I don’t actually know how to start this.
All I know for sure, is that since I can remember, writing has been my outlet. It’s how I handled all of the madness, pain, and joy. It’s how I archived all of my greatest secrets, feelings, failures, and achievements.
I’ve spent so much time trying to find myself. Then, I felt like maybe I’d figured out who I am and what I want from my life. So, I figured it was time to fine-tune.
Time to focus on my health, and maybe finally find a solution to the one thing that has followed me around for my entire life: my weight.
Most of you know that I had weight loss surgery in 2011. I’ll never forget the moment my Primary Care doctor asked me if I’d ever considered the procedure. He said “I see you’ve tried several methods for weight loss, and you haven’t been successful in the long term. This could be a good move for you.”
I went home, and I felt so…..ashamed. Is this my life? Am I at the point where I have no actual control over what is happening to my body? Am I so devoid of any self control or self discipline? Do I really have to have surgery to ever get ahead of the dreaded “Obesity” mark all over my medical records?
I did my research, I accepted what felt like defeat, and I started the process. And for a long time, things were looking pretty amazing. I started running. I didn’t enjoy it…but my body could do it. I was eating less food, and anesthesia had initially ruined my taste buds to the point where most sweet things made me sick thinking about them. I ate smaller portions, I focused on “protein, protein, protein” and I kept thinking “I am finally going to be skinny. I am finally going to be like everyone else, and my life is going to be amazing.”
Fast forward to know, almost exactly 5 years later. I have since, been in a committed relationship, moved 4 times, switched jobs three times, found my career path, and regained approximately half of the weight I’d lost.
And yet, if you look at my life (sometimes I have to step outside of myself and look at my life, to roll my eyes at myself and stop wallowing), you’d see that I AM living an amazing life.
I just returned from a trip to Italy, and I’m planning my trip to Greece for a photo shoot in June. I work full time in an industry that often stresses me out, but always makes it so that I go home feeling like what I do is important. I have a place to live, a car, a person who loves me, a family that’s slowly mending to resemble a functional one, and I am surrounded by amazing people I’m blessed to call friends.
So why on earth is this still such a problem? Why is it so hard? Why do I still feel ashamed when it comes to food and my weight?
I’ve gone back to my doctors and bariatric team on several occasions for help. A dietician and my surgeon told me that my schedule and my industry make it hard to find permanent solutions. I sought therapy, and was told the person who deals with food related issues wasn’t accepting new patients (and they were over 20 miles away, to boot). I started seeing a regular therapist-because better than nothing-who said she was amazed that given all I’ve overcome, I remain positive.
And so, although I felt I was trying so hard to get help…I go home every night feeling like I’m beyond help and that this is just who I’m destined to be. This is just my life, and that’s it.
Isn’t it funny how the smallest interaction can give you the biggest feeling of hope?
I recently came across an ad looking for participants for a clinical study on regain after surgery, and when I tried to qualify, I didn’t meet the criteria. I hadn’t regained enough and I didn’t have co-morbidities (insert eye roll here). I got a call from the woman who screened me for that study, asking if I’d be interested in participating in a new study for Binge Eating Disorder.
First thought? “McScuse me???? BINGE EATING?”
Then, I paid attention to what she was saying. She asked me several questions: “Do you often feel like you can eat more than most people in similar situations?” “Do you feel guilt or shame after eating?” “Do you eat past the point of being uncomfortably full?”
And I was answering them with an honest, and shocked “Yes.”
You hear it all the time: Weight Loss Surgery doesn’t solve the real issues that most people face when it comes to food.
I remember being young and not having any food in the house. My mom worked so hard, but we lived on top ramen packets and got excited when we got a candy bar. We’d get “good food” and I’d feel like I had to eat it all, because we never had it. I remember in high school, after leaving an abusive home and feeling like an inconvenience to my aunt and uncle who took me in, hiding boxes of Little Debbie snacks under my bed or going to the cupboards when everyone was asleep and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter or other random things I didn’t think anyone would notice missing.
I don’t actually know what hungry feels like. Most times, when I proclaim that I’m hungry, its largely because its been awhile since I last ate. I have long stretches of time where I don’t eat at all, because the thought doesn’t occur to me until I see a specific photo/video of food and I’m like, “OH! I haven’t eaten.”
I associate food with time. With feelings. With life.
I don’t eat to live. And I don’t necessarily live to eat, but I sure don’t like to miss out on the opportunity to do so!
It never occurred to me to explore this idea. Binge. Eating. Disorder.
I don’t like to justify my behavior with a diagnosis. That is why I was so put off by weight loss surgery-putting a name to these things mean that I have a problem. It feels like failure, and it feels like another label I can’t shake….like “fat,” or “ugly.”
So here I am, doing my research all over again, and thinking “How didn’t we think of this before? How did no one else suggest this all those times we explained that we won’t eat all day and then eat a whole roll of Oreos, feel sick, and then do it all over again later?”
I don’t have an answer for that. All I know is that I’m grateful that someone listened to me, and then thought of me when an opportunity to help me came along.
I’m dealing with a lot of emotions over this. I feel relieved, and hopeful. But I also feel like I almost can’t handle anymore diagnoses or processes. Eating disorders aren’t something cavalier. They impact millions of lives, and they are some of the hardest to overcome….because a lot of the work is WITHIN yourself. Medications and therapy help tremendously, but it seems to me that moreso, success and health are achieved when you accept that this is your struggle and you work really hard to overcome it in every aspect.
I’m not shying away from the work or the challenges that I’m expecting to face. I’m not denying that this is potentially something I’ve left untouched for far too long. And I’m not afraid.
I have to keep looking forward, and keep believing that a good attitude will produce a good outcome!
In the meantime, here I am sorting out all of my thoughts publicly, in the hopes that someone else who can relate knows they aren’t alone!
Life is a learning process. I’m learning something new every day, and I’m grateful for every opportunity that comes from it. This is just another chapter in the big book I’ve compiled so far!
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, or want to learn more, make sure you check out the National Eating Disorder Association website.
Here’s to the learning!