Rebel with a cause

My appointment with TNT yesterday was at an unusual time (1pm, and she's an hour drive away), so I ended up eating my afternoon snack right after my appointment and had my lunch at about 3:30pm instead. I had driven myself, and it was essentially up to me whether I would eat the snack I had brought with me. I knew I could toss it or hide it or lie about it and no one (except for me) would be the wiser.

I wanted to chuck my snack so freaking badly. Not because I really wanted to restrict, but a) because I could and b) to be a little rebellious. Ultimately, I didn't throw out my snack and ate what I had brought because I was aware that this little stunt would prove a big fat load of nothing.

What I wasn't prepared for was how pathetic and weak I felt by eating my snack.

Yes, yes, I know: I should be proud of how I acted. Maybe I should, but that's not really the point here. I was thrown by how strong the AN "kickback" was for eating something when I didn't "have to" or wasn't being watched. The dialogue in my head went something like this:

Why am I eating this? This is so stupid! Snacks are ridiculous! I am eating way too much as it is. I'm such a wuss, eating when I don't have to or even want to. Isn't that what they tell you on TV- don't eat if you're not hungry? Right? This snack used to be way more than I ate in an entire day, and I was exercising about a trillion times more than I am now. I have gotten so weak. All of this eating has made me weak! I'm so pathetic, all of this eating...

I'm frustrated because I am committed to getting better, and have sacrificed so much to getting that way, that I'm still tormented by these thoughts. I know it's AN thinking, but I have been at a healthy weight (and then some!) for almost 9 months now. You'd think my brain would get the message, no?

TNT is primarily a CBT-oriented therapist, and I know she would want me to slow my thinking down and take a good, hard look at the rationality and usefulness of my thoughts. Some obvious places to start:

  • just because I feel pathetic doesn't mean I am pathetic
  • eating is necessary for recovery, and it doesn't make me weak
  • I eat more now and I also do more now and am happier
  • following a meal plan is necessary right now for me
  • losing weight and restricting will only lead to relapse, which is something I definitely don't want
So my addled brain is very much capable of producing logic, even though its use of logic seems to be a bit limited.

But what other solution is there, other than to ignore the thoughts and keep plugging along?


. said...

i am really proud that you ate your snack. imagine what could've happened if you hadn't, it could've been THE thing that made you relapse.

Carrie Arnold said...

Thanks, Honey! I know the path to relapse can start with exactly such a thing, which is what ultimately pushed me to eat my snack.

Mary Maxfield said...

I think you actually DID rebel yesterday, in a very positive way. You rebelled against your eating disorder, which ultimately requires a lot more strength ("weakness"? bullshit!) -- than bucking your meal plan or hiding your habits from your treatment team.

I've been told by a lot of people who do not understand AN that they admire the strength/ willpower of someone who "can" restrict. What they don't understand (and what I think we struggle to remember sometimes, too) is that there's no more strength involved in an anorexic person starving herself than there is in a leukemia patient "spreading" her cancer. That's the strength of the disease. Our strength, our power is in every moment we fight back. Keep at it; you are clearly a fighter.

Angela said...

I often have the feeling that I'm a failure because I've eaten. It is a difficult feeling to shake. It took a lot of strength and willpower to eat that snack, and to follow your meal plan even though the timing of your meals were off. It would have been so tempting for me to skip lunch when dinner was only hours away. Good for you for rebeling against the ED!

I Hate to Weight said...

i know just how you feel. i just felt this way at brunch. i briefly thought i was weak for choosing to eat when i wasn't staarving and i used to eat just that amount for a whole day and i weigh so much more and....

what an old voice. still, so very strong. but still so wrong.

your work is inspiring. thank you for writing and reminding me that i am not alone

Fellow OCD Sufferer said...

I can also relate so much in terms of my experience with AN. However, your post, like many others, seems to give me insight into my OCD, as well. I get angry at myself for knowing I have made the choice to do what my therapist would encourage me to do even when I don't have to. For example, in the beginning, OCD forced me to take my CBT so seriously that if I mastered an exposure and then had it taken off my exposure log, the pull to give in and start avoiding the thing I had conquered again was so strong! I had a ton of exposures I was working on at once because the moment one came off the list, I had a hard time resisting the urge to give in to my OCD once resisting was no longer an official assignment. Ah, so so difficult to fight!

I relate to your eating disorder experiences SO much with my OCD. I get angry at myself for choosing not to wash when I know I could, when I know no one is watching and I could get away with it. OCD tells me I am weak, that I am lazy, if I don't get up in wash my hands or when I don't rewash my clothes when I have the slightest thought that maybe I should. I admire you strength in eating that snack when no one was watching, and I will try to remember what you did when I am trying to resist my compulsions. At those times when OCD is telling me that I should be working harder to do things perfectly, to wash until there is no doubt in my mind that I did anything "wrong," I will try to remember that resisting is actually the harder thing to do - that if I want to work hard, resisting compulsions is the way to do just that. Giving in, though it may be far more physical work and thus seem like the least lazy thing to do, is really the easy way out!

Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul said...

