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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
This morning, Judah and I made gingerbread pancakes and sausage, and… 
20th-Oct-2012 01:42 pm
This morning, Judah and I made gingerbread pancakes and sausage, and he also fried up an egg for himself. I put a few pancakes on my plate and drizzled on some maple syrup, and he grinned and said "I'm glad you don't diet."

Ha. Hahahahaha.

Which led to a brief conversation about me and dieting and food and how food and I have a complicated relationship.

(1985-1994) As is common for kids with some of my childhood experiences, I went through a bout of anorexia as a teenager. Very textbook: the only thing I could control in my life was my food intake, so I did. I was ~90 pounds through my adolescence (I'm 4'11", so that isn't *quite* as gaunt as you may be visualizing - but still, very very skinny). And when I discovered drugs, I went down to 78.

(1994-2001) And then I had Elayna! My hips spread! I gained 51 pounds! I lost a lot of it soon after giving birth, and my new average weight was 95 pounds. Still a size 0, but healthier than before. I'd stopped restricting my food intake during my pregnancy, and stuck to that, but I still didn't really have a relationship with food; it was a thing I had to put in my body a few times a day. My weight was kept down mostly by the stress migraines I had several times a month - the nausea kept me from eating very much.

(2001-2003) Then I divorced my asshole ex, moved to Atlanta to be with Adam, and everything changed.

Adam is a foodie. A serious foodie. And he slowly seduced me to the idea of food being a good thing and not just a necessary thing. Growing up, my diet was mostly bland takeout; his was a massive variety of everything NYC had to offer. I was inducted. I tried everything. I found that I do not like sweetbreads, but I love risotto. I could go on. But food started to be a thing to enjoy. And at the same time, I was now living with a wonderful supportive awesome person and not with an emotionally and physically abusive asshole, so my stress migraines went away, and for the first time in years, I was actually eating three meals a day every day of the month.

So I gained 30 pounds. And fell into a hideous depression over it. (Remember, I'm 4'11"; 30 pounds may not be much on your frame, but it's a lot on mine.)

(2003-2006) Then I was diagnosed with epilepsy, and they put me on medications that made me constantly nauseated and unable to eat more than a few bites of anything at a time. I actually got scurvy. I'm not kidding. Because I was eating so little that I wasn't getting enough Vitamin C. I hd to do research on how I could get the maximum amount of nutrition in a few bites of food, because I literally couldn't handle more than that. That was some bad medication. That was years of bad medication.

I don't know if I've ever admitted this, but: when I started losing weight that time, I deliberately accelerated it. I slipped back into self-starvation mode. Partly because I was so unhappy with my weight, partly because I was having seizures, which brought the control issues ROARING back. But the nausea started to fade after a few months, and I kept eating the bare minimum on purpose.

Until my weight started to crash horribly. I didn't have dysphoria telling me that I was fat; I was aware that I was skinny. I was aware that I was too skinny. I went back to full-portions, full-fat, eating everything I could, and nothing worked - my weight was in freefall.

I got down to 85 pounds. We thought I had an ulcer, we didn't know, I was getting weekly weigh-ins, it was terrifying. NOW we know what it was - it was my celiac disease, my intestines atrophying. But we didn't know then.


(2006-2009) We switched my anti-seizure medication to Lyrica. And I gained weight (a common side effect)! Which was great!

...until I gained too much weight. Eventually up to 155 pounds. Which, again, is a lot on a 4'11" body. And I became hideously depressed again.

And then we figured out that part of why I was hideously depressed is that Lyrica can cause suicidal depression.


(2009) So I switched anti-seizure medications again, and my weight.... crashed. In the span of two months, I lost 30 pounds and half my hair again. I noticed when I started losing weight this time, and threw myself not into dieting, but exercise - I didn't want to lose weight so quickly, or lose my hair again, so I figured maybe I could keep my weight up by adding muscle mass. Maybe it helped? But the weight loss was so rapid that my kidneys were crashing out. It was really scary. The thing to note, though, is that I did not resort to disordered eating this time; I fought it.

(2010-present) So I ended up around 120. I'd said that my ideal was probably around 110, but as it turns out, I'm fine with 120.

