Sunday, February 3, 2013

Binge, restrict, repeat: stopping the cycle.

I have received several emails lately asking me how I stopped binging.. Most of these emails have come from young women who suffered from a restrictive eating disorder and are now developing a binging problem. This post will be directed towards this group; however, the message can be applied to anyone in recovery for any eating disorder and/or addiction.

When it comes to binging, most of us feel shame, regret, and a certain degree of self-hatred. And binging is especially strange and difficult for those that once had anorexia or bulimia and later develop a binging problem. To spend so long telling yourself that food is the enemy, only to develop the problem of not being able to stop eating is a big change.

When I first started binging, I did not understand what was happening. I was anorexic, yet I occasionally snuck away at night to eat jars upon jars of peanut butter? It didn't make sense to me.
I approached my dietitian, and she told me that my body needed this food in order to recover. I had deprived myself of too many calories and nutrients, and my body was going to get them any way it could.
I was not okay with this explanation, but on some level I understood the reasoning.

However, as time went on, binging became even more of a problem. I noticed that as I moved farther into recovery from anorexia, I was moving deeper into binge eating disorder.
Binging was no longer about getting my body calories and nutrients. It became a way for me to fill a hole, to numb whatever feeling it was that I wanted to avoid.

If my boyfriend and I had a fight, I would binge. If my mother relapsed, I would binge. If I didn't make a good grade on a test, if I wasn't the best in the workout that day, if my friends did not ask me to hang out.. Soon, everything became a reason for me to binge. I couldn't picture going to bed at night without binging.

And how did I combat this horrendous habit? By exercising and restricting, of course!
I was not going to let my body gain all the weight that I had surely put on the night before by binging! I  would tell myself that the day after a binge I would have to revert to restricting.
The night of a binge I would consume maybe 2500 extra calories, on top of what I had already eaten that day, so it made sense to me that the day after a binge I should consume 500 calories or less, to balance it out.


Even if I did eat only 500 calories the next day, the following day I would binge, thereby repeating the cycle.

If you really want to solve this problem, you have to get to the root of it.
You cannot possibly get better by continuing to punish your body.
You must ask yourself, "Why did this binge happen? Did something trigger me? Did I just want to eat? Did I not let myself eat as much as I wanted during the day today (if the binge occurs at night)? Is there something that I feel pressured to do? Did I binge because I feel inadequate about something?"

Think over these questions, giving yourself ample time to answer them. Maybe write down your thoughts- that has always helped me. And then what?
Yes, I know that must be so hard, knowing that you screwed up so bad and you can't counteract what you have done. But trust me, forgiving yourself is the key to stopping this destructive disorder.

I remember hating myself so much for binging. Little did I know that this self-hatred was the reason behind my problem!
My eating disorder began to melt away as I learned to forgive myself, allowing myself slip-ups, and appreciating all of my small accomplishments.
I finally let go of binge eating when I realized that I did not HAVE to be perfect nor did I have to be thin.

Eating disorders cannot exist if you accept yourself. No one struggling with an eating disorder loves who they are; that goes against the whole idea of the disorder.

So my advice to you is to cut yourself some slack. Appreciate the things you do right. Write down 5 things you love about yourself. Write down reasons to appreciate your body. Allow yourself to eat the food that you fear the most, the food that you binge on. Eat it throughout the day, in small amounts. If you overindulge on this food, don't give up. Continue to eat it, even if it scares you, because isn't that what recovery is about: facing your fears, stepping out of your comfort zone, and exploring the world around you?

One last thing, you are going to fail. You are going to mess up. It's not going to be easy. But you can get through this. You can get better. You can recover.

Just keep swimming.
xoxo Haley

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Visible (Holiday) Progress

3 Christmases ago I started dieting.
2 Christmases ago I was recovering from anorexia, but still severely restricting.
Last Christmas I binged until I wanted to puke.
Today I did not restrict, and I did not eat past the point of being full. I never thought this would have been possible when I was struggling with either of my eating disorders. It seemed like I would never get better. I especially would not have believed my food choices. I would have been repulsed to learn that I ate green bean casserole, mac and cheese, turkey, peas, pies, and fudge. But today I am so joyful, and proud.

