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Why I hid my weight tracker: or disordered brain blues ...

Friday, December 24, 2010

So, I've been within a 5 lb. window of my basic weight goal for over a year now. I shoot for 126-127 and sometimes I'm a bit lower and sometimes a bit higher. It depends a lot. My measurements also waver a bit - sometimes my waist is 26˝ (yay) and sometimes it's more like 27.5˝ (boo) but I know that's usually due to sodium, hormonal stuff, etc. rather than real weight gain or loss.

Honestly, these numbers are so fleeting. They really only tell you about your body as it is *right that second*. A lot of the swings are due to fluid retention, how much food is in your stomach, whether or not your muscles are being repaired (and holding water) and hydration levels.

I know this. I can talk about it and sound like a sensible human being.
I'm not, though. I'm experiencing some mild (and sometimes not so mild) signs of disordered eating - mostly in my thought about calories in and out and exercise. I didn't really experience this until I started the process of maintaining. When I was losing, I wasn't feeling like this. I'd get a little weird if I ate too much and went over my calories for the day or didn't hit my burn for the week, but I didn't completely break down and lose my shi! over it. Not like I do now, at least.

I am thinking about what I'm allowed to eat and the exercise I have to do 95% of the time. I worry about my weight constantly. I stress about burning enough calories when I work out. If something prevents me from working out I feel like I don't deserve to eat anything but my bare minimum amount (around 1300). I feel like a failure if I go over the low end of my calorie range. I don't really consider it a range, most days. Most days it's a game to see how close I can get to exactly that low range number... how few calories more than that I can take in. I feel pleased when I hit it exactly - bummed when I'm more than 50 calories higher than the minimum.

When I eat things I haven't planned I beat myself up - literally and emotionally. I scream at myself for being so weak, for being a fat stupid failure who's going to pork back up again. For not just controlling my self and not being such a stupid cow with a grazing mouth. I feel like I'm slipping whenever I relax.

The thing is, it's mostly mental. I think that I should be working out more/harder, eating less. I should be doing this or that. But I don't. I've been eating and exercising moderately and my clothes still fit the same. My stomach varies day to day (sometimes it looks good, sometimes flabby) but I generally feel pretty stable in my size. That said, the real pain is between my disordered self saying "eat less, move more, fat cow, getting fatter, eat less, you suck!" and my behavior being healthy. Whe I'm working out like normal I'm eating 1600-1800 a day, which is low to mid-range in my calories. I'm sometimes hungry but I'm not ravenous or starving feeling. I don't lose loads of weight, I haven't really lost anything much lately.

So, this disordered me is going "eat less, move more, be smaller" and my brain is saying "eat and exercise moderately, maintain your health." The brain is winning and that ticks the disorder off(!) and causes this crazy rift in my mental state. I feel BAD for Not doing what I know is Not Healthy or Good For Me. I feel bad for eating more food and not killing myself with overexercising. I feel bad that I'm not doing what that disorder brain is demanding. I feel like a failure for daring to eat more, for daring to take two or three rest days a week if I need them. For doing an easy workout a couple times a week in addition to harder ones.

This week is my post-marathon recovery week. I hate it. I hate how I feel. I know I should be recouping. I know that in the last nine weeks I've raced two marathons, raced a half and run a number of long training runs (14, 16, 20) in cold, unpleasant, rough weather. I know that I've got niggling injuries from doing so much to my body and I need this time to start healing. I KNOW that. But I still feel like a failure. I haven't done any exercise since Sunday's marathon. Nothing. The voice in my head is screaming at me right now just since I wrote that down. It makes me panic a bit to have been so lazy for so long. :( I haven't even really been doing stuff around the house - I just feel so wiped out and blah. Nothing seems important so I'm just laying around with my feet up. :/

I'm eating relatively low calorie (1400ish?) since I set my info to hardly any calories burned via exercise (really, it should be none and my daily calories should be lower but I'm not willing to do that) right now. Since I have to rest, I can't eat like I'm working out. I have to just cover my bases for BMR and eat a tiny bit lower to avoid gaining while I'm healing.

I've been frustrated to the point of tears twice lately. Wanting food but feeling like nothing I want is "allowed" within my current range.

I hate this.
I'm better currently than I've been in the past. I've had some really rough times in the past couple months - disordered brain peaked for a while there and I had a number of total meltdowns - but it's still rough. No one really mentions that maintenance might be even harder than losing - or, if they do, it's worded more about the physical. No one talks about the emotional turmoil of maintenance. I know, I know, some of you are probably thinking I should cry you a darn river - here I am at my goal weight, "thin" and where so many would like to be - but it's true. Your brain can be the most cruel thing on this earth. And being a formerly fat person in a now less than fat body is like visiting a strange country where you don't know the language or the culture. And the natives can be cruel or even deadly if you misstep too much.

I don't know what I'm doing. I'm not sure I'm improving my mindset.
Being able to talk about it at all is probably a good sign that things are getting better. At my worst, I wouldn't ever admit to this. At my worst I was in denial and would have said I was fine, never better, totally cool.

