This is the last of a nine-part series chronicling Iris' 46-year battle with bulimia. To read the rest of the series, go here.
The following experience helped me figure out the best action step needed to recover from disordered eating.
My revelation begins to emerge when I decide to host a Chanukah lunch for my book group. I plan the menu. I set the table with my mom's good bone china, my aunt's sterling silver cutlery and my grandmother's antique tea cups. I fry potato latkes from scratch and buy rich butter cookies in the shape of dreidels from a nearby upscale bakery.
The lunch is a roaring success.
When the guests depart, I am tired and I am alone. The silence is soothing after the tumultuous chatter. Turning on classical music, I hum contentedly to myself as I begin leisurely cleaning up. I savor the comments I received from my friends about the warmth of my home and the effort I expended. I clear the dishes from the dining room table. I pile the linens in a corner for future washing. I soap off the good china and silver. I pick at the loose pieces of potato pancakes and eat two of the butter cookies before wrapping up the leftovers, which are destined for one of my sons and one of my neighbors.
It's not until I go to bed that night that I realize fully the sea change that has occurred. Entertaining as a bulimic was agonizing. All the foods I normally avoided storing in the house were taking up temporary residence in my pantry. Keeping me unfocused and agitated.
I didn't join in the good-natured banter with my friends. I didn't laugh at my husband's jokes. I didn't listen avidly to a colleague's travel vignette. All my concentration was centered on how I could convince my husband to let me clean up by myself when the party was over. Why? So all those forbidden leftover goodies would be mine. Why? So I could shovel in the remaining potato puffs and chocolate éclairs into my mouth as fast as I could. Why? So I could, minutes later, violently and relentlessly, expel it all into the toilet.
This time, I basked in the high points of the Chanukah party -- seeing my friends seated around my dining room table chatting and laughing. I took pleasure from using the accoutrements I have been lucky enough to inherit. I drew happiness from decorating the house with Chanukah decorations my grown children had made in grade school. I savored the compliments from well-meaning friends. I cherished the warm and affectionate hugs and cheek kisses as they said good-bye.
Entertaining was no longer a demanding exercise laced with subterfuge and distraction.
It is over four years since I have gone into my first floor powder room, closed the door and locked it, planted both feet firmly on the floor facing the commode and proceeded to puke my guts out -- for the very last time.
No more eating the same thing every day out of habit and fear. I now ask myself before each meal: What do I feel like eating? Is it something salty? Spicy? Sweet? Laced with protein? Saturated with carbs? Mindfully, I then make my choice, using reasonably sized portions to appease my hunger.
I cultivate the experience of satiety -- how much it will take to experience that warm bubble in my tummy that expands enough to stem the hunger, but not enough to uncomfortably tighten the waistband of my jeans.
I eat without distraction. No TV news. No I Pad. No newspaper reading. Just eating and savoring.
I embrace the mentality of food as fuel for the body, not an antidote to depression, fear, anxiety and loneliness.
No more anxiously perusing an unfamiliar menu when dining out -- automatically seeking out the least fattening menu item - in my vigilant effort to keep the needle on the scale from traveling north. I experiment with new dishes and tastes. Bison burger, anyone?
It's working. My weight is stable. My blood work is normal. And I am finding pleasure in food, rather than viewing sustenance as a whirlwind force constantly begging for restraint and corralling.
I hope the steps I took will inspire, motivate and help you and the ones you love who face the same (or different) demons. I hope it will lend momentum to the arduous, but ultimately self-satisfying, journey of moving from dis-ease to health, balance and restoration. I hope my shared saga provides comfort. I hope it inspires you to act to bring about a healthy resolution to the demons tormenting you.
I released myself from the tired, misconceived mantra that I can get rid of my eating disorder by myself. Paradoxically, I realized I had the life skills to tackle the task, but I still needed a professional team to help me accomplish it and reach the goal line.
Seeking help enabled me to become my own agent for change. To stop attacking my body. To take stock of all the strengths I had acquired over the years and had always underestimated. To shed the idea that I needed ED (Eating Disorder) by my side in order to be in control, in order to cope, in order to soar.
I implore you to get professional help so that you too can:
Unyoke the harness and break free of the chains
Strive for a state of positive equilibrium
Open your umbrella and sing in the rain.
As always, I welcome your comments, your feedback, your thoughts.
If you want more information about my forthcoming book Tales of a Bulimic Baby Boomer, or to sign up for my weekly newsletter, visit www.irisruthpastor.com or follow me on Twitter @IrisRuthPastor.
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