On this episode of Dani Dishes, I am bringing to light National Eating Disorder Awareness week and my own battles with eating disorders. KNOW you are not alone. I am reachable if you need help: email@example.com!
I messed up. I backtracked.
I gave in to an old habit.
This past weekend I made myself throw up after eating too much.
I was weak.
For those that don't know, I have battled both anorexia and bulimia. You can read a little about that here.
I never say I am someone who is healed. Those eating disorders haunt my thoughts and dreams to this day.
But thanks to Weight Watchers I learned that I could in fact lose weight in a healthy manner and control the urges.
This past weekend was different. I felt mentally weak. I ate too much. I felt sick. My immediate response was to purge.
How did I feel after the fact?
Horrible. Mentally exhausted. Ashamed. Weak. Like a failure.
Wow - crying while writing all this. Okay, I can do this.
I didn't want to do it. But I did. I have to accept that fact.
But I need to know I am stronger than that.
This was Saturday, December 7.
I didn't tell anyone. I wanted to hide it. I wanted to ignore it happened.
But it ate at my soul and my self-esteem.
I am not defined by the eating disorders I have suffered from.
I am human.
It is the first time I have slipped up in well over a year.
But it shows that I am not 100% rid of eating disorders or the mental side of them.
I'm not sure if anyone truly is.
Can I take good away from this situation?
I recognized why it happened and I know the next time I feel the urge. I will reach out to someone. I will not be afraid to show weakness. I will ask for help.
Because when I don't ask for help - I suffer.
Phew! I feel better already getting it out there.
Eating disorders are tough. They consume you mentally and physically.
I knew that I hit rock bottom with them in 2006. In terms of anorexia and bulimia. Over this last year, however, I've come to realize that I also was a binge eater and closet eater.
Whenever home alone in high school, college or thereafter, I would eat and hide the evidence. I didn't want people to know what I had done. I didn't want them to see my shame. In my mind I would say I was a "boredom" eater, but that wasn't the case. I was burying emotions deep down by food. I was finding comfort in chips.
I lived in the Boston area until I finally moved to San Francisco in 2007. Once I left Boston, I worked hard to stop the closet/binge eating. You know trying to start fresh.
When I started planning to move back to Boston in early January 2012, I was scared. Would all the old habits come back? I would be working odd hours with Weight Watchers and spending much of my time during the week alone. The thought of the old habits coming back terrified me. Especially since we would be housing with my parents until we found an apartment. They would have foods that I had banned from the house since starting WW - aka trigger foods.
WW and tracking saved me this time around. Many people dislike the fact that WW stresses "tracking" your food choices. But for me I HAVE to. If I don't track, it "doesn't count." Will I ever reach a point where I don't have to track? Maybe.
For now I need to track for more than just knowing what I have, it keeps these eating disorders in check.
I know that ended up going on a total random tangent there. But I had to get these thoughts out.
Please know if you are someone suffering from an eating disorder, you are not alone! Reach out to a friend or me. I am happy to listen.
I am human. I slipped up. That slip up, however, does not define me.
I live. I learn.
Motivation wears off.
Now this is not a post about how everyone should be bathing daily - that is a whole different topic. ;)
During this week's Weight Watchers meetings, we are talking about creating a "Losing List." A losing list is a place for members to compile the reasons why they are looking to lose weight, create a healthy lifestyle or maintain the weight loss they already have.
The topic is wicked important to me. Since hitting goal in January 2012, I have found that I constantly need to remind myself why I lost the weight to begin with. Now it isn't because I really forget, but when I entered maintenance I found it more difficult than losing. I wasn't having the excitement of seeing a lower number on the scale each week.
I had to change my mindset. And with a new mindset came a new list of hurdles and a new level of motivation.
So I decided to create my own "Losing List."
1) Health - I didn't want to end up with high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.
2) Chairs - I wanted to comfortably fit in a chair with arms, airplane seats, movie theatre seats, etc.
