Eating disorders are built on rules. Rules create boundaries. ED guards those boundaries with an iron fist. Outside the boundaries live anxiety and fear. Inside the boundaries lives the false sense of safety and control ED has created. I knew I was maintaining my “safe” world by following ED’s rules. I broke them and felt guilt. I lived by them and felt in control. But since these were only my rules and not anyone else’s, my world became isolated and prideful. No one else followed my rules so I remember feeling superior because that must have meant that they were gaining weight and living unhealthy lives. The problem was, I often looked at these rule-breakers and wondered why they all weren’t completely overweight. Why did they have friends even though they didn’t look skinny like me? Why did they get to have fun when they should have been afraid of all the calories and unhealthy food they were consuming? Why didn’t they have to exercise as much as me to maintain their weight? Why weren’t they all unhappy living outside of the boundaries ED had set for me? So I was isolated by the rules I had set for myself which should have meant that the rest of the world was obscenely overweight. Hence the illogic of an eating disordered mind.
These rules will keep me from gaining weight and keep me in control of my life. Other people are all getting fat and worrying about getting fatter. I see them happy and in normal bodies, but I’m sure they are still all getting fat and worrying about getting fatter. I am the only one not getting fat and worrying about getting fatter because I have my rules that keep me from getting fat and worrying about getting fatter. So why aren’t they getting fat while I’m the one following the rules? Don’t worry – it will catch up to them any day now and then they’ll see the logic of my rules. They are just jealous of my control. Those poor people who are all getting fat and worrying about getting fatter. I feel bad for them.
Let’s examine illogic at it’s heart: ED playing his mind games and controlling my boundaries. I must warn you – you may laugh, you may snicker, you may roll your eyes. But for sure you will feel sorry for the me that allowed these rules power over her life. I feel sorry for her. And I praise God everyday he set her free to be this me.
- No cheese.
- No milk except skim.
- No fried food.
- No breaded food.
- No fast food. Ever.
- No eating between breakfast and lunch.
- No meat at lunch. Only vegetables and fruit.
- No cream sauces.
- No sweets or desserts until after supper, but only if the exercise was enough to allow.
- Fish at least once a week.
- Exercise at least 2 hours in the morning.
- Run the same route or farther everyday, no cutting corners.
- Must run 12 miles on Sunday (which became 13, then 14, then 15)
- No red meat.
- No pasta.
- Only diet pop.
- Don’t drink calories.
- Never stop exercise on a machine at 57 minutes or 72 minutes or 119 minutes. Always go to 60 or 75 or 120.
- Only eat at designated meal times, even if ravenous.
- Eat the same thing at breakfast and lunch everyday.
- Always use whole wheat flour for baking I will eat.
- No bread at lunch.
- No processed foods.
- No sitting down in the afternoon.
- No going out to eat at lunch.
- No chips at lunch, but chips are okay at supper if I have exercised.
- No candy.
- Eat more vegetables at supper than meat.
- Never use butter.
- Bake for others but never for me to eat.
- Only fat free salad dressing, mayo, cream cheese, sour cream.
- Use fat free plain Greek yogurt in place of anything creamy in a recipe.
- No casseroles so I know how much of each thing I’m eating.
- No egg yolks, only egg whites.
- No fatty pork meat.
- Say that you don’t like it as an excuse to not eat a food on this list.
- And if I break any of these rules, throw in the towel for the day and just break them all and then feel guilty and vow to exercise extra tomorrow and restrict even more until I get back in control.
Living a life by these rules is not living a life at all. No freedom, friendship, or fun exists where these rules exist. My safe and controlled life within my ruled boundaries created a joyless life. But I was sure good at pretending to both myself and others. ED gave me a false sense of happiness. It was a lie. ED was happy. I was alone. ED was in control. I was a puppet played by his strings. Only I didn’t know. I did not know.
Until I started breaking the rules.
I would be lying if I said I was completely free from my rules, but I’m fighting that list with logic. Now food is neither good or bad. It is a tally. There is no guilty food, no bad food, no “not allowed” food. I had a cheeseburger and cheeseballs when we were out to eat with friends. Holy cow – did you all know how good those are? I made a casserole with heavy cream as the base. Loved it. I make more meals with hamburger than with chicken these days. On the way to eat as a family at Subway we realized we had gift cards to Culver’s and quickly decided to go there instead. I didn’t melt down. I enjoyed the meal with my family. But I will admit – I really wanted chicken strips and fries. I remember loving chicken strips in my former life, but I just couldn’t make myself order them. I got a grilled chicken sandwich and salad instead. I can’t conquer the world in one night, but I’m not worried, I know I’ll have chicken strips and fries again. I make a pan of bars or a dessert or cookies weekly now so that I know I’ll have a dessert tally each day. And I make some tasty stuff. Who knew? I had Pizza Ranch for lunch on a teacher inservice day. I didn’t panic at the thought of having to eat whatever was brought in. I ate my two pieces and was satisfied and guilt free. I have a fruit smoothie every morning with cream cheese fruit dip mixed in to make it extra creamy. I don’t use fat free cream cheese, but it is 1/3 less fat. I plan to buy regular next trip to Walmart. I will admit that I don’t use the canned cream of soups. I just can’t make myself use that stuff. I have a homemade mix that I use instead. I think that’s okay. I make a conscious effort each morning I go exercise to tell myself that I’m exercising for my heart and enjoyment, not for calorie burn. It’s that simple act of reminding myself each morning that frees me from compulsively needing to go. Sometimes I stop one lap short of my normal swim or get off the treadmill one minute short of my goal. That may sound pointless to most, but that is huge for me. Huge. No guilt. It’s empowerment in not being ruled by ED, even in that one minute short. I have found out I love beef stew, tater tots, Laughing Cow cheese, Nutella, chocolate covered raisins, SunChips with my sandwich at lunch, ground sausage in cavatina, Black Pepper Olive Oil Mayo, sour cream over Greek yogurt, honey mustard dressing, butter on my dinner roll. Casseroles are the handiest thing to make and to eat. Chocolate milk is my absolute favorite.
And here’s the clincher: I don’t overeat and I don’t over exercise. I never throw in the towel when I break a rule and binge on whatever I can get my hands on. I don’t eat half a bag of chips or my dish of ice cream plus whatever my boys have leftover. I don’t feel the need to clean all their plates after supper so we don’t waste food. I don’t have to eat “just one more” because guess what, I can have more tomorrow. I don’t feel the need to get every last bite in because my rules will start over tomorrow and all that food will all be off limits again. Instead, I know that if I want it tomorrow, I can have it tomorrow. My body isn’t hoarding food because it doesn’t know when I’ll feed it again. I eat. I move on. I don’t feel the need to exercise like a fiend because I am not exercising to burn all my calories. I’m exercising because I enjoy it; it makes me feel healthy and strong. I don’t feel guilty about eating a Peanut Butter Caramel Gooey Bar that I made yesterday. I enjoy it. I enjoy freedom from my rules.
No, wait, let’s say this right.
I enjoy freedom from ED.