Continued from Eating Disorders. Part 2.
I woke up this morning to my Tuesday delivery of organic local produce from Farm Fresh To You. Napa cabbage, a box of kumquats, mint for my coffee and water, a dozen fancy eggs (my primary source of protein), and a few other things. I tried to put the kumquats away before I inhaled half the box. I cut the cabbage up and threw it in a pan with some coconut milk (full fat), turmeric, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, curry powder, and olive oil. I hard-boiled six eggs for the next few days, made my third cup of coffee (Trader Joe's Colombian Supremo drip with organic, homemade almond milk). Thirty minutes later I sloppily piled a handful of cabbage into one of the four bowls I own and peeled two eggs on top. I ate most of it without chewing entirely, so you might say I inhaled it. The box of produce is still out on my counter because I hate putting it away - my crisper doesn't work and it always stresses me out that some of it will go bad. I'm not full, or too full, or anything like that. I'm satiated and I'm not thinking about food or how many calories are in what I just ate, or how much I'll have to do to burn it off, or what I can or can't eat later. I'm on Ann Boroch's Candida Cure, so I am worried about how much fucking sugar is in those damn kumquats, but not too much.
I don't know how much I weigh because I feel overweight right now and I don't want to look at the scale and confirm it - if it says 126 I'll feel like shit. I got a facial yesterday and sent Laura a picture of my sweet little baby-face after and then immediately regretted sending that picture because my face looked fat and Laura might see that I have gained weight, and then someone will know I don't have it altogether in that way, or worse, think to herself Holly looks like she's gained weight. I thought about that on my drive home and caught myself, laughed at the absurdity of my mind, and then I stopped to grab one of my favorite things, a boba tea. I got a large one with extra boba and consumed it all without one iota of guilt or remorse or thought that it might make me fatter or that I should purge it later. This is me now - if I want a fucking boba tea, I will have it and not look back once I do.
A few weeks ago I ate a lot - I ordered a falafel and a salad from LA Café and I scarfed it all down because I was hand-shaking starved. After I was so full it was uncomfortable (which is rare - I don't overeat much anymore) and I wanted - for a tiny second - to puke it back up and be free. But I don't live there anymore, my body can't do that anymore, my soul can't do that anymore; so I sat with that fullness, popped a few Rainbow Light enzymes, took a swig of Bragg's Cider Vinegar, downed a La Croix, and waited for it to pass, which it did. It always does. !!!
I would say, dare say, that I am really happy about everything I just wrote. This is the story of a woman who is making friends with her body and her food and her fat and her humanness and her hate and her not-enough-too-much-ness. And like all stories where enemies become friends, there is a slowness to it. A sweet progression between two distinct entities that are better off as one, who are both just doing the best they can as the old ways die. We look at each other sometimes, one eyebrow raised alla Justin Theroux, God you're a dick, we'll say. Then we laugh - a tired, knowing, smirky laugh - and crack open a can of La Croix, because we always agree on La Croix. Onward, we'll toast with a sigh, the two of us resigned to the same task, which is simply to be okay with being exactly where we are at any point in time, at any weight.
If any of this seems contradictory, that's only because it is.
There was a time when I thought there was no way in the world I would be happy at a size 2 (or 4!) instead of 0; or that I might not think about food so much and in such a complicated way; or that I might choose to eat healthy rather than force myself to; or that I would one day be able to be full and not remedy the situation by testing my gag reflex. For most of my life, it has been unthinkable that I might one day see thighs that were wider than hips and not think I was a worthless failure of a human being.
And yet, I am all these things now. Not normal, which is what I used to pray for - Dear God, let me be one of those normal people that aren't ruled by their food, by their imperfect bodies. Better than normal. Evolved.
I don't talk about food or eating disorders very much, nor do I want to. Disordered eating, body dysmorphia, etc. - these things are not my wheelhouse, and they simultaneously bore and overwhelm me. But they are co-morbid to alcohol addiction (which is my wheelhouse), they fall into the same pathologies as addiction (and are considered addiction), and almost everyone struggles with them to some degree (women and men alike, though a vast majority are women). Also, healing our physical bodies - regardless of how fucked we are with food - is a must in holistic recovery from alcohol abuse and addiction. When we come out of addiction we are talking major system disruption, from liver function to endocrine (hormone) balance to blood sugar regulation to neurochemical (brain chemical) balance to gut - all of it gets totally fucked when we drink large amounts of alcohol over extended periods of time - you don't get to pour gasoline down your throat for years on end and just morph into a healthy little sober sprite without making intentional, thoughtful adjustments to the physical body via diet and lifestyle changes. That being said, I'm going to talk about what my journey overcoming a major eating disorder/recovering my physical health after alcohol addiction has looked like. Not because I am super impassioned to, but because it's important and relevant.