I'm angry, though. I'm angry that I'm thin now and I'm more at war with my body than ever. Being thinner and STILL not perfect is hard. You keep going "maybe perfection is five pounds away? Maybe ten? If I lose more, do more, will my stomach finally look like hers? Am I so close to a body like in the movies/magazines/etc. but since I'm stopping here, I'll never know that?" The impulse is to keep losing, see how small you can go, how low that scale can drop, how small those pants can get.

All this is why my tracker is gone. I need to STOP focusing on these relatively arbitrary numbers on the scale and focus on how I feel and my health, rather than my appearance. I need to start judging myself like I'd judge another person. I don't know their weights, I don't feel that they have to weigh a certain amount to have worth or be attractive. I just take them at face value. How people take me.

No one can tell if I'm having a "fat" 128 lb. day or a thin 125 lb. day. It's just not visible to most normal humans. In addition, I don't know why that gain happened. It could be water, food, TOM, time of day... my weight fluctuates all day. The weight I am on the scale is one frame in a film full of them. It tells me nothing about worth or success or value - it tells me what my body, at that second, weighs. Nothing more.

Honestly, it's not a piece of information that's very useful.
If I feel like I look lean and then weigh in higher that ruins my day. If I feel like I look pudgy and then weigh in with a loss, I feel better. This is wacky.

I'm going to focus on how I feel and my health, how my clothes fit, what my body can DO rather than focusing on how small I can make it look. I have a soft belly, toned arms and legs, slim hips, graceful shoulders - this is a healthy, strong woman's body. It isn't worth less due to not having a six pack or fitting into a size 0. I need to keep that in mind.

Not sure how I'm going to handle the disordered brain/voice. It makes me miserable and, honestly, should be taken care of. I'm not sure I can do it alone - I might be looking into therapy to try and get a better grip on that. As it stands, I'm usually a few seconds away from swinging into bad brain space. I feel it, even now, right on the edge of my conscious mind. Too much food. Can't believe you haven't exercised this week. Loser. Failure. Fatty. Slipping...

Hard things.
Things more folks should talk about, IMO.
We need to know we're not alone. Just saying "maintenance is hard" isn't really admitting that it can feel more like an ED than losing ever did. It glosses over some genuinely bad bits - how to get this brain and this body, as it is now, to mesh? How to stop chasing after perfection and how to stop hating yourself? Why is it never enough?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You know- I was and am just like that! In my YOung Dumb and Stupid blog- I wrote about feeling exactly that way! And I was 120-125 on a normal day and 117 for pageant or bikini competition.

    I have gained and lost 100's of pounds. The last time I got really thin- was in 1999 and I went from 156 to 126 in 6 weeks( no kidding) I was eating 1000 to 1200 cal a day and working our 2-3 HOURS a day. I remember being happy about my 125 weight- and fitting into all the old clothes I loved so much- but I also remember holding that 117 target in my mind.

    Now at 200 pounds with 70 to lose- I find myself more forgiving. Here are some things I do now that I didn't do then. When you choose your food- pick things you love then try to make them healthier. I love French toast but the regular version can have as much as 1000 cals and 40 grans of fat! I started making it with sara lee bread( 45 cals a slice plus protein) I more then doubled the protein by using 1 egg plus 1/2 cup egg substitute- mixed with a teas cinnamon and a pack of stevia. Then I use the syrup for diabetics- 10 cals per half a cup. I can have a huge stack of 3 pieces loaded with syrup and still not hit 300 cals for breakfast. So don't use food to "punish" yourself because you are right- that is a classic ED symptom- and one that strongly show in both Bulimia and anorexia- so you are right to notice and be concerned.

    The other thing is the need to exercise. I'm with you on this one too! I remember being able to RUN!! UP!!! a 45 degree mountain everyone else was huffing and puffing on- In step aerobics- everyone else used a 6" step- I used a 24" CHAIR! That competitive spirit can really hurt you in the long run as you're finding out with the healing and hurts in general- and it doesn't get better with age lemme tell ya. But- if you're addicted to the seratonin/endorphin levels you get from exercise- how about swimming when your body can't take the running? It's much easier on your joints( which running tears up!)

    But last- I agree with some of the others- you have seen the warning signs...you know you're teetering on the edge of a full blown ED- why not get help. Once you go over the edge- IF you go over the edge- you won't be able to seek that help voluntarily. Plus- allowing your cal intake and your exercise expenditure to control your life like that is no way to live. And losing the weight and getting healthy physically- only to BECOME very unhealthy mentally is not a fair exchange.

    And yes I know you may be thinking 'who is this fat woman telling ME what to do"...but I was a skinny woman most of my life- your size actually. And I placed myself in situations where I had to be thinner than I needed to to compete on a regular basis. I got fat...well the reasons don't matter cuz this is about you...but trust me when I say I know enough to fill books about health, exercise and eating right...I am also friends with numerous girls who had full blown ED's. And what I see in this blog really makes me concerned for you. You and I joined spark about the same time and I am kicking myself for getting away from it for a year cuz I could have been your size again had I stuck with it- but I back now- and this time - I fell like I have a better outlook and attitude towards it. But count your blessings- you have achieved amazing things with your weight- You can handle this too!

