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Thinking Grey: Saying Goodbye to Perfectionism

Thinking Grey: Saying Goodbye to Perfectionism

I am a perfectionist. This is who I am and I accept it, but with this acceptance comes the knowledge that this personality trait can, at times, do me harm. And this is exactly what happened when my diet turned into disordered eating and finally into an eating disorder.

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What is Diet Mentality?

What is Diet Mentality?

 

In preparation for this article, I went online to find out how many adults are on a diet at any given time. I found that anywhere from 20% to almost 50% of people, particularly women, are dieting at this very moment. Unfortunately, that wasn’t very surprising considering how much diet talk I hear around me in the lunchroom at work. The shocker came when I read that most 10 year-olds have been on a diet. Being a 10 year-old used to mean playing at the park and jumping rope, but that has since transformed into worrying about weight and developing eating disorders at a younger age. This was not just shocking, it was heartbreaking.

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A Picture of Deception

A Picture of Deception

During the early stages of my eating disorder recovery, I hated seeing pictures of myself. Each new photo I came across was picked apart and examined for every little imperfection. I tortured myself by focusing on the rolls of my stomach, the roundness of my hips, and the lack of definition in my upper arms all the while fondly thinking about my eating disordered thinner self. This activity never did me any good and only made me want to return to my old restrictive ways.

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But What Will People Think?!

But What Will People Think?!

 

One of my greatest fears when I stopped dieting was that people would notice that I put on weight. I prided myself on being thin and knew that that would go by the wayside once I started eating again after years of restriction. Granted, the number on the scale went up gradually, but the mental hurdle of gaining a few pounds and worrying that someone would think “Wow, she’s letting herself go!” was almost too much to bear sometimes.

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Seeking Satisfaction

Seeking Satisfaction

 

In my dieting days my goal was to eat the fewest amount of calories as possible, and I applied this strategy when I went to lunch with some friends one day. They all ordered burgers and fries…and I ordered salmon and steamed broccoli. After eating my so-called healthy meal, I looked longingly at their fries even though I was stuffed. At the time, I was confused because all of my dieting books told me that if I was full, then I’d be content. What I now know is that being full is very different than being satisfied.

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My Security Blanket

My Security Blanket

When I was young I had a security blanket. It helped me fall asleep at bedtime and brought me comfort in unfamiliar or stressful situations. I eventually became a “big girl” and parted ways with my blanket. As an adult, I found myself yearning for that sense of security when life became overwhelming. I searched and did find that feeling again, but rather than a blanket, it came in the form of an eating disorder.

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A Work in Progress

A Work in Progress

 

We all have our positive qualities which we proudly splash on social media whether the world asks for it or not. We also have those qualities that we find less desirable. These are the parts of ourselves that we go to great lengths to keep hidden from others. I am no exception. Sure, I’m an intelligent, tenacious, and compassionate woman, but I also am aware of aspects of my personality that can be troublesome at times. I find that I often focus so much on the details that I lose sight of the big picture and I am extremely hard on myself because I want things to be just-so.1 These traits played a role in how I viewed my eating disorder recovery, and a perfect example of this occurred one sunny morning about two years ago.

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Intuitive Eating Is Exhausting!

Intuitive Eating Is Exhausting!

Allow me a moment to set the stage for my thoughts: You are from a country that drives on the right side of the road. Then you decide to do the tourist-y thing and see the sights of the UK in a rental car. Even though you have been driving for years, it’s a bit unnerving. You have to drive on the left side of the road, sit in what you’ve come to know as the passenger seat, and roundabouts seem to be everywhere. You are hypervigilant because there are so many new aspects of driving to be aware of. When you get to your destination, you’re wiped out.

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What Is My Natural Weight?

What Is My Natural Weight?

I don’t like the unknown. Never have, never will. It always brings about anxiety and dread. Such was the case when I started intuitive eating. There are many unknowns with IE, but the one that made me worry the most was my weight. I feared that I would put on pound after pound with no end in sight, but logic told me that my weight would settle eventually. Because my weight had been the focus of my eating disorder, this was not an easy feeling to sit with while I waited for my body to sort out this mess.

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Did Dieting Ruin My Metabolism?

Did Dieting Ruin My Metabolism?

Once I admitted to and began getting help for my eating disorder, I did some research on the recovery process. One piece of information that promptly freaked me out was that because I deprived myself of food, my body adapted by lowering my metabolism. This upset me because the point of me losing weight in the first place was to be healthy,1 but I may have harmed my body instead.

