Anorexia’s Seductive Voice

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I have the misfortune of having my healthy weight be at the top end of a “decade.” By that, I mean that my ideal target weight is one that ends in an 8 or 9.

 

Can I weigh a few pounds less? Yep. And I often have. But I know that, really and truly, that “8 or 9″ number is the best one for me. At that weight, I feel strong, look good in clothing, and can sustain it through moderate exercise and not making endless bad food choices. I don’t have to kill myself to maintain it, but it takes enough reasonable effort that I know I’m helping preserve my health.

 

So there you go. I’m resigned to it. My ideal weight is at the top of the decade.

 

A few days ago, I weighed myself.

 

And my weight was in the– *gulp* — next decade.

 

Truly, this is not cause for alarm. Fluctuation of a couple pounds up and down is totally normal and should never result in panic. Unless one notices a consistent upward trend, it’s almost never a big deal to see an extra pound or two show up on the scale.

 

But I heard the whisper come, unbidden…

 

“You only ate yogurt for breakfast… and it’s already 1 P.M. You’ve basically already missed lunch, so why bother with it?”

 

In my mind, I debated that seductive voice, “Yeah, but what about supper?”

 

“He works late tonight. You know that. Tell him you already ate supper with the kids. Sure, you usually wait for him, but he won’t question that.”

 

The promise of control lured me, compelled me. The ache in my belly felt strong rather than weak with hunger.

 

I turned from the scale and slapped ham and dijon on wheat, shoved it into my mouth with purpose.

 

This is what it’s like, my friends:¬†this is what happens when you’ve battled an eating disorder, even when you’ve been healthy for fifteen years.

 

It’s not even about weight. Those couple pounds don’t show on my 5’7″ frame at all. They don’t affect my pants size or make me unhealthy on any chart you’ll find.

 

It’s about control.

 

Those of us with disordered eating almost always have issues with control– either we cling super tightly to it through limitation (as is my situation) or purging or we totally lose control and gorge or binge.

 

Eating disorders are real. And, like addictions, they don’t “go away.” You learn to live with it. You cope, you find methods that work, you get healthier. With time, your strength and resolve can grow and healthier habits become more routine.

 

But it’s always there. That seductive voice whispers promises to me at the oddest moments.

 

If you struggle with these thoughts– if you battle disordered eating– please talk to someone. Tell your doctor. Seek out a therapist. Find a support group.

 

There is help. There is hope. There is a better way. 

 

I’m in a good place now. And, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I’m proud of myself for being able to make a sandwich and treat my body with the respect and care it deserves.

 

But that wasn’t always the case. And I needed help to get to this point.

 

If you’re in a place where you need that help? Please get it. Please let someone lend a hand to help pull you out of it.

 

Eating disorders are not the same thing as dieting, so don’t tell yourself that lie. Those of us who have battled anorexia or bulimia know it’s not the same. You know it even when you’re in the middle of it.

 

Get help.

 

I’ll stop nagging now.

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15 comments to Anorexia’s Seductive Voice

  • Laraba

    Wow, JL, thanks for being so open about such an important subject!

    I have a friend whose 10 year old daughter is battling anexoria. My friend has her in counseling and I am praying for this precious little girl. I know that CONTROL is the big issue for her as some major things have happened in her life that are out of her control.

    How do you plan to teach your daughters (and son) to approach food wisely? I look at myself and it is interesting…I have never had an eating disorder but for decades I was allergic to milk and then that disappeared just about the time I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I could feel some weird pleasure at being self controlled about milk back then, and now carbs. I sometimes don’t eat enough, not because I want to lose weight but because I am semi-obsessed about my blood sugar numbers and have trouble finding time to eat “the right stuff”.

    I so want our children to focus on living HEALTHY lives, not focused on obsession with weight.

    It isn’t easy.

    • We talk a lot about why food is important and how it makes us feel. I really focus a lot on “body cues” because I don’t ever want my children to lose those. That might sound funny but, for those of us with disordered eating, it can be a real problem– it’s very easy for me to just NOT feel hungry. Or to misinterpret the sensation as feeling GOOD. Similarly, some people just don’t pick up on when they’re full and keep eating way past satiety. I hope to help my children learn to listen to and respect their own bodies. God made us well! It’s our job to take care of it. :)

  • Carrie

    I’ve battled with the other end of the scale and some very disordered eating for many years, I hear that seductive call as well “well you had a hamburger for lunch, so who cares what you have for dinner, oh and throw in a pint of ice cream” … but i’ve been working really hard the past year to change that. I want to be healthy for ME and for my son. I’ve lost 40 lbs and want to lose 60 more. Especially with my son I am very careful with my language about eating. I’m not on a diet, I am making healthier choices. We are taking care of our bodies – but this is language I need to use for me too. This isn’t a diet, it is a lifestyle change. A commitment to get healthy and stay that way.

