Good morning all! Unless of course you live in another time zone, which I mean if you live in the majority of the world you do, in which case it’s a good afternoon, good evening, or good night.
Wasn’t there a movie that used that line? Probably… oh wait! The Truman Show! Tell me you’ve seen the Truman show… hang on, I’m Youtube-ing…
I’m actually kind of impressed with myself for remembering where that was from. I’m usually that person that will be talking about movies with someone and they’ll say, “Have you seen _____?” and I’ll be like, “Um….. maybe?”. I never remember titles. I also tend to forget actors/actresses names unless they’re like fantastic (Johnny Depp or Meryl Streep anyone?), so a conversation gets a little sticky quite quickly when you combine the two together. It typically goes something like this:
Me: “Have you seen that movie… oh I can’t remember what it’s called. It’s the one with the guy… oh crap… That guy with the hair? You know, he was in that other movie? The one where there’s a big misunderstanding (aka every movie ever made!).”
Yeah… it doesn’t go over well.
I think it’s genetic.
I know, I know, blame the genes. But seriously though, I grew up mostly with my grandma because my parents worked, and she was the champion of “the thing”. You spend enough time with her and you learn to read her mind at least a little, or you’d get a seriously riled grandma on your hands. And if anyone knows my grandma, you don’t want a seriously riled grandma on your hands.
“Get me that thing, from the place over there. No not that thing! The other thing! The one next to the big thing with the grey stuff on top!”
Like I said, genetic.
That was like the other day in the truck with my boyfriend… I was trying to explain the defectiveness of my thermos and justifying it by the fact that two different people tried to open it but couldn’t. In the end we destroyed the rim on it because we got so desperate to open it that we tried to open it with a jar opener. Anyways, I couldn’t remember the word jar opener, so I said can opener… but I totally knew that wasn’t it. I did get it eventually, but it took longer than it should.
Side note: those jar openers are handy, aren’t they?! I mean, it didn’t work on my thermos, it just destroyed it. But that thermos is just evil. For other jars they’re great!
Double side note: I’m not totally hopeless. I don’t forget everything. Just had to be clear on that.
So something major happened since we last chit-chatted:
It was my birthday!
Remember this post? I started it off by being oh so convincing and telling you it was my birthday. Guess what? I’m doing it again!
Actually, I’m not. It was my birthday! That right there is an awesome peanut butter birthday cake, stuffed with peanut butter chips, frosted in peanut butter frosting, and decorated with mini peanut butter cups. It’s a plethora of peanut butter! And I didn’t even have to make it myself, because someone gets me! This is the corner slice, aka the best slice, because it has the most frosting and the most peanut butter-ness. Win.
And I was spoiled. I was treated to the most amazing massage at the spa, which was so needed because I kind of suck at self care, as most eating disordered people do, and I have such a hard time sitting and relaxing. I had this pesky knot in my shoulder, which had been bugging me for at least a month, and now it’s gone. And I’m like…
Then there was a homemade panini lunch, followed by the aforementioned cake, a slice of which ended up in my face…
Side note: Apparently this is a semi-common tradition? It was a new one for me…
Add on a gorgeous apron from London, and a beautiful scarf, and you have me completely spoiled. And of course this brings up an all too common eating disorder emotion: guilt.
Why do we engage in eating disordered behaviours?
Why do we restrict when we eat a forbidden food?
Why do we suck at self care?
Why are we always keyed up and can’t relax?
Why are we afraid of certain foods?
Why are we so secretive, and don’t want to include other people in our struggles, or open up?
What keeps us stuck in our eating disordered ways?
I swear you’d be hard pressed to find someone with an eating disorder who doesn’t struggle with a guilt complex. In my experience it is the most pervading emotion that finds its way into every nook and cranny of my life, and it would actually be a challenge to find a moment in my day where I’m not feeling guilty about something.
Guilty about sitting and relaxing instead of “being productive” and doing work.
