Reflections on my own disordered eating

My last two posts have been about my child’s eating disorder, which is currently the biggest stressor in my life right now. (This evening, my child is scheduled to be admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital’s inpatient eating disorder program.) Interestingly, when I went to post last Friday, it occurred to me how seemingly coincidental it was that I had literally just posted about my own digestive issues, how my own digestive system had shut down 5 years ago, in the prior post. I had not consciously planned that. 

But it got me thinking. My child has an eating disorder and has struggled with it for over a year. My child and I also have a very strong emotional connection. It is often too strong, I have come to realize, and I’ve been in the process of working on maintaining healthier boundaries with him. It’s been challenging at times because we are both very strong empaths and we have what some might call a psychic connection. And he has many of my own personality traits, but much more intensified.

So it got me thinking – me having issues with my digestive health, and my child having issues with eating in general. And I realized that if my kid is going to get better with his eating disorder, I need to work on healing from my own disordered eating habits as well.

Because the fact is, my relationship with food these days is messed up. In fact, it has been messed up in one way or another for a decent amount of time.

Doctors say that one of the reasons my child has an eating disorder is that it is a way for him to exert control, as he feels otherwise helpless and anxious, especially after the divorce. It is not a coincidence that my child also has OCD. The vast majority of children with the ARFID eating disorder have OCD.

I have OCD too, and my OCD has previously manifested in disordered eating patterns. However, in my case, in the past, my disordered eating was not necessarily damaging to my health. Namely, from 2016 until 2019, when I was very obsessed with training for obstacle course races and weight lifting, I used to weigh all my food and record EVERYTHING that I ate in an online tracker. I meticulously managed the grams of protein, carbs, and fat that I ate. I then entered everything into an online spreadsheet. I also tracked my weekly weight. Now, I wasn’t restricting my calories in any sort of unhealthy way – you can see from the photo that the average calorie amount for each day was around 2000 calories.

But I did this for three years. I weighed my food for three years. I had a scale at home, a scale at work, a scale that stayed in my purse, AND a backup scale just in case one of my other scales broke, because heaven forbid, I could not handle it if one of my scales broke and wasn’t available for a few days until I purchased a new one. See…this is how my OCD was manifesting for me. I knew it wasn’t “normal.” I knew that some people thought that I had a problem. But I felt that it was a relatively healthy outlet for my OCD. After all, I always had an outlet at every time in my life, some outlets “crazier” than others. This one felt productive. And it also prevented me from restricting my calories to an unhealthy degree, which I had done in the phase PRIOR to this one. 

But after the BC debacle where I unfairly lost my job, back in 2019, I stopped consistently tracking my food for a few months. I tried to start back up again in January 2020, but once my marriage fell apart in March 2020, I stopped tracking and never went back.

Unfortunately, about that time, not only did I stop tracking, but I stopped being able to nourish myself in a healthy way with food. I stopped cooking for myself. I had cooked for my husband, my kids, and myself, every night for almost 15 years. But suddenly, I stopped being able to cook. I began eating mainly takeout, already prepared meals (like frozen ones from Trader Joes), and junk food. Most food just seems unpalatable to me these days, and I’ve been struggling with this for the last two years.

And this is the same time frame that my child has been struggling with HIS eating disorder.

And given our connection, I do realize that if I am going to successfully help my child allow me to nourish him with food, I need to take care of myself first.

In my next post, I will write about why it is so challenging for me to feed myself in a healthy, consistent way right now, and how I am trying to become healthier in my relationship with food.

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