I was recently so pleasantly surprised by body’s ability to moderate my appetite that I feel the need to share. Living with an eating disorder for so many years, and then living in eating disorder recovery for a further 7 years has meant that I tend to distrust my body’s ability to know how to eat. In a way, eating disorder treatments and therapy teach you that you are unable to trust yourself with food, which is the case 99% of the time in early recovery. I too have been conditioned to believe this.
I am reasonably athletic and an avid runner. I go through periods in which I train loads for an upcoming race, and then I go through periods in which I train less, like I have been doing recently. I ran a big race a couple of weeks ago that I trained hard for over a period of about 2-3 months. Even before that I was very consistent with my base training, entering a few other races early in the year and training hard for all of them. At the time, I didn’t notice how unconsciously I was eating – I ate when I was hungry, and I stopped when I was full. I was a little bothered by how much I was eating but this is normal for me – as an anorexic in recovery I will feel like this for the most part for the rest of my life. The important thing is that voice remains a tiny murmur in the back of mind that only speaks occasionally, and I never give it any power. Consciously, I knew well enough that I needed to eat a lot because I was training a lot.
After my race I took a well-earned and much-needed break from training. It was great timing because things at work suddenly got unseasonably busy and in order to take proper care of myself, I knew I had to ease up on something, so the training would have to dissipate slightly. About a week into my rest (by rest, I mean training two or three times a week, as opposed to twice a day) I noticed how little I had been eating. My initial reaction to this was that something must be wrong, jumping to the conclusion that: ”something is bothering me emotionally and I have started restricting again.” That was nonsense. All that my body was doing was naturally moderating my appetite. How great is that!? I never thought I would have that stock-standard human function. After 27 years I might actually be able to finally to trust that my body will naturally eat when it is hungry and stop it is full.
In all honesty, I don’t 100% trust its capabilities just yet. I imagine its like getting into a newly repaired airplane – it should work, the experts have tested it well enough, but there will always be the tiniest bit of doubt. The fact is I am not “cured”. I never will be. I was reminded of this one emotional afternoon this week in which I ate more than I needed to. This will always happen and it’s ok. I cannot get it 100% right, 100% of the time. That would be an unrealistic expectation. However, living sugar-free does give me the comfort of knowing that I will never over-eat to the point of it being unhealthy or feeling overwhelming guilt. Yes, I may have an extra helping of nuts when I am not hungry, but for the most part I know and trust that when my body needs the extra food it will ask for it, and when it doesn’t need extra food it will stop asking for it. Having progressed to this stage in my recovery is so exhilarating and empowering. I feel rather proud of myself, and incredibly grateful to the principles of this program.