Guilty about living with my grandmother for a time and helping her to stay in her house for as long as possible, while others claimed I was “sponging off of her”.
Guilty about living at home with my Mom and contributing as much as I can to household expenses, while once again other people claimed I was “taking advantage”.
Guilty about being lactose intolerant and needing the more expensive soy milk.
Guilty about dropping out of school multiple times and not “living up to my full potential”, disappointing others.
Guilty about being the one to pick an activity when spending time with friends or family, because of the chance that they might not enjoy it, or be bored.
Guilty about the amount of carbs I’ve eaten today.
Guilty about the lack of vegetables I’ve eaten today.
Guilty about that slice of cake.
Guilty about opting for a burger instead of a salad.
Guilty about adding a flavour shot to my latte.
Guilty about being so “indulgent”.
Guilty about spending money on new clothes, even though my assignment from both the doctor and dietitian is to gradually replace my whole wardrobe with clothes that I can’t associate with a certain weight and fit before recovery.
Guilty about being on exercise restriction, and relying on others to drive me around.
Guilty about being inflexible and/or anxious at times when it comes to food and certain food related behaviours.
Guilty about doing the opposite, not paying attention to my eating disordered behaviours and not being so rigid, thus obviously overdoing it and being a gluttonous pig (although apparently I’m the only one that thinks that when I relax I overdo it…)
Guilty about being something other than perfect.
Perfect at recovery. Perfect at anorexia. Perfect daughter. Perfect student. Perfect at eating “clean” or “healthfully”. Perfect friend. Perfect girlfriend. Perfect caregiver. Perfect body. Perfect shape. Perfect weight. Perfect size. Perfect plan for success.
Having everything perfectly under control and perfectly planned out.
Needless to say, perfection is impossible. Perfection is unattainable. Perfection is limiting, and it’s black and white. Perfection is not reality.
Perfectionism and guilt, not always but often, go hand in hand. They both live in the land of black or white, good or bad, all or nothing, and as such one influences the other heavily.
Pick a burger —–> Judgement: There are so many healthier choices! (aka not the perfect choice) —–> Not perfect= completely wrong, self indulgent, lazy, and lacking willpower and drive —–> guilt and shame for making that decision and for being the person I am
Choose to leave school —–> Judgement (self inflicted or heard): Wasting life, too stupid to stick it out, was going to fail anyways —–> Not perfect= completely wrong, stupid, lazy, self indulgent, and lacking willpower and drive —–> guilt and shame for making that decision and for being the person I am
Pick an activity that others seem uninterested in after the fact —–> Judgement: The activity bores them, even though I enjoy it. Therefore I’m boring and stupid for enjoying it. There are other things I should be more interested in doing. —–> Not perfect= completely wrong, selfish, self indulgent, lazy, and lacking willpower, drive, and interest —–> guilt and shame for making that decision, and for being the person I am
Need I go on?
You could pick any of the scenarios listed, or create your own. Realize what process is going on in your head:
Decision/Action —-> Judgement (self inflicted/heard from others) —-> Emotion
which ultimately leads to some behaviour positive or negative to cope with or manage said emotion. And let’s be clear also on the judgement stage: The judgement can be heard from others, but ultimately it comes down to you taking on the judgement and claiming it for yourself as truth. Ever heard the saying “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”? Yeah, it’s true. But that doesn’t make it easy to not adopt the judgments that you hear around you.
Guilt is a difficult emotion because it’s sticky and uncomfortable. I’m not saying that no one has difficulty coping with joy, because I have met people that struggle to be okay with being happy. Although, in my experience, oftentimes people struggle with being happy because they feel guilty about feeling happy. It’s a judgement of an emotion. Oh wait!!! I forgot to mention, you can totally flip that equation:
Emotion—-> Judgement (self inflicted/heard from others) —-> Decision/Action (coping mechanism potentially)
Side note: I have this uncanny ability to attempt to turn everything into a mathematical equation similar to the equations above. X+Y=Z, or if this train was leaving Kansas at this time, then as a result I’m eating sushi in Canada. Yeah, that made no sense. But there’s probably a mathematical reason for it.
