I learned a lot about why I did indeed need to seek treatment, so it has been very validating for me. Validation is extremely important to me, so I'm glad that after a week at The Renfrew Center, I know that it's a very good thing that I am back in treatment.
Part of me was afraid that it was the wrong thing to do, that I didn't really need it, that I could get it under control on my own.
Anyway, the first thing that I learned is that my initial fears were unwarranted. I am not the only binge eater in the program. It's a group of women with a wide variety of EDs. These women are all beautiful, smart, creative, and friendly. I'd like to think that I am also all of those things. Why do such wonderful women end up with such terrible mental illnesses? It's a head scratcher.
I will not speak any more of the other women in the program on here, as it would be a violation of their privacy.
I'm so glad that all of them found the same help that I have found, and that together, we will work to fight these food and body demons.
The second thing that I learned is that I really need to get control of my emotions. The first thing step is recognizing them.
I have learned that I don't even know my own emotions most of the time. Emotions are the root of my eating disorder. I use food and body hate to cope with my emotions, and I don't even really know which emotions I'm feeding most of the time. I just know that I feel uncomfortable, and that eating alleviates that, as does switching the focus to body hate, or to being excited about a new diet and/or exercise plan.
But what emotions am I avoiding? I have started to look at this worksheet a lot to try to figure it out, and to check in with myself 3 times a day about it (roughly morning, afternoon, and night).
This is one of those silly things that I originally thought "that's dumb and childish". But it has actually been quite eye-opening. I had no idea how out of touch with my emotions I was.
The third biggest lesson of the week is the cycle of the ED behaviors that are use to suppress said emotions.
I shared this picture with you a couple of days ago on my Facebook page:
This shows the ED behavior cycle. First, we ("we" here means all of us with eating disorders, who currently engage in ED behaviors, such as bingeing, binge/purging, purging, restricting, obsessing about body/diet, etc.) feel an emotion, usually a negative one (though some people are also very uncomfortable with positive emotions as well).
Next, our discomfort rises, and we turn to an ED behavior to suppress/numb the feeling. The feeling goes away for awhile, but ultimately comes back, or another emotion soon arises, and the cycle continues.
What we need to learn is to sit with our emotions/feelings. The feeling will grow, and get worse, and climax. But after that, it will actually dissipate all on its own. Feelings are not meant to last forever. We need to learn to sit with uncomfortable feelings, instead of turning to our ED behaviors to suppress them.
The final HUGE lesson I took away this week is that I don't eat enough.
That may sound hilarious, because calorie-wise, I eat tons. On a binge day, I could consume well over 5,000 calories.
But with my new recovery-focused meal plan that my nutritionist is working with me on, my meals are simply... huge.
I was actually Underfeeding myself at meals, which led to lots of snacking, and sometimes led to binges (when the binges started out as responses to actual hunger, which was often the case).
I don't count calories anymore, and I am going to make a vow to not count calories for the entire time I'm in treatment with The Renfrew Center. My ED brain wants me to declare that I will "never count calories again!!!" because it thinks very all-or-nothing. Though I would like to declare that, it probably isn't realistic.
The Renfrew Center nutrition meal plan is focused on exchanges rather than calories or macros. Its aim is to make sure that we are feeding ourselves enough and a variety of foods.
I'll post about my specific plan in a future post, but for now just know that I was NOT eating enough at meals.
For example, I am still allowed to eat Pop Tarts for breakfast, but I have to also eat some dairy and some fruit.
This morning's breakfast felt like too much food (1 cup of oatmeal, 1 cup of milk, 1 apple, 1 granola bar, 1 tbs peanut butter - this is 3 starch-1dairy-1fat-1fruit exchanges - again, more in the next post!), but I wasn't starving by lunch. I was appropriately hungry.
Maybe a part of recovery is snacking less often, because meals really fill you up. It's interesting, and definitely wasn't the approach that was taught a decade ago at Omni Behavioral Health. Then again, ED treatment is a science, and science changes with new information.
Okay, so those are my top lessons for week 1! As you can tell, I'm learning a lot there, and I'm mostly actually enjoying my time at The Renfrew Center.