Monday, September 24, 2012

ED Talks #19: It's Not Really a Problem?--by Erica

It probably started after Matt broke up with me in 2010. Wow, that's almost two years ago... a lot of time and baggage since then. I had been so confident that this was the relationship that was going to make it. He fit the bill in so many ways that I ended up overlooking some important character traits that were even more important. I am a loyal person. I am also dedicated to success in whatever I pursue. This was not a recipe for success in this relationship. I also had a special communication with the Lord earlier that year. I embarked on some life changes for me and I had the distinct impression that if I implemented those, essentially this would be my year (2010). You know, to finally get married. It was not. And I think what made the breakup truly devastating was realizing that what I had felt to be a significant promise in my life - one I could rely on - completely disintegrated in the breakup. For the rest of that winter, I was pretty darn depressed on a fairly consistent basis. It's something of a miracle that I managed to complete my thesis, teach, and work my other job too. I know that some of those people really helped me pull through and keep slogging forward, especially my sister in law. I spent many a morning watching kids at her house while she slept (night shift nurse schedule). Those sweet kids were a therapy for me in many ways, and the sisterly talks she and I had together also helped keep me glued together.

That summer I took off for my dance tour, finally feeling back to normal with my life, emotions, goals, and future. I graduated with my Master's degree and went to the temple to receive my endowment. I moved away from Provo to SLC and began looking for a job while living with my grandparents. It was a great and exciting time. I loved getting to know my grandparents better and I liked being in a new environment. I went to the temple weekly while searching for a job. I was definitely on a spiritual high. I made a few initial friends, got a job thrust into my lap (something I will not take in the future ... jobs require some time to consider before diving in), and felt very productive and useful. People needed me, I'd moved beyond the concerns of the previous year, or so I thought, and I soon settled myself into a new home in South SLC with fun roommates. It was about the time of the move that things began to get interesting again.

1. Let me go back a little for this first thing that got interesting: food. While dating Matt, I learned that he was extremely image conscious. Since we were a couple, that image now included me. It was his influence that got me to buy $80 jeans from the Buckle. Granted, I love those jeans and think they were totally worth it. But.... It was because/for him that I  bought my first bottle of real perfume. I thought about whitening my teeth because he'd commented on my funny white spot in one of my front teeth. And for whatever reason, the semester we dated was one where I lost a fair amount of weight. I ran with my roommate fairly consistently and was eating more protein (thanks to him feeding me!) and for one reason or another, I lost a few pounds and some flubby inches. I wasn't trying to lose weight or achieve a certain look... it just happened. Matt noticed and said something to the effect of "keep it up." That was all. But that was all it took, I guess.

During the stressful moments of my life, I have taught myself not to turn to food. Did that one summer, gained weight, immediately vowed to not be so self-indulgent. So when we hit a rocky patch in October? Didn't eat very well. Not that I avoided it, but the anxiety left me in knots and I had no desire for food. A friend mentioned that I looked too skinny and we went out to dinner. Things worked out with Matt (for a bit longer) and I regained my appetite. Then we broke up. I honestly don't recall food being a thing at that point, although I remember not indulging in a pint of ice cream like many recommended. The ensuing "dark months" included me eating fairly regularly (I think). That was another benefit of tending my niece and nephew-- lunch! And sometimes I ate breakfast there too. I doubt my own meals were particularly healthy or interesting, but I don't recall that being part of my breakup process. I was nominally exercising through the occasional dance practice or extremely sporadic run. The dance tour happened and I felt pretty normal, if not even a little flubby, but that's just because we usually dance so much we lose weight on tour. We didn't that year, but it wasn't a big deal.

Step a few months forward to SLC. I loved living with my grandparents and eating 3 regular meals with them. I even whipped up some grub once or twice! There was a time when cooking was a relaxing and fun outlet for me. For whatever reason though, once I moved to my new apt in South SLC, food changed. Part of that was practical: I was about drowning teaching 1st grade and spent my lunch hour working on grades or lesson plans or preparation of some kind. For a while I packed a sandwich to eat.... as time progressed that dwindled. I also stayed up late working on class stuff, so I'd sleep in and hardly ever ate breakfast in the kitchen. It was always a car meal. For a great portion of the teaching year, my typical breakfast was however much cereal I could stuff in my mouth during the 12 minute commute, a granola bar for lunch. I brought fruit snacks or a cheese stick or a banana or an apple to help supplement lunch, but my meager desk treats didn't do much to bump up the caloric intake. Dinner was my only real meal and to my credit I generally ate well. Or at least a good portion. Like a box of Pasta Roni. Or a lot of homemade stroganoff. Or.... well I still wasn't cooking a lot, but I always ate dinner. I also ate out more during this time (fell in love with the Cafe Rio Pork Salad). The stress of teaching and the lack of nutrition made me shed even more weight and inches, so much so that I could tell I was wasting away a bit. I like being skinny. But I like being healthy too. And I knew I was flirting with danger.

