National Eating Disorders Awareness Week was from February 21st to 27th. I missed it.
Well, no: I didn’t really miss it. I only found out that it was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week very last-minute, and I already had our Grocery Shopping mini-series set up, so I postponed discussing eating disorders. At the time, I was also a little bit too fragile to be in any condition to discuss eating disorders.
What happened was this: during Reading Week, which was from February 14th to 20th, my old disordered eating thoughts returned with a vengeance. I had decided to take the first few days of Reading Week off from doing any work; I was going to take a real holiday from school and enjoy myself. I enjoyed the first couple days guilt-free, knowing that I would do school work later on in the week. But as the week progressed, I found myself unable to concentrate on school work, and I knew that I hadn’t given myself a long enough break. So I decided to take time off as long as I needed.
Unfortunately, this didn’t go nearly as well as I had planned. Instead of enjoying a few extra days of fun and then cracking down to do my work, I was plagued with guilt. I couldn’t enjoy my activities; even reading novels felt like a guilty pleasure because I knew that I *should* be working on assignments or doing readings for university. I began to feel anxious. The knowledge that I’ll be finished university in April and will have to find a “real” job came to the forefront, and my anxiety levels shot through the roof. I began eating. And eating. And eating. I binged for nearly the entire week. This was a new kind of disordered eating, for me; in the past, my issues have been that I have restricted my eating, rather than eaten too much. It scared me because I couldn’t stop the binging, and it scared me because it was a form of disordered eating that I had never dealt with before.
After one particularly horrible binge- and it shames me to say this- I actually purged. It was awful. I can safely say that I will never do that again. And perhaps doing that was what helped me to give my head a shake: I broke down sobbing later on that day and admitted to the boyfriend what had happened. Talking it through with someone really helped, and admitting what I had done was a major step towards dealing with the issue.
Towards the end of the week, I wrote on my food diary blog, Health Writer Eats, that I was taking the weekend off from recording my food in the hopes that I would be able to get it under control by not tracking it all. This, too, helped. That weekend I went for breakfast with the mother dear, and whereas I would normally ask for dry toast and no bacon etc etc, this time I ordered a regular breakfast without “healthifying” it. I knew that if I healthified it, I would feel deprived (not that I normally feel deprived by healthifying things, but because my state of mind was so fragile, I knew that in this case I would). So I went with the non-healthified version and I found that I was able to regain my composure and take control of the situation.
That following week, I created a single goal for myself: no binging. I managed to do decently well; I still ate more than was necessary, but I did not binge. The week after that, I was able to set the goal for myself to eat the amount that felt right. And that week, too, was quite successful. The pounds that I gained during my binge week (and yes, you can easily gain a few pounds in a week if you binge every day) melted off just from eating clean and from eating proper sized portions. My state of mind is considerably better. Last week I had a few days of overeating and regained a couple pounds, but it’s nothing that can’t be dealt with, and it wasn’t nearly as concerning because last week I was in a good state of mind- and having a clear, rational mentality is what’s at stake.
My anxieties may also have lessened because of another recent development: my roommate has moved out. While I adored my roommate, I had no idea how anxious it made me to have a roommate. I never knew when the roommate would be around and when I would have the place to myself. Not knowing those things bothered me on some level, I guess. I have felt considerably less anxious since he moved out. He was one of the best roommates I could have asked for, but I don’t think it matters who I would have been living with: I’m just at a time in my life right now where I need to live on my own. It makes me all the more confident that buying the condo and living by myself is the absolute right course for me at this time.
I will be writing more about my Health Writer Eats blog on Wednesday, but I will say right now that recording my daily food intake for the world to see is not something that I believe contributed to this sudden surge of disordered eating. And just for the record, I do not believe that any of my disordered eating habits or patterns have arisen from the nutritional challenges that I occasionally do. They are for learning and health awareness purposes, and they have not corresponded to any of my disordered eating. Disordered and emotional eating are not about the food; tracking my food intake and conducting nutrition challenges are something that I will continue and which are actually beneficial to me at this time because they help me to build a better relationship with myself and with the food that I eat.
All of this leads me to an important question that I really want to get your input about:
My nutritionist Nicole and I were discussing last week how there is many books out there which talk about emotional eating, but few of them define emotional eating. Until we pinpoint what exactly “emotional eating” is, we cannot deal with the problems related to it. Emotional eating means something different to everyone. Both Nicole and I would love to hear your thoughts on emotional eating: what’s your definition of it? What does “emotional eating” mean to you?