Friday, March 8, 2013

A bit of memoir: Walk everywhere, eat according to plan

This is a bit of memoir about a time when I probably had a type of eating disorder, or was moving towards developing one, though I’ve never discussed it with a doctor.
I don’t know whether or not the eating habits I developed were related to my OCD. According to an article on the website of the International OCD Foundation, eating disorders and OCD are separate disorders, but they have things in common.
Thankfully, after this particular time period passed, I never had the problem again.
But when I remember this time, I remember it almost as a warning to myself.
***
Walk, walk, walk. Walk fast, keep walking. Walk, walk, walk. No buses. No cars. Just walk. Walk, walk, walk.
Walk off those calories. Walk off what I eat. Walk off those calories.
Eat according to plan. Eat according to plan. Eat according to plan.

That was my mantra for the first semester of my second year in college. Walk everywhere. And eat according to plan.
Things were not going well.
I had moved out of my first suite and into another suite with three new women. While they were nice and we got along, it was a change, and I wasn’t handling change very well.
I wasn’t handling anything very well. I walked around in a fog, unhappy and hopeless. I was afraid of everyone and everything. I went to class, I did my homework. And not much else.
But I did walk everywhere, and I did eat according to plan.

I had been to the doctor’s office the previous summer and my mother had found out that I had gained 10 pounds during my first year of college. She expressed how she felt about it—“I knew you had gained weight”—telling me that if I didn’t watch it, I would gain more.
I wasn’t overweight, but I decided to lose weight and get back down to my starting college weight, which was really underweight.

I started out by counting calories. I knew the calorie counts of all the foods I ate, and I ate pretty much the same things day after day, at the same time of the day, day after day.
I wrote down everything I ate and the calories and constantly added them up during the day. And I felt particularly successful if I could keep the calorie count low.

I lived in campus housing away from where the classrooms were. I could have taken a campus bus to class. But I didn’t want to be on a crowded bus. And I wanted to walk the calories off.
So I walked to class every day, and went early so I could avoid walking through the bigger crowds of other students.
I remember every morning at around 10 a.m. I had a break between classes and sat in one of the wide windows in the classroom building and ate a cereal bar. I knew the calorie count, of course, and that would get me through until I could make it back to the apartment to eat lunch.
Because I avoided the lunchrooms on campus. I avoided being around other people except in class.

I lost weight. I got back down to my starting-college weight, and maybe even a little lower. I was definitely underweight. And tired. So tired.
But I felt triumphant, too, that I could lose the weight, that I could control what I ate and how much I moved.
The feelings of hopelessness and despair, the desire to be alone, the fear of being around others: I know for certain that I was depressed and anxious. I didn’t seek help for those things. Instead, I walked everywhere, and ate according to plan.

24 comments:

  1. Oh I can feel the pain in your words of this time, I know that pain. When I was in my twenties someone told me I was the "fat" sister. I never ate very much after that and stuck to a "plan" too, I walked and walked and rode my bike with very bad results I was anemic, more depressed than I was going in, and kept passing out just because I listened to that one word that stuck in my head. I lost twenty pounds and now weighed 70. Thinking back that was the start of my anxiety and trying to please everyone. I wish I had of figured it out before, it had nothing to do with food at all. I am still sometimes referred to as the "Fat" sister and I am OK with that. Tough being a girl sometimes. B

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    1. Buttons, thank you for your comment. That's sad that someone labeled you in a way that had such a negative effect on you. I can relate to that. And I was definitely a people-pleaser. I'm glad that we're both in better places now.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this Tina. Let's us know what our society's views of weight can do to a person. One of the blogs I follow is a person who has Anorexia and it's so eye-opening to read how people's words contributed to her initial feelings of being "overweight" to begin with.

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    1. Keith, thank you. People's words and attitudes can have such an effect on us, sometimes a negative effect.

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  3. Great post with insights, thank you!! It's not always words from someone else that can have an effect... often for me it's that negative internal voice that exacerbates anxiety and deepens depression. Using learned cognitive behavioral therapy techniques it is possible to prove that voice to be wrong. But without that effort (it honestly is an effort for me, that works better sometimes than others) - it is just so easy to believe those words.

