Ever since I can remember I’ve had a distorted relationship with food. I recall being in elementary school and playing the video game, DDR. DDR would post how many calories you burned and I asked my dad how many calories I needed to burn to lose a pound. From there, I started becoming obsessed with my body image and wanting to appear thin.
I became a competitive swimmer in middle school and continued through college. Swimming burns a lot of calories but also means you have to be in a bathing suit, all year long, around boys, around parents and around your teammates. I’ve never been overweight but I’ve always felt so guilty about what I’ve ate. I’ve been strictly gluten-free for 5 years. While I’ve never been officially diagnosed as celiac, I cherish the fact that I can’t stop at that hotdog stand on the street corner with my friends or that I couldn’t eat late-night pizza after going to the bar in college.
I’ve gone on juice cleanses, dairy-free diets, raw food diets and I also went vegetarian for 3 years. Last summer when I was manic, I lost about 35 lbs in 3 months. I don’t remember starving myself but apparently I did. I got out of the hospital and looked at myself in the mirror and was astonished. I couldn’t believe how thin I became (let’s just say my BMI was underweight). I had attempted and failed my entire life to restrict foods and exercise to achieve the perfect, thin body and I had it. I remember my friends who didn’t know my situation would ask me, “What happened to you?” or “Why do you look like this?” It’s sickening, but it was such a good feeling. I didn’t even feel like I worked for it since my manic episode was basically a blackout. But I passed go and I collected $200.
Then I lived my life somewhat normally. I felt I could eat ice cream and it would be okay, I could afford to gain a half pound. I went to the bars a lot, signaling my next manic episode since I wasn’t on any medication. In October, I started Seroquel, only 25 mg. I was petrified by the drugs reviews towards gaining weight but my doctor assured me that I would be fine as long as I continued to exercise and eat well. My second manic episode had me up to 600 mg of Seroquel and then in the hospital I was put on Lithium.
Somewhere along the way, I seemed to develop this binge eating problem. My mom gave me bags of chocolate for Valentines day. I would *reward* myself for going to class that day and eat 8 of them. And then I would hate myself and torture myself with the thought of how I was so thin last summer and how I became so out of control with food.
I think my medication is trying to ease my brain to say, “It’s okay to eat pasta for dinner” or “You can put whole milk in your coffee”. But my messed up, disordered eating part of my brain fights it. I just bought a book on Amazon called “When Food is Love” by Geneen Roth and I’m so excited to read it.
Do you deal with an unhealthy relationship with food? How do you manage it?