Please keep in mind the following as you read: a) don't take this as some expert advice because it's not; b) don't take this as impersonal and objective because it's not - it's personal and subjective and based on my experience (you'll see me emphasize for me a lot); c) eating disorders are hard, yo!; d) people with addiction to substances are more likely to have disordered eating (especially women) so a lot of this is adjunct to what most of the Hip Sobriety blog discusses (as much as romantic relationships, as much as meditation, etc.); e) your body gets fucked when you drink too much alcohol over a long period of time, so some of the stuff I'm sharing here is pertinent to anyone recovering from alcohol addiction/abuse; and, f) it has taken me years and years and years to make what feels like the tiniest of wins - and will take me years more. Possibly the rest of my life. I'm cool with that because freedom isn't cheap.
(Pops 13th kumquat, brews second pot of coffee).
The 17 Things I Did To Develop Out of Bulimia and Recover My Physical Health After Alcohol Addiction (In Kinda Chronological Order).
1. Stopped drinking alcohol.
The single most important thing I did to stop binging and purging was this: I stopped drinking. Here's why that matters. First of all, my cycle of deprive/binge/purge/deprive/binge/purge was driven by my drinking behavior - the cycles were similar enough, and often times either ran alongside each other (one long period of deprivation and one huge bender of all the food and drinks) or opposite one another (starve myself, drink more; stay away from booze, eat more). I would also often not eat so I could get a buzz on faster, or exchange food calories for drinking calories, which as you can imagine would go really well at 2am when I was starved and without an ounce of inhibition. Lastly, drinking just distorted everything. There was no way I could have started to work on being kind to my body with food if I was killing it with ethanol, depressing it with that drug, and constantly. So for me, the alcohol had to go first. There was no other way.
2. One thing at a time.
I tried for years to stop all the bad things at once. As in, I would say to myself Okay next week is the week I get my shit together. I'd imagine that I'd wake up on some Monday morning with this insane resolve and in one fail swoop I'd grow up, just like that. I'd stick to my budget, eat only 1,200 calories a day, workout daily, quit cigarettes, stop drinking, stop smoking pot, keep my word to everyone and everything, never binge and purge again, stop throwing clothes on my floor, never bite my nails again, show up for jury duty!, file my taxes on time!!, get out of debt!!!, meditate, go to bed at 9, wake up at 5. EVERYTHING. All of it would happen next week, and at once. And then next week would happen, and I'd wake up hungover on a Monday, and I'd say Tuesday. Or maybe I would wake up on that Monday and start down the path of doing all the adult things but by Wednesday I'd have blown it all. Today, as I write this, most everything above is true. Actually, the only thing that is left of that list is that I still bite my nails (I mean has anyone figured out how to stop biting their fucking nails?) and showing up for jury duty. And the only way that happened is because I took it one step at a time, one thing at a time. Drinking first. Then sugar. Then throwing up. Then pot. Then nutrition. It took me until this year to get my tax thing sorted out - over 4 years since I started cleaning up my mess. Bird by bird.
Yoga gets a huge shout-out here - not because it's toned my ass or given me space between my thoughts, but because it allowed me to get in touch with the more subtle sensations in my body, reconnected the motherboard to the machine. With yoga (especially Kundalini yoga) I started to hear my body and what it was saying. You can picture this: for most of my life, my body was bound, gagged, and tied to a horse, and that horse ran as fast as it could towards total annihilation. I didn't care if my stomach ached from too much food or whether my throat burned from too much vomit or that my lungs felt like they belonged to a 70-year-old coal miner. I didn't even care that there was blood in my stools or that my shit hadn't been solid for weeks. Or rather, I did care - I cared that my body was betraying me, not keeping up. Yoga was the path back from this violent detachment. It reconnected me to the subtle sensations in my body so that today I can feel things. I can tell when I'm getting a cold based on how my digestion is working, I can feel what a Diet Coke does to my cognition and happiness (not good things), I can feel my way through decisions based on my gut intuition. This is true power.
