What Does That Number Really Mean? 

numbers-738068_960_720

Again I have been marinating on this blog post for a while (I’m sensing a pattern here…). I’ve talked to my coach about it, she encouraged me to write this post, I’ve read  Beth Cormack’s post, which made me realize I’m not alone and crazy, and I’m finally facing my fear (which isn’t getting old by the way) and putting pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) in order to make this thing happen.

So what is that number I mentioned in the title?

The number I’m talking about is a lot of different things: it’s the number that appears when I step on the scale, it’s the number on the inside of my pants or on the tag of my dress, it’s the number the measuring tape reads as I wrap it around my stomach, my thighs, my butt, it’s the number I enter into MyFitnessPal (which really isn’t my Pal at all) in order to track my progress and remember what I weighed days, weeks, and months before.

This number has determined my happiness for too long. How could a silly little number do that? How could a number determine my happiness? Those 2 things should not be correlated or directly proportional. But for the longest time they have been.

“I’ll be happier when I’m skinnier. I’ll be prettier when I’m skinnier. I’ll be enough when that number gets smaller.”

Seriously? That’s the way I talk to myself? Looking at those statements above with a clear mind makes me see how unhealthy of a way that is to think. Like why can’t I be happy NOW? Why can’t I be pretty NOW? Why can’t I be enough NOW?

True fact: I can be. I can choose the more positive, happy way of thinking.

That’s easier said than done but I’m working on it.

What this number that has been the source of so much anxiety, depression and obsession is not is my self-worth. This number is not a measurement of my success or failure. This number doesn’t tell me how many friends I have or how many people love me.

My weight does not define me. My pants size does not make me unworthy. My dress size does not make me a failure. 

It’s what I think and say about that number that determines my happiness. I control my happiness.

Like honestly, who cares what that number reads? The only person who sees that number is me. The only person who truly cares about that number is me. When I meet someone for the first time they don’t ask me, “Hey, how much do you weigh?” When I apply for a job there’s no blank line to enter my pants size. Why not?

Because no one cares about that number.

But do you know what people actually care about? They care about my heart. They care about how I treat other people. They care about the value I am providing them. They care about my happiness. They also care about themselves (which is normal and totally fine).

*Newsflash Nance:* Other people aren’t focusing on me like I am focusing on myself (blog post about this to follow).

That number is higher than it has ever been before. So what? No one else cares about that number. And I shouldn’t either.

With extra weight, I am still worthy of my own love and kindness. It’s not the weight that is the issue, it’s the way I see the weight that is the issue. It’s not the weight that is the issue, it’s what I do that creates the weight gain that is the issue.

That ever increasing or constantly fluctuating number is not an evil thing. That number is a message from my body. My weight is a guide, it’s feedback from my body about what is going on.

I’ve allowed that number to make me feel a certain way for a long time. I’ve given that number power. And I didn’t even notice it. I thought it was normal. I thought it was motivation to keep going or to get back on track. I looked forward to weighing myself, to getting on that scale every morning after I used the bathroom and before I drank any water.

It was my sacred ritual.

Well guess what, I’m making a new scared ritual. It’s called loving myself. No matter what that number is-on the scale, on my pants, on my dress, my new sacred ritual is to love myself and be happy with myself (and that of course includes being happy with and loving my body).

I haven’t weighed myself in weeks. I’ve felt tempted to get the scale down from the shelf in the bathroom and weigh myself just to see what the number reads, just out of curiosity.

But I know weighing myself won’t serve me. 

Regardless of what the number is, higher than I expect or lower than I expect, I won’t be happy. In her book, Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed, Lisa Lewtan describes the discomfort I feel no matter what the number reads. She says, “For many of us, the moment we see a number on the scale and start to think, “I need to lose weight fast,” is the moment we start eating everything in sight…On the other hand, when I saw a lower number, I would be so happy that I somehow rationalized I could eat more and would end up self-sabotaging my efforts by indulging all the more.”

An important thing I want to mention here is that this isn’t the case for everyone. Some people have a healthy relationship with the scale and it is a useful tool for them. They can weigh themselves regularly, track their progress with a smile, and be happy and healthy. But I have recently realized this isn’t the case for me.

As Lisa so perfectly describes, ” For some [aka me]… the scale is a weapon of mass destruction.”

This mass destruction for me manifests as the feelings of depression, unworthiness, guilt, disappointment and shame that lead to binging. So why actively contribute to these feelings by stepping on the scale?

