I’ve been mentally exploring the idea of changing, again. How does one tackle changing habits, rituals, and routines around food and exercise that have the advantage of years of practice and repetition? The challenge of recovery is that we have honed our ‘healthy habits’ to excess. We’ve burned the neural pathways so deeply in our brains, and they’ve become automatic. How do you then forge the path into the unknown? Add to that seemingly impossible task the fact that society is telling us that what we’ve been doing all this time is so healthy and virtuous, and it all feels quite overwhelming.
I am not someone who lives by a list of rules, by which I mean that I do not have an actual, physical list of rules. But I’ve been realizing lately that I do in fact have many daily mandates. X glasses of water, at x times per day. Meal times are set at “no earlier than x”. Ice cream is allowed, but only at certain times of certain days. Of course, I have these rigid rules for exercise too. Run no less than x miles. Exercise no less than (but certainly more than) x minutes/hours per day. Take no day off. There is no sense, no actual wisdom, in these tenets. There are other rules to my life that are based on something. Don’t kill people. Avoid public urination, brush teeth at regular intervals, show up to work each day.
I’ve got to be honest with myself about what some of these rules are. I don’t know how to live without them, and I’ve been terrified of naming them, I think, because I know that when I do, I may be forced to confront their absurdity.
I find myself wondering if the only way to truly break free is to throw them all out at once. I’ve tried the approach of addressing one habit or behavior at time. I’ve watched over 10 years of my life pass by in this phase of not-quite-recovered. I have to confess that the idea of just jumping in has always held a steady appeal to me. I’ve never been able to do it.
I’m injured and cannot run, so that at least has given me the momentum I needed to throw the exercise rules out completely. At first, I tried to exercise around the injury. The doctor suggests cross-training to the injured anorexic runner. (Sidenote: Would it be appropriate in any other scenario for a doctor to do this? To the alcoholic, for example: “Oh, you have a beer allergy? Maybe try cocaine?”) This is what my therapist calls all-or-nothing thinking. But maybe all-or-nothing (aka black and white) thinking has a place in recovery, when it comes to the behaviors, and breaking them? A Zero Tolerance policy for whatever it is that the eating disorder wants?
For now I must rest. I tried to cross train, at doc’s advice. Fuck the elliptical.I’ve spent too many hours on that thing too, during previous periods of injury. I am completely resting until the current injury is 100% healed (not that I have a choice; the alternative is that the current injury progresses to a shattered bone, instead of a fractured one.) I’m noticing that I’ve made this commitment on the exercise issue before-a 100% commitment, all-in. But I’ve not done it with the food. Much as I appreciate the idea of Eat What You Want, As Much As You Want, Forever, I have never actually embraced it myself. I wonder what it will take to bridge that gap between conceptualization and action.
(Seriously, if you are someone who “loves fitness” and you spend time on that thing regularly, you need to re-evaluate whether you may just be lying to yourself. It’s torture.)
(I feel the same way about swimming but I can at least buy that some people legitimately enjoy swimming. The elliptical is a form of punishment.)
My therapist (and a million other professionals I’ve met over the last 15ish years) suggests yoga. Trust me, I’ve tried yoga too. I’ve done a shitload of yoga. Fine, I get why it is recommended in recovery, but to me it is just a way for me to pacify ED-‘yes, ED, we are exercising today-see, we are doing YOGA!’)
I don’t know what these musings will lead to, if anything, in terms of behavior change. Maybe I’m just trying to prime myself to be ready to finally buy into what I pretend to believe, when it comes to food. I guess the logical next step would be to seek out more support and perhaps some concrete advice or wisdom from others who have bridged the gap. Since I’m stuck on my sofa, it’s raining, it’s the weekend, and I can’t do much else, I suppose this is a good opportunity for me to do some soul and internet searching. This will all, of course, be bookened by Netflix, thank god for Netflix.