4. Fixed Sugar Addiction with Amino Acid Therapy.
Immediately after I stopped drinking, I let myself have (for the first time in decades) guilt-free ice cream and sweets. This developed into full blown sugar addiction. In no time at all, I had the same urgent, unstoppable need to get a sugar fix (the same way I was with alcohol/tobacco/pot).
If we struggle with alcohol addiction or abuse, the reason we find alcohol's effects so appealing is because it temporarily fixes an underlying issue - like depression, or unprocessed trauma, or blood sugar imbalance. If you had imbalanced blood sugar prior to drinking (and if you struggled with disordered eating, you most certainly did), then drinking most likely became your blood sugar management tool. It's effective - alcohol will jack your blood sugar faster than a sour patch kid because of how it converts to glucose in the body. If you didn't have a blood sugar issue prior to use, you most certainly do by the time you quit (all that jacking of blood sugar and excess consumption will absolutely mess with your blood sugar balance).
When you remove alcohol not only are you left with the pre-existing condition (if you had it), but you are also left with the impact of alcohol abuse on blood sugar balance - and the tool you were using to manage it is gone. When we turn to sugar right after putting down the bottle, or caffeine for that matter, we aren't just turning to food. What we're (also) doing is seeking out the next best tool - because our bodies are smart like that.
I know very few people who didn't go through some sort of sugar thing when they quit alcohol. And because often times sugar imbalance can cause severe cravings for alcohol, it's helpful if you prioritize working on it - I did my work on it some 3 months after I stopped drinking. (You can check this piece I co-authored on it with Mary Vance - Sugar Addiction In Sobriety - Why It Happens + 13 Tips How To Break It.) I personally got my sugar thing under control by way of Amino Acid Therapy. I worked with a doctor and followed the protocols in Julia Ross's The Diet Cure, specifically following the ones for blood sugar imbalance, hormone imbalance, brain chemical imbalance, and eating disorders (there is a bulimia protocol on page 142). I had NO IDEA what the fuck I was doing at the time, my doctor was just like Here take five thousand supplements a day, and I did, and was forever changed in terms of binge behavior. Again, this is just my own experience, but I cannot stress enough how much that protocol and those 7,293 supplements a day helped me. (You can also read more about this in the previous post in this series on eating disorders, Eating Disorders. Part 2.).
5. Conscious decision to never puke again (NQTD).
You may have read in some previous thing I've written on how one day when I was strong enough, I made the undivided decision to stop drinking and then never looked back, and how I got the letters NQTD for Never Question The Decision tattooed on my arm. The idea is simple. Much of the hell we face lives in something called cognitive dissonance - the desire to both do something and not do something. Cognitive dissonance is like having a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other; eventually one of them wins, and usually it's the devil. Cognitive dissonance is another way of saying I'm going to willpower my way through to what I should want, without realizing that willpower has a pretty short battery life. The way around having to rely on willpower is to take the need for it out of the equation - which is to make an undivided decision that you aren't going to do something ever gain - and then not question whether that was the right decision.
For instance, when in Italy this last summer Francesco told me he thought I wasn't sick, that I could probably drink a little bit again and be okay, I didn't think about whether he was right or not. I thought, Nope, I made a decision to not drink, and the conversation stops there. And it did. I carried this same idea into puking, which was the one part of my eating disorder I had the ability to abstain from. Meaning, I can't just not eat. I have to learn how to eat. But I can just not throw up. I can abstain from vomiting, make a black and white rule around it. And so it was that in late 2013 I decided that no matter how much I stuffed myself I would never again allow myself the option to purge - nor would I question whether that was the right or wrong decision at any one point. It just was the decision. Which meant that instead of thinking Should I go to the store and get two cartons of Phish Food? And then thinking Yessss I will, but I'm totally not going to throw up! while secretly knowing that I might (would) throw up, what I would think is I really want to binge on two cartons of ice cream, but nope, can't throw up, so nope, not going to even fuck with it.