I was thinking about what you said about hearing on t.v. to only eat when we're hungry... I think that for someone struggling with an eating disorder it can be so difficult to navigate the gray area between eating what you're "supposed to" versus based on your hunger cues. It gets tricky when we (health professionals) tell clients to learn to listen to their bodies but then encourage set snacks, etc. What I think it comes down to is that over time you'll learn better to distinguish your physical hunger from your eating disordered thoughts and in the meantime, sticking to the plan helps kick that ED in the proverbial butt. Great job eating the snack and, as willendork pointed out above, actually rebelling by doing so.

Lisa said...

I feel the same way about eating a snack. sometimes it seems so unnecessary but it really is. I'm proud that you ate your snack even when you felt like you didn't need to. Many have told me to look at food as meds if need be instead of just a choice.


Cammy said...

I have to chime in with agreement that you DID rebel and show a lot of strength. Those ED urges are pretty damn powerful, and you exhibited mastery over them in an episode where you were only accountable to yourself, and you blasted that challenge. Well done, my friend!!!

Katie said...

I'm agreeing with the others who say that you did rebel. It was my rebellious streak which powered me through the early stages of recovery - I was SO SICK of being controlled by an illness. It's scary rebelling against something that has been with you for years, it feels uncomfortable and wrong, but that is more often than not a sign that you are doing the healthiest thing. Generally the things which scare me the most are the ones which are most worth doing...possibly with the exception of sky diving :P

Good for you for not listening to your eating disorder. Now THAT is rebellion!

Renee said...

I respectfully disagree with Willendork's comment: "There's no more strength involved in an anorexic person starving herself than there is in a leukemia patient 'spreading' her cancer. That's the strength of the disease." Yes, ED is a mental illness, a disease, but it doesn't mean we are unable to make choices to either foster or fight it - otherwise we reduce ourselves to just being victims of it: "Oh well, the ED didn't let me have my snack today." I believe we can be agents of our own change and recovery. Carrie, you are living proof of that.

Mary Maxfield said...

@Renee : I think the issue of agency in eating disorders (and eating disorder recovery) is often difficult to make sense of, but I think we're actually making a more similar point than you realize. I definitely think there is strength and choice involved in getting better. I just don't think it's an act of "strength" for an anorexic to restrict. The people I was referring to seem to think being sick -- not recovering -- takes "will power." In my experience, it's a much greater personal effort for someone with AN to fight to be well, than it is for them to "fight" treatment or the urge to eat. Thanks for the respectful response.

Renee said...

Ah, yes, I think understand what you mean. People think it's so "disciplined" of anorexics to refuse food - they don't realize it's not discipline, it's fear!

Crimson Wife said...

"Don't eat when you're not hungry" is aimed towards those of us who self-medicate negative feelings with food. Eating is not the solution to feeling sad, lonely, angry, etc. But that doesn't sound like an issue you struggle with. So ignore the tv advice that's not relevant to your situation and follow your therapist's advice that is.

IrishUp said...

"But what other solution is there, other than to ignore the thoughts and keep plugging along?"

Hey Carrie, this got me thinking about the Neuro-Linguistic Programming training I did way back in the day. I know NLP has a bad rap these days in some quarters (I am looking at YOU, Tony R!), but there is a lot that is very very useful from a behavior modeling and modification standpoint.

One of their mottos was it's not behavioral flexibility unless you have at least 3 options for a given situation. So, as framed, you can either ignore the thought, or give in, right? Well, might there be other options for what to do with that thought? Giving in has OBVS issues, as does ignoring it. DBT tells us that when we ignore something we really want, it will just GROW within us.

In NLP excercises, it was often useful - and in my real, every day life, I STILL find it useful - to come up with a silly 3rd option, if you're too stuck to come up with one that feels like a real solution.

(* me being Carrie *)
- I could set those thoughts to a TV jingle. Launch an imaginary ad campaign. Imagine the product line.
- I could imagine the thoughts as Dan Akroyd, and come up with counter thoughts as Jane Curtain.
- I can give the thoughts funny voices in my head, the mental equivalent of a Boggart.

Annyway, I have found doing something silly with my negative scripts as a third alternative to either ignoring or submitting is often very helpful in derailing that internal on/off switch thing we all can get stuck in. Frequently, I can come up with some serious problem solving too - like working on the triggers for the thoughts, or my mindfulness in just noticing them and letting them pass, without judgement or action.

Anyway, you rock on, girl! It's good work you're doing.

Carrie Arnold said...


I guess my use of the word "ignore" was a little different than perhaps you interpreted it. "Ignore" for me means not to let these thoughts dictate my actions. I should blog on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT, not A-C-T, but actually pronounced "act") because just accepting that I have these thoughts and not always trying to fight them has saved me a lot of energy.

Often, I will imagine my thoughts as rude little children and when I think something bizarre/not helpful, I just mentally pat that little child on the head and say "that's nice, dear."

Oh, and my word verification for this post is "bakies." Rather appropriate, no?

IrishUp said...

Carrie -
Ahh, gotcha. You're right, I had misunderstood.

I am stealing the impudent kiddie trick, btw; that's a good one.

heehee, bakies.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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