Guilt. It’s sticky. Oddly, it’s one of those socially acceptable emotions. And by socially acceptable, I mean, we’re expected to have it and it’s somewhat praised… at least in the sense of, if you do wrong you should feel guilty about it, so that it prompts you to make amends. And if you do wrong, and you don’t feel guilty about it, it’s frowned upon.
That whole conscience thing.
And I mean it makes sense. Like if someone murdered someone, I would hope they’d at least feel a little bit guilty about it. If we didn’t we’d all be running rampant, looting, stealing, pillaging…
Apparently in my mind we’d all be pirates.
But there’s this whole other side of the coin, this part where you feel guilty in a situation where you have nothing to feel guilty about. Unjustified guilt. And as useful as a conscience is, when it comes to unjustified guilt some of us don’t have that filter.
Now, if there is guilt around food, I can pretty much guarantee you it’s unjustified. Unless you murdered someone by flogging them with a day old baguette, knowingly fed them something that gave them an anaphylactic reaction, or purposely had them choke on a cannoli. If this is the case, go ahead. Feel guilty.
But, listening to what you’re craving and eating that, eating something new or different, taking advantage of what is available that is not always there, or sometimes eating past comfortably full don’t qualify as things that you should feel guilty about.
Guilt about the amount of carbs eaten = unjustified
Guilt about the lack of vegetables eaten = unjustified
Guilt about a slice of birthday cake = unjustified
Guilt about opting for a burger instead of a salad = unjustified
Guilt about adding a flavour shot to my latte = unjustified
Or some typical ones:
Guilt about having seconds just because it tasted that good = unjustified
Guilt about not going for a run after eating Christmas dinner = unjustified
Guilt about adding ice cream to the top of a slice of pie or cookies = unjustified
I don’t care if it messes with your macros, adds extra calories, adds extra fat grams, or “goes straight to your thighs” (hint: it doesn’t!), that guilt is still unjustified. Unless you have a medical condition, like diabetes, that makes counting your sugar grams very important, you should never feel guilty about having a brownie.
With eating disorders, guilt surrounding food or the guilt about not following rituals based around food is a constant issue. When I was in residential treatment, after every meal we’d have a process time where we were expected to share how we were feeling having completed the meal. Most of the time, everyone would go around the circle and say, I feel fine, good, bored, tired… and while if you were close to having a mental breakdown you’d often admit to the guilt, often times it was left unsaid.
It wasn’t because we didn’t feel it. It was because we all were ashamed of having eaten at all, and wanted to ignore it. We wanted to avoid it. And we all knew that we felt it, and didn’t need to open up that can of worms. Once again, I reiterate, if we share how we’re feeling with other people we’re putting our troubles on them, and we feel guilty about it.
Guilt about feeling guilt. Unjustified guilt sandwich that doesn’t taste near as good as a pb&j.
And I’m not going to say that it’s a bad emotion, because we all know there’s no such thing as good or bad emotions. They all have their purpose and it’s important to allow yourself to feel it. It’s just how you try to assuage it that makes it a little more complex. Most people with an eating disorder will feel so guilty about having eaten that they need to do something to assuage the guilt. If the guilt was justified, such as the guilt you feel when you hurt someones feelings, it’s a harmless fix. Say you’re sorry, and the guilt is at least mostly gone. With unjustified food guilt, this “righting of the wrong” is usually a behaviour, and not a healthy one.
Restriction for the next meal, snack, day, week, etc.
Going for a run… or nine.
Seems ridiculous to those who don’t suffer. Heck, it seems ridiculous to those of us that do. We’d never tell someone else to do the things we do… but rules of kindness and self compassion don’t apply to us. We’re different, of course.
So how do you deal with unjustified guilt? Specifically unjustified food guilt?
You sit with it.
