The Recovery Food Pendulum

How many of you recognize this pattern as something you have engaged in, for perhaps many years?

SWING INTO RESTRICTIVE EATING!

Track calories, restrict fun foods, exercise to burn whatever fun foods I screw up and eat, track more calories, BLAST myself mentally. If I eat anything “bad”, I’m a bad person. If I eat, I’ll never stop. Lose around 15-20 pounds.

SWING INTO BINGE/OVER EATING!

F*ck it. This isn’t worth it. I look okay enough. JJ loves me so who am I trying to impress? I miss french fries. I need french fries. Every. single. day. I’m going to eat everything I want today and start restricting again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. Gain around 15-20 pounds.

RINSE. REPEAT.

I feel the momentum building whichever way I’m swinging, building and building, becoming completely unsustainable. I vow, this time I will STOP in the middle. The ride is too much. I’m not having fun.

But something happens each time on my way to intuitive (“competent”) eating. The thrill of the ride lures me back and I go swinging high again.

This is diet culture. Wanting to get off the ride, but unable to. Being lured every time by the thrill, the build-up to something awesome. Thinking you have to starve or you’ll never stop eating. Not trusting that there is a middle and you can EAT IN THE MIDDLE.

The Either/Or, Right/Wrong, of Diet Culture

In 2017, the ride got out of control. I was swinging up, up, UP in restrictive eating. Going into 2018, I halved my calorie budget and became full blown mentally and physically ill with anorexia. Still, the ride pushed UP, UP:

  • Fewer calories…fewer and fewer
  • Isolation…more and more alone
  • Fear…of food, of people, of life

In August 2018, with some very bad news, I had a breakthrough about the importance of recovery and my health/life. I thought I was going to get all better. Slowly, I started eating…

…breakfast…afternoon snack. I ordered a small french fry at McDonald’s. I allowed myself a bagel.

“I got this. I can do intuitive eating.”

In November 2018, I moved to Texas and the ride swung up, up, UP to the other side. My husband was across the country temporarily. I had my toddler to myself. I had no one watching me. I had been told to gain weight. I had been told there is nothing wrong with the “bad foods” I wouldn’t eat. So, I ate. And the ride pushed up, UP.

  • More calories…more and more…when I wasn’t hungry, more…
  • Isolation…alone again, so I could eat without shame (with shame)
  • Craving vegetables, but eating ANOTHER burger and fries

And just like that, the pendulum swung 47.6 pounds in one year.

The ride has felt out of control. I want to get off. I want to rest in the middle, just relaxed in competent eating.

Last weekend: I wanted to give up. AGAIN. I thought about not eating anymore. I thought about not caring about what I look like. I cried. I wore baggy pants. I didn’t take my meds. I didn’t brush my teeth or wear contacts. I couldn’t believe I had allowed 47.6 pounds to get added back on. Whose strange body is this? Whose disgusting thighs are these? I deserve nothing.

Then, for maybe the millionth time on this journey, I picked myself up and took aim for the middle of the pendulum, intuitive/competent eating, once again. I went to the grocery store over the weekend. I picked out foods:

  • I like (why, hello Nutella)
  • I didn’t read the labels
  • I got foods from all the groups – protein, dairy, grain, veg, fruit and even dessert (I’m looking at you, Oreos)
  • I brought it all to work so I can eat these foods mindfully, instead of taking off mindlessly to Whataburger everyday

I went to Target and bought a mother-f*cking swimsuit. Wearing it is a whole other matter, but I bought it.

This past weekend:

  • I prayed to God for help. I can do nothing without Him.
  • I truly ate what I wanted.
  • I listened for my hunger and fullness cues.
  • I bought the new pair of shorts that I hated buying AND LIKED HOW THEY FELT. BECAUSE THEY FIT ME.
  • I didn’t finish my meal if I became full.
  • I dealt with reality, when it required eating at a restaurant I hadn’t planned on.

I’m not swinging for the thrill…I’m swinging for the middle.

This is my recovery verse, my ongoing goal and promise to God.

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In recovery from anorexia and depression as a 40 year old wife and mom of a toddler. Discovering who I am and hoping to help others along the way!

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