Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Downside of Dieting {for the obsessive eater} PART ONE

This may be a bit of an odd two-part series (read part two here), but I know if I'm experiencing this, someone else somewhere is experiencing this too, and just might need some encouragement or simply to hear that they're not alone.

I know I've felt alone at times, and wished I could talk to someone who could relate. Someone who would take me seriously, and offer wisdom. Someone who would believe me when I say...

I have an eating disorder.

It's not an eating disorder commonly recognized. I'm not a stick-thin anorexic. I'm not bulimic. I'm not overweight. Yet I am an over-eater. I'm food-obsessed. I have a food addiction.

I've struggled with food obsession, weight obsession, compulsive eating, and binge-eating to different degrees throughout my life, but never so much as after I started doing cleanses, and then later when I was strictly vegan. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with these lifestyle and diet improvements (they are fabulous! So much tasty food! Great health benefits!), there is something wrong with my brain when I restrict foods in general.

Here's my story:

I've never been someone who would be considered fat. I've always been petite yet curvy. I'm not a skinny stick, but I'm also not overweight. I'm NOT well-toned, I have a soft tummy and a jiggly ass, but I look relatively thin for the most part. However, I didn't realize that until very recently.

I had always thought I was fat.

As an adolescent, I didn't have a positive body-image. I always imagined I was fat and ugly, which peaked during my high school years. After high school I started getting into cleanses like the Master Cleanse, which were all the rage. I was so thrilled with my weight-loss results and would obsess over every pound lost, as well as every pound regained. A few years later, in my early-mid 20s, I went strictly vegan for weight loss. I told people it was for health but deep down weight loss was my one and only end game.

I'd even amp up my vegan lifestyle by attempting strictly raw diets. This was a fun challenge and would provide me with a nice chunk of weight loss, but it was always followed by gain when I would give up. I was on a roller coaster, and I was constantly fixated on the food I couldn't eat. Every failure I experienced gave me such terrible anxiety. I watched the scale like a hawk, which increased my anxiety. I soothed this anxiety by binge-eating the things I could eat on my diet.

I've always had a sweet tooth, and when I was on restricted diets, instead of eating a balanced selection of the things my lifestyle allowed me, I'd eat a minimum of real food and binge on the sweet treats my diet allowed. There was even a time where I realized the majority of my calories came from dessert foods. Did that stop me? Nope. I laughed it off, telling myself that as long as it's vegan (or raw), it's healthy and will help me lose weight.

I shake my head with shame at the memories of this obsessive version of my former self. I can't believe how silly I was. But it gets worse.

When I finally admitted I had a problem, I started reading books about food obsession (you can read my depressing post here, from my raw food blog, about the things I experienced at the time.) These books made me realize that my behavior was NOT normal or healthy, and was in fact a form of eating disorder. Yet it took more before I actually changed my behavior.

My aha moment happened one night when I was reading one of my books about food addiction. The subject stirred up some intense sweets cravings, so I took a break from my book to stock up on four packs of vegan peanut butter cups (with four large chocolates in each package.) I went back to reading a particularly distressing part in the book about how people awaken from food-binges the same way a drunk awakens from a drinking blackout, all the while chowing down on all four packages of chocolates and sobbing about the absurdity of my actions. I was so disgusted with myself, that afterward, I stood over the toilet and tried to make myself throw up.

That was it. That was my holy crap, this is not a joke moment.

I wanted so badly to lose weight (even though I didn't need to) and couldn't bear the thought of giving up my vegan lifestyle, but I knew I had to change something. I slowly started convincing myself that I could eat whatever I wanted, and that my dieting days were over. It wasn't sudden, but as time passed, I became calmer, less anxious, less obsessed and fixated over food.

I was on my way to food freedom.

Getting pregnant oddly enough opened the door the rest of the way to my freedom. Knowing I was growing a baby and needed to eat plenty of food really took my mind off restrictions and weight loss. I knew I would gain weight and made peace with that. Knowing I could eat what I wanted made me less anxious, and more able to make smart decisions about the food I did choose.

After I gave birth, I maintained this same healthy relationship with food; eating when hungry to nourish my nursing mama's body, eating as much as I felt hungry for, allowing myself as many treats as I desired (yet only desiring and consuming a modest amount.) I had a new appreciation, love and reverence for my body, no matter what my weight. Being busy with a baby and then toddler kept the food obsession out of my mind. I didn't have time to overeat! I hardly had time to eat! I finally felt the freedom of eating solely for nutrition.

I've carried this freedom with me ever since then, with only minor episodes of food obsession.

Until recently.

In part two, I'll explain my most recent episode of food-obsession and what I did about it.

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