My brother recently asked me if I would take back the time I spent in my eating disorder if I could.. Of course it was a horrible time in my life, but I don't think I would because it made me who I am today.
I am a happier person; I am a better person.
I love who I am.

Mary Oliver, The Journey

Merry Christmas, loves

Monday, December 10, 2012

Recovering from Binge Eating Disorder

I had this whole post written about how I've been doing lately, but it sounded just like the others of the past few months, and I feel that it is unfair that I so often discuss the progress I have made in recovery, yet I barely wrote on my struggle with my second eating disorder.

So I'm going to do something different; I am going to be completely honest and vulnerable in discussing my struggles with binge eating disorder.

I used to write this way, when discussing my struggles with anorexia, but once I developed binge eating disorder I was much more vague and tried to hide my problems. I was ashamed.

This brings up the question, why is it more acceptable for someone to have anorexia rather than binge eating disorder? Why does society idealize small bodies and assume that all those that are bigger are that way due to laziness?

Looking back, it saddens me that I hated myself so much for having binge eating disorder.
Of course I didn't like myself much when I was anorexic either, but it does not compare to the self-loathing I experienced with binge eating disorder.
When I was struggling with anorexia, I knew that it was a disease. It wasn't ME that decided that I shouldn't eat; it was Ed (my eating disorder).
When I was struggling with binge eating disorder, I felt like a failure, like it was all my fault that I gave in to the craving of chocolate chip cookies at midnight.

However, binge eating disorder is a mental illness just like any other, and it had me do things that I would never have done otherwise.
I was constantly preoccupied. I wasn't able to concentrate on anything other than food for long periods of time. Countless nights I would be tucked in bed, ready to sleep, but I could not because there was this uncontrollable urge to jump out of bed and grab a jar of peanut butter or a half gallon of ice cream, and most of the time I gave in.
I would write notes to myself next to my jars of peanut butter.

Haley, don't do this. 
Everything in Moderation. 
You will feel sick to your stomach. 
This will make you a slow runner.
You will hate yourself for this.

I would throw my binge foods away if I had too much that day, but later that night I would find myself digging through the trash just to get the half jar of Nutella that I had so hastily 'wasted'.
And no tactic seemed to work. People told me to take a walk, call a friend, draw a picture, write (okay, that one may have helped for short periods of time), but for the most part these techniques didn't do anything.
You see, I did not want to take a walk. I wanted to eat. I wanted to numb the pain of loneliness, of self-hatred.
I would eat until I could not eat anymore and then go back an hour later and eat even more.
I once skipped a test to binge. I once binged the night before and morning of a cross country race.
Binging was the only way I knew to cope with my day-to-day life.
And I could not admit this to anyone because I was too ashamed.

I think social stigma definitely comes into play with most mental illnesses, and eating disorders are no exception. And within the eating disorder category, there are different ideas about each disorder.
Like I mentioned earlier, those struggling with binge eating disorder may have it worst as far as society goes because they look like normal or 'fat' people. Many may think they are overweight because they eat too much, and that's their fault.
But binge eating disorder is not something that you can simply rid yourself of once you realize that you don't want to eat so much. It will not go away when you decide that you want to be healthy. It is a serious problem that many people face, and it is not easily defeated.

And that brings me to the question I am asked so often, now that I don't struggle near as much with Ed thoughts or behaviors, "How did you recover?"
Honestly, I don't have a definite answer to that question. 
As far as my recovery from BED goes, I did go to a couple therapy sessions, but mostly I stayed in the hole that Ed had dug for me until I could no longer stand it.
My recovery from anorexia was different because I found it easier to seek help. I went to therapy every week, and I also saw a dietitian.
I do wish I had had the courage to seek help when recovering from binge eating disorder, but like I said, I couldn't bring myself to speak out.
So I'm speaking out now. I know it's late, but I want all those struggling to know that there is a way out. You can get through the lies Ed feeds you.
You cannot believe him (Ed) when he tells you that you are not beautiful, intelligent, humorous, or fun to be around.

