Why does therapy suck? I mean, an objective professional who sits and listens while you talk about yourself? Where’s the downside to that?And yet, it’s excruciating. You have to face the two sides of yourself that are in conflict.I’m in a constant state of cognitive dissonance. That’s right, I just used dissonance in a sentence. Probably even correctly. Boom.
Anyway, at the Center for Change they have several inpatient and outpatient programs to help with eating disorders. They’ve got therapists, dieticians, groups, classes, and reading materials. Oh, the eternal supply of reading materials. The first day there, I was assigned to read a book called Intuitive Eating.
It looks exactly like a diet book. Which is the opposite of what I was looking for, right? RIGHT? Well, I read it. I’ll give you the quick version. You go through a re-feeding process. Basically, you have to look at all food as the same. It’s fuel. Period. Sure, some fuel might be better than others, but it’s all fuel. And, in order to let go of any shame and/or guilt you have about eating food, you have to literally see a piece of chocolate cake the same as you see a cucumber. They don’t even address nutrition until the end of the book. Problem number one. In my brain, and most people’s brains, there are forbidden foods. I am to ignore this completely, and lose any moral price tags on any food.
Then, you have to give yourself unconditional permission to eat. You listen to your cues. You eat whatever you want, whenever you want it. You have a hunger/fullness scale 1 being absolutely starving, and 10 being so full you might throw up. You don’t allow yourself to get hungrier than a 3, and you don’t eat past a 7 on the scale. The dietician outlined what an appropriate “meal” looks like and what an appropriate “snack” looks like using fist sizes. You keep a record of your meals and snacks for a full 7 days or longer if necessary. Problem number two. Charts give me guilt and anxiety. Also, whatever I want whenever I want it? I’ll only eat ice cream. Seriously, lady, if allowed, I will only eat ice cream.
They smile and tell me this is my assignment. That it will be difficult makes no difference.
At first it was fascinating. Liberating. I ate ice cream, sure, but I also wanted healthy food. The first day I realized the “unconditional permission to eat” exercise was working was when I woke up craving grape nuts and a banana before a run. I was terrified of both those foods, but I honored my craving, ate the stuff and ran. My quads, which usually feel fatigued the first mile or two, felt amazing. Seriously, I felt nothing. I had so much energy. Not one step of that run was difficult, not even the hills. I was a believer.
Then I gained weight.
What were they trying to do to me? Make me a happy fat person? I didn’t go in there at an unhealthy weight. I didn’t need weight restoration. I charged back into that office in tears. I begged my dietician to tell me my weight because then I could fix it (yeah, I get that I’m adult and I could have driven to Target right then and bought a scale, but I forgot). She calmly told me that re-feeding is not the same as weight restoration, and that re-feeding was necessary to get my body back on track. I could yell at her, blame her, do anything else I thought necessary, but she wouldn’t tell me my weight unless I could give her a compelling reason why that would be to my benefit. Then she awarded me with a super smug smile. SUPER SMUG.
This is where the real difficulty in facing my creepy demon marched in. I crumpled. I mean. You guys, I came undone. How? How could I do this to myself? Allow myself to gain weight? That’s why I have the effing disorder in the first place. How long would this go on? They told me my body could fluctuate a great deal over the next while, but would find its own set-point. A healthy one for me. Uh, yeah, ok, but what if “my body” chooses a set-point I disagree with?
They gave me more reading material. This time on metabolism. If anyone wants to read it, I’ll give it to them. It helped me. But, it didn’t make the tight pants easier to wear. It didn’t make the giant in the mirror any more attractive. I slept better, and on the inside was internally more comfortable than I’d been my whole life. I wasn’t ever hungry, and never too full. But, emotionally, mentally, oh man.I died a little inside those few weeks. I had failed. I’d allowed my value to be stripped from me, and like a pitiful creature with no other choice, I allowed others to see it by walking around in public! I watched friends on social media with their super-diets and workout challenges and everyone was so happy to have taken charge of their health and lost weight. And there I was, allowing myself to gain weight all in the name of my health. My mental- freaking- health.
I know inside that I can’t add to or subtract from my value by losing or gaining weight. I know it. But then, I can’t make myself believe it. I embraced my eating disorder because it gave me a set of external controls. A false sense of control, actually. And eating like this new program, using my body’s cues, and good sense for what it needs is actual control. It truly is intuitive. But my instinct is to buck it. I want to go on a diet so bad I can’t stand it. I need to fix it. To mend my value. My very worth is being threatened because I have a false idea of what my worth is based on.
It’s exhausting. I’m not quitting. But it’s exhausting. And that was just the tip of the crap hill.