    2586 days ago
    So happy I just stumbled onto your blog. Hurray for honesty! And you really can get free of "disordered me"--with good therapy you'll find ways to soothe her disordered fears & memories. You already have lots of wisdom, evidenced by your thoughtful analysis of the problem. Down the road I hope you'll consider writing a Daily Spark blog post to reach other people who struggle with maintenance. You are not alone!
    2635 days ago
    I think that it is incredibly important and brave of you to put your uncensored and honest thoughts out there on your blog, my wonderful friend. Thank you for trusting us on SP with this glimpse into your mindset and your struggles with maintaining.

    Taking your weight ticker/tracker off of your SparkPage is a really big step, especially if not seeing it there when you log on will be helpful in not being 'ruled' by the number and allowing that singular form of feedback about your body at that moment in time to affect your self esteem. At least I'm hoping that's what happens with me, because I removed my tracker from my page, too. Yay, us!

    Talking about your disordered inner voice so openly is something you know I really applaud because it's by talking about it that healing occurs. I'm so worried when I hear things like that thoughts of your calorie intake and exercise/calorie expenditure ratio ate at the forefront of your mind 95% of the time, and your self harm behavior really scares me. I'm seeing so many red flags waving.

    I can absolutely relate to having the post-marathon blues and being a bit frustrated about taking adequate rest after the race. I started a new strength training program this morning, and that has helped me switch gears and make my inner dialogue/self esteem more positive.

    You are more than enough. As you are. In this moment. Exactly, exactly as you are.
    * channels Mark from Bridget Jones movie *
    Please make an appointment with the therapist that specializes in working with people struggling with Eating Disorders you were referred to. You are an amazing person and friend, and you deserve the very best in life; in health, in emotional well-being, in self love, and in recovery from your 'disordered brain'. These blues that you have been feeling are NOT going to stick around forever. You are stronger than the disordered thoughts are. You make the rules.

    I love you. Please let me know what I can do to help. Sending lots of virtual hugs and love your way.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2638 days ago
    As I was reading this I felt like you were looking into my own life and brain. This is exactly how I feel most of the time. I've been like this since I was a teenager and that's a really long time for me. I'm obsessed with what I eat, how much of it I eat, how thin I want to be, always comparing my stomach to others (mostly those in fashion or health mags). I workout 7 days a week because I'm afraid I'll get fat if I don't. I workout hard those 7 days. Then I got to the point that I wanted to fuel my workouts so they would be better especially when I started cycling. I want to ride a century race and you can't do that on no fuel and always trying to be the skinniest person in the room. I had to ditch the tracker AND the scale. I would weigh myself constantly. SP also became an obsession. I would eat something or drink something and immediately have to enter it. Now I weigh about once a month, first thing in the morning. I only track once in a while but I still track my exercise every day. Seeking professional help is a good thing. For some reason we try to seek perfection but are never satisfied with where we are. I hope that you can find peace and find a way to love the yourself. You are a wonderful and beautiful person JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.
    2639 days ago
  • JLITT62
    I'm so glad you mentioned therapy, because I wanted to mention it, but I didn't want to offend you or make you angry, either.

    Yes, maintenance is hard. Yes, it is mostly mental. But I've felt for a long time that you are on the wrong end of it being really hard -- that you need help. And I also totally understand how easy it is to leap from being concerned about being healthy to having an ED or close to it.

    While my experience isn't the same as yours, I can tell you the first time I lost a fair amount of weight I really was thin. Thinner than I realized at the time. In fact, my MIL was showing us photos from my SIL's shower (a LONG time ago), and I really almost didn't recognize myself.

    And I have struggled so for the last 20 years . . . I don't want that for you. Try counseling. You can always stop or switch if it's not working, but you owe it to yourself to investigate it. Because you're awesome, just the way you are (and yeah, I'm aware that's kind of contradictory).
    2640 days ago
    Thanks for sharing. I think you should look for professional help because you seem really, really distressed.

    I have never had an ED but I struggle with OCD and from what I've researched, the two are very similar. I know how hard it can be to feel trapped - your case, trapped by food and exercise. For me, I was trapped by my "things", which always vary. I would feel so jealous of people who could just be "normal" about stuff whereas I would have all of these obsessive thoughts and just be unable to participate in life. Just as a quick example, before I was even sexually active, I was convinced that I was pregnant and / or HIV+. Later obsessions were around eating certain foods at certain times. Even though I mostly have a handle on things now, I still need to eat certain foods from certain plates / dishes. There are certain foods I would not eat even if I were in danger of starving to death. I have certain "tics" around exercise and I am fairly certain that my Garmin is not helping things!

    Anyway, I just want you to know that you are not alone in your feelings but with help, things can get MUCH MUCH better.

    Another thing to think about is the endorphin rush you get from running long distances. It is totally normal to get depressed after a marathon, when it is physically impossible to run. You are no longer flooding your brain with all of those endorphins. I thought I would have a really hard time with my taper, but it was a breeze. It was the 2 weeks after the marathon that were torture.

    Anyway, feel free to drop me a mail if you want to talk more. Sending you


    Be kind to yourself....
    2640 days ago
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