3) Shopping - I wanted to be able to shop at "regular" clothing stores instead of the plus size stores.
4) Pants - I was tired of wearing sweatpants or pants that used a M-L-XL sizing chart just because I was avoiding seeing the actual size I had let myself reach ... which was a size 20.
5) Knees - I have knee pain (thanks genetics), but I learned that for every 1 lb I lost - it would relieve 3 lbs of pressure from my knees. Isn't that crazy?
6) Back - I had back surgery for a herniated disc midway through my weight loss journey and learned the more weight I kept off my back the better it was for my discs.
7) Stairs/Ramps - I was tired of getting winded by walking up stairs or trudging up the ramps at Wrigley Field during work.
8) My Wife - I wanted to start a healthy lifestyle so I would have a long future with my wife.
But to me, these are the easy answers. The ones that many people rattle off when starting a weight loss journey. But, I know in my heart of hearts there were deeper and truer reasons why I took that first step into Weight Watchers on November 2, 2009.
So here they are:
1) Self-Esteem - I HATED myself. I wanted to finally like - and over time learn to love - the person that I am.
2) Worth - I needed to prove to myself that I was WORTH making the change.
3) Eating Disorders - I wanted to prove to myself that I could lose weight and keep it off in a healthy manner. After battling two eating disorders for years, I knew there was a healthy way to lose weight.
4) Depression - Tired. I was so so tired of being unhappy with my outward appearance and the internal struggle I had to find the good inside myself. Which circles back to self-esteem.
5) Suicide - I hoped that as the weight began to disappear that the suicidal thoughts would do the same. I was so unhappy (see depression) for so long that the thoughts of suicide followed (especially in high school).
6) Hiding - I wanted to stop hiding behind my weight and start living!
Now, I didn't want to have so much of my self-worth tied to my weight, but it was. I thought that once the weight was gone I would be "cured," which I wasn't. But it has improved leaps and bounds.
Wow! Seeing all these things in writing really brings back the memories of how truly unhappy I was before embarking on this journey.
I can't always carry this list or blog post around with me so I need a physical object that can encapsulate the list. Weight Watchers calls these "anchors." I have more than one anchor - shocking! :P
One of my anchors is a tattoo. No I am not telling you you have to get yours tattooed on you too. ;)
Ancora Imparo is a Michelangelo saying in Italian which means: "I Am Still Learning."
This simple message helped easy my perfectionist mind deal with the ups and downs of a weight loss journey. I have it on my right wrist, which allows me to see it daily and touch it if I need an extra dose of motivation.
Will this list and anchor helped me through every single tough situation? No.
But that's why I have this list, this blog and this community - to pick me up when I need it.
What is your #1 reason for losing weight or embarking on a healthy lifestyle change?
"If you lose some more weight..." How many of us have heard that comment before?
<<Darts both arms up into the air>>
Obviously weight and weight-related issues are prevalent in my mind since I write about them. ;)
But why am I talking about it now?
Let me take you back to yesterday's visit to the doctor.
On Tuesday November 12 (my wedding anniversary), I headed to the doctor to get my foot checked out since I have been rocking some dull foot pain for a good 6 weeks now. Probably time to get it checked out, right? ;)
I sat on the ever so comfortable doctor's table/chair situation with that fancy sheet of paper fabric on it. The doctor came in - who I haven't seen since 2005 - came in to chat about my problems. I explained the foot pain, she checked out my feet, sat down, looked at me and said:
"If you lost some weight it would be better for your foot. Less pressure on it."
<<insert shocked face here>>
Inner monologue: But I weigh in the 150s which is in the middle of the healthy weight range for my height.
<<insert punch to the gut feeling here>>
Inner monologue: Do I not look as fit and healthy as I feel?
<<insert tiny emotional breakdown>>
Inner monologue: So I should start losing more weight ASAP.
Yes insert all that in about a 20 second period before I could respond: "Well I have shed 80 lbs."
She looks up at me over the rim of her glasses and says: "Well that is a good start."