    Thanks JL for sharing your story, for touching us all. You truly are a blessing.

    • Thank you, Carrie, for sharing your story. And huge kudos to you for the amazing strides you’re making in getting healthier! That truly is what it’s about. I want my children to “pay attention to what they eat” but never to “diet”. It’s an entirely different mind-set, with an entirely different purpose. You’re setting an awesome example for your son– good for you!

  • I haven’t personally dealt with anorexia but have had to watch three people close to me who have. It’s hard to watch. At first I said nothing. But then when one of my friends came over, I said something. And she was honest. And I could see in her eyes that she was glad I asked. Was I sure she told me the whole truth? No. I know it must be hard to admit. And I’m finally starting to see that it really is all about control. It’s important for people around them to speak up too. Silence only makes it worse.

    Thank you for being brave and breaking the silence. I’m so thankful that you found help.

    • Thank you, Miranda, for having the courage to speak up and reach out to your friend. I found that many people were just frustrated by me when I was in the throes of this battle. They couldn’t grasp why I couldn’t just EAT when it was clear I knew I was in trouble. It’s not that simple and it takes a lot of support to get through to the other side. Some day, perhaps my husband will tell about the Saturday afternoons he’d spend three hours sitting with me in a cafeteria while I picked through half a turkey sandwich… :)

  • JL, thank you for being so brave and honest here. I struggle with the other end of the spectrum, but I understand what you’re saying about control. As a matter of fact, I often hear this when I’m eating more, more, more: “Nobody can stop me.” What the what? Why do I say that to myself? It’s so weird, but it’s so about control. Thank you for sharing. I’m encouraged to hear about your strength and commitment to stay healthy!

    • Thank you so much, Mary. That control thing… it’s scary. Food is one of the very first things we control as individuals. Even as children, it’s one of the only things we have some control over. But it can easily spin out of our hands and that’s when it crosses that “disordered” line. I’m so grateful that I can choose the sandwich over the control now. :)

  • I’ve learned to not make comments about peoples weight. I have friends at both ends of the spectrum. It’s hard to watch people you love struggle with eating disorders:(

    When I have friends who freak out over the number on the scale, i ask them if they feel healthy? Do you work out on a regular basis? do you eat healthy most of the time? Then who cares if your a size 10 instead of a 6 in whatever brand of clothing or you’re a pound or two off your ideal weight.

    When I have a friend that is having a hard time losing weight. I offer to throw a freezer cooking party or make a point to invite them out for a walk. I’ll never make a comment about how they are too fat or anything. When you are overweight, you know your overweight and nobody needs to point it out to you!

    I hope by being that encouraging friend, my friends can turn to me for support when they are struggling with these issues.

    • You’re wise not to offer commentary on others’ weights, Nora! And it is absolutely true that it is the state of your health, not the size on your tag, that matters. So often, it’s not even about weight for those suffering with eating disorders and, when people fixate on that part (e.g. “You’re already so skinny! Why are you STARVING yourself???”), it’s not helpful at all.

  • I have struggled with disordered eating all my life. It is a daily battle and often times hard to hide from my kids. I have been bone thin to very overweight. No matter were you are in disordered eating, it just sucks. My 8 year old has now picked up anorexic tendencies and it scares me to death. I don’t know if it’s something he’s picked up from me or on his own. We pray he’s able to work through it without it over taking his life. He’s also one to not talk about how he feels so it’s hard to help him sometimes. I can only imagine what’s he’s thinking and feeling as I’ve been there and still there. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with others. Sometimes I start to feel like I’m the only one struggling with this mess.

  • Heather

    Awesome! I am also a recovering anorexic. Its been 14 years for me. I relate completely! Thanks for sharing. I really needed the encouragement today :)

  • Lori

    I dealt with anorexia when I was a kid. I loved the feeling of hunger, and truthfully I still do. About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia. I still struggled with anorexia, but because of my diagnosis I got very sick after 4 days. I had to eat because I was driving and could tell I was about to pass out. That scared me enough I’ve never tried it again. Now my struggle is to lose weight while actually eatting. My weight has slowly crept up and I’m about 60 pounds overweight. I’ve still never found the balance of eating properly, and I’m working on that now.

    • I’ll be keeping you in my prayers, Lori. It can be hard for people to understand how eating can be a challenge– not just eating healthy food, but eating the right amount at the right times in the right way. For YEARS, I “ate by the clock” because my body was so messed up I didn’t have normal hunger cues. You are very much not alone– I appreciate you sharing your journey here.

  • [...] shared bits and pieces of my history with disordered eating here. It’s something that peaked my senior year in college, but has been woven in and out of my [...]

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