FED: my five-point roadmap

i've said this before and i'll say it again. i thought the end of my eating disorder would come with the speed and force of a mack truck. (in a good way). 

i figured i'd be waking across the street, a sudden impulse would prompt me to turn and then


and it'd be over. done. and i'd be free.

turns out it hasn't really happened that way.

it has been inches. slow crawling inch after slow crawling inch.

when this recent funk hit i took a deep breath, thought, been there, done that, then realized my familiarity with the thing was not a get out of jail free pass. took a longer inhale, getting air into the space between my toes and reminded myself that this too shall pass. only then did i go about doing everything my capable little hands could do to crawl and claw my way out of the trench.

my version of trench warfare? full fat mochas (they feel luxurious and indulgent--make me think i'm on vacation). afternoon tea with girlfriends. indulging in massages at that place on 80th that sections of the tables with nothing more than clothes lines and bed sheets. painted red nails. a trip to boston. hurtling down icy northeastern ski-slopes. tickets to see noah and the whale. and investing in a very lovely, lovely cannon (i may not be able to crawl out of this funk, but perhaps i can photograph from within it?).

and so it has gone for the last six weeks: a funk. and so it goes. deep and encompassing. an overriding sense of apathy. and a feeling of claustrophobia--suffocating in my own skin.

and yet.

it's been bearable (as most funks prove to be).

and even a little exhilarating. exhilarating, you ask?


because the eating disorder (ned) has been so quiet.

yes it's still there. but somehow now it's not so important.

in the past the funk would come. and i would eat. and the eating disorder would quickly spiral. and the feelings and sensations that would follow i would label as such: that pesky ned, rearing his disastrous, hellish head once more.

but this go round the feelings and sensations came and the eating disorder didn't.

illumination. for better or for worse, illumination.

and another step forward.

a little while back a reader emailed asking for advice in dealing with her own eating disorder. in replying to the email i realized i was mapping my own little trail of recovery. and because i am slightly better and because it was national eating disorder week just two weeks ago and because why not? i thought i'd share:  so here goes. my five-point road map to mental health:

1. get help. find a therapist. a really, really, really good one. one who specializes in eating and weight disorders. (i can't emphasize this enough. if nothing else, please get help). it is unbelievably difficult to deal with an eating disorder, but to struggle alone is nearly crushing.

in looking for help, trust your gut. i sought out medical professional after medical professional before i found one who could give me a correct diagnosis. (two doctors, and four therapist--the fifth therapist was able to diagnose me, and the sixth (tom) literally gave me life back). there is a huge amount of mis-information and lack of information out there regarding eating disorders and not everyone who should be able to help can

2. figure out how food can be about more than just necessity. and more than just pleasure. for me the decision to become a vegetarian was an easy and practical (and meaningful, might i add) way to make food bigger than myself--it took some of the selfishness i was struggling with out of the equation. i do recognize that going vegetarian isn't for everyone. may i suggest volunteering at a food bank or soup kitchen? reacacquaint yourself with what it means to really need a warm meal--and fill yourself up in the process (i find goodwill much more filling than any of the many flavors of ben and jerry's--and i've tried them all, so i should know).

3. fall in love with kitchen. or try. at least, try.
i don't love to cook. but i'm working on it. it began with my hour long bake potato. from there i figured out that cinnamon in tomato-basil soup is delightful. i now make a mean vegan banana bread and pretty darn good raw chocolate chip cookie (made from cashews and oatmeal). making your own food is good for you--studies have been done indicating that when you make your own food and there is some time and process involved, you end up eating less because you fill up faster. i like that my baked potato takes an hour to make--i don't want to shorten that process. 

4. experiment, experiment...in life. do things you don't want to do. that you wouldn't usually do. go to a party. flirt with a guy. take risks on a daily basis (they don't have to be big). wear those skinny black pants before you're ready. exercise in spandex (even if you feel naked in them the first few times). take someone up on an invitation even if you're afraid you won't know anyone else. 

5. and exercise. (for the mental aspect of it). i can't emphasize this enough. i've been exercising consistently for years now. but it took going to physique for me to really get all the benefits that exercise has to offer. yes, in part because physique is tremendously good for the body--but more because it challenged my mind--forced me so far out of my comfort zone and provided my mind with a whole new set of skills to tackle. for me it elevated exercise form something i had to do to something of a personal practice. and the most important thing i've taken away (even more important than increased bone density) is the knowledge that it gets easier. pain changes and morphs. and everything, every sensation passes. in life to. exercise as metaphor! meaning all those pesky sensations and emotions that i would attempt to self-medicate by binge eating would pass if i just gave them time enough--lived through them.  

this list is by no means comprehensive or all-inclusive. there are so many other things i could include like recognizing patterns and identifying those aforementioned pesky emotions, but much of those things can be done with the help of a really great therapist. and if you are really, truly in the throws of an eating disorder, or even if you're struggling with disordered eating, i can't recommend finding help enough.

also, know this: i still struggle. often. i have good days and bad days and in-between days. i eat too much sugar and too much processed food. i'm not a whiz in the kitchen. and the last month i've found it much more difficult to get to exercise class. i still strive for perfection when i know--in my bones, i know--that perfection and the pursuit of it is not good for my health. but i am better. and i continue to get better. and that is something to celebrate and applaud.

small victories. small victories.