Awareness and understanding are amazing tools (easier said than done but you have to start somewhere!). One morning when the temptation came over me and the thought crossed my mind, I didn’t weigh myself, I was mindful of the thought, I let the feeling pass, and I went on with my morning, because I now understand it wouldn’t do anything for me, it wouldn’t serve me in any way, it wouldn’t tell me how amazing I am, and that was a big win in my book.

Binge Eating-It’s Not Just Something I do on Weekends or Holidays

candy

I recently searched “binge eating” on Twitter to see what I was going to find and I came across this extremely informative article that discusses what everyone should know about Binge Eating Disorder. It’s one of those phrases people throw around casually (“Oh my god I totally binged on a bag of chips and a package of cookies last night.”). And most people don’t really understand the seriousness of it because everyone overeats and feels guilty about it at some point in their lives so binge eating is normal and okay to do right?

I beg to differ.

Binge eating disorder is another level, a whole different extreme. It’s a disorder. It’s an eating disorder. It’s actually the most common eating disorder in the U.S. If you didn’t click on the link above, or if you did and decided the article was too long (I really hope that wasn’t the case), I’ve summarized the main points in the article as well as elaborated on my story a bit. I feel it is so very important for people to see what binge eating disorder is in order to bring awareness and understanding to something that 3 to 5 percent of women suffer from.

Approximately 57% of binge eating disorder sufferers never receive treatment. This breaks my heart. Especially since the recovery rate is higher than recovery from anorexia or bulimia. I can absolutely understand why the majority of those suffering don’t receive treatment because that was me for almost 2 years.

My journey has been, and still is, complicated.

When I first began binge eating, the spring of 2014, I thought it was something I could totally stop cold turkey. I would tell myself, “That was my last binge ever.” “I can do this on my own.” “I will stop soon-when I want to.”

A part of me didn’t realize how abnormal my behavior was, I didn’t realize I needed help because at first it wasn’t that bad.

So what, I’d go to City Convenience and buy a package of cookie dough and eat the entire thing in one sitting, or I would go to Insomnia Cookies and buy myself a cookiewich (ice cream sandwiched in between 2 cookies). But I deserved it. I had dieted for 16 weeks for a bikini competition and now I had nothing to work towards.

I had no one expecting anything of me.

I was alone.

Very soon my binges spiraled out of control. A package of cookie dough or a cookiewich weren’t enough. I wanted both. And then I wanted something salty to eat afterwards. And then I wanted more and more and more.

I wanted to fill myself up to the point where I couldn’t eat anymore. I wanted to be totally and completely full. Or else it wouldn’t be enough. I would be disappointed.

These are all traditional characteristics of binge eating disorder, things that make my behavior abnormal. Not only did the amount of food I ate escalate, but so did the frequency of my binges. It went from once a week, to twice a week, to every few days, to every day. It was becoming a habit. But there were also days (almost full weeks) that went by where I didn’t binge. I had a calendar on my wall where I would mark a smiley face in blue pen on the days I didn’t binge. I felt so proud when I got to draw that face and so guilty and disappointed when I didn’t.

Another reason I didn’t seek treatment, or did seek it and then stopped, was because binge eating doesn’t completely disrupt my life.

I’d say I’m a functional binge eater.

When I was binge eating while at school I still showed up to class, I got good grades, I hung out with my friends, I made it to my club meetings. I binged through senior events, graduation, getting a new job. I did what I had to do and didn’t drop the ball on any of it. I was making it work.

My life was fine.

But it wasn’t. After suffering completely alone, in shame, loneliness and isolation for a few months, I realized recovery was harder than just saying, “I’m never going to binge again.” I knew something bigger and deeper was going on. Why would I make myself feel so sick with food, so full and bloated and disgusted and then do it over and over again? I knew I needed professional help. So I looked up a kind, wonderful woman who had experience with eating disorders. She was my therapist and I saw her for a few months. I also went to a nutritionist and I saw a psychiatrist, all at the same time, but something didn’t feel right. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t ready to get better, or because I didn’t believe I could get better, or something else, but I stopped going. I told myself it was too expensive, that I was still binging so it wasn’t working, that I could get better on my own. Again, like most of society, I didn’t recognize the seriousness of the situation. I didn’t recognize how horrible and awful and depressed I felt. I watched Youtube videos to try and get help, I read an amazing book called Brain Over Binge, which I totally got because I am a Neuroscience major, and I thought I would get better on my own again. But none of that worked for me. I now think it was because I didn’t fully comprehend that my binge eating has to do with my emotions and my feelings.

