Eating disorders involve “all or nothing” thinking and it’s a style that can be problematic. You’re either good or bad, succeeding or failing, winning or losing. Unfortunately, too often the inside voice comes down on the negative side of the scale.
It’s a dichotomous way of thinking that demands perfection and will accept nothing else. The goal posts for that perfection move, however, and so you can never get there, though that doesn’t stop your eating disorder from trying.
I’m reminded of the nineteen-eighties movie war games. They’re trying to teach the computer a lesson about the futility of war by having it play to a draw game after game of tic-tac-toe. being smarter than us, the computer picks up the idea within a minute or so and delivers one of my most favourite movie lines of all time – perhaps it’s the oddly cheerful metallic voice that makes it so appealing: a strange game. the only winning move is not to play.
So it is with eating disorders.
I’m sober in my purging and have been, mostly, for ten months though the official count is nearing two, due to a couple of slips. I’m no longer bingeing in the extreme and my purging is mostly under control. I am, however, still playing the game and the next move is going to be a hard one.
I still restrict. I still obsess over my body size. I still think about eating and food and being fat and what that means to the kind of person I am far too often. I still think, every day, “you should go on a diet, you should just lose ten pounds, you can be better and still be really thin”.
I made a mistake at the grocery store today. I’ve avoided scales for years. It’s both good and bad. Good because I don’t have a number to obsess about, bad because I never know the number and I seriously underestimate my weight in a way that can lead to problems. But, on the whole, the gone scale is a good thing. Today, however, at the pharmacy section I happened upon a little machine that promised to tell me my BMI and fat percentage. What self-respecting eating-disorder afflicted person could resist? It would’ve been better if I had, because since I got the results, all I can think about is, it’s low, but it could be lower. I’m determinedly ignoring the voice that is trying to suggest perhaps the machine is not the most accurate tool in the box.
The fact that numbers are still so problematic, added to the other issues I still retain has been a bit of a slap in the face, but only a little one because deep down I actually knew that although I’m abstinent, I’m definitely not cured.
Unfortunately, the next steps are scary ones and I’m finding them hard to take. They are: add on food, start wearing clothes that fit to get used to how that feels, swear off the laxatives, allow snacks (which I quite unconsciously dumped weeks back), and accept that there might be some weight gain.
I can skip changing and stay here, better than I was but not as good as I could be, not as free as I’d like to be. The fact that concomitant behaviours are amping up is a warning sign I need to heed.
I wasn’t sure of the way forward; my brain likes to make it confusing but then I remembered the movie and the truth therein; the only winning move is not to play.