The difference is pretending I have enough willpower to talk me off the ledge, vs. knowing I don't and never will. The idea is that everything begins with a thought…all actions are the fruit of a thought. So I stop them before they get planted. It's something that works for me. In no way do I assume it will work for you, though I have heard from some readers that it works with alcohol for them. Allen Carr's book The Easy Way To Control Alcohol was what gave me this mind trick - if I don't allow myself to go there mentally, I won't physically.
6. All the things I did to quit alcohol.
I built a really holistic recovery from alcohol which is discussed at length throughout this blog. I did the work, I made recovery my #1 job, I showed up, I fell flat on my face, I got up again and again and again, I tried new things, I was relentless. I incorporated meditation, yoga, breathing, lots of tools. I read good books, I found community, I had fun!, I traveled to Italy, I took workshops and trainings, I changed my shitty belief system, I worked with my fear, I defined my own experience, I created a blog and got creative in general, I quit my soul-sucking job. And a lot of other shit. And I've kept it up…through today.
A lot of people think that sobriety is about just hanging on - especially when you're just at the beginning of it and you really are just hanging on. What you find as you go on, however, is that it isn't about just not doing one thing, or just being sober, just not drinking - it's not a deprivation thing. What you find is it's about creating a life you don't need to escape from. Because I've built a life I actually love - one that isn't choking me anymore - it means not only do I not need to use alcohol and drugs to escape, but I also don't need to use food (so much) anymore, either.
7. Stopped dieting.
When people ask me how I eat I generally say something like As best I can. Which means this: I eat a mostly vegetarian/gluten-free/soy-free/dairy-free/organic/plant-based diet. I don't measure, I don't complicate, I don't do much but eat what feels right (though I do aim to eat in a way that heals). And I don't diet. No more juice cleanses, no paleo, no vegetarian, no cabbage soup diet - none of that formulaic stuff that I'd get all amped up over and possessed by and then crash on 1/4 of the way through.
If I feel like I want a hamburger, or a piece of bacon, or a pop-tart, or ice cream - which rarely happens now - I eat it. And I eat it without one drop of guilt that I'm not upholding something or betraying a label I've proclaimed. I'm no longer deluded into thinking that: a) I can arm wrestle my body into submission through impossible rules; b) my self-worth is correlated to how controlled I am/how perfect I am with how I eat; c) I can sustain something that is designed to be unsustainable; or d) true happiness comes in a dress size (okay kidding on that one! I still believe that I'd be a smidge happier if I was 10 pounds lighter). I am clear that for me to be healthy and happy and out of the binge-eating cycle, I have to go bottom up instead of top down.
8. Worked with Mary Vance.
I hired my friend Mary Vance, a nutritional consultant, in 2015. I was sick, I couldn't get out of bed - and everything you read that comes after this point in this listicle is some how influenced by that decision. Understand Mary didn't cure me, but working with her was an act of investment in my health which in itself was important, and what came of it was next-level shit. If you have the ability to hire a Naturopath, Nutritional Consultant, Functional Medicine practitioner, etc., do it. Not to cure you but to get you moving in the right direction. I also recommend Jolene Park and Dr. Kalish.
9. Made simple dietary and lifestyle changes over time as a complement to recovery - not to lose weight, but to feel okay. (This one is specifically for those recovering from alcohol addiction).
Like I mentioned above, alcohol abuse over a number of years does a number on the body. We come out of it and think that just removing the substance is enough to turn back the clock, and then we find before long it isn't - suddenly we have more acne, we're gaining weight, we don't have energy, we don't want to fuck, we are cookie monsters, we are Satan when we have periods!, we can't fall asleep, we can't get up in the morning, we want the coffee to brew directly into our mouths, we are depressed and anxious…and on and on and on. Which sucks, because you're sober and you should look like a princess now.
Turns out that for the most part, when we are addicted to something/abuse something, it's as a result of our bodies own intelligence run amok. Meaning yes! alcohol is KILLING YOU AND RUINING YOUR LIFE!, but also alcohol is doing a really swell job of masking major imbalances in the body. We aren't dumb for using it - it works. It's a temporary anti-depressant/anti-anxiety/mood stabilizer/tranquilizer/appetite suppressant that somehow also gives us a second wind and a reason to get out of bed. It's a fucking miracle Swiss Army Knife - except the kind of Swiss Army knife that turns around and stabs you repeatedly after you use it. Meaning, alcohol temporarily fixes our shit, but then it turns around and exacerbates the depression/anxiety/mood-imbalances/disordered sleeping/disordered eating/all bad things.