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Changing Beauty Standards

Changing Beauty Standards

Therapy was an essential part of my eating disorder recovery and one topic that dominated my early sessions was my desire to look a certain way. I shared my hope that, once I had the ideal body, I’d be happy, pretty, and people would think highly of me. It eventually occurred to me that I was aiming at a moving target because there isn’t a set beauty standard and that beauty is subjective.

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Habituation: Making Food Normal Again

Habituation: Making Food Normal Again

Before I get into the heart of this article, I want to share with you three scenarios. As you read, think about what they have in common.

  1. A teenager is thrilled at getting her driver’s license and asks to run every little errand for her parents. A few months pass and the teenager isn’t offering anymore.
  2. A crow sees a scarecrow in a field and flies away in fear. The scarecrow returns to the field several times and each time the scarecrow is motionless, so the fear of the scarecrow fades.
  3. You make an amazing lasagna and it is absolutely delicious. You have 3 days worth of leftovers. By the time day 4 rolls around, the lasagna is not nearly as delicious as that first day.

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Dealing With Diet Talk

Dealing With Diet Talk

I was at work one day and I overheard two co-workers rave about their keto diet. They went on and on about how it’s hard to stick to the plan, but it was worth it because they’ve lost so much weight. They then started talking about keto recipes, keto-friendly food establishments, and about how sometimes they are naughty and down a box of Girl Scout cookies because they can’t stop thinking about carbs. As I typed away at my work station, I couldn’t help but sadly reflect on how common it is to hear this type of conversation.

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Orthorexia: A New Enemy

Orthorexia: A New Enemy

My eating disorder came about slowly, but it was based around my desire to be healthy. It was multifaceted for sure and consisted of restricting calories and overexercising, but it also included many of the characteristics of orthorexia.1 This focus on healthy eating drew my attention to nutrition, but that quickly spiraled into an obsession.

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Thinking About Nutrition: A Post-Dieting Test

Thinking About Nutrition: A Post-Dieting Test

 

After practicing intuitive eating for many months, I caught myself examining a food label at the store. I had recently made peace with bagels and cream cheese and was at the store buying more cream cheese when I saw Neufchatel cheese on the shelf right next to it. It claimed to be like cream cheese but with less fat; the nutrition label confirmed this. I did notice that cream cheese was a bit rich for me, so I decided to try this alternative bagel spread. To my surprise, it was more pleasing to my palate. But then I began to wonder whether or not this was my eating disordered thoughts bubbling to the surface.

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Swallowing a Bitter Pill

Swallowing a Bitter Pill

When I had an eating disorder, I was so wrapped up in the details of dieting that I could ignore all of those other pesky feelings that threatened to come to the surface. My mood was low, but dieting consumed my life to the point that it distracted me from that feeling.1 I’m grateful that intuitive eating provided relief in the sense that I no longer fought with food and my body, but I then began to feel the weight of my depression.

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Vanity Sizing: I Fell For It!

Vanity Sizing: I Fell For It!

I stood in front of the mirror at the wedding gown store wearing what would end up being my wedding dress. Everything about it was beautiful: the cut, the pearls, the lacy veil. I loved it all….except the dress size. When the clerk saw my face drop as I read the label, she quickly explained that wedding dresses are true to size and that our everyday clothes are incorrect. That made me feel a little better, but seeing that larger number took something away from the once-in-a-lifetime experience of finding the perfect wedding dress.

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There’s More Than One Type of Hunger?!

There’s More Than One Type of Hunger?!

 

When I was young, I was told that we have five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. This not something that I ever questioned and took it at face value. I believed this to be true until the day a teacher told me that we actually have many ways to sense touch. Once she explained that touch included sensations such as pressure, temperature, and vibrations, I rolled my eyes at myself and thought “Well, of course!” This same idea, that something can be more complex once you look deeper, applied to how I looked at my hunger after years of restrictive dieting behaviors.

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Living in the Present

Living in the Present

I had my yearly physical exam a few weeks ago and, while I was waiting for the doctor to show up, I noticed a display on the backside of the door. It listed all of the signs of stress, and, because I’m in occasional denial about my stress level, I decided to go through each one and see if it applied to me. I predicted I would only tick off a few. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Of all of the signs of stress, I was experiencing about 90% them on a regular basis. The doctor showed up before that could really sink in, but, on the drive home, I began to think about that display and wonder why I was so stressed out and what can I do about it.

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