I reach a recovered state when I stopped believing Ed's lies. I stopped listening to this stupid voice in my head telling me I was good enough.
I grew tired of hating myself; I learned to forgive myself for my mistakes.
I forgave myself for the unhealthy amount of weight I had lost or gained. I forgave myself for binging or starving myself instead of doing more important things, like going out with my friends. And I forgave myself for developing eating disorder after eating disorder.

Every day was a challenge, but a day without a binge, or even a day with a smaller binge, was a good day.
I celebrated the small victories, like 24 hours binge-free. I remember being so proud of myself when I could hold out for at least one day.
Eventually I noticed the period of time between relapses was growing larger, and I gained hope.
I took each relapse as a learning experience. I pinpointed my triggers, and I tried my best to stay away from those.
I believed in my heart that recovery was possible, just like it was with my anorexia, and eventually I did get there.
I am proud to say that I cannot remember my last binge. It has been a hot minute. :)

I did not write the last paragraph or this post to brag; I wrote it because sometimes people need to know that others have struggled with the same things they do and have come out stronger because of it.
I hope you can be that inspiration for someone someday.

xxx Haley

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Only human

I am a human. I make mistakes. I gossip. I judge. I can be hypocritical.

I don't have everything figured out.

I look for love in the wrong places. I end up hurt or used or left stranded. Or just the opposite.. I use, I leave, I hurt.

I often feel like I have to be so strong for others, but now I am feeling weak.

I escape into books and poems and movies and music because sometimes these stories are easier than the life I have made for myself.

Maybe this is how it is for everyone. Maybe not.
But I need to stay on these escapades just a little longer.
My heart needs a break.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"What a difference a year makes.."

So ya know how people say 'What a difference a year makes'?
The past few months when I have seen or heard that phrase, I have sadly thought, yea.. it sure does.
A year ago I was running fast times on a team with the only people I had really known in college, I was in love with a serious boyfriend, my family wasn't in the financial situation we now face, and I wasn't freaking out about being accepted to a PhD clinical psychology program.
So I obviously chose to focus on the positive aspects of my past and the negative situations of the present when confronted with this statement.

However, this past weekend I was in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia with an environmental group called "Mountain Justice", and I had a good bit of time to think about things.
The cycle of life for a tree is so beautiful.
First of all, this time last year I was not at all involved in any type of environmental movement. I was vice president of Earth Club in high school, and I have always recycled and urged others to do so, but I haven't done much at all in my college years to help with preserving this beautiful earth we live on.
That has changed over the course of just a couple months. I have gone to two environmental conferences, and I am really passionate about Students for a Sustainable Campus, our club at school. I have met so many awesome people from it, and I feel like I'm standing for something that really means something and can possibly change the world. I feel whole when I'm engaging in activism, and I love it.
Fellow environmentalists just hanging out in the mountains :)
Another key difference between this year and last year is the fact that a once overwhelming fear of food is now completely diminished, and with that the fear of living life to it's fullest!
At the summit this past weekend they served things like diced potatoes and eggs for breakfast, sandwiches and fruit for lunch, rice with lentils and greens for supper, and pumpkin pie for dessert. And being true to my character as a food lover, I had first and sometimes second helpings of all of them.

However, even last year at this time I would have been very anxious eating most of this food because while it may be 'healthy', it is not low-calorie or 'diet friendly'. And for so long that was how I lived.
Even in recovery, I bought 100-calorie english muffins rather than the whole wheat english muffins that were a mere 20 extra calories. Not until this summer was I able to say, *excuse the obscene language here* What the fuck am I doing?! What does it matter that this piece of bread is 120 calories rather than 100? It is better for me and it TASTES better!

