If you are an addict, you are advised to avoid your addiction the rest of your life because even a taste can send you spiralling.
In my experience, a diet can do just that for someone with a history of anorexia – especially if your original experience started with a diet.
The last time I went on a ‘diet’ was five years ago. It was also the last time I came close to a relapse.
I had chosen a diet that required you to eat five meals a day, didn’t cut out any food group completely and only required 30 minutes to an hour of working out a day. In fact, they don’t call it a diet at all – they refer to it more as a lifestyle choice for females wanting to feel fit and fabulous.
Soon after I started the program, I fell in love with the structure, the feeling of being fit and, of course, fitting into smaller size clothing. However, I managed to make each meal smaller as time went on, until I was also skipping some of those five meals thinking ‘it could only help, right?’
My now husband, Nick, and I went out to dinner with his business partners to a pizza restaurant that only had one thing on the menu that fit within the guidelines for my ‘lifestyle’ diet. It was a starter smoked salmon dish that I ate as a main meal. The smoked salmon was thinly sliced and not a lot of food. However, when asked by my husband if I wanted a bite of pizza, I refused because it wasn’t on the approved list of foods for the ‘nutrition plan.’
By the time we went for a drink at the bar next door, I was starving and ate all the mixed nuts at the table. I then asked them to refill the mixed nuts which I put in a napkin to bring with me to the next bar because I was still starving and mixed nuts was as healthy as it was going to get at these bars.
Thankfully my very sensible husband didn’t say a word to me on the night, but the next morning made a brief reference to it so that I knew he was watching out for me and saw that I was taking the diet a little too far, unnecessarily.
Since recovering from my Binge Eating disorder, I’ve tried to diet three times, each time ending the same. A family member or friend, bringing to my attention I may be close to a relapse – or arguably, I had relapsed.
Some can diet and fail.
Some can diet as needed.
Some can maintain a diet most days of the year.
Some, like me, take diets too far and it becomes unhealthy.
So I think it is safe to say that, yes, for some people, the word ‘diet’ is a bad word that they should avoid.
When you can’t diet for weight loss, what can you do?
The last 3 years have been anything but normal for me when it comes to a routine eating and workout patterns. I spent most of 2018 pregnant, followed by breastfeeding for the next 18 months after Lilly was born February 14th.
Breastfeeding was good to me in that I could eat as much as I wanted and still lose weight. As grateful as I was at the time for this, it makes things a bit confusing when you stop breastfeeding. You’re used to eating in order to maintain your milk supply and all of the sudden, overnight, you shouldn’t be eating like an active 16-year-old boy.
So come January this year, I was faced with a body I was still getting to know. My hips wider, waste a bit smaller, breast half the size they started and extra weight I didn’t want, but felt lost about how to get rid of.
A diet plan, even a healthy one, comes with risk and a risk I wasn’t willing to take with a toddler closely watching my every move.
So what could I do?
The answer is, not a lot.
What did work for me, is a bit out of the box, but also something I wouldn’t recommend for everyone and for that reason I’ve chosen not to include it in this blog as I think it could easily trigger someone with a past of ED if their trigger is a bit different to mine.
What I did make sure of though, is to include my husband as my accountability partner – keeping me from getting off track in a dangerous way.
ADVICE FOR YOU IF AN EATING DISORDER IS IN YOUR PAST
I’ve been sitting on this blog since January, trying to work out a piece of advice to fit into it. The blog has changed three times as I tried out different options to help shake off some of the holiday weight.
Originally this blog was going to be a tell-all on my journey to safe dieting with my background. However, I honestly am not sure there is such a thing for me so that idea didn’t last long.
I’m finally publishing this blog because I’ve come up with the missing piece of advice I can give to anyone who has done the work to overcome an ED and doesn’t want to go backwards.
Open up to friends and family and ask them to keep you on track.
I’m obviously very open about my eating disorder and I’m not suggesting you have to be as open as I am, but at least be open with a few close friends you see often, family and/or a Partner (especially if you live with them).
Looking back at my journey over the last 10 years, I realise that every time I slip, someone I’m close with is there to remind me of what is at risk before I go too far.
My mom has pointed out to me twice in the last 10 years that my habits were not right and I was headed in the wrong direction of health. My now husband has done the same when I needed a tap on the shoulder.
More recently, and what made me realise this was the golden piece of advice to share, was the simple question from a friend responding to my complaints about always being hungry.
“Are you eating enough?” she asked.
At first, I was taken back by this thinking ‘of course I’m eating, have you seen my hips, woman?’ However, a day later I realised I had actually asked her late last year, before I started embarking on my journey to a bit of weight loss, to let me know if my eating habits go weird, since we weekly see each other at a breakfast event.
Since I was eating and living what I consider a healthy, balanced lifestyle, it didn’t save my life this time, but with one wrong decision in January/February, her question and concern could have easily helped me before I fell too far.
Just because you have overcome your eating disorder for now, doesn’t mean you don’t need support. Ask your friends to keep an eye on you if they can and don’t get defensive (or apologise later if you do) when they hold you accountable.
This is my advice to those of you who are ED survivors! You don’t have to tell the world, but please tell those you see often and ask for their ongoing support.
For those of you who are the friends and family of ED survivors, don’t be afraid to check in. It’s easier to catch yourself if you stumble then when you fall.