Pages

Saturday, December 28, 2013

“Just Eat it”? Taking that leap of faith to let go of the diets and the rules.

Just Eat it. Designed by Olle Hemmendorff for Nike.
Just Do It has been a memorable Nike campaign, motivating and inspiring athletes and active wannabees for years now. But I really don’t want to talk about exercise and determination.

Rather, let’s talk about Just Eat It, the image circulating on social media with that very phrase. This expression has crossed my mind—but not my lips—during many a patient session way before the creative graphic emerged. Yes, sometimes I’d like to shout out JUST EAT IT! (or even JUST EAT!), at times when rational discussion seems to get us nowhere. But that’s my emotional—and occasionally frustrated—response.

Personally, I struggle with the just part of the statement. Does it feel like a just to you, as an only? Or merely eat? To the person living with disordered eating, I bet just is the worst possible adverb imaginable. To me, it minimizes the struggle. Just eat it? As in, “it’s no big deal, what’s all the fuss about anyway”. EAT it?! If you could just eat, wouldn’t you?

The hike toward the Hornli Hut, heading toward
the Matterhorn.
 
My editor was reviewing this piece—by editor I mean husband—and he likened this minimizing to a personal experience he and I have had. You see, I have a fear of heights, and I swear it’s worsened as I’ve gotten older. So now, when we go hiking where the path has narrowed and I can vividly imagine the drop off to my death, I get a bit stuck—think deer-in-headlights kind of stuck. No, not just a bit stuck. There’ve been times when he’s had to talk me through, or physically be there to support me. At those times, he’s clearly communicated the message of “just do it, just get over it”, as in “what’s your problem?” failing to understand that my concern just might be irrational.

No, others really may not get it; fear is often irrational. But somehow reading a draft of this post he did get it. I don’t choose to get anxious at precipitous drops at high elevations. And sometimes the dangers are real. But the risk of stepping outside of your comfort zone to eat (as opposed to the risk of not eating enough), is not life threatening.

I suspect that if you really think about it, you’d realize that you used to eat the very foods you fear will make you fat, or will trigger overeating, with no ill effect. Think back to the time before the rigid rules and diets began, before your eating disorder or disordered relationship with food developed. Sure, you may associate carb restriction with something positive—weight loss perhaps (strictly because it resulted in reduced calories, and not because there’s anything magical about reducing carbs, or fats, or any food or nutrient in particular). 

But you fail to acknowledge that your struggle with binge eating only began with this restriction, with the deprivation. Or, that starting to restrict set you on your path to being unable to nourish your body, to respond to its needs. You hold on to all the ‘good’ you associate with dieting, yet minimize the consequences of your disordered eating on your health—on your mood, on your ability to be social, on your energy level, on your thinking.

There’s a bit of a conundrum we face; by we I mean providers and parents and loved ones alike. I can present all kinds of justification for nourishment—for including carbs, for increasing necessary calories, for adding snacks, whatever—but sometimes that’s not enough. Evidence that food restriction is slowing metabolism may help—such as pointing out that a slowed heart rate or lowered body temperature is a consequence of starvation. Showing evidence that you had previously been both healthy and a normal weight when eating your now feared foods may help, but it doesn’t seal the deal. 

Do you know which are the least read of all these blog posts? They are the ones describing research—the clearest evidence—in favor of normalizing your eating. Few tend to care about the evidence.
No, you can’t always negotiate with an eating disorder.

Sure, it’s easier if you know you can trust me—that I’m not going to mislead you; that it’ll really be okay if you make the dietary changes I suggest. But where’s the proof? Until you actually do it, and see that it really is okay, it’s challenging to trust. You believe that you’re different, that the rules simply don’t apply. And so we’re stuck.

At that point, you need a leap of faith. You need to go on blind faith that it will be okay. It helps to acknowledge that where you’re currently at is clearly not alright—in fact, that you’re quite miserable, if you allow yourself to be honest about how you feel. And it helps if you consider ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ acknowledging that fear of rapid weight change is a distortion of your thinking; progress on so many levels can start here. Recognize that you don’t have to commit to continuing with this change forever—take it one day at a time, and give yourself the opportunity to back out.

It can be scary getting to the top, but it's worth the effort.
Capu Rosso, Corsica
Sometimes we do need to “Eat it!” or “Do it” giving yourself no option but to not go running, or to cease all purge behaviors, for instance. Sometimes giving your self no option makes the recovery process much easier.

But if you can’t bring yourself to take that leap of faith, or to “Do it”, then eating disorder programs may be the next best thing. Or, for those living at home with family, FBT (family based treatment for eating disorders) may be a great alternative.

Over time, you’ll realize that there’s really no other option for living a healthy life than to maintain the changes you’ve started.
Just saying.


What are your thoughts? Is anyone reading out there?


18 comments:

  1. My therapist always tells me to just do something and then see that I lived through it. It will bring anxiety, but I will survive. Then the next time, I have proof that I can live through the difficult challenge and make it through to the other side. She also reminds me that being very small and sick didn't make me happy, so why would I want to go back there?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am out here reading every single one of your articles, Lori! Can't wait for "For To Eat" for disordered eaters and chronic dieters to be released. Any info. you can share about that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you're reading! The new Food to Eat for disordered eaters and chronic dieters is in the works--with a new title! I'll be sure to announce it on Twitter and on this blog!

