For the past five months, I have been dealing with digestive issues that make me feel sick after most every meal. Often I wake up with nausea and cramping and it continues throughout the day, peaking after eating. In an effort to reduce my discomfort, I have chosen to eat less. I have also undertaken a strict FODMAP reduction diet (making our WSW international cooking adventure rather challenging) which cuts out most of the fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains that I enjoy. FODMAPs are groups of foods like fructans and cruciferous vegetables that may exacerbate digestive issues, although the diet has not been helping with my symptoms. This restriction has been partly overseen by a dietician — it’s not something I would want to undertake unsupervised — but regardless, it has led to some troubled thinking, or at the very least, it hasn’t helped. I have been telling anyone that will listen that I haven’t found this diet triggering. Rather, it’s been annoying, and I miss garlic, avocado, and apples. But deep in the dusty parts of my brain where old behaviours live, bouncing a tennis ball against my skull in boredom, something woke up. “Hello, what’s this?” said my disordered eating. “Restriction? I got this. Move over.”
The thinking around this portion reduction has changed from “let me eat less to feel less uncomfortable” to “what have I eaten today? Is that too much?” to “how many calories have I taken in exactly so far?” to “I’ve hardly eaten — good job, me.” This is the slippery slope of disordered eating. There is an unhealthy pride coupled with this restriction. Over the last few days, I have barely eaten at all, and I look back on these days with a sense of accomplishment. I was ingesting not nearly enough calories, feeling very depressed, and feeling repulsed by food — even water at times. Not eating leads to fatigue and depression, and fatigue and depression lead to loss of appetite. The frustrating thing is that eating so little has in fact made my poor belly feel less sick.
I am fortunate now to be able to recognize certain signs and to have a good support network. This morning, I had a moment where I felt I might faint. I knew I had to eat and took myself out for spicy salmon maki. The moment they were set in front of me, my stomach turned and I changed my mind. Luckily, a friend of mine dropped in, and sitting and chatting with her, I was able to eat a little (picking the rolls apart in the most juvenile way that would have gotten me kicked out of Japan). This afternoon, I went to the grocery store and bought absolutely whatever I felt like eating, which was: Lucky Charms, rice cakes, Amy’s no cheese pizza.
It took me a long time to like food, and even longer to love it. Mostly right now, I just want to not be afraid of food and the discomfort that will follow eating. Either way, though, I have to eat. There’s no accomplishment in not eating. Anyone can do that. There’s no accomplishment in being thin, either. The accomplishment is in being strong, making choices for the body I have, weathering the ups and downs, and recognizing that disordered eating belongs in those dusty places in my brain. Go back to your tennis ball, you terrible thing. I’ll get this myself.