Any of you who know me understand that I can’t stand celebrities like the Kardashians. I don’t touch reality TV with a 10 foot pole, and basically think it’s the breakdown of American society. So I paid little attention when she became pregnant. I paid a little more attention when I found out they are naming the baby “North”, (read: full name is North West. Want to commit heinous crimes.) and I paid a LOT more attention when photos like this surfaced:
…And of course, critique ensued. “She’s bingeing on cake, pasta and cereal!” “She looks fat!” BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Whoop de ding. Another female on this planet is pregnant, and she’s gaining weight. NO. WAY.
The joke’s on you, you dumbass media. You’re busy being all sick and gossipy, and Kim probably doesn’t give two sh*$s because she has every maternity designer and personal trainer at her fingertips. And we don’t give two sh%$s because we’ve gotten pregnant too.
Just lay off. Pregnancy is not a story anymore. A million women have gained weight and pushed babies out. Go find something more interesting to report on. I hear there’s a small situation in North Korea going on right now.
I’ll never forget the way I felt when I saw the “Yes” on the pregnancy test screen. First there was disbelief, then panic, then later, after crying in a dazed state to my best friend and mother, joy. I had anticipated this for a long time; I had ALWAYS wanted to be a mother. But I anticipated this with dread and happiness simultaneously. Happiness, because I knew I would (minus the learning curve) be a great mother, and dread, because I didn’t know how I’d react to the weight gain, being in eating disorder recovery.
I seemed to worry less about my weight during the pregnancy. I think (and most doctors would shudder at this) I looked on it as the one time I could eat whatever I want and it wouldn’t matter. It was such an escape from my ED, in a sense. Society was cool with me getting bigger. I DID have to stop myself from calculating possible weight gain in my head, however (“If I’ve gained a pound a week then I’ll be X amount of pounds by nine months…AHHH!”) I was proud of myself though; I faced the numbers on the scale every couple of weeks and for the most part, left them at the OBGYN office. I didn’t hold back on eating.
But I worried incessantly about how quick my body would bounce back after. How long would it take to lose X amount of weight? Was I screwing myself by now by not curtailing what I ate? As soon as I gave birth, I looked down at my confused, tired stomach and wondered if it would ever change from it’s current war-torn state.
And I proceeded to have the strangest experience. The weight dropped off like NOTHING. I know, I know, you can call me a bitch if you want, but it was like a giant F%#$ you to my eating disorder. I had been obsessing about how I would lose weight, and my body ended up taking care of for me. This began my admiration for the power of the human body.
I marveled at how I simply produced milk for my daughter. I was astounded by the healing powers of my body when I, six weeks later, was able to run a mile after, well….let’s just say: there were some blood loss issues. And I was impressed again, when my body truly resumed its pre-pregnancy form post-breastfeeding. I have a trainer acquaintance who swears up and down that weight loss or gain is all hormone-related; I’m beginning to believe this. Hormones, in my opinion, are NUTS! (I’m sure my significant other, John, would attest to that. Notice that I’m not talking about the emotional piece of my pregnancy. That’s another book for another time. Ahem.)
Bottom line…I feel sexier now that I had a child. Even if I don’t look stereotypically sexier. Before you think I’m a total Pollyanna, you should know it’s not 80% of the day, when I’m in a shirt that’s been thrown-up on (holy acid reflux, my Fiona had) or my hair looks like Mom hair or when I’m wearing flannels next to John. It’s moments when I’m walking down the street to my job, and I realize, “I gave birth, goddamnit! And I’m still here!” Seriously, does anyone else take pride in that? I sure as hell do.
I think the other piece of it the lack of appreciation I had for my body pre-pregnancy. I just didn’t know what I had. This amazing, regenerating, life-giving machine that was capable of so much strength. But because I believed that it was just to be looked at…I hid it.
I don’t have perfect body image. No way. I have this little dimpled section of skin above my belly button that is a leftover physical mark of pregnancy. Do I wish it was there? Of course not. But I’m pretty damn amazed that I was able to push a baby out. I’m…proud of myself. I’m proud of my body. And after 14 years of criticizing my body, I’m pleasantly surprised at that.
I know this isn’t everyone’s experience. I’ve talked to friends who struggle with body image after giving birth. (I’m convinced whether you gain or lose weight during or after pregnancy is one big genetic, hormonal crapshoot.) I just wish for all of them that they can feel empowered after what they did. Cause I “still got it”, and so do you.