Anyway, things like that held me back for three years. If I had gone to this conference any other time in my college career I would have hung back when they rang the bell for meal time.. I would not have been okay with stopping at Burger King on the way home because we were running late for our bus and that was the only food available by the gas station.. And most of all I would have spent all of this time preoccupied with the stupid, completely invalid idea that I do not deserve to eat like the rest of the population, thereby crawling deeper and deeper into these self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.
On the way to WV :)
So yea, I have much to be proud of in regards to this past year. I have opened myself up to all kinds of experiences. I left the only social circle and life that I knew. I have met new people, most of them wonderful. I have allowed myself to love and receive love in return, and sometimes I ended up hurt, but that's all part of living.
You see, it took completely leaving my eating disorder behind to accomplish all of this, and I have not once regretted my decision to recover.

As for the stressful situations lingering over me these days, what are they compared to what I have gone through (kicking a mental disorder's ASS in order to win my life back)? I'd say not much.. :)


Monday, October 1, 2012

A friend's suicide attempt

One of my best friends tried to commit suicide yesterday.
She called last night to tell me this news and that she is going to a rehab center in her home state (hundreds of miles from me).
As soon as I got off the phone, I was a total wreck.. couldn't eat or move.. just totally numb.
She texted me this morning before she left for rehab saying, 
"I am safe now and will recover. You're my best friend Haley, I love you. I want to get better so I'll be alive and able to come see you and take you out and smile and take pictures in person."
I want all of those things for her, too. I cannot describe to you how much I want those things.

I feel like a piece of my heart is missing. This girl is the most gorgeous, intelligent, witty, unique, and creative person I have ever come across. It's so hard for me to come up with a reason for all of the sadness that has been dwelling inside her these past few weeks. She didn't deserve any of it.

One of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver
All day, guilt has overcome me whenever I catch myself smiling or laughing, while this beautiful friend of mine is struggling.
However, I know that she wouldn't want me to be sad. Honestly, she would probably be upset with me for putting my life on hold for something like this. But I can't help my aching heart.
I just wish I was with her. I wish I could hug her so tightly that she could actually feel the love I have for her emanating from my insides.

I don't know what else to say right now.. other than I am happy each of you are alive to be reading this. Life is a precious gift, not to be wasted worrying over things that won't matter a lifetime, or even a year, from now.
I'm going to continue living mine, for myself and for my friend.

P.S. Greg Laswell's song 'Comes and Goes' is very relevant and has been in my head all day. Maybe you'll enjoy it as much as I do.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Changing me, changing blog. For the good! :)

This blog has changed so much as time has elapsed.
It started as my recovery blog. I wrote on my own anorexic thoughts and behaviors that were apparent to me, and I tried to correct and/or eliminate them.
Somehow I gained a group of followers, mostly from the eating disorder community, and we all made the transition to recovery together. *Btw, this group of people was and continues to be tremendously influential in my life and journey towards recovery*
As time wore on, I noticed changes in myself, specifically when it came to my mental and physical health.
I was no longer numb, hiding behind my skeletal frame and the abundance of nutrition-based knowledge I had attained.
I became exposed to the world as is.. No, it's not all morning sunshine, unicorns, and rainbows. But the real world also doesn't come close to resembling the dark, bleak prison my mind had become with anorexia.
I don't really know where to insert these random, recent pictures. So they'll just kinda be scattered throughout.
Anyway, an old picture from summer vacation, but it was great :)
As I progressed in recovery, I noticed things that once interested me no longer had the same effect.
While I once watched food network (and just thought of food) constantly, I now hardly turn on the television, let alone watch any show having to deal with food or health. *Exception: the past few days I have been slightly addicted to the show 'Breaking Bad' which is no bueno considering I'm in the middle of the school year AND grad school applications, but still. It's good stuff. :)*
I also went through exercise compulsion while in the midst of anorexia. However, the fact that I was on the track team allowed for this obsession to be seen as nothing more than extreme dedication to the sport. Compare this exercise routine to the one I have now (which lately has basically been nonexistent) and you would be surprised to learn that I am the same person.
I scream for ice cream, especially when it comes in a 3 gallon tub.
I was also in a very serious relationship throughout my journey of entering and exiting the mindset of a person defined by anorexia and/or binge eating disorder. And there is definitely something to be said about everything I put that boy through. He was the most supportive, loving, and patient boyfriend I could have asked for. But I used my relationship with him as a buffer for the real world. I put everything I had in that relationship, and so when it fell apart, so did I. Yet, after all is said and done, this breakup/breakdown was for the best because it meant that I had to pick myself up and put myself back together in whatever way, shape, or form I pleased.