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    1. You make a great point. The voice inside us can be harmful to us, also. Sometimes I realize that I'm verbally beating myself up and can stop myself. But when I was younger and not in treatment, I didn't even realize how harmful my own voice was.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this, Tina. I am sure it will be valuable to a lot of people. It strikes me that eating/losing weight is something that is (relatively)easy to control when so many other aspects of life might feel out of control. And of course, as you say, the words of others affect us greatly. I'm just glad that issue never went any further for you.......

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    1. Thank you, Janet. You're right. I think part of my thinking, even if it was unconscious, was that my eating and exercising were things I could control, when so much else felt like it was spinning out of control.

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  5. That sounds like such a difficult and lonely time. I'd be interested in hearing how you were able to return to a healthier way of regarding food.

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. You know, it's hard for me to remember a lot about my thinking during that time. I do remember that I felt better during my second semester that year. I was more comfortable with my roommates and was making plans to transfer colleges. I felt like I was going to be "rescued" from my plight. (Of course, my depression followed me, but that's another story.) So my eating started to become less restricted. It just gradually happened. I don't remember making a conscious decision to get healthier with my eating.

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  6. I echo Lisa's comment, Tina. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Thank you, Linda, for reading and commenting.

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  7. I'm so sorry you had such a hard time Tina. Must have felt so lonely. It still speaks out of the words you write.
    I was very thin as a young child and teenager, even though I did eat a lot. Always got remarks on how I should eat more.
    Now I'm too heavy because of all the medication and am told I must eat less! People just react without knowing the cause at all.

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    1. Thank you for your kindness, Klaaske. You make such a good point--we tend to speak out and give people advice--like "eat more" or "eat less" --without thinking about the whole person we're speaking to.

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  8. tina, you are so brave to share these stories about the difficult and painful times in your life. as i read, i wonder if it is theraputic for you, if you feel a sense of relief to share these personal details.

    i do hope it helps you!!

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    1. Thanks, Debbie. Yes, I do think it helps me to write about difficult times. But most of all, I hope to help show others that they are not alone in feeling similar pain and going through similar times. And I love making connections to readers, including you!

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  9. I'm so sorry to hear that you had such a hard time. Thanks for sharing this.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Gina, for reading and commenting.

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  10. I always learn so much from your posts, Tina. I very much appreciate your visits to A Rural Journal.

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    1. Thank you, Nancy. I have really enjoyed your blog. You are so creative with your photography and stories!

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  11. Tina, Thanks for being so open,,you are an inspiration. I had an eating disorder when I was around 15. My mother took me to the doctor because my periods stopped and the Dr. said that had nothing to do with my eating disorder. I don't know if the DR. was ill informed or if back then nobody knew what they do these days about anorexia. I remember feeling so proud that I could only eat one piece of fruit a day, it definitely was all about feeling in control for me. I can't remember anyone saying a remark to make me feel like I was overweight but I do know that people would remark on how skinny I was and how they wished they could be like me and that really fed my disorder. I don't know how I recovered from it, it seems like I just ate one day and gradually realized I didn't need to use food to make me feel in control. I think because I recovered on my own I have always wondered in the back of my mind if I had a true eating disorder but I guess it was if I only ate one fruit a day for a year.

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    1. Thank you, Krystal Lynn. That's terrible that the doctor didn't recognize the problem. I'm glad that you got better.

      I never thought of what I went through as a possible eating disorder until years afterwards. It was just like a bad period of my life that I pushed behind me.

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  12. I think it's having some kind of control over your life. I had a borderline eating order as well. I would eat very little and exercise my butt off. Starving felt good. I was in control of my body and my food intake. I was in charge of one little thing in my life. And it was killing me. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I enjoy food much more than I enjoy being in control.

    I think having your mother offer that critical comment didn't help. You were going to show her. I had critical people too.

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    1. Grace, yes, I think a sense of control had a lot to do with my problem. I felt so good being able to control that bit of my life.

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