How NOT to Eat 19 Cookies in One Hour (2019 Goals - 1)
Hello and TGIF!
Every year, I wake up on January 1st feeling like a Rockstar and ready to tackle 2400 goals (Microsoft Word capitalized Rockstar, that seems weird but whatever).
I usually buy a new notebook with a marble design on the front and make a list that looks something like this one.
I will paint designs on my nails every Thursday.
I will not eat 34 pan-fried dumplings to cope with the current season of Teen Mom coming to an end.
I will pay more attention and not accidentally put on two pair of underwear once every three weeks.
I will be less awkward.
I’m sure it’s all the normal stuff you guys work toward too. Right?
This year is really no different. I have a lot of goals that I want to work toward. Maybe goals isn’t the right word for all of them. Some of them are in fact goals; events or accomplishments that will hopefully happen that I can feel proud of, satisfied, and cross them off of a list. But others don’t feel like goals because they’re not a one-and-done sort of thing. That’s the category that my January “goal” seems to fall into. I guess these are more like lifestyle changes? I’m not sure. I’ll let you guys decide.
This month I want to work on my eating and exercise habits. SURPRISE I AM ONE OF 99% OF HUMANS THAT WANTS TO WORK ON THIS! Don’t you just love being like everyone else?
I have never had the best relationship with food. When I was younger I was, to put it gently….. a savage. I was a competitive gymnast working out intensely for 4.5 hours a day, at least 5 days a week. I would have a hamburger on the way to practice, a hamburger at practice, and a hamburger on the way home from practice. Maybe I didn’t choose the healthiest foods to eat, but I was eating them nonetheless and I could eat them with no obvious physical effects – in fact, my body was probably in a CONSTANT state of needing more calories to offset the exercise! But eventually, I quit gymnastics, I got boobs, and everything changed.
When I started college, it was really the first time in my life that I stopped being active. I was pretty much just studying and drinking, like many typical college students in America. I entered college probably around 125 pounds; a fairly average sized girl. Fast forward through a toxic combo of three years of engineering school, zero healthy coping skills and several bottles of Vlad, and you have me plus 43 pounds. I went to student health one day with the flu my junior year to find out that I weighed 168 pounds. Plus I had the flu. What a fan-fucking-tastic appointment that was. (party hat emoji)
Needless to say, I was a bit peeved. But truthfully, not enough to really want to do anything about it. It wasn’t until I started feeling differently in social settings that I even considered addressing my 43 pound weight gain. Physically, I didn’t feel bad about myself at first. I still wore short skirts and tight shirts and felt the way I did three years before.
I remember a time that I was on my way to calculus; I arrived a bit late and there was just one free desk. They had the kind of desks that have the arm rest and writing surface attached to the chair. You know…. The ones made for 7 year olds. I walked to the desk and started to slide in sideways. About halfway into the chair, I realized that I didn’t fit. I also realized that the class had paused and the professor was waiting for me to sit down before continuing with the lecture. After trying to squeeze into the chair for what felt like 19 hours (probably 8 seconds), a girl in the chair next to mine offered to switch seats. She had a larger desk with a chair that had the flexible panel built in, making it a little more spacious. We switched seats, I sat through an insufferably uncomfortable two hour calc lecture, and class ended. Everyone lived. But that was the first time that I felt like my weight gain was affecting other people; and that is what caused me to take notice. Spoiler alert: we will talk about my codependence (allowing other people’s feelings to dictate my own feelings) at a later date (see schedule).
I couldn’t stand the thought of my body causing another person discomfort; making someone uncomfortable, feel awkward, or put in a position of feeling like they had to show pity toward me was my worst nightmare. I had (have) a horrific habit of forcing myself to feel uncomfortable in order to ease another person’s discomfort. Super successful strategy (not). If you know me at all, you probably could guess that this was the time when I began to slowly slide into an eating disorder that lead me to 88 pounds… sliding me into another phase of people feeling uncomfortable around me. Are you exhausted yet?
Well it’s 2019 now and I am happy to say that I’ve been at a healthy weight for my body for about four years now.
Side note: my journey back to a healthy me was not motivated by making people feel less uncomfortable around me. If someone feels uncomfortable around you because of your size, that is NOT. YOUR. PROBLEM. The motivation to improve your health should ideally come from within.
But just because my physical health has performed a complete turnaround, does not mean I’m in a state of full recovery. I still, unfortunately, have a less than stellar mental relationship with food. During my anorexic and bulimic years, I developed some odd (to say the least) habits around food. I used to spend 100% of my time doing at least one of the following activities (lol these probably shouldn’t be classified as “activities”):
Staring at magazine pictures of food.
Slicing pieces of bread in half (HORIZONTALLY) – I mean placing the bread slide onto the counter, placing one hand on top of it, and using a knife to slice through the bread parallel to the counter. Creating two uselessly thin slices of bread. Which I then just looked at for an hour.
Making spreadsheets that listed every food item and it’s caloric value.
Researching local restaurants’ nutrition menus (not that I would have ever eaten at a restaurant.)
Listening to sad music (Simple Plan – Untitled, obviously) and thinking about foods I will never “be allowed” to eat again.
Holding rice cakes in my hand. Just holdin’ em. Like a lunatic.
Despite the fact that I just called myself a lunatic (kidding, of course… sometimes horrible topics need some humor), I and the rest of the world that suffer(ed) from eating disorders, are not crazy. There are usually very clear reasons why these disorders develop and the patterns that people with ED exhibit are actually very common. Fortunately, I do not do most of these behaviors anymore. But I would say that I still suffer to a lesser degree from some of them. I still frequently think about overly fattening and unhealthy foods I likely won’t eat again (I have removed the Simple Plan component from this activity nowadays). I do look at the caloric values at restaurant menus, perhaps because they shove them in your face now. And a lot of my mental space and energy is consumed by planning foods; what should I have for breakfast tomorrow, what should I make for dinner tonight, should I pack some snacks for work today? Those questions are of course not outrageous to think about. But to think about them for hours each day is a bit of overkill. Although I do not take any sort of action around these thoughts (restricting, binging, purging), it’s still a never-ending and exhausting mental rollercoaster.
I am incredibly proud of the hard work I put into recovering from ED and the enormous progress I have made. And my therapist is wonderful with always letting me know that it is almost expected for someone in my position to still have a tough mental relationship with food. But that doesn’t mean it can’t get better. So the habits I want to begin to build over the month of January are focused on the following changes:
Learn to simply acknowledge the thoughts I have around food, rather than reacting by negatively judging myself for those thoughts; e.g. “omg stop thinking about food and just be a normal person!”
Practice having food available and not eating it if I am not hungry.
Use healthy distractions when consumed by food-related thoughts.
If you were able to relate to any of the words above, that’s fantastic; if not, still cool. My hope is that whether or not you can relate to my specific situation, you can still relate to the idea of setting small but significant goals. Writing down my plans helps me to be more likely to remember them and work toward them (isn’t that like a scientific fact or something?)
I’m going to talk a little about my exercise goals some more over the next few days. For now, I’m gonna go sit next to a box of vegan chocolate chip cookies and try not to put all 19 of them into my mouth.