So these past few years I have been defined by these things: eating, running, and my relationship with my boyfriend. And now that I am finally separated from these things, I feel as if the world has truly opened up for me. I have no limits on who or what I can be. I'm not a runner. I'm not a young woman in a painful battle with herself. I'm not Connor's girlfriend, either. I'm Haley. And I've had to find out who that is.
It's a frightening yet strangely liberating feeling to be the navigator of your own path.
P.s. I love baking. And then eating what I bake ;)
This was supposed to be a short introduction, but of course I've rambled. Anyway, this is all to say that I don't really know what the purpose of this blog is anymore, other than I like to post things from time to time. I don't deal with too many issues with eating these days, and I'm not out running super crazy fast times. So I feel like some of the people that once enjoyed checking my blog to read about these things will no longer care. But that's okay.
I just wanted to point out that I have changed, and my blog is probably going to change with me.

Now, I know I have to play catch up a little bit because some of you want to hear about what's going on in my world these days!
Hmm.. well I am no longer on the track team, as I mentioned in a recent post, but I am still busier than ever! 
I am in a club called Students for a Sustainable Campus, and I was recently elected as Media Team Leader for the group! I am really excited about it. I love the mission of SSC and I feel like our goals are definitely attainable in making Mississippi State a green-friendly campus. :)
My roommate/"biffle" Teresa is also in SSC
I am also writing for LIBERO NETWORK, a not-for-profit online magazine and resource site that brings awareness to and support for those recovering from eating disorders, depression, addiction, anxiety & abuse. I love this organization! I submit 1-2 articles per month, so it's not too big of a commitment, but I feel like I'm doing my small part in the fight against mental illness and abusive thoughts and behaviors. I also manage the tumblr page for Libero, which is no problem since tumblr is basically my favorite thing next to peanut butter and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ;)
*P.s. I am still freaking out about last night's Saturday Night Live episode. I'm not ashamed to say I want to have Joe's babies.*

Along with Libero and SSC, I am in a clinical psychology research lab at school, and I do about ten hours of work per week with various projects in the lab. It's exciting, and it makes me anxious for graduate school next fall!
Speaking of which, the major stressor of this semester has to be the grad school application process. I have decided that I want to get my PhD in Clinical Psychology, specifically studying and working with eating disorders.
I know that many people would be weary of entering an environment focused on eating disorders considering my history, but I feel like it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I find so much joy in helping others, and it must be so comforting for those struggling to know that someone has been in their current situation and has come out as the victor. I want to be that person.

Another reason I think it's fine that I am involved in the eating disorder recovery community is because I have finally separated thinking of anything eating disorder related when it comes to my day-to-day life. I have found an identity separate from my eating disorders. Sure, sometimes I remind myself that I am Haley, the recovered anorexic and binge eater. But I am proud of where I come from because it's made me who I am. And for the most part that is the bubbly, smiley, crazy Haley. I am the roommate that laughs too loud when others are trying to do homework or sleep, and that's a problem I am happy to have. *Although I am supposed to be working on my volume control when in these giggling fits ;)*

So that's my mini life update. I hope you find it to your liking. But if not, that's okay, too. :)
<3 Haley

P.s. You can always contact me through facebook or if you ever need (or just want) to chat! xoxo