I tried talking to people about it a few times. But I also rationalized that since I knew what I was doing, it wasn't really a problem. I just needed to work on being better with my diet. I never felt bad about eating a lot of calories in one sitting and I didn't avoid foods. I just didn't eat much while I was at school. I remember consciously choosing to stop and buy hamburgers before my weekly dance practice, though, so I would have protein and energy to get me through the night of rehearsal. Thanks, Sonic.

I didn't exercise particularly much while teaching school. I didn't have the energy. Aside from my relatively easy dance rehearsals through December, I did virtually nothing. I would have rather been working out and eating more to keep balance that way, but my way was easier and fit better into my stressful job. I also started dating someone at the start of the new year. He thought I was great as I was. I mentioned this food thing to him once or twice. He'd had friends with eating disorders in the past and was pretty caring and concerned. I made more of an effort to do better, since I felt like he cared and was holding me accountable a little bit. But in truth, things didn't change all that much. And then we got engaged. I'll admit, I worried when I heard a side-effect of birth control is weight gain. I didn't begin a wedding dress diet - I'm not stupid! that would have been a bad, dangerous idea - but I was very aware of what I was eating and what I looked like. I wasn't eating enough still and I was too skinny to wear several of my work pants anymore. The ones I did wear all looked baggy on me. I felt a little bit sad thinking of my lost leg muscles. I've always liked my lovely dancer calves and knew they weren't as strong as when I'd been working out and keeping them up. A friend at work mentioned my weight loss, but it was mostly a comment in passing.

And then he called off the engagement. (So much for all those things he said in the past about love and etc....) I did not want to eat, but I had immediately camped myself in my other brother's house and his wife made sure I ate. She even sat by me and talked to me... although I think that was more to monitor my eating than anything else. I distinctly remember when food finally tasted good again. It was about a week after the pronouncement. I never went back to sleep at our apartment again, just to pack it all up and move it out. I can't imagine what would have happened if I hadn't been around people. Still, I got a flu bug within a few days and that sure doesn't help you with food. I literally languished on my grandparents couch, with not so much energy to even sit up properly. It took supreme effort to get up and move around. My sis in law stopped by (the grandparents were out of town traveling) and made sure I had some good sick food. But aside from expelling most of it, those 24 hours marked a huge decline for me. Didn't hardly eat, had a lot of liquids, but my body was wasted. I returned to finish the last week of teaching and felt utterly lackluster. I remember being outside one morning in the heat for quite a while... I hadn't eaten breakfast that day and there were a few moments when I thought I would pass out. My body was physically and emotionally spent.

Returning to my home (out of state), I remember feeling weak for a while. A jug of milk felt heavy to me. I'd feel shaky after hefting it. I didn't trust my ability to lift heavy objects or perform much actual physical labor. Meals at home are delicious and guaranteed to make you feel better. Those worked their magic after a week or two. I went walking with my mom some mornings and recall progressing from feeling weak the first few days, to gradually feeling almost normal. Since then, you ask? I still don't work out much, if at all. Okay, I don't work out. I love eating a nice big lunch and small supper with the grandparents. Breakfast is still a struggle for me, but that has more to do with planning my wake-up times better. I think I have put on a few pounds... being at home definitely added 2 or 3. Interestingly, though, when I went to visit a dear family friend I hadn't seen for about a year, her first question was, "Are you eating?". The answer today? Yes, I am eating. But the last many months are a different story and I wonder if their effects are permanent or not. Or if they're good or not. This is one thing I have dealt with the past year on my own. These are the facts, not even the psychological exploration of the issue. I'm not really sure what to think or do, but I feel different -- better-- since writing all this down.

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