<<insert open mouth shocked face>>
Inner monologue: Doesn't this lady understand how HUGE that is?
<<insert bigger punch to the gut feeling>>
I tried to focus on what she said about my foot and diagnosing me with metatarsalgia (overuse of my foot) and sending me to a podiatrist.
Since my mind was still on the weight comment, I calmly asked her to go back in my weight record since hey I went to this doctor's office since I was a little kiddie.
As we looked at the weight graph, I pointed out how she could see that I hadn't been in the 150s since 1995 ... when I was in 7th grade.
Her response: "Ahhh good job."
Ummm where's that bedside manner Doc?
I quickly gathered my things, grabbed my prescription and burst out the door.
What did I do next?
Had a mental fight with myself about what to do next: go eat a ton of food then throw it up, not eat anything for the rest of the day or go work out as much as possible since clearly I look much heavier than I thought.
But instead of doing all that, I went to my support: social media.
Thankfully between friends, family and social media, I was talked off the ledge about taking this doctor's comments so hard.
But, it really got me thinking, weight and weight issues are SUCH a sensitive subject that some people are completely oblivious to.
Wording ... delivery ... context.
Discussing weight with a stranger is one of the most sensitive topics I can imagine.
Since embarking on my own weight loss journey, I have become more aware of how discussing weight can impact a person.
I remember - before starting my weight loss journey - going to the gym and seeing the really fit/tiny girls on the treadmill and thinking: "They are so skinny. They don't have to be here" and really judging the people around me. I'll be honest - I did it.
Since starting the journey, I now look at that same person at the gym and wonder: "Have they always been fit? Do they have a story to share?"
No matter the person whether they have always been a healthy weight or they have been underweight or overweight - every person has a story.
Now when the topic of weight comes up in any context of my life, I try to be as careful as possible when figuring out how to word any comment I may want to make. Especially since I am a Weight Watchers Leader and part of so many people's journeys.
Because you really have NO idea what that person has gone through.
Looking at me now, people wouldn't know that I have fought to shed 80 pounds.
A stranger looking at me wouldn't know that I still work to recover from two eating disorders.
While lifting 3 lb weights at the gym, a fellow gym goer would be oblivious to the fact that I was in a car accident in the early 2000s that took a lot of strength from my left side.
So the next time the topic of weight comes up in your everyday life, just take a moment to think and choose words carefully.
Did I say anything to that doctor? No and I regret it. I wish I could've told her how much her words hurt and how instantaneously my mind went to a dark place.
Butterflies and unicorns and rainbows
Exactly how I envisioned life after hitting my "goal weight"!!
But that wasn't reality.
Shocking I know. ;)
I've written on my blog (Weight Off My Shoulders) how the day after hitting goal the inner demons I fought for so long were still there. Except now they weren't buried under all the weight. They were right in front of me, raw and ready to be dealt with.
For years, I told myself: "If you just lost 50 lbs you would be so happy and life would be okay." And I remember having that EXACT same discussion with my aunt when I was 12. I remember riding in her car after we left the mall and saying to her: "I need to lose 50 lbs." Okay so apparently the number 50 was relevant or I just pulled it out of my ass - I'm not sure which.
But over and over I said once I lost the weight I would like myself. I would be happy. I would be able to release the thoughts of hurting myself and the depression would go away.
In 2006, I hit the bottom of dealing with two eating disorders and cutting. I had found a way to "control" my weight and my emotions. I got to my lowest weight in the beginning of 2007 (at the time around 180) and thought everything was okay!
But after an intervention of sorts with friends, I stopped the cutting and tried to take a handle on the eating disorders, which led me to regain almost all the weight I had lost.
So I joined Weight Watchers in November 2009 and was ready to lose the weight in a healthy way.
And damn those WW people for not only helping me get a handle on the healthy eating aspect of weight loss, but for showing me that it is more of a mental game than anything. You have the change your thinking in order to make the weight stay off.
Sneaky WW very sneaky.
