I stopped writing this blog because I stopped trying to "unsugar."
What I discovered in my searching for a solution is that I'm not a sugar addict but I have an eating disorder. Eating disorders can be fueled by attempting to eliminate certain foods. Calling a food bad for you or fattening can trigger bingeing on that food later or restricting from foods in a way that can be unhealthy.
I checked myself into an outpatient program at an eating disorder clinic on July 27th. The clinic is an hour away from my house and I went three days a week for four hours a day. I was discharged in late September. The dietitian at the clinic put everyone on a six-meal-a-day program which scared me. I was sure I would gain weight. She also wanted me to eat seven servings of starches a day (and real starches, like bread). I had to get over almost 40 years of training about good foods and bad foods. I had to, to recover from my eating disorder, neutralize food. I don't have any food allergies, and it turns out I can eat two cookies if I have permission to eat cookies. I can eyeball portions. I love food, so sometimes I take a little more than a portion, but I haven't binged since I started at the clinic.
The thing that happens, though, is when you stop engaging in your eating disorder, you start finding out why you had a disorder in the first place. All the horrible feelings I have of worthlessness have been rising up. I may not be engaging in disordered food behaviors, but my mind is full of self-destructive thoughts, many of which were planted by things said to me in childhood. Maybe some of them weren't intended the way I heard them, but my mind ran with them and made them reality.
During the four hours a day at the clinic, I spent about half that time in group therapy, in which we mostly talked about our trauma history. It was emotionally exhausting. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to return to work in the fall (I'm a teacher), but I did. Work was a good reprieve from the program.
But I had to withdraw from a couple of plays I was in. Even though I was able to maintain other projects and work, I couldn't seem to act. The people who have directed me or taught me acting over the last five years would consider me easy to work with. I became super-sensitive, didn't have enough time to prep, beat myself up internally every rehearsal, and felt too vulnerable being on stage. I know I will get back to acting, but I needed to pull myself out of that experience for awhile.
Now, I'm out of the program, and the voices in my head don't tell me to eat, to binge or restrict. They just tell me I'm hideous in so many ways. I know they aren't true, but there are times they are so loud, I start believe them.
Recovery from an eating disorder is a long haul. I've been trying to recover from my food problem for five years, but the programs I used before now went about it in a way that weren't right for me and my particular issue (I know those programs have helped others tremendously).
I didn't know if I wanted to write this blog, but I know a lot of people reached out to me when I posted about facing the sugar and the food issues. And I know there's a lot of shame around eating disorders, so if you are suffering from one, I want you to know you are not alone.
It's so incredibly weird to not be going from donut shop to Mexican restaurant to grocery store--from binge to binge. To be able to eat half a donut when someone brings me donuts as a birthday gift is something I never thought I would do. When I thought of sugar, I always thought of loads of it.
There are definitely times when I am annoyed or sad, where I want to eat for comfort, and sometimes I go at my dinner that way and make choices that I have characteristically associated with comfort. But for the most part, I am just wading through all the feelings I ate or restricted over.
I may be going back to the clinic part time soon. The irritability and depression I've been experiencing seem to be signs that I'm moving towards re-engaging. And those feelings are not pleasant, but I am still amazed to have even one day that I don't need to eat until I'm stuffed to numbness or need to put myself on an elimination diet.