know those 8 minutes will go to 16, to 30, to an hour. It will not just be today but every day, it will just be another thing I will have to overcome. Plus in those 8 minutes I will just fire ED up for the night and I will undo all the progress I got by doing my Skittles and beans. Those 8 minutes would be more than just abs, they would be 8 minutes of set-back.
Having had non-purge type bulimia in the form of overexercise my mind doesn't just stop once the food is in my just switches gears. Before and during the meal it spews thoughts of stopping....of leaving behind a crumb here or there. Of not getting the right portions. Of skipping meals or snacks entirely. But when I push through...and I leave the dining hall or the table in hopes that leaving will mean escape the meal/snack haunts me. My mind goes into how to get rid of those calories now in my body. Take the long way back, walk a few laps, run the stairs, do 8 minute abs. All things it writes off as okay because it's not like I am running or cycling like before and it's not even exercise. Well here is the thing....if it's not really exercise then it's not worth doing it to burn a few measely calories when doing it will set me back.

I mean it comes down to this. I want to recover for many reasons but my main motivators are to go to vet school, to be able to run and cycle again, and to avoid feeding tubes. So let's see.....burn a few calories by doing 8 minute abs or go to vet 8 minute abs now or get closer to being able to run for much more than 8 8 minute abs now or avoid having to use a feeding tube for 8 days. Choice seems easy...and logically it is.

I may cry tonight and I will definitely feel fear and anxiety, but I can't run from these emotions forever. I have used my ED for 14 years to run from these emotions. To give myself a sense of control that kept all emotions  out. In my nice little ED bubble everything worked exact and was planned...but that's not the real world. That's not life. Life is about emotions. It's about feeling the fear and anxiety. The shame, guilt, grief. It's about crying over that bag of Skittles because it means I am losing my ED which is a part of me. It means accepting that I am a flawed, emotional human being and maybe one day accepting the beauty in the fact that I am flawed.
And I want life. I don't want this bubble anymore. Because guess what....bubbles pop. One weight gain, one wrong food choice, one extra calorie and bob...there went control. And in came the emotions. So either way I have to face them. I can avoid them for 8 minutes...sure. Heck...I could avoid them the rest of my life. But if I avoid fear, shame, guilt...I will never feel joy, love, peace. Those don't exist in the ED bubble either. So for now I will just keep moving. Not how ED wants me too...not by fidgeting or pacing or doing 8 minutes of abs. But I will just keep moving forward in my recovery by sitting with the emotions, accepting they are coming, and pushing on. That's a harder exercise than any ab video and takes a truly strong person. ED will tell me I am lazy, but I will tell him in my stillness I am doing more work than he could ever have me to. I am saving my life in my stillness, and that's not lazy.

Bite of Life (aka my story)

Hey everyone! Welcome to my blog. I am hoping this will honestly be a blog from God, not from me. One to bring hope to those suffering from or helping someone suffering from an eating disorder. To bring hope to those bound up in the shackles of the self-defeating fear it brings. Girls who are fighting, or looking for the strength to fight a disease that is so crippling.

So I don't want to bog people down in the details of my life, but I thought it would be nice to know why the heck I am even talking about this. Well....I am in the fight right now. My eating disorder, or ED as I call it, has been with me for 14 years. I am 20 now, so yes that does mean I have had it since I was 6 years old. So I am going to try and take you all from there to now in the shortest way possible. So buckle's a bumpy ride.

Basically my ED started as binge eating disorder at the age of 6 due to abuse outside of my home and neglect in my home. I couldn't find comfort in healing from the abuse I endured at the hands of a family friend, and everyone thought that since the abused stop, my feelings should to. A scared 6 year old usually goes running to their parents, but my parents were dealing with illnesses of their own (alcohol dependence) that kept them from being available. So I ran to the next best I won't go into details or anything, but it wasn't a preety time. I had so much comforting that I needed that I would eat to the point of pain or illness. It was a secretive action that would occur mostly at night and it was full of shame and guilt.

At first nobody noticed, but then I began to gain weight. Not only did my peers in school begin to notice and point it out in horrible, cruel ways but my mom began to notice too. Her whole family struggles with eating issues so her mind was skewed, and all she saw was her daughter gaining weight. She didn't see the cry for help that my secretive eating was. So she did the only thing she the age of 8 she began to put me on diets. This started a cycle of dieting and being "good" and then binging and feeling the guilt and shame that brought. My mom would celebrate when I lost weight and condemn me when she found my secret stashes or trash from one of my binges. My binge eating continued to get worse as I endured more abuse, became the parent for my mom as she coped with divorce and the loss of her twin sister, and tried to soothe myself from the bullying I endured and the feelings brought up by several cases of abuse.

All of this continued until I was 14 and obese. The bullying was at an all time high and I just wanted to escape. So I begged, pleaded, and cried to my mom to buy me a very expensive extreme diet for my birthday. She did and I committed myself to this plan. Looking back it was basically anorexia in a box, but I didn't know that then. Soon the pounds were flying off and I was being praised. I was still bullied in school, but at least when I came home I was supported for once. I felt successful, I felt accomplished, I felt loved. I still remember the look on my mom's face when I got to my goal weight, we went into American Eagle, and I was able to fit in their jeans for the first time. You would have thought I won the gold medal at the Olympics.

Sadly though, diets are short term fixes.The next year when I started high school (at a new school away from the bullying) I was determined to make a name for myself. Well, my binge eating came back and with that so did the weight. The self-hatred reached a peak and then a boy broke my heart (basically wouldn't date me because of the way I looked) and so the summer after freshmen year my plan became to lose weight and get him to like me. This all started innocently with just "eating healthier."