In short, what I'm saying is that you most likely remove alcohol with an idea that you're going to become Gwyneth Paltrow, and then there you are with BO that cannot be extinguished, a thousand zits on your back, a need to eat every gummy candy within a five mile radius, worse depression than you ever remember ever, monster periods, and a fucking muffin-top.
I mean, I did. I thought that. I left booze behind and for a while, my weight dropped and I had this boundless energy and I was this smug little piece of shit that told everyone I was just naturally 110 pounds. And then BAM, I couldn't get out of bed, my back became a zit farm, I gained so much weight, and my periods made me puppy-kicking mean.
So here's the good news. All that is happening to you is just what's been going on the whole time, except you've been masking it with alcohol. You've removed the mask and all the stuff that was buried underneath is swimming to the surface so you can get to the root of it. It's not forever, it's temporary, and it is 1,000% fixable.
I've made a TON of lifestyle and diet changes over the last four years - most of them after working with Mary Vance (you can read about my come-to-Jesus moment with nutrition here.) very slowly. Some of the most important/simple/effective changes I have made are as follows.
- Drink plenty of water. The solution to pollution is dilution!
- Elimination diets. The removal of certain food groups for a certain period of time with a re-introduction to see how it's affecting my body. Turns out dairy makes me STINK and hurts my tummy, and gluten makes me bloat and feel angry. This doesn't mean I don't ever eat those things, this means I am careful to not as much as possible, and to go easy when I do. (Also I know, diets! But as I said above, I do things to feel better now, without going apeshit over an aesthetic result or to give me a false sense of control over my life).
- Being super mindful of my sugar balance. Which means eating first thing in the morning, including protein at most meals, and eating frequently.
- Not eating 3 hours before bed. I had to do this in a yoga training and found I slept better. Now if I eat too close to bed I notice how much it totally fucks with sleep.
- Include as many whole foods, vegetables in my diet as possible. Should be pretty self-explanatory.
- Eat a lot of healthy fats. Avocado, EVOO, coconut oil, nuts, hemp, butter, nut-butters. This is great for brain health and skin and satiation (feeling satisfied combats cravings!).
- Moving my body so I sweat. Uggh, this is one of the hardest for me. I just want to sit on my ass and meditate (watch Game of Thrones). But I make myself sweat, usually in a yoga class (outdoor stuff, save for walking around Rome, is NOT my jam).
- Do occasional protocols to target certain systems. I'm currently doing Ann Boroch's 90-day Candida Cure to fix my gut health mainly, but it's special in that it targets my gut, liver, neurochemicals, endocrine system, and blood sugar (all in one!). Also, note please that these things usually make me gain weight, and also I have to be careful with my extremist tendencies so I apply an 80% rule - try and do the recommendations 4/5s of the way right, still eat a pastry if I just must.
- Being really super sweet to myself when I eat like shit. Because what is the point of eating French fries if you're just gonna be all mean to yourself afterward?
- Detoxing my home and healthcare products. Everything I put on my body and use in my home is plant-based/natural - from toothpaste to lotion to dishwasher soap and on and on. The worst thing I have in my home is Ajax for my tub and toilet which whatever, it's terrible. I soak in Ajax sometimes. The reason this one is important: your liver is likely really fucked after alcohol abuse, and everything that goes into your body and ON your body has to be detoxed through your liver. If you're slathering on Neutrogena face wash and Dove soap and cleaning your clothes with Tide and drinking out of cups rinsed with Cascade and covering your body in Jergen's lotion and putting Secret antiperspirant in your pits you're basically pouring poison through your liver. And here's the bummer about that - non-water soluble toxins get stored in fat cells, which simply put means you end up gaining weight to store something made my Dow Chemical. I use sweet almond oil as both my lotion and face cleaner, Tom's toothpaste, and Mrs. Meyers cleaning products. I rub doTerra On Guard in my pits for deodorant (I also use it when I oil pull, and as anti-bacterial, and a million other things). I still use MAC cosmetics, but I don't use very much. I filter my water. Essential oils are my perfume. That kind of thing.
10. (Accidental) Intuitive Eating.
