(If you’ve missed part one, go here)
After discovering the concept of intuitive eating and trying encorporating it into my eating habits I slowly began reintroducing more exercise into my lifestyle, with quite a significant amount of weight training. At this point I started focusing a lot on what I should be eating as far as building up my strength and stamina goes. It was a real eye opener for me to realize how fueling up properly before and after work outs crutial to fully benefiting from the exercise . During my ED I would work out only to burn calories, and I would do so on minimal amounts of fuel. But as I started focusing on building up strength and endurance, I realized just how much fun I had been missing out on. The rush of completing a hard core workout because you took the time to fuel up properly really makes the conscious effort to eat more pay off. This too though, was a trial and error experience and I have to say that on more then one occasion I didn’t balance out my calorie intake with what I was burning by exercising, and I DEFINITELY felt it. One of the things that has changed in my body since developing an ED is that if I have a calorie deficiency, I feel it right away and the warning signs my body gives me are hard to ignore and can be pretty scary. So in some cases I learned the lesson the hard way, but it was definitely an important one to learn.
Then I started uni and the craziness of a student’s lifestyle threw me off guard. Strict class schedules, new surrounds and people, and a lack of accountability to anyone but myself for me eating habits tested all I had learned up until this point. The first few weeks I didn’t do all that well. It’s not that I was trying to restrict, but trying to adjust to everything and take care of all there was to do the first couple weeks basically meant I neglected to take the time to fuel my body properly. And since I wasn’t ready to adapt to the ramen noodle and beer diet so loved by students I ended up eating a very limited diet that may not have been very much better then the long run. So most of the time I felt very weak, tired and hungry .
NOT the diet I was going for.
Finding out how to balance my studies and take care of myself took a bit of time and trial and error. I started doing things I NEVER did, and it was kind of scary. For instance, on days I didn’t eat enough during the day I would get crazy hungry around 10 PM. One night I had to get up and make a snack at 11PM because I couldn’t fall asleep.
I had to switch from eating every 2 hours to sometimes going 4 + hours with no food, and by the time I actually managed to eat, I would eat so much I would end up overstuffed. So there was a delicate balance there that was hard for me to find. Of course stress played a factor in here as well, and for the first time in my life I found myself emotionally eating because of stress. You see, when I don’t eat enough my body displays a lot of the same symptoms it does under extreme stress – I get cold and shaky and anxious. So whenever I felt this way I assumed I was hungry and would eat – only to be confronted with a stomach ache from overeating. Of course this time was very difficult for me, because those negative ED voices would come screaming that I was binging and that I should restrict to make up for the extra food I had eaten. Another thing that made it hard was that I compared my food intake with my roommate – who eats 2-3 times a day, occasionally very low calorie foods such as yogurts and rice cakes. Of course other days she would eat a small loaf of bread in one sitting, but of course that was hard for me to keep in mind when I had to eat 3 hours after a meal, and after eating a 3 PM she would be set for the night. Of course I realize everyone’s body is different, and I am more active in general then her, so naturally my body needs more fuel. But I had to learn not to compare to others and do what is best for me.
Where I’m at now:
Now I seem to have found a much better balance in taking time to take care of myself and devoting time to my studies. I upped the amount of calories in my breakfast and I’ve found that it makes my appetite much more manageable during the day. I try to pack enough food if I know I have a very busy day, I precook a lot of food and rely on leftovers when things get really busy. I stick to a general eating schedule and eat between 4-5 mini meals a day, but also try to listen to my body and eat more if I need it. I’ve also focused on mindfully eating , so I can better distinguish between stress and genuine hunger; and occasionally force myself to eat even if I have no appetite (another stress related issue for me). My stomach and IBS issues have gotten significantly better, although some days are still better than others.
I still go through phases where I don’t eat enough and need a pretty severe wake up call to get back on track. I mentioned this a little bit in my last post, but I played it down a little. In all honesty when I went out to buy a apple and that yogurt as part 2 of lunch I was about ready to collapse and was so hungry I was afraid I would start binging. Apparently there was a pretty big drop in air pressure so a few people were feeling weak, but I know in my case it was more than just that, and it scared me. I’m currently learning the balance between focusing so much on food to the point it becomes an obsession and not thinking about it at all and neglecting giving my body what it needs. It’s a trial and error process to be honest, but the important thing is that I am not giving up. I know it’s possible for me to learn to eat in a healthy, balanced way, and although it may take a while, I’m determined to make it work.
Have you found the balance between giving your body what it needs and not obsessing about it? Was there one factor in attaining that balance that played a key part?