Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Disordered eating

Warning: This one's kind of long!

I like lists. I like making them, checking things off of them, being organized by them. I like polls and quizzes, too. So when SparkPeople sent an e-mail linking to this article the other day, I was curious to see how my eating stacked up with that of a 'normal' person's. The eating behaviors with which I strongly identify are in red.
  1. Eating (or restricting) food provides immediate relief from unpleasant negative feelings.
  2. Your eating behaviors frequently make you very unhappy.
  3. You weigh (or are afraid to weigh) yourself very frequently, and become significantly distressed when you don’t see the results you hope for.
  4. You frequently avoid eating because you are afraid that you may not be able to stop once you start.
  5. You believe there are “bad” or “forbidden” foods that you shouldn’t eat, and eating them makes you feel guilty or ashamed.
  6. You very strictly count calories and track of everything you eat, and feel that going over your limit means you have failed, at least for that day.
  7. When you eat a "forbidden" food or go over your calorie limit, you often decide to continue overeating, since you have blown it.
  8. You frequently think that people are talking (or thinking) poorly about you because of your weight, even when nothing is said.
  9. You are trying to lose weight because you think it will influence how other people think or feel about you and treat you.
  10. Being at your current weight makes it very hard for you to feel good about yourself and you believe that will change when you lose the weight.
  11. The main reason you exercise is to burn calories, and/or offset the calories you have eaten or plan to eat.
  12. You feel like you have to avoid certain foods entirely because you can’t control how much you'll eat once you start.
  13. You frequently think about food and eating, much more than necessary.
  14. You eat secretly (to avoid embarrassment if others found out about it) or keep hidden food stashes that you eat only when you're alone.
  15. You believe that many of the problems in your life (work, relationships, etc) are due to your weight, and will improve once you reach a normal weight.
  16. You frequently eat when you aren’t hungry or feel like you can’t stop yourself, but don't understand why.
  17. Even though your weight is considered healthy or normal, you are not satisfied, and want to keep losing.
  18. You have many rules about what, when, and how much to eat, and breaking these rules causes you to feel anxious, guilty, or negative about yourself.
  19. You tend to follow your eating and exercise plan for days or weeks at a time, but then seem to go on strike, rebelling against your own plans.
  20. The closer you get to an intermediate or long term weight goal, the more you seem to engage in self-sabotage.
  21. You sometimes use overeating, food deprivation, or excessive exercise to “punish” yourself.
  22. You spend a great deal of time and energy tracking your nutrition, and feel very uncomfortable eating food when you don’t know what’s in it.
  23. You sometimes go to extreme measures like using laxatives, diuretics, diet pills or supplements, enemas, or other measures to achieve weight loss or offset calories you’ve eaten.
  24. You find yourself doing things you know aren’t healthy or advisable (skipping meals, over-exercising, eating very few calories) in order to make up for going over your calorie limit, or to speed up your weight loss.
  25. You base your food choices primarily on calorie content, rather than nutritional concerns or personal taste.
The article goes on to state:
The more of them apply to you, and the more frequent or severe they are, the more at risk you may be for developing a clinical eating disorder. And, of course, they are all potential obstacles to safely losing weight and developing a healthy lifestyle that will enable you to maintain that loss permanently.
So. I'm decidedly not normal when it comes to eating, and I already knew that. It's somewhat satisfying, in a sick kind of way, to see it all in a list, though. I'm in complete denial about how some of these behaviors – the keeping track of nutrition and frequent weighing, especially – are hurting me.

The items that bother me are 8, 9, 10 and 20. I'd like very much to feel like I'm okay as I am, no matter what the number on the scale is. My personal history is one in which people got praised for what they did and how they looked instead of who they were. I also grew up with parents who battled their weight endlessly. My dad needed to stay at or below a certain weight for his job, and in the two or three months prior to his annual physical he would give up bread, alcohol and sweets [unless he was doing the "Drinking Man's Diet"]. My mother yo-yo dieted her whole life, using diet pills [both prescribed and over-the-counter] and structured weight-loss programs to try to control her weight.

She was obese when she died.