But over the past year, I've gained weight again, and am now a little over 130, which I'm not okay with. A number is just a number, but my clothes don't fit, and my body doesn't feel right. I do need more exercise - I've been very sedentary. But it does haunt me at the dinner table, my belly, my thighs.

And every time I sit down to eat, I am thinking about my food in a way that people who have never had an eating disorder don't.

Some little machine in the back of my mind is always evaluating, just like it's evaluating my parenting decisions (I had no examples of positive parenting). Is this an appropriate amount of food? Is it too much? Is it too little? Am I restricting myself because I'm angry at myself? Am I even thinking about this because I'm angry about myself? Is this a completely normal serving of dinner that I am massively overthinking? (Usually.)

I'm not happy with the way my body is right now, and I am not in very much control of that; medications have a strong effect, as you can see. Disability has a strong effect - if I'm having a bad pain week, I can't get as much exercise. It's hard for a control freak to deal with that without taking it out on her dinner.

But I love gingerbread pancakes. I love maple apple sausage. I love smoked sweet paprika and really good peppercorns, pomegranate molasses, lasagna, pumpkin bread. Every day I have to decide, and every day I decide that I will enjoy the food I enjoy; that I'm not okay with my body, but that I will not deprive myself, and I will not backslide into the horrified tyranny over my body that dominated my adolescence.

No, I don't diet, because for me, dieting is unhealthy. I just do my best.
20th-Oct-2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
i went from anorexic to having an emotional eating problem in 1995. it's the pits. i'd almost prefer the anorexia. i've gone from a size 18 to a 26 in the last five years. it's depressing. so i keep eating. i'll be big as a barn at this rate.
24th-Oct-2012 11:10 am (UTC)
I understand that this is pretty common, to go from anorexia to emotional eating. :( And when you think about it, it totally makes sense why. On one end, powerful emotions, brain chemistry and personal history drive you to not eat. Then, as you work on recovery, new ways of handling all the same crap have to be figured out. Sometimes that means experimenting with food happiness.

I have friends going through this, and I kinda think of it as a totally legit phase of recovery. People try it out. I've seen the same impulse in other ways, like crazy over spending or crazy socializing to the point of exhaustion. </p>

So you're not alone, at least. You aren't, like, faulty. Well, I think you're normal and ok, anyway.

24th-Oct-2012 02:22 pm (UTC)
I think you're normal and ok, anyway.

I think this made my entire year. {{hugs}}
20th-Oct-2012 08:21 pm (UTC)
I agree. It's much better to just be conscious what and how you eat, exercise a bit, and hope that any medications you are on don't screw it up. Life is too short to diet and make yourself miserable by your own doing.
21st-Oct-2012 01:14 am (UTC)
This. I am printing this out and putting it on my refrigerator. Fortunately (for certain screwed up values of fortunate) I lack the willpower to have an eating disorder - I just gain weight and then feel bad about myself. But I'm trying to do better.
(Deleted comment)
24th-Oct-2012 11:12 am (UTC)
Good move! Triggery people = teh suck.
20th-Oct-2012 08:44 pm (UTC)
My parents put me on diets because I was "too fat" (I wore a juniors 7) all through middle and high school. Then college happened, and the abusive ex who used food as a weapon, and I went up to size 12/14. Then I went to Japan and dieted my way down to an 8 and still thought I was too fat. And then I actually got treatment for all my mental health issues and the meds I was on had weight gain, lots of weight gain, as a side effect. I watched my weight creep up from 130 to 150 to 170 to 200 over the last six years. I hate it. I hate it so much, but I'd rather be fat and mentally stable than thinner (but still believing I was too fat) and as crazy as I was pre-medication. I'm not okay with my body, but I'm really trying to be.
20th-Oct-2012 09:01 pm (UTC)
I think you look fine the way you are now, and hope you won't worry too much about losing weight. I'd rather see you be a few pounds 'over' than 'under', given your history.

