I have a confession to make.
I have an eating disorder and I’m addicted to sugar. Junk food too, but mainly sugar. And last week was too much of everything.
There, I said it.
I’m admitting to this because I need to – a big part of having an ED (Eating Disorder) is secrecy and hiding away. And I KNOW I’m not the only one doing this, it’s just that everyone’s too ashamed to talk about it. Not least because if we didn’t eat crap we’d all be healthy and trim … and clearly we’re not. I’m certainly not! I wanted to write this blog last week, but couldn’t quite do it.
It’s all very well saying “Eat less, move more”, but do you not think I would have done that if I could? Oh, it sounds so easy … it’s like saying “Climb that hill” when you have no boots on. You have no inclination to do it, and can’t really think of any reasonable reason (at that moment in time) why you would want to get to the top. Really, you just want to go home and put some warm socks on. And probably have a takeaway while you’re at it.
I really struggle with this because I’m a bright, happy, pragmatic person … but in the grips of ED, my logic has no place at all. I had a therapist for a bit a couple of years ago following my divorce, and I said that logic didn’t work – her response was one of absolute dismissal, saying “of course it doesn’t” … which surprised me greatly as it’s assumed (or at least I’ve always assumed) that logic can win everything. Clearly it doesn’t win at eating disorders. I’m good at logic … I am so NOT good at this.
I know this is going to be a real struggle because I’ve always been this way, ever since I can remember. My first pocket money went straight to the shop down the road, on as many penny sweets as I could get my clammy hands on. They were smuggled into my room and devoured immediately. I don’t believe I understood why then, and I certainly don’t now! I used to sneak into mum’s larder and steal homemade flapjacks and biscuits (still do, given half a chance). I remember hiding the egg sandwiches my mum gave me to take to school … in the bottom drawer of my bedside cupboard. They were finally found when they’d gone thoroughly mouldy and could be smelled a mile away.
I can’t go into a supermarket and not come out with a haul of stash that will be demolished as soon as I’m home. I will get an idea from somewhere that a takeaway is a good idea – it will take all of my power, all night, just stop myself from pressing that ‘Pay’ button on JustEat.
Stupid thing is that I’m not actually very motivated by food. If I go to a supermarket with someone else, and they ask me to make a decision about what I’d like to have for dinner, I will easily stand and deliberate for half an hour in front of one aisle. I don’t cook particularly, although I can – not much point for just one person anyway. I don’t eat cold meat of any variety unless it’s absolutely dry, and will rarely eat even veggie cold food. I have a phobia of sandwiches and can’t stand near anyone eating cold chicken legs …
Clearly there’s something going on here!
So why do I do it?
For me, I think there are a few reasons. I am genuinely addicted to sugar. Particularly when I’ve had a glass of wine. Last night (God, real confessions here) I was reduced to munching my way through the chocolate discs I’ve got from Montezuma’s for making hot chocolate with. I wasn’t hungry at all – I’d already had a large portion of home made beef casserole (very good, if I do say so myself) … then with two glasses of red wine, I’d been set off. The remaining two bags of sweet n salt popcorn went, then the hot choc discs. It was all I had … I did at least manage to stop myself eating them all and threw them in the bin. What a waste – but I know I wouldn’t have stopped even if I’d tried to put them away. Safest thing would have been to go to bed, but I wouldn’t have put it past myself to get up in the morning and carry on.
Where does it come from? Lord alone knows, but it’s there. I also take anti-depressants (mild, generic) that help me to function. I have a great time on them – but don’t let me forget to take them! Permanent PMT isn’t a good look on anyone. My theory then, is that it’s probably something chemically linked in the brain to depression, and that it has always been there. So how can it be anything to be ashamed of?
So why don’t I do this ALL the time?
Other people. Is the simple answer. I’m too embarrassed because I know it’s not normal – not the ‘done thing’. I’m not about to demolish the goodies that someone has brought in for their birthday – what sort of person would that make me? Although there’s always the danger that I’ll get so comfortable with my colleagues that I’ll be the one polishing off the last of the doughnuts because no-one else wants them. So company is my saving grace. Or at least it was, until the departure of my ex husband. While we were married – a respectable 12 years – I would get the odd comment, and would generally reign it in. I might eat more when I was out and about, but generally it’s not the first thing on my mind if I have things to do. I would wait for the very rare evening that I was alone and have a ‘special’ takeaway with all the lovely nibbly bits I like.
Then I was alone and unhappy … guess what comes next! Two years of disaster and four stone mainly made up of chocolate cornflake crispies (my nemesis – who knew?) and Chinese dim sum.
How do I stop this from happening?
I think the short answer, for now, is that I can’t. I can reduce it, minimise it, and I can forgive myself rather than feeling ashamed. A positive mindset has to help to move forward.
Coping mechanisms are something to be worked on – things I can do instead, preferably to avoid the urge in the first place. I can keep busy, keep active – those are both things that really help me. I strongly suspect that it’s lack of focus on something that makes a difference.
Meditation certainly helps, no doubt about that. My mind races at the best of times, so calming it down stops the whirring and enables me to think about what I really want.
Yoga – makes me feel fantastic, is great for my body, but it’s so much more than that. It also calms the mind – Bikram is called ‘open eye meditation’ for a reason. The focus shifts onto your body and movement to the exclusion of almost anything else and is incredibly good at making you feel clean and strong. It boosts positivity, and the sense of community at the LANO studio is second to none.
Planning, planning and more planning. I am so very, very bad at this. Even if I do plan, it doesn’t mean that I necessarily follow through. I’ve spent the last 10 days with breakfast and lunch items in my fridge, and completely failed to eat any of it due to a) not making anything up the night before; and b) being utterly hopeless at getting up in the morning. This isn’t me being hard on myself, this is an absolute truth. I need four alarms to get me up and to the office, usually late or by a whisker.
I have a number of things in my arsenal – but this year is about working through what works for me long term, so I don’t have to rely on counting Points or doing battle every time I pass the bakery aisle in the supermarket.
Meanwhile, I’ve inhaled a Boost bar and an Aero, so the first challenge to tackle has to be sugar. There is absolutely no health benefits to sugar at all, and I know I can’t moderate my intake – so it has to go. I know it’ll make a huge difference to me!
If you’ve reached the end of this – well done, and please do share with other people. I can’t be the only one who feels like this! I also know that there are so many people who simply don’t understand eating disorders either, so if this goes some way to educating, then that’s great too. If not, it’s helped me to break a barrier anyway 🙂