I wrote a post recently about how different life is before and after a six-month reset. But some things stay with you. I’m still me. You’ll still be you.
I don’t view them as weaknesses per se, because I don’t like that connotation, but I can see in retrospect how some of my innate qualities were and are vulnerabilities in a diet-centric world. And I see how they added up to something very complicated that took me years to untangle.
Below, I wrote about four of those things that I’ve come to recognize in myself, and how I deal with them today. Maybe you’ve experienced similar things too? Understanding your triggers is crucial and knowing yourself is crucial to protect yourself from relapse.
I love food. I always thought I was a binge eater because I loved food too much. But now I’m free from binge eating, and guess what? I still love food! I plan vacations around the places I’d like to eat, I love trying new recipes. I just LOVE food.
I love food as much as ever; the big difference is that now a.) I don’t feel ashamed of eating, so I happily eat until I’m full, and b.) I get full. Because my hunger hormones are back in balance, my body is able to tell me when it’s full, just like it was meant to do. And I know now what fullness feels like: It isn’t only a feeling of physical fullness from my stomach — it’s also a sense of diminishing deliciousness as my tastebuds seem to lose interest in the food, and every bite is less irresistible than the one before it.
I’m really sensitive about food. My food confidence is stronger than ever, but I still hate hate hate when people comment on what or how or when or how much I’m eating. Even the ostensibly positive comments make me feel dizzy. For instance: “You barely ate anything! Good for you.” AAAAHHH stop.
Even if the intention is innocent, I still hear that quintessential message of diet culture: “There’s a right way and a wrong way to eat. Don’t screw it up.”
To keep this from getting to me, I remind myself that only I can feel what my body needs and wants; no one else could possibly know, so their opinion straight-up does not matter. And if I’m feeling extra sensitive one day, I’ll avoid eating around coworkers who make annoying food comments so I can eat in peace.
For people who matter more than random acquaintances, I’d highly recommend a heart-to-heart about how food talk affects you. People who love you do not want to hurt you.
Just speak what you feel. Here’s mine: “I’ve come so far in my relationship with eating. But there are some things that I still hear in a disordered way. Even comments that might seem meaningless, there’s a little voice in the very back of my head ready to twist your words into something mean. So please don’t comment on what or how much or how often or how quickly I’m eating. Even if you’re just kidding around, that little voice in my head has no sense of humor.”
I’m a food-control freak. I need to feel in charge of what I eat and when. I realized this last year after visiting some friends for a weekend, and I could feel my mind obsessing about food in a way I hadn’t since my disordered days.
It helped me identify something very important about myself: When I don’t know when my next meal is coming, I eat without regard to my hunger. I don’t know why I’m this way. I just am, and knowing that helps me identify food panic without thinking I’m relapsing.
The idea of food control is glorified by diet culture, but diets actually make it worse. When you live your life on a diet, you are constantly striving to eat less and less and less, and it makes every little morsel seem like the last food on earth.
Today, I deal with this by packing some non-perishable, non-squishable snacks, like nuts or breakfast bars, for days that I won’t have full autonomy over what and when I eat. Examples: a long bus ride, an all-day work conference, or an overnight stay at someone else’s home. It gives me so much comfort to know that there’s no reason to panic because I have food readily available to me whenever I need it.
I hate wasting food. One big trigger for my binge eating was the thought of any food going to waste. I get really really really upset about it, like I have committed a mortal sin.
For instance: Let’s say someone brings cupcakes into work, and there are still some left at the end of the day and no one’s eating them!! AAAH! I know they’ll go to waste, so I sneak in to eat them, without even asking myself “Okay, but do you actually want more cupcakes?” Even if they weren’t particularly delicious, I was obsessed with “saving” them.
This has NOT gone away, so I have figured out ways to work around it. I always ask for restaurant leftovers to go, even if the amount feels silly. If there are leftover treats at work that no one wants, I pack them up and bring them home. Then my husband gets to enjoy some too, and I get to go back for a second round when my appetite comes around again.
If neither of these things is practical, I have a mantra to release myself from the guilt: I cannot save the world with my stomach.