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In Part 2 of my Food: Friend or Frenemy? series, I am going to explore my relationship with food. But before I do I need to come clean. This post has taken awhile to write. I’m new to Recovered (four months!). Newly Recovered is a somewhat precarious position. It’s new and unfamiliar. I am feeling all the feelings and doing things I’ve never done before. Putting myself out there in ways I have never done before. Showing up and allowing myself to be seen for who I really am and not who I think other people want me to be. It is fun and exciting but it is also terrifying. Maybe even mostly terrifying.

I want to stay Recovered. And some days I really have to fight for it. The early stages of Recovered are tough. It’s not like the constant torment of being mentally and physically ravaged by an insidious eating disorder. I assure you, that comparatively, where I am now feels like a pleasure cruise verses where I was. But the truth is that being Newly Recovered and fully feeling all of life for the first time can be overwhelming. Add in the unpredictable variables of anxiety and depression, and life can sometimes feel like balancing the middle of a teeter-totter while two little kids throw soccer balls at you.

The last two months have been exhausting and finding the time and emotional strength to write for the blog have been tough (especially because my relationship with food is complicated and full of triggers). In addition, two months ago depression snuck up and engulfed me before I even knew what hit me. My anxiety management tools weren’t as effective and I couldn’t escape the feeling of being trapped underneath a down comforter filled with melancholy infused feathers.

Throughout most of my recovery, anxiety was my constant companion. I encountered depression as well, but anxiety often overshadowed everything. Consequently, my tool box was full of anxiety management tools and low on depression management tools. It took me almost a week to even realize that I was dealing with depression. Plus the depression felt different. When I had an eating disorder, depression felt like that down comforter filled with melancholy but with heaping amounts of hopelessness, unworthiness and crippling self-hatred thrown in as well (ED Ali was likely the source of the hopelessness, unworthiness and crippling self-hatred).

While I felt the heaviness of depression, I was grateful to not have to manage the hopelessness, unworthiness and crippling self-hatred. Still, being in the midst of depression and tackling a big issue like my relationship with food was complicated. I questioned whether I was really Recovered and whether I could ever heal my relationship with food. I also combated quite a bit of guilt and shame. Rather than let it all consume me and potentially lead me into a relapse, I focused on taking care of myself.

I didn’t beat myself up. There were days when all I could do was focus on meeting the needs of the boys. There were days when I snacked all afternoon. There were days I didn’t write at all because I couldn’t deal with what might come out. There were days when I needed an escape so I watched Netflix, listened to a podcast, picked up a book or listened to the Hamilton soundtrack for the hundredth time (btw, I memorized the Hercules Mulligan parts, should that ever become important).

It took me over three weeks to sit down and write this post. Despite my inner critic’s instinct to belittle and punish myself for not doing what “I should” be doing (i.e. writing), I decided to be kind myself. I reminded myself that I am enough just as I am. I am worth the time and effort it takes to stay Recovered. I also reached out and shared what I was experiencing with trusted family and friends, which helped to take a lot of the shame away. And in those moments when I struggled to be kind to myself, my family and friends stepped in.

Taking that time was so important. I am now in a better place physically and emotionally. I am ready to dive into my relationship with food. This may get uncomfortable and take some odd turns, but I know the only way to heal this relationship is to start working through it.

So here it goes …

Food. I hate food. I love food. Food comforts me. Food punishes me. Food nourishes me. Food poisons me. Food relaxes me. Food stresses me. Food makes me feel successful. Food makes me feel like a failure. Food hates me. Food loves me. Despite all the work I have done in recovery, food still has tremendous amount power over me. It pains me to admit it.

That power feels like a remnant of ED Ali. ED Ali used food as a weapon to manipulate and control me. I may have gotten rid of ED Ali, but I still have to deal with her mechanism of control and punishment everyday day. Food.