I say accidental because it's what I started to do before I understood it was an actual thing. (This is what Isabel Foxen Duke's work is all about, and here is a book I bought on it that I have yet to read). At some point, because I became more sensitized in my body (from the yoga and the not drinking and all the things we do to start hearing what our body is saying to us) I started to get in touch with the voice inside me knew what it needed. If it says avocado toast, I give it that. If it says apple, I give it that. If it says entire chocolate bar (which it does!), I give it that. And then as I eat, I listen. And no, this doesn't mean I eat like a bird because I don't, it just means that I have hard stops in between first and second helpings, or towards the end of the meal. Most of the time I don't like how I feel when I eat an entire piece of cake - and I can feel that now as I eat it - the point where it moves from feeling good to not good (and yes, this is hard - I think about this part more than anything else - Do I have that last bite? Most of my restraint comes in to get myself to stop and listen to what my body is saying).
This, again, just happened to me as I started to allow myself to become sensitized - just like how I can't stomach Michael Kors anymore even though I used to soak myself in it, just like how one Diet Coke will make my temples throb even though I used to throw back 3 or 4 a day - as part of the process of recovery. I'm not a robot anymore - I don't leave myself as much as I used to or deny that feeling sick matters. Also, I just really like myself now - I'm tired of abusing this girl. So with that comes a conversation that starts out like this: Hey body, what do you want, and how much of it?
11. Made my own food/started feeding myself.
If you understand the Chakra system (if you don't a great book to read is Eastern Body Western Mind), you'll understand that most addictions cause imbalances in all Chakras, but stem only from certain Chakras - the first and second. Food stuff stems from the first Chakra, Muladhara, which is responsible for grounding us into our biological existence. Read that last sentence again - there is a part of us, an energetic part of us, that is responsible for grounding us into biological existence, otherwise known as survival. And that is where, according to certain Eastern philosophies, disordered eating develops.
If you can think of the human body as a tree, then the first Chakra or Muladhara is the root. It is the first Chakra to develop (between the 2nd trimester and 12 months of age), and is responsible for giving us a sense of safety, belonging, the right to exist, and the right to be nourished. Muladhara is all about survival, and it's also all about embodiment, as in, feeling as if we are in our bodies. With eating disorders, often times we don’t feel like we are embodied, grounded, safe, or that we have the right to exist (receive nourishment). Eating disorders are - in this way - a very misguided attempt to feel safe, or like we exist, or like we are loved and held securely - because somewhere in our development we learned to believe otherwise.
I know for me all of this is true. One of the basic ways I started to undo these terrifying beliefs and unrealities was to do the one thing that showed myself pure love - I started to feed myself at home. As in buying my own healthy food, preparing it, and then consuming it. Whole, real food made by me and for me. Because I work a lot and hate cooking this means I make about five different meals - avocado toast*, kale salad, almond butter toast*, fried eggs, and roasted broccoli with tahini (*toast is gluten-free). For me it's not about making fancy or pretty meals, but about locking myself into the habit of buying food for myself and preparing it for myself. There is a world of difference between stopping at Subway on the way home and cutting up a head of broccoli and throwing it in the oven. Both take the same amount of time, one costs less (the broccoli).
12. Did my research.
Truly, this could be a point anywhere in this list (it could be number one). I'm a student first, always, and so I've done an ass-ton of research. (I urge you - find out for yourself. Make your own connections from other people's work). Some of my favorite books are The Diet Cure, The Kalish Method, Eastern Body Western Mind, The Body Keeps The Score, Awakening The Brain, A Mind Of Your Own, The Candida Cure, and Integral Recovery. I also love Mary Vance's blog, and Isabel Foxen Duke's blog. I don't ever take any of it as the absolute truth - I make my own truth out of what I learn. I also don't scrub someone off because I disagree with something they assert - I leave what doesn't make sense and take the rest. (Read, some of our teachers are idiots I mean human).
13. Made my own recovery instead of copying someone else's.
You know how in the alcohol addiction world no one has it figured out? Okay. Now take that confusion and multiply it times infinity and you'll have something near the amount of "not figured out" the world of eating disorders enjoys. It's not that there isn't good information or recovery tools. It's just that there's a lot working against it.