Oh I’m sorry, did I disappoint you? I know you were hoping for a miracle pill just like those fat absorbing tablets you can down after your meal to assuage the guilt you feel for a burger from Wendy’s. Or perhaps you were expecting me to say, “Well, the guilt serves a purpose: x is healthier than y so the guilt you feel is kind of appropriate.
There is no kind of appropriate. There is no coming at it half way. You can’t say, well I’m going to beat my eating disorder, or my disordered eating (because the majority of the world suffers from this) by allowing myself to eat a burger 3 times a week, or a brownie once a month. Let’s be honest here. What happens if you’ve already had 3 burgers this week, and then suddenly your boss decides to have a lunch meeting at Smashburger? Or if you happen across an amazing bakery in your travels with these incredible looking brownies that you only have the one occasion to try, but it’s only 23 days since your last brownie?
You’ll find yourself in one of two scenarios:
- You “indulge” in the food, either with a normal portioning or to excess because “I’ve already screwed up”, and you feel a profound sense of guilt, shame, and decreased self worth for “being bad” or “lacking willpower”.
- You flat out refuse the food, and then spend a large chunk of time feeling unsatisfied and unhappy because you didn’t listen to your craving. And then potentially this leads to an eventual binge because you’ve deprived yourself.
I don’t know about you, but either scenario sounds rather depressing to me.
Because, when deprivation is high, your guilt is low. Sounds good right?
Except you’re deprived. And no one likes to feel deprived. No one deserves to feel deprived. And eventually, and understandably, you will rebel and the balance will flip.
There is zero deprivation (may or may not include a binge), but your guilt is so high, it’s unbearable. Cue compensatory behaviour.
So how do we even this out? How do we not make that scale so black and white, guilt or deprivation?
You gotta get rid of the unjustified guilt, THROUGH a lack of deprivation. So when the guilt is unjustified, you sit with it. You sit with all of the uncomfortable feelings, the urges to compensate, and the shame that comes alongside of the guilt, until eventually it subsides. And then you do it again. You do it over, and over, and over, at high frequency until you no longer feel the unjustified guilt for eating a burger, pizza, or cake.
For me, this has entailed a systematic reintroduction of all my fear foods one at a time, but at a high frequency. We’re talking EVERY SINGLE DAY, again and again and again, until I’m not only sick of the food, but I AM NO LONGER SCARED OF IT.
Not one or the other. Both sick of it, AND not afraid of it.
I’ve done this in my previous attempt at recovery, but it was different. It wasn’t every day the same food, AND I was still allowed to exercise.
Let’s be honest again: this solves nothing.
I’ll eat anything if you allow me to run for three hours afterwards.
So really, when I thought I was no longer afraid of things, that really wasn’t true, because I was always compensating and slowly becoming more and more hooked on exercise. Until eventually, I was exercising for more than six hours a day, and once again decreasing my intake more and more and more.
So this hasn’t been comfortable, because for once I’ve actually had to sit with the fears. Literally sit. Literally shake. Literally bawl my eyes out until I have no more tears left in me and I’m severely dehydrated. I’ve literally had to get my Mom to physically hold me down while I thrashed and kicked and screamed trying to claw my way to the treadmill. I’ve screamed at myself, called myself vicious and horrible things, and practically clawed my own eyes out. And my anxiety has been at some record highs. Duh.
And, here’s the thing: You can expect a TOTAL MELTDOWN for every food. Yes, it sucks. BUT, eventually, it passes. And eventually it gets easier. And eventually the fear goes away. It might take weeks. Yes, weeks of the same food every day. But this has also been an occasion to get really creative to keep myself from getting bored.
My first food was… dun, dun, dun… Pizza. And it took over a week. So what did I come up with?
And so far, the loaf is taking much more out of me than the pizza… but I have some serious sweet bread issues from the hospital, so that would make sense. And the rest of my list is long… so I’ll be at this a while. But that’s okay, because you’ll be here to take the journey with me.
And in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight.
Ahh Jim Carrey.