It’s in your kitchen. It’s speaking loudly to you. It arrived yesterday along with your child’s well-meaning Grandmother. Encased in tupperware, its delicious morsels are of the chocolate kind, and are drenched in a sweet icing glaze. Even worse, there are 20 of them.
(Cue Jaws music*)
You go to the kitchen. “I’m going to have some yogurt and fruit,” you say nonchalantly to yourself. You go to the fridge, and eye the tupperware. “I’ll just have a bite,” you think. “It’s so much easier than cutting the pineapple up.” You take one out.
And then you binge, or emotionally eat. They’re all gone in a matter of minutes.
Bingeing, or emotional eating, is one of the most shame-driven behaviors, in my humble opinion. Not that many people talk about it, or when they do, grimace and look to the side as if to apologize for themself. I think it may be harder for SAHM’s or for individuals who have little structure during the day. What else are going to do during the day? What other escape do you have while your 2 year old is taking a too-short half hour nap? So you binge.
Well, I’m here to talk about it and to deflate the secret: I’ve done it. It’s gotten a LOT better than it used to be, but it still happens from time to time. What has changed is the POWER food doesn’t have over me as often. When we are stricken by an ED or emotionally eat, food has legitimate power over us. So the goal of this post is to make brownies your bitch, not vice versa. Or donuts, or frosting straight from the can.
Now this may sound like I want you to get to the point where you say, “Mwa ha ha! I will never eat brownies again! They are evil!” This is not what I’m after. I’m after you eating brownies when you want, and then having the power to put them down when your body tells you you’re full. Here are some tips that have worked for me.
Call someone. Shameful behaviors thrive in isolation. It may be the last thing that you want to do, but calling a trusted someone and divulging that you’re about to binge will probably take the power away from the donuts you stashed away in the cupboard. And hell, you may even get a chuckle from hearing your friend’s last dating escapade. I guarantee you, if you can connect with someone, you will probably not want to binge at the end of it.
Freeze any binge food. I once heard about this trick from someone I was in treatment with. If you couldn’t resist the urge to buy binge food, stick it in the freezer once you get home. That way, if you really want to binge, it’s gonna take a lot of effort to do it. And knowing that the average urge to binge or drink lasts 30 minutes from start to finish, you may have beaten your urge by the time you defrost it.
Go for a walk. It may seem counterintuitive, but healthy exercise can fight a binge or purge feeling. If you’re addicted to exercise, I don’t recommend using this. But if you are able to curtail the amount of walking you do, it may help. Endorphins rush out when we exercise, making us happier and usually less likely to utilize harmful behaviors.
Take up knitting. Or embroidery. Or checkers. Or anything that makes your hands work! I’m not exactly sure of the science behind this, but when we use our hands to produce or make something, a different part of the brain is activated and it takes us out of that “swirly-racing-thoughts-head-space” and into the present. And when we are in the present, we are calmer, less anxious and less depressed.
Keep a journal. Document the times you are most likely to binge. Do you see a pattern? Is it before your therapy session? Is it only at night? Finding out the trigger for your binges may help you to fight them better. For example, if it is at night, perhaps you can find an out-of-the-house activity that takes place in the evenings.
I hope some of these help. For me, using some of the simple activities gave me the space to examine what my core emotional issues were behind the food. And once I discovered those, I realized that food was just a symptom of the problem, and the power was driven out of it. Food didn’t serve the purpose it once did.
And then (at least 80% of the time), brownies were MY bitch.
*Don’t take this cue as me saying that food or sweets are evil; this post is about bingeing, and what I mean to say that bingeing can be harmful.
This is my Dad and I at a St. Patrick’s Day party last night. Before I ramble on about my latest food thought, I feel the need to introduce him, because he’s led a pretty amazing life. Born before the Great Depression (83 years old), he was a pilot in the Air Force (I got to go up in a Cessna with him when I was 10), an actor and theater critic who hung out with Charlton Heston pre-crazy-NRA-ness, and a member of the crowd who saw John F. Kennedy before he turned the street corner in Dallas and was shot. It is hard to see him in the later years of his life; his speech, hearing and eyesight are severely limited. Through the crap, I occasionally see glimpses of his old self: stubborn, curious, spirited, strong-willed, adventurous. In other words, a whole lot of me.
Another way we are similar is our enjoyment of sweets. Ha. Which leads me to the thought I came up with running today. Long story short, I did not hold back with the food and/or desserts last night. (Which honestly, I usually don’t at holiday gatherings, because, it’s one frickin day). And I felt it this morning. My stomach was a little messed up from the sugar, but nothing bad. It was like a little reminder from my body – “Hey, don’t do that again anytime soon.”