As for number 20, while I'm not sure exactly how my mind works to sabotage my efforts, I'm absolutely certain that it happens. And I'm at that stage right now. I may have said this on the blog before; I know I've said it privately to a couple of people. I'm slightly below a weight now that seems to be a stopping point for me. Three years ago this is where I plateaued and then started gaining again. My July goal of losing a total of 40 pounds will put me eight pounds below that former plateau weight. I'm hoping to dodge the bullet this time.

I know it would be easier if I could just come right out and say what I weigh. Who am I kidding? I'm reporting how much I've lost, and I'll certainly state my weight when I get to goal. Anyone who can add and subtract will be able to figure out the starting number. But I'm just not there yet. I sure do admire every weight-loss blogger who does, though. That really helped me when I was starting this plan.

Maybe someday.


loretta123 said...

One of the ways I sabotage myself is that I absolutely refuse to buy clothing, especially quality, fashionable clothing, at my current weight. I have this great wardrobe waiting for me when…..Ha! It may be moth-eaten and out of style by the time I get there. I realize that not looking my best at my current weight only makes me feel worse about myself and fuels the negative eating behaviors, but I can’t seem to allow myself to invest in this bigger me.

Stretchy said...

Re: #22 . I track nutrition, but I got to the point where I feel that if I'm getting superior nutrition 3 or 4 days a week, I am doing OK! , if I get it 4-6 days a week, I am doing SUPER ! but ..-- 7 days a week? well that would be a flukey week, because a little red wine or dark chocolate only go so far as "decadent treats" So yes track nutrition, it will make the scientist in you happy... it is a learning experience and can be fun. Just don't freak out if you can't maintain it for more than a few days at a time.

stretchy said...

Looking over this list again-- wow it really makes you THINK... it makes me see how important nutrition and self help are in weight management.

Greta said...

This is a really interesting list and I will have to go through and see which apply to me. I think that "dieting" creates a state in which we are very close to having an eating disorder if not over the edge. I once did Jenny Craig which at the time was an excessively low calorie program of relatively high fat, not all that healthy, pre-packaged foods. My weight plummeted on the plan but after I got about 10 pounds below my original goal weight on the plan I went berserk. I felt as though I could eat the table that the food was on. I very rapidly regained all the weight I lost plus another 70 pounds. I had an "overeating" disorder for quite a long time before I began to be able to eat "normally" again and finally was able to follow an eating plan (diet) again. I don't think that a reaction like this is all in our heads. It's got to be biochemical. The body is trying to react to a famine and wants to regain the lost weight and pack on some extra to be ready for the next famine. Dieting produces powerful biochemistry to make us want to eat. That's why, as much as possible, I try to "trick" my body. I try not to cut calories very aggressively, but instead prefer a higher calorie slower weight loss in which I eat plenty of foods which are high in volume so that my stomach is full but I still run a calorie deficit. I eat lots of veggies and fruits, beans and whole grains to accomplish weight loss or maintenance so that my body feels satisfied with fewer calories. Still it's a challenge to lose without getting sucked into an eating disorder. Any time I get excessive aggressive with myself in restricting calories I can expect an overeating backlash as a result. I just can't do it by cutting calories too low any more. Along this line of thought, my endocrinologist told me that a study showed that dieting calorie levels below 1,200 calories don't produce longterm results. Only 1,200 calories and above "works". By the way. you can lose weight at ANY calorie level that's below the calories you burn in a day. If you burn 1600 calories, you can eat 1550 calories and lose weight. It will be really slow, but very gradually the weight will come off. I also chose to "stop dieting" and go into maintenance at a weight above my "goal weight" (which is my Weight Watchers goal weight) because I am so wary about pushing myself. Lately I have been contemplating another "push" to try to finally get all the way to goal but I find it scary because of the potential for releasing the overeating demons.

Mar!a said...

Such a good post, and I wish I had something profound to add. I don't, but I have said many many times that to me dieting/losing weight has been the process of creating an eating disorder in myself. I don't like where I am with food, so many items on that list apply to me - I'm actually weirder about food than when I was fatter. Back then I just ate too much, I didn't have any other specific issues with food than overall quantity.

Some of it's good - I've given up processed food almost completely. I very rarely eat anything that comes out of a box or has more than five ingredients listed. I'd recommend that to ANYONE, whether they're interested in WL or not.