First of all, eating disorders are primarily a woman thing (though men do suffer), and because of that, just like reproductive care, it's far down on the list of priorities of important health concerns. Second, unlike alcohol and drugs, food is something that you must learn to live with. You can't just abstain, the answer isn't Don't eat. The answer is gray and long and complex. Third, most of the experts have a severely subjective lens on the subject (read, they are bought into programs that worked for them). Fourth, many folks tend to compartmentalize it. If you're a therapist, most likely you're focused on the behavior - you might prescribe drugs and teach CBT (and if you're a good therapist, you'll work with renegotiating trauma). If you're a nutritionist, you're focused on the food, and you might focus on a specific diet. If you're a doctor, you're focused on the body. If you're Overeaters Anonymous, you're focused on abstinence and community. Etc. I have yet to meet one person that is able to speak intelligently to the spiritual, physiological, neurochemical, nutritional, and behavioral aspects of this issue - someone that can touch on why we might hate our asses and our faces, the patriarchy, our disconnection from the body, the trauma that fuels our cycle, what foods should be eaten, where God comes in, what oppression does to a human, what neurochemicals are, how to modify behavior, and also, maybe a little about depression. In other words, I have yet to meet anyone that objectively understands all of what needs to be done to heal one person with an eating disorder.
So what I'm saying is what's out there is the result of a condition that is low priority to the public, one that infests itself in the very process meant to keep us alive, where no one person has a seemingly objective view, and where no one person has the skill set to address the entire spectrum of the condition.
What we have are a bunch of people that have partial solutions. This is not a bad thing. It just means we have to remember when we are working something like Kelly Brogan's program, or Ann Boroch's program, etc. (which I recommend), that it isn't enough, nor is it guaranteed to work on us. But bits of it all for sure will and over time, we'll create something for ourselves from these programs, from those that have gone before us and put something out into the world to help us. (Just like, um, I do not in any way ever expect you to think I've got it all figured out - I don't. I have what works for me figured out, and that is still and forever developing.)
14. Stopped beating myself up for beating myself up/made nice with my neurosis.
I have days where I hate things about me. Some pictures of me make me feel STABBY (Oh my God am I really that ugly?). Sometimes my jeans being too tight makes me feel like I might have a psychotic break. I notice things that other people probably (almost surely) don't notice, like that new wrinkle to the side of my mouth, or when my face gains a tiny bit of weight, or when my arms look like sausages in certain tops. My knees make me hateful. This isn't all the time. This is on occasion, as in once a week, maybe more, maybe less. The difference now from where I was is that I don't deny these feelings, and I don't beat myself up for having them. I am KIND to myself when I feel gross, sweet to myself for being neurotic. It is never helpful to lay judgment on top of judgment, and so it is that when I am judging myself for my perceived flaws, I don't add a bunch of shit to it by thinking I should be more evolved or less petty. All I'm doing is evolving, and part of that work is allowing myself to be where I am on any given day.
15. Still weigh myself.
You know how some people say they don't weigh themselves anymore? I'm not one of them. For me, the idea of not weighing myself is like a mix between saying I don’t watch TV! (when really I'm subscribed to Netflix, HBO Now, and Hulu), and not allowing myself to be around alcohol or eat chocolate. In other words, I think it's this thing that people say because it gives them a certain status (I don't care about TV! I don't care about my weight!), and also then elevates the power of a substance above our own power (Alcohol is stronger than I am/chocolate cannot be resisted!). In other words, I think throwing out our scales causes the same pathology we're intending to escape - the power of a few fucking numbers on a scale (which I still care about and probably always will who knows).
16. Allow myself to change my mind.
All this being said, what has also worked for me is reserving my right to change my mind, alter course. What I wrote here today might completely change over time - I might throw out my scale next year, adopt a 100% vegan lifestyle, eliminate sugar, stop drinking coffee, etc. Giving myself the latitude to expand into WHO I AM NOW vs. WHO I'VE TOLD MYSELF I HAVE TO BE is part of the freedom this entire journey is about. Holding onto ideas - like fat is bad, thigh gaps are good, fat people are lazy - has never served me. Allowing myself to shapeshift and alter course and ditch versions of myself that no longer work, has.
And finally, the thing that has worked for me the most is time. As in, not asking for everything at once. As in, allowing myself to be patient, to celebrate small victories. As in, to be okay with where I'm at right now, in this moment, even though I finished the entire box of Kumquats before they even went in the fridge.