I tried to be articulate about this, but in the end I just wasted 500 words on bullshit that is completely irrelevant to my context and my purpose. I’ve been working on this post forever now, and it’s been insanely difficult because I’m still unpacking everything that’s been going on since April when I started this stupid “diet.”
I put diet in quotes because it’s really not a diet. It’s Ben and I changing the way we eat in a general way for the foreseeable future. Also diets are fucking stupid and no one should do them. Semantics aside, we’ve been avoiding carbs and sugar somewhat successfully since about April when Ben was encouraged to cut them out by our doctor and I tried to eat like him out of solidarity. As a result, I felt constantly sick, tired, foggy-headed, and grumpy.
There were multiple crying fits, one of which happened in the chip aisle of the grocery store. Finally, when I missed a deadline because I was too tired to think straight, I decided to give it up and go back to “normal” eating since that worked so well for me. That just happened to be the same day the doctor told me I should be on the same diet because of my family history of diabetes and my disproportionately high insulin levels.
So I doubled down on getting it right, not just for Ben but for myself, and I have felt extremely conflicted about it ever since. On the one hand, when I eat good balanced veggie and meat focused meals I feel physically well and energized in a way I’m not sure I have ever felt before. On the other hand, those days are rare and every other time I feel gross and angry and morally bad in a way I am all too familiar with.
The reason for my initial constant sickness was that I was severely under-eating. A portion that had enough calories in it before had nowhere near enough without any carbs or sugar. So I’ve had to think a lot about the calorie content in my food, and as a result I’ve started some sort of weird eating habits that remind me a lot of my disordered eating in the past. I eat things out of measuring cups again, I meticulously record everything that goes into my body, and I think about what to eat and what I’ve eaten constantly when not eating.
I can’t tell if this is triggering or affirming. All of this is to make sure I’m getting enough food, as opposed to the motivation behind my old habits, but it isn’t really that different. And at it’s core, anorexia and bulimia are about control, rather than limitation, so the idea that I’m trying to control my eating for the first time in 23-odd years is extremely present in my mind.
I tell myself that I won’t always be recording my food, but until I know what I should be eating, I need to have something other than my own extremely biased perspective to go on. This isn’t the first time I’ve recorded food since I started eating again. I recorded my meals for a couple of months while I was working at my old job and trying to figure out why I was so depressed and low-energy all day. It didn’t take long for me to realize that when you’re trapped in a dead-end cube job, you eat high fat high sugar shit just to stay sane, and since I wasn’t about to take my one refuge away, I stopped recording and decided to preserve my mental health in that negative environment.
So, why won’t I make the decision to preserve my mental health over my physical health once again? I might still, this is just something I’m doing right now. But right now is actually a pretty good time for me. I’m finally taking one day a week off work, I’m pretty steady with contracts and jobs, and I live somewhere I love and where I am happy. If there’s such a thing as peak mental health for me, this is it. Sad but true. I just got off two back to back stints throwing my mental health in the toilet for my businesses, I might as well keep the streak going by doing it for my physical well-being next.
But that isn’t something to take lightly. I feel like a failure every day. Something so basic and essential as feeding myself eludes me. Since June 4 when I started recording my food, I have eaten enough calories only four non-consecutive days. And that’s usually because I broke down and ate something full of sugar and carbs. Most days I barely break a third, and there is a really strong urge to watch that number get smaller instead of bigger. I’m hungry almost constantly and I seem to have two emotions: cold rage and Alzheimer’s. I think about food from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night because I am so damn hungry. If I don’t eat right or the right amount, I feel sick and it’s really difficult to convince myself to eat something once this starts to kick in.
One of the things people don’t say about anorexia is how great it feels. Several times over the last three months. I’ve been reminded about how amazingly narcotic the high is after you break the hunger barrier and are in complete control over your disgusting body. This is when the voice that says I should make the calorie counter go down gets very enticing. This is also when I can delude myself into thinking that I’m taking control of my destiny. These deprivation times are when the paleo diet really works for me.
Sure, having the energy to get all my work done and have happy satisfied clients and tour guests is objectively great, but it can’t compare to the sense of accomplishment that comes from simultaneously starving away any higher brain function of the sort that would remind a working person of her obligations as a service provider while also turning the ability to not eat a thing into the purest form of action.
If I do somehow manage, between work, the tour, and everything else in life to eat the right amount of calories from regular balanced meat and vegetable meals, then I have failed my anorexic voice. If I don’t eat enough calories or if I do but I fuck it up somehow, I am failing my doctor voice. I don’t want to call that voice a healthy voice because I don’t think it is. I don’t think I have a healthy voice at this point.
There’s no way to win and I’m not willing to give up. I know I feel awesome when I do manage to pull this off, and I know that it’s going to take time to learn and internalize. I’m trying to be patient with myself, but when I get so hungry and shaky and angry and stupid every day, it’s difficult to remember to also be objective and to stay cool. Being kind to myself has never been my strong suit, and it is wildly apparent in this context. I feel like I’m definitely skating an edge. Which one is up for debate.