My self-discipline was amazing in areas like work, exercise, my home life, and creative endeavors, but I could not self-modulate my eating. When food was involved, I regressed to childhood. Actually, worse than childhood—children have a natural shut off switch, which I sorely lacked. No matter how many thousands (literally) of days I said to myself, I will NOT act out today, I couldn’t stop. This is where the numbers game came into play.
Under the care of my recovery coach, I was able to wean off bulimic behaviors within a handful of months. Here’s how it happened.
Around our fifth week of counseling, he asked me if I was willing to start letting go of bulimia. My thinking went something like, Holy shit, really? Are we there already? Can’t we ruminate about feelings, the past, the present, the future for just a little while longer? Are we really going to get serious about recovery? I just want to be skinny for a few more months. I still believed recovery meant I would be shopping in plus-size boutiques.
But I was willing, so I said yes.
At the time, I was acting out seven days a week including many multiple times per day, so Cesar asked me if I could commit to having just one day free from bulimia that week. One full day seemed quite impossible, but I had to start somewhere, and these baby steps set me up for success. This became our game, and I did not want to show up to my next appointment having failed. The following week, I marched into his office knowing I would get a gold star. It dawned on me during that process how attached I was to external validation. Accolades from others had become more rewarding than abiding in my own inner sense of worthiness. Not surprising since, at that point, I had very little self-esteem. My value was wrapped up in what I did, not in who I was as a human being. Knowing what I did in private, stripped away all sense of internal value. I literally needed the approval and validation from others just to feel neutral.
After learning to crawl with one free day, we began trying to walk, then to run—playing with formulas like six days per week and only three of those days could have multiples, to six days a week with no multiples, to five days a week with two multiples and so on. I remember when we got down to only once per week—it was a miracle milestone. And I knew what was coming. Full abstinence.
In case that all sounds so neat and clean and easy and formulaic, I want to lovingly warn you it might not feel that way during the process. While writing about this phase of recovery, I became curious about what I was really feeling at the time. A journal entry dated February 4th, 2013—two months or so into the weaning off phase—said it all.
Wow. Tormented. For the last few weeks I have been in constant torture. My mind will not stop. The only thing that shuts it up is Ed. I feel so chunky. So out of control. So scared. So disempowered. WTF is going on with me? Can’t stand Ed—fuck you!! I am amazing. I choose health. I choose sanity. I choose to say no to foods when I know they don’t serve my highest self. I’ve got this. XO
I share this to let you know you are not alone in your thoughts. I literally believed I would never overcome my eating disorder and, even if by some miracle I did, that my mind would torment me forever. Either way, the future felt dismal. But those were all lies perpetuated by bulimia. Once I released them, I was able to transform my disempowering thoughts into empowering ones. You will be able to as well.
You’ve got this.