So through the journey, the confidence rose, the happiness level with myself increased, but at the core of it all I still OWNED negative self talk.
I will say that thankfully the suicidal thoughts deteriorated over the course of time. THAT in itself is a huge F-in win!! I had those thoughts since high school.
But as I hit goal on January 2012 and Lifetime in February 2012. The little voice in my head was still there. You aren't worthy of this new life - this new you. You still suck.
So it was at that point. As I become the "after" that it was time to dig through all the emotional gunk to truly find out how I let myself get to that miserable 230 lb person.
And that is the journey I am on now. There is no quick fix to find out what was at the core of the pain, but as long as I keep searching I will find answers.
For many of us, the true work of reaching goal is when the mental game catches up with the physical.
That is why I put more stock into the non-scale victories than the number on the scale itself. Because when I read 15X on the scale, I am thrilled, but now I know I didn't solve all my life's problems by losing XX lbs. I will solve life problems by looking inward and truly facing what is going on.
Depression ... cutting ... self-loathing. None of that is fun, but I need to face it if I want to beat it.
Many people can go to therapy and work through these issues with a third party. It isn't for me. I tried it and hated it. But for some reason sharing those same inner demons on this blog, I find that release. I find that the weight gets lifted off my shoulders.
So I continue to journey.
I continue to tackle with my "before" as I live in my "after"!
... are okay! This simple three word sentence has taken me YEARS to understand and accept.
Well, I'm still working on accepting it, but getting closer and closer.
For years, I put on the smile and kept the way I really felt buried deep deep down. And in case it wasn't far enough, I piled food on top to make sure it was good and packed down. And to make sure the food was covered, I loaded up on layers and layers of fat to really make sure no one knew what was really going on on the inside.
There were times in high school where all I thought about was ending it all. I would look out on to the backyard or lay in bed and wonder if people would even miss me or show up to the funeral. But, I never wanted to burden anyone else with my thoughts or problems so I just let them sit in my brain and fester those negative thoughts. Which I think has to my ongoing journey of trying to nix the negative in my head.
For years I would tell myself that if I only lost weight all my problems would disappear. I can vividly see me - maybe in 8th or 9th grade - sitting in the car with my aunt telling her: "If I just got rid of like 50 lbs, everything would be better."
Well, news flash: losing weight does NOT make the problems/emotions/negative thoughts magically disappear.
But, what losing weight has taught me is that it is okay to have feelings. It is okay to share the feelings. It is okay to release the feelings.
So now, when I am sad or mad or happy or frustrated or depressed I no longer feel like I have to bury those emotions under a plastered on fake smile.
I am allowed to be sad even when I feel it isn't justified. Does that make sense?
I know there are so many things I should be grateful for in my life and I don't want to seem unappreciative, but now I know it is okay to be sad even when I don't think I should be allowed to.
I AM allowed to feel any emotion at anytime.
Through this blog, this tiny little space on the internet, I have given myself the freedom to release all of the emotional weight that bore down on my shoulders for years ... hence the title Weight Off My Shoulders. ;)
I have shared more on this blog than I ever thought I would. I thought I would bring those dark demons - eating disorder, cutting, etc - to my grave. But, once I wrote the inner thoughts down and hit publish (many times nervously) I felt a wave of relief come over me. I didn't have to bear these demons alone.
And you know what happened? I found others who were going through similar situations. I found confidants that I would never have otherwise. I found an outlet.
Now, I'm not saying everyone has to go around starting blogs - if that's not your thing - but I want to let you know that it is OKAY!
You are allowed to feel however you want.
If you feel more comfortable confiding in friends, do it.
If you want to see a therapist, do it.
If you like to use social media, do it.
But, just let it out.
Don't let the negative thoughts and feelings bury themselves into your brain and foster a harmful environment. I know from personal experience that it takes a looooong time to turn it around.
Just know ... you are NOT alone!
I am still a work in progress, but I know that I will not go back to the miserable/lonely person I was before.