There is nothing wrong with me.

I am not a problem that needs to be fixed. I just deal with my emotions in a different way. I seek fulfillment from food rather than from friends, family, a good book, or writing. But I would have never realized this on my own. I think I read about this before, I’m sure my therapist had mentioned it, but it had to be coming from the right person at the right time for it to really sink in. Even with all of the knowledge I have gained in the past few months, all of the amazing, empowering conversations I have, and rituals I do, I am still struggling with binge eating. It definitely gets worse before it gets better but I am borrowing other’s faith in order to find the strength, positivity and power to keep moving forward.

The Suffocation of my Inner Goddess

peace-of-mind-349815_960_720

 I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for 2 weeks. I wrote it at a time when I felt empowered, fed up and ready to share my story. When there were no thoughts of failure or fear. And then things changed. The self-doubt and unease crept back in. My ego said, “Nancy who do you think you are to publish this post? Who do you think you are to be totally and completely vulnerable? You’re not any different. You’re not going to change, this is who you are. This is your comfort zone. It’s easier to be average and blend in than it is to rise above, to be unique and to be successful because that is where the spotlight and the attention are.” Well I finally gathered the courage to hit publish. This post isn’t perfect but it’s real and it’s a part of my story.

 

I didn’t want to make this blog. I didn’t think I had a story worth sharing. I didn’t think I was any different (and I still don’t believe I am).

“It seems like everyone out there is making their own blog now.”

“I’m sure there are hundred of blogs out there just like what mine would be like.”

“I’m not a good writer.”

“People will judge me.”

“Do I really want people to know what I am going through?”

 

This negativity, fear and doubt surrounding my blog mirror the self-talk that runs through my mind each and every single day. I didn’t want to make this blog. Yet here I am, taking a leap, and making a blog. Why? Because I am sick and tired of hiding. I am sick and tired of feeling like I live a double life. I am fed up with being depressed, alone and not understood. I am done with caring what other people are going to think, who is going to find out my deepest secrets, where my reputation is going to end up. My new attitude: bring on the arrows. Yes, I am scared. Yes, I know I am putting myself completely out there to be scrutinized, ridiculed, and judged. But I am realizing those people shouldn’t mean anything to me anyways and their criticism is a reflection of something going on within themselves. Anyways, I’m doing this for myself as much as I’m doing it for anyone else.

 

So what’s the big secret?

I’m a binge eater.

I eat excessive amounts of high sugar, high carb, junk food, usually multiple times a week. I hide it from my friends, my roommates, my family. I shamelessly spend $20, $30, $40 per binge. I walk to convenience stores (sometimes in the middle of the night) and buy enough food to know I will be able to completely stuff myself to the point where I can’t take one more bite.

Why?

I don’t really know. I’m still trying to figure that out. I have learned a lot about myself and about binge eating in the process but I don’t think there is one clear-cut answer as to why I do this. I know it has to do with lack of control, with calorie restriction and dieting in the past, with guilt, with self-criticism, with comfort, enjoyment, and disappointment. It has become a habit, an addiction, something I love and hate (the love comes first and the hate follows). While writing this I am not even completely sure I want to stop binge eating, the high I get from surrounding myself with junk food, the dopamine rush my brain gets from the sugar, the numbing effect it has on my emotions, those are hard things to part with. But what about the guilt, the self-hate, the shame I feel afterwards? Those are emotions I ignore and push out of my mind until the binge is over.

“This is my last binge ever.”

“Tomorrow I am going to do extra cardio.”

“I still have time before summer.”

These are common thoughts my mind makes up before and after I binge in order to justify my actions. My mind is so freaking smart it’s scary. It knows exactly what to say to make it okay to binge and I almost always listen to that voice because I believe it is me.

I’m by no means healed by writing this post. Do I feel any different? Not really. Do I want people to even see and read this? Kind of. It doesn’t really matter though. I know recovery is a process and doesn’t happen overnight. Binge eating is not a light switch you can turn on and off. I made a commitment and a promise to myself and this blog is a present to me. So happy early birthday Nancy. You are a goddess.

 

 

I wouldn’t have been able to make this blog if it weren’t for the help, love, support and guidance of Sheira Mackenzie, Belinda Ginter, Natalie Russo, Kelsey Sarcone, Leanne Agastina and Beth Cormack. Thank you beautiful goddesss I love and appreciate you beyond measure.