That led me to thinking about feeling badly in general. Emotionally and physically. In life, there are natural ebbs and flows to our moods – some days we’re feeling pretty damn confident, and some we’re feeling pretty insecure. Doesn’t the same go for our bodies? Can we really expect our physical bodies to feel healthy and toned and “just full enough” 100% of the time? No. Sometimes, we’re going to feel physical pain due to an ebb and flow in lifestyle. Now, I’m not recommending we all binge on sugar every night because it’s an “ebb”, but I think it happens because we’re human. We’re not perfect body robots.
I have noticed, as of late, that our society tends to not want to feel bad at all. We don’t want to sit with pain or discomfort. Like my friend Alexandra said, there are diets that promote quick fixes (read: you don’t have to sit with the pain of your real, emotional food issues and instead get a band-aid fix), there is airbrushing that takes away anything that isn’t perfect, and there are eating disorders to numb out the root issues that fuel it. We all produce and run at an insane pace everyday, and in turn avoid sitting quietly with ourselves for two minutes, paying attention to what we’re really feeling.
Anyway, I’m getting a little vague, but I’ll explain what I mean this way. My Dad always told me, “We (my mother and he) will love you no matter what wrong you did in life.” I’m gonna treat my appetite and body the same way. Because it isn’t perfect but it usually hits the mark when I listen to it and treat it right.
So, I have to confess, I’m annoyed on a daily basis.
Every day, I hear about another celebrity or friend or whoever getting on a new, fad diet.*
And it’s so frustrating because I know – this person will come back to me a month later, discouraged, saying, “Why did I end up binging? I just can’t eat healthy.” Or we’ll see the celebrity have a lifelong struggle with rollercoaster weight gains and losses after 305 Jenny Craig trials. And I get mad – because I know my dear friend – or even this celebrity that’s been hounded by critics and paparazzi and assholes – CAN eat healthy. It is easily within their power. If only they’d stop dieting!
The thing I find especially crazy about diets is that a great deal of them these days ask you to cut one, or two food groups out of your nutrition.
The Paleo diet advises that you eat only what hunters and gatherers eat (meat, nuts, vegetables – this means NO dairy and NO sugar except fruit). As a mother, this is crazy to me – I’m not going to stand in front of my kid and say, “You drink your milk, honey, but Mommy doesn’t drink any or eat any dairy!” Also, it doesn’t encourage oatmeal, which would probably be a good idea to eat when you’re only eating meat, as it scrubs cholesterol from your body.
Let’s look at the popular South Beach Diet. Ah, the land of no carbs. This is also bullshit, because there are good carbs, like whole grain bread and fruit. I’ve tried this before – WHEN I WAS ACTIVELY ANOREXIC. It’s not sustainable. Healthy carbs keep us full until our next meal. Also, can you imagine not eating a piece of cake at your son or daughter’s birthday? I can’t. I might even eat ANOTHER piece of cake 😉
Can I even talk about cleanses without rolling my eyes? This, to me, is idiocy. We don’t need anything to clean our body out – our body’s organs do it naturally. I contend that people do it to “feel” thin in the same way they claim they can “feel” fat – they want to feel pure because nothing is going into their systems. Well, except for cayenne powder and tabasco sauce or, whatever. So, great, you’re going to starve yourself, and set yourself up for a binge, and deny your body what it needs to function. Good for you.
You know who doesn’t recommend any of these methods? Nutritionists and doctors. When I was in treatment for my ED, I was advised to have three meals and three snacks a day, complete with whole grains, meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and – god forbid – dessert! Now, the portions have to be reasonable, and you’re not generally advised to consume soda or corned beef hash on a daily basis – but you can eat or drink everything once in a while.
Is it that people are looking for the next quick fix? Is is that they can’t sit with uncomfortable feelings when feeling full? Is it that, in our extreme-based country, we feel the need to meet obesity-causing McDonald’s food with anorexia-causing cleanses? Why do we need to cut something out to be healthy? Isn’t health about balance? Incorporating everything within reason?
You tell me. I need some feedback. Why do we diet?
*Please note this is not a personal attack on anyone. I realize diets may work for a few, and not everyone succeeds doing things my way. I get annoyed because I get triggered by diet talk, and because I watch people try something that doesn’t work over and over again, at the cost of their mental and physical health. I get annoyed because I want to change it.