If only I had known then what those words meant. At first it was great, I was eating fresh fruits and veggies and only having desserts occasionally. But then that wasn't enough. Then the meals got too big so I cut out the side of pretzels or rolls and made b-fast just enough to get by. I started weighing everything and myself. These results weren't what i wanted so more had to go. First no desserts. Then no condiments or extras. Then no fats. Then certain fruits were too much. Then out went proteins. Then I exercised off anything I ate until slowly but surely I was only eating a tiny amount (no numbers because don't want to trigger). The pounds were flying off and my family was supportive until the end. When I reached an all time low at that point (actually still in healthy range) the guy decided to date me but that only lasted two weeks because we were both too busy.

Then in Decemeber my friend told the guidance counselour at school what I was doing and she told my parents and before I knew it I was in treatment. I bs-ed my way through treatment and was released two weeks later and everything started again except worse.

The guy started dating me again in January and turned out to be abusive, but I thought it was love. Inside I was tormented and hated myself which fed into my restricting. I was driven in a way I had never been before. Life was passing me by but I was blinded by the drive to be thin, to overcome the natural desire to eat. I tied the hunger in my stomach to strength. This drive didn't make me strong though and by April I was underweight and my body was shutting down so I was put inpatient and then sent to residential treatment facility which saved my life. This was the first time I was ever told to gain weight and it was a hard thing to cope with. You would think someone who was once obese would marvel at the idea of having to gain, but it only made the fear worse as the thoughts of how fat I was or was going to be swirled in my head. Still, when I returned home from Florida (where the center was) I did outpatient and did quite well. I left the abusive boyfriend and found one who really loved me.

Problem was I didn't do well because I was in recovery, I did well because I was allowed to start running track and cross country.  Cross country justified me eating whatever I wanted. This led to my love of running becoming an enslavement to running. Of course now, my lovely nutritionist has worked with me to see running as a goal and privelege and my love for it has been sparked's a goal for me to gain weight.I want that freedom running down trails can bring...that peace and serenity to be on one of my runs with God. But back in that was just enslavement.

Also I did well because my self-esteem was built on my relationship with this guy. My value became tied once again to how others viewed me. But cross country didn't last and neither did the relationship.
Come senior year I was faced with leaving home for college and clung to the fear of the Freshmen 15. So the summer before college I began to eat healthy with this thought that if I lost the Freshmen 15 before college (seeing as I was at a healthy weight this would put me underweight) then I could gain it and not fear. Seemed logical at the time, but it was just ED trying to tell me to be his form of reasonable. Before I knew it was was back in ED's arms being controlled by calories, weights, cycling, and living in utter misery. As I became thinner and thinner I broke my families hearts and they begged me to get help. That December I was back inpatient and at a new low for me weight wise. It was strange to be underweight  again and to have people tell me to gain, my mind couldn't wrap around it, but I was at least trying to recover this time. I wanted to recover, but didn't want the weight gain associated with it.

Well, by January I was discharged AMA (against medical advice) to return to school. One week into school I had to have my gallbladder removed and the surgery didn't go well due to my low weight so I was put on a low-fat diet. This was like giving crack to a crack addict and next thing I knew, I was again back in ED's clutches. As I spiraled out of control I convinced myself I was doing everything right. I altered portions in my head and twisted my meal plan to have my meager intake somehow fit into the guidelines of my team. Come April I was at an extremely low BMI and my heart was failing. I was over 18 so it was up to me to decide to go to residential again. Luckily, I made that decision.
I remember weighing in at residential and not believing how low my weight had gotten. I hadn't weighed at school (another way to convince myself I wasn't relapsing) and now this low number blinked at me. Of course a few minutes layer ED was yelling how that weight wasn't low enough and for the first two weeks (which are really a blur) or residential I kept trying to leave the center and go home so I could get "sick enough" and then return. Sick enough wasn't my heart failing or having over 200 foods I refused to eat or having dehydration so bad the docs couldn't fix it. Sick enough wasn't the racing thoughts that kept me from thinking straight in school, or having flashbacks that woke me up from sleep, or being so tired I would fall asleep sitting up. Sick enough for ED was some weight.
I was residential for 10 weeks (a long time for this facility given most people leave in 4-6 weeks) and it definitely saved my life. They wanted to keep me longer but once I reached a healthy weight insurance wouldn't let them. I came home still scared of eating fats and already thinking how I would eat so much healthier when I got home. Still, I did okay when I got back home, but then it was back to college and ED snuck back in. Not full blown but with portion distortion, obsessive weighing, and fear foods coming back, I somehow ended up where I am today. I am at my lowest weight ever and have tons of fears to overcome. I now fear sugar and sodium (newest additions to my fear list that came over the summer) and not only count fat but saturated fat as well. I recently separated from my food and person scale and it has been a rough break-up let me tell you. But I am fighting. And that's where this blog begins. That's where my future begins.

I yearn for freedom. I am scared of it but I desire it. I want to not have my life controlled by food, weight, or any other numbers. You see here I have started this blog with the chapters of my past. With the horror story it has been and luckily I have spared the details of abuse, trauma, and the true nightmare of ED details because I figured people would want to skim those chapters anyway. But you see I am starting a new chapter and each day, each moment, and each bite writes a new word in the book that is my life.It is up to me how my story will unfold and I can't wait to share it with you readers.

Send me any questions you have or topics you want to see, but other than that I will just share from my heart and I will be honest. I will let you know of possible triggers, but really for me people being open and honest has been key to my healing. People admitting this road is tough, but showing me it is possible is what pushes me on. I hope to be that light to others. So ready or not...let's go.