ED Ali was clever. She knew that even if I eventually got rid of her, I would never be able to get rid of food. Food would serve as a constant reminder of our toxic and abusive relationship. She knew she could use food to taunt me even after she was gone. And how hard it would be for me look past those taunts and move on.

I. Want. To. Move. On. I want to trust food (or myself around food, I’m not sure which it is right now) but I have trouble seeing it as anything other than ED Ali’s weapon of choice or even a potential gateway back to ED Ali.

I started turning to food for comfort as a little kid. I often felt awkward and out-of-place, so I turned to food. It started as young as 7 or 8. Food was my comfort. It grounded me. It made me feel less alone. As I began to suffer the side effects of turning to food for comfort (i.e. weight gain), I started to obsess about how to counteract those side effects. Enter ED Ali.

Food was the gateway to ED Ali. Then food became ED Ali’s weapon against me. I know I have to find a way to get along with food but I am scared that it’s going to lead me back to ED Ali.

Throughout recovery and the early stages of Recovered, I bypassed (or avoided/ignored) this issue by dealing with a bigger issue, letting go of weight loss as a goal. In letting go of weight loss as a goal I gave myself permission to eat. More specifically, I gave myself permission to eat and not feel shame or guilt afterwards. This took a lot of time and energy but I did it. I knew there was a chance I could gain weight but I also knew that if I ate regular meals and snacks there was a high likelihood that I would stop binging, so my weight would probably balance out. And, that’s pretty much what happened. (NOTE: I haven’t weighed myself in well over a year. I know my weight has stabilized because my clothes fit the same way they did last year.)

Except, now that I think about it, I didn’t bypass or avoid my relationship with food during recovery. I just found a way to use food as a weapon against ED Ali. When I let go of weight loss as a goal, I found that if I ate until I was full (or a little over full) she didn’t have much to say. It was only when I felt hungry or my pants started to feel a little looser that she’d chime in:

Those loose pants feel good don’t they? Doesn’t it feel good ride that hunger wave? To have so much control. You want to lose weight don’t you? Be in control. Have more confidence. Feel beautiful. I can do that for you. You just need to listen to me.

But if I stayed full, ED Ali had little to zero interest in what I was doing. It was so much easier to strengthen my healthy self when she stayed quiet. So I used food to stay full all the time. Not satiated, not stuffed, full. Meaning I often ate just a little more necessary. And I eventually got strong enough to ask her to leave. And she left. Even though she’s been gone for over four months I continue to use food to stay full because it feels safe. And I suppose there is a fear that if I stop using food against ED Ali, she’ll start using it against me again.

But she is gone. She’s been gone. It is time to move on and stop living in fear that she might sneak back in. I am stronger now than she ever was. Honestly, I’m not sure if food is a friend or a frenemy or just food. But I do know that food does not have to be a weapon anymore.

In Part 3, I am going to de-weaponize food.

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. This is so great, Ali. I’m so proud of you for sharing this journey that you’re on. We ALL learn from it, and I suspect that ALL of us have at the very least experienced an unhealthy/out of kilter relationship with food at some point. And – I am totally obsessed with the Alexander Hamilton CD too. VERY impressive to memorize ANYTHING on that thing! 🙂 ROCK ON, sister! Thanks for SHARING YOUR STORY!

    • Thank you so much, Lori! It means so much that you took the time to read and comment. I know how busy you have been with the musical. The boys and I got to see it yesterday and it was so wonderful! I am really hoping to spark the boys interest in theatre. Both boys really enjoyed the performance, especially Harrison. And anytime you want to sit and talk Hamilton, I am SO IN! I’ve even gotten the boys into it. It’s so fun to hear them singing, “I’m not throwin’ away my shot” as they play.

  2. Yay! Great post Ali! You’re doing so great. I’m sorry about the depression 🙁 It is hard for me to imagine dealing with anything remotely sad or negative without a pan of brownies nearby. Yummy food in my tummy feels like love and acceptance… Until it doesn’t anymore. You are drilling through some serious shiz my friend. You’re my hero! 💜

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