Edited at 2012-10-20 09:01 pm (UTC)
20th-Oct-2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
Have you ever read Michelle, the Fat Nutritionist? She's awesome covered in awesome sauce and wicked awesome jimmies. She totally gets chronic health stuff, EDs, and the ways that simply struggling to be fed can be way harder than a lot of the world realizes. And she's funny.
20th-Oct-2012 11:23 pm (UTC)
What a long, strange trip it's been, eh?
21st-Oct-2012 01:24 am (UTC)
Also, totally off-point from most of this post: Can I have the recipe for gingerbread pancakes? Those sound awesome!
21st-Oct-2012 03:17 am (UTC)
You are the most you-ful you I know. <3
21st-Oct-2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah. My history with food is not nearly as dramatic... but I know the holy-shit effects of medications from experience. And also the societal programming. When I finally went to get diagnosed for my long-suspected bipolar disorder, one of the things I said straight off to them was "Please find me medications that are weight-neutral. If they're not weight-neutral, I won't take them, because I'd rather be crazy than fat. Some days, skinny is all I've got going for me."

Back in the days when it was still misdiagnosed as only depression, I was on Wellbutrin once. Sent me straight over into (hypo)mania, until I was sleeping three hours a night and eating one meal a day. if it weren't for the concurrent anxiety, I'd have stayed with it, because look! Down to 120 pounds! Sustainable, it was not.

My Lamictal also kills my appetite. Not very badly when I also have my Trileptal, but if it's unopposed, I won't remember to eat until I start shaking from a blood sugar crash. Not good.

I now set an alarm to remind me to eat lunch. Without it, I'll ignore it, and that's not good for me. I also have to keep an eye on what fats I eat -- NOT to eat low-fat, but to get the RIGHT sort of fats in my diet, because omega-3s and such help keep my mood steady. Tuna and avocado wraps FTW.

And I'm not even dealing with your list of impossible foods.

But yes. It takes thought, and there's a whole lot going on there.
21st-Oct-2012 08:16 pm (UTC)
And I think doing your best sounds healthiest, honestly *hugs* Teenage anorexia, oh boy, I remember that one: I was 5' 4" (my adult height; I still am) by 16, and that's when my bout of having a very bad relationship with food happened. I dropped to about 95 for a year or two, and for someone who's 5' 4", that's definitely...not very good. I was at 115-120 for most of my twenties, even up till a year ago when I turned 30, without any effort or watching what I was eating at all, but something's happened in the past year or so (read: since James and I were forced to move back to the US) where I've gone up to the 130-135 range and can't seem to shift it back down for love or money. And I actually don't mind this, if I sit back and think about it, but my partner, who can sometimes be a jerk, makes occasional remarks that make me think maybe he does. And I find myself wondering if that'll get to me over time, and I remind myself about that episode in my teens and realize it would not be a good phase to revisit.

Thanks for sharing your experiences <3

Edited at 2012-10-21 08:17 pm (UTC)
21st-Oct-2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
More in harmony with this post than I'd like: I went from "unfortunately accelerated weight loss" to "sudden 20-lb weight gain" with the introduction of insulin. Exercise makes no impact, and my average diet could not be healthier if I was grazing in the back yard like a Thompson's gazelle.

On my somewhat Gojira-esque frame (do not worry, tiny humans, i will not harm you) 20-30 pounds isn't especially noticeable to others. But *I* know. And have many conflicted feelings on the subject.
24th-Oct-2012 06:38 am (UTC)
Yeah, I had something like that happen too, only for me it was polycystic ovarian syndrome and its hormone roulette that caused blood sugar instabilities and inexplicable weight gain regardless of diet or exercise routine adopted. ~20 years later, and I think I'm finally figuring out what my body actually wants. It is deeply frustrating when hormones and biochemistry override what one thinks should be happening.

So go you, 'song, for just embracing the "doing your best". I try for that too, even when my body is freaking me out with its responses.
22nd-Oct-2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
Good for you; I appreciate you talking about this. I've never had an eating disorder, but I've always emotionally struggled with my weight. I'm very sedentary now largely due to time/pain constraints and so I'm heavier than I'm really happy with... and I'm really trying not to beat myself up over it. The thing is, though, is that I know I'm not the only woman PERSON who feels societal pressure to be more attractive (be it weight, muscles, whatever...)
22nd-Oct-2012 09:10 pm (UTC)
24th-Oct-2012 04:53 am (UTC)
Good for you! That has resonances for me.
24th-Oct-2012 10:54 am (UTC)
Back in the day, on Lyrica, you did make a point of saying that your disordered thoughts on your weight were creeping in and that you were 100% aware of them and acknowledging them publicly. You were dealing with them.

Good Lord I've been around a long time.
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