Stand for Something/ Intentional Choices

When you set your mind to maintaining a weight that isn’t right or natural for you, it is really hard to find the mental, physical, or emotional energy to pursue, or even consider, other goals and interests. This concept is nothing new in the recovery community; many people talk about trying out new artistic pursuits, or cooking (All the Food Blogging), or non-competitive exercise like yoga. But while I do see plenty of discussion about developing new interests and hobbies in recovery, and I do of course support these pursuits and think they are important, I don’t see nearly as many conversations about reconnecting with core beliefs about life, the meaning of it all, and what is really important.
I’ve realized lately how much my own anorexia has disconnected me from any internal conversations with myself about what I am doing with my life, and what purpose my life actions are advancing. What is really important to me? Weight loss (and maintenance at a non-ideal-for-me weight) at any cost translates to a list that includes all of the following:
1. Lose weight and don’t gain any weight
2. Do things with food and exercise that make the above happen
That’s basically it. There isn’t room for anything else. #1-2 above is a full time job, nights and weekends included, with an asshole of a boss and no days off.
I think one motivating factor in recovery, one Reason, has grown out of awareness of what a waste this is, and how incongruous it is with what I really want my life to be. It seems like God is a really common theme in this way for others. I’m not a Christian and will never subscribe to any religion, but morality and goodness and love are still just as critically important to me. I want my list to grow out of these things, out of love and connection.
If I am honest enough to confront what the disease is doing to my Life Focus, I have to get real about the fact that I have been focused only on singular, self-centered, and ultimately worthless pursuits. Nothing about a lifestyle of anorexia or EDNOS advances what I want to put on my list. I’ve had a lot of ‘rock bottoms’ with my illness, but I think confronting this reality might be my metaphysical rock bottom. It’s painful and easier to avoid (an in steps restriction, exercise, and those stupid rules I never intended to make; these things are great at facilitating avoidance aren’t they?)
I need a new list. And once I have one, I need to examine ALL of my actions to determine if they either (1) advance the cause of my living with meaningful purpose or (2) do not. It’s either 1 or 2. If I could just manage to examine each choice as life presents them to me, recovery should be easy. The hard part is slowing down enough to know when a choice is in front of me. (Ironically, I think malnourishment has made it so much harder for me to recognize when I am actually making a choice; it’s the timeless anorexia chickens vs. anorexia eggs.)
I will start working on my list.

WIAW My Way

It appears that WIAW is the thing to do ’round here. I’m not quite ready to start photographing my pints and nut butters, as is the fashion. But I did snap a photo, in the store today, of the back of a box of Special K cereal, which exclaimed “Willpower!” as some sort of advertisement for eating nothing but cereal as a healthy means to lose weight so you can finally love yourself, apparently. Anyway, I tried to post it to the Special K facebook page with #fuckoffKelloggs, but I guess Kellogg’s has some sort of magic powers to prevent facebook anti-friends from expressing anything other than crispy rice-flavored love for their brand online. Oh well, it still made me feel good and now I have a new favorite hashtag.

#FUCKOFFKELLOGS

and also: #genericspecialkforeva

The Rules that I Never Intended to Make

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.

On the verge, not quite ready to emerge

I am considering revisiting my goals. My Life Goals.

When you fall in the rabbit hole of pursuing weight loss, or the maintenance of a too-low-for-you weight at any cost, you really don’t have much mental or physical energy left over for other Life Goals.

Perhaps I ought to eliminate the goal of weight loss from my life, but in order to do so I need to understand why that singular goal has been so attractive to me, for so very long. So: What has successful pursuit of this goal afford me, thus far?

  • The feeling that I am working towards something, anything, that is measurable and tangible, and that does not require collaboration with other human beings and their inherent inconsistencies.
  • Certainly, admiration, or at least attention, from those who do not know my struggles.
  • Certainly concern from my family, when concern is the only form of love that I will allow myself to receive.
  • Certainly, a welcome distraction from the overwhelming cloud of LIfe Is Utterly Out of My Control that lingers just over my head when I have nothing concrete (like a number or a rule book) on which to focus.
  • Certainly, a doctor’s note to disengage from people at a level that allows me to stay clean and free of the watery emotional soup of relationships.

These things may not seem to be useful or even desirable to someone who has never struggled with anorexia, and I realize there are counterpoints to each. The intention of this post is not to explore the counterpoints just yet. And the list is not at all exhaustive.

Before the emergent transformation, I may need to strip down to the raw pain. I may need to eliminate the rot, before I can fill up the empty cavity with something good and worthwhile. That is what this part feels like, the part where I sit, and rest, and eat.