      Delete
  3. I love this post. Its all so true. For me, as much as I didn't want to, I just had to try things for myself. No amount of research or coaxing from others worked. I think the "just eat it" depends who its coming from. I've had other friends who struggle with eds say it to me and it is not as demeaning. Although its hard to see when we are struggling, just doing it is really the only answer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, once you've crossed over and taken action and you see for yourself it's ok, it is easier to continue to move forward.

      Delete
  4. If I could “just” eat it, I would. I did not wake up one day and think it would be an awesome idea to have an eating disorder. If "Just eat it" would cure me, I would surely swallow it. Thanks for another great post.

    ReplyDelete
  5. True, eating is not fatal, but sometimes it feels like I might die if I have to experience the feelings that come when I eat adequately. ”What is the worst that could happen?” - it's not all about the weigh gain for me. It didn't start there, although once I started losing weight I was hooked on that as well. My eating disorder has protected me for as long as I can remember. And although it is surely limiting my life, I fear that without it I will not be able to function as well as I do. I want to 'take the leap of faith' and I'm afraid of what is on the other side. I try to keep my desire for a better life at the forefront so that I continue moving forward in recovery.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You raise a good point; it helps to be working on developing a set of coping skills to rely on as you begin to move from your eating disorder--no doubt this will make it feel much safer.

      Delete
  6. Since my struggle is actually on the BED side of the spectrum, my view of the "Just eat it" thing is a little different. I would love to be able to give up the diet mentality (as I see-saw between dieting and then compulsive overeating), but I have trouble trusting that an intuitive approach to eating could ever "control" my compulsive eating. I believe in my head that letting go of dieting and just EATING is probably the way to go (and is certainly advocated by my therapist), but I just can't imagine giving up dieting as a way of controlling my eating (even though I more often am "cheating" on my diet than not).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please check out the many posts on practical strategies to get you started, including http://dropitandeat.blogspot.com/2010/12/recovering-from-slip-coping-with.html, http://dropitandeat.blogspot.com/2010/12/running-off-carrot-cake-theres-gotta-be.html, and the many labeled changing your thoughts, black and white thinking, and binge eating disorder.

      Delete
  7. I don't know why hearing these simple words "Just Eat It" infuriates me so, but it does! Those simple words of encouragement make me feel ridiculous and belittled, as if I am incompetent to understand it on my own. It is not simple like that, not at all. And to hear those words makes me feel anything but smart. I am well aware that just eating is the right answer but it involves so much more than that. If it were that easy, then wouldn't we all be cured? Makes me feel idiotic and unintelligent, and I'm not. I have a real illness that involves more than "just eating".

    ReplyDelete
  8. When I first started recovery just eating it definitely wasn't an option. Even with a meal plan and support and encouragement I just *couldn't* eat what I knew I needed to. I sat paralyzed at the thought of just eating. But as the eating disorder progressed and I lost more and more of my life to it I reluctantly went into residential (I didn't have much of a choice at the time, it was hospital or residential). At first I still couldn't eat but being in an environment where it wasn't really an option helped me get over that. That is how, in hindsight, I know I needed that level of care - if it were any bit of an option I couldn't do it. I needed to be in an environment where I would get food and nutrients no matter what (by eating it myself or being sent to the hospital and getting a tube).

    As I progressed in treatment the physical aspect of eating got mildly easier. I could force myself to eat by knowing it wasn't an option, even if it was only a couple bites. I felt like I was learning to eat all over again. I had plenty of support with my treatment team, staff and friends. My eating disorder screamed the whole time, and I wasn't doing anything willingly but rather because I knew I had to.

    Then I got to a point in treatment where I was able to realize that I was doing it willingly. There was a part of me that was very much in control of whether or not I would eat. I hated that part because my ED was still in control and wanted me to not choose to eat, it wanted me to continue to feel helpless to it. I tried all sorts of different ways to look at eating to make it mentally easier. I tried to look at it as nourishing my body, giving my body what it needed to carry me through life. I tried to think of it as medicine. I tried to view eating and food as my ticket to a normal life. But none of those things really helped me mentally feel better about eating.

    Weeks into my residential stay I changed my motto to "eat the f*%^ing food". I knew that eating the food was the only way I was going to get better, and no matter what my ED was screaming at me I needed to eat the food anyway. 5 months after leaving treatment and the screams have calmed some. The ED is still present, it's still something I battle day in and day out. But I still eat the f*#%ing food, because that's how I will win.

    -Laura

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am surprised that the research posts are not popular. I am wooed by the data, the legitimate reasons that eating is something I should consider. I can definitely appreciate the impact my restriction has on my mood, energy, memory, etc, however those are not measurable and I (and my eating disorder) tend to lean toward measurable, numbers, weight, labs, heart rate, now that is proof that something's wrong! A bad mood or a forgetful day could be 'all in my head'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish that were the case for everyone!

      Delete
  10. Every single thing you post is so encouraging and makes me think of eating in a more positive light. I can't tell you how many times I check your blog waiting for a new post! They are much appreciated by me and my disordered eating (that you are helping me get over, I might add)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad to know that people are reading and seeing the value in these posts! Do spread them around, please!! And check later this evening--I am soon to post a new one!

      Delete