My tastes are changing. I sucked the juice from half of a regular lemon, something I’d normally find repulsive. But the sourness was delicious and there was this faint incredible sweetness (it was definitely a sour lemon, not meyer, etc). I had plain steamed broccoli and again experienced this barely apparent sweetness. I have no desire to eat anything besides that which has been prescribed. I have no food anxiety.
My energy continues to be incredible in that I am focused and motivated. However, all of us on this challenge experience a slump at the gym today. We back squatted and the weight I used for my work sets 5% lower than I had anticipated. The trainer said this was to be expected and should subside next week. I should also admit I was very sick and had to take last week off, so I’m still getting back into it. I am patient.
This was my third full day of eating strict Paleo. Already, I feel different. I do not know if this is a result of my endeavor or merely a side effect of endeavoring anything at all.
The most striking difference is my steadfast energy. I feel alert, as though I have drunk coffee, but also calm. I have a strange sense of enveloping optimism and an unfamiliar hopefulness. I have a clear head during my work and feel motivated during my workouts and open to new challenges (I broke my ankle last spring and learning to box jump again has been uncomfortable, but today I asked for a higher box)! Amazingly, I went through three whole days without any food anxiety!
To contrast this with my usual state…I am normally quite volatile and have often wondered if I have cyclothymia (a condition similar to bipolar disorder but moods swing at subclinical levels), and if not this then just wildly emotional and passionate. I have cried at the cuteness of kleenex commercials, exploded into uncontrollable tears while deadlifting, and become overwhelmingly excited at nothing. The alertness and energy of the past days is different. It is peaceful. Indeed, on occasion I find myself almost becoming very upset but able to release this negative energy and continue on unaffected.
This energy may be the result of not eating sugar. Fruit, starchy vegetables and nuts all fall within the Paleo boundaries, but my trainer has asked us to abstain from these as much as possible, eating only berries and starchy vegetables post work-out, and almond butter before bed if we are hungry then. Thus, most of my meals consist of something with a face, a lot of non-starchy veggies, and olive oil, lard, or coconut oil. This food is delicious when I am hungry and unbearable boring when I am not (this may be the point).
Our trainer also asked us to keep a food journal so he could check that we were eating appropriately. This immediately struck a foul chord as a possible trigger. I will attempt it anyway. Brick by brick, I take down this fortress of fear in which I buried myself alive. I will acclimate to discomfort until I am no longer afraid.
My eating disorder was always about control. I developed depression, body image issues, and OCD along the way. These have gradually all but disappeared over the course of my recovery. That drive for control, the need to perform and constantly challenge myself, is still alive. Am I mad to be this way?
I was anorexic (restricting sub-type) for 3 years with a strong intention to stay that way. I then spent 3 more years figuring out how to approach recovery, getting slightly better only to relapse again and again. With a bit of therapy and a lot of universal will to become, I spent the next 2 years recovering, teetering often on horrendous relapse. Eventually these frightful episodes diminished in both frequency and severity. And then they stopped almost entirely. A good portion of the end of what I consider my recovery was learning how to eat again. Learning what hunger felt like, and overcoming extreme phobias I had, for example, to chocolate cake. So here we are now. I spent 8 years entrenched in anorexia and recovery, and have been relatively free for 3 years. The main remnant is anxiety when I eat many of the foods that I considered “unsafe.” But I am at a healthy weight, I do not restrict, I am strong and happy. To me, this is recovery.
I am doing a 28 day paleo (no grains, dairy, legumes, sugars, or alcohol) challenge with my gym. It is a bit tricky for someone with my past to engage with such restrictions. However, if I do not, because I am afraid of relapse, then my eating disorder still rules me. I am also drawn to the acknowledgement of the underlying assumptions of paleo -that there is something wrong with the modern food system and the standard american diet.
Already, I find freedom in these restrictions; the knowledge that I will fuel and nourish myself, and can avoid simply those which induce anxiety. Paleo is perhaps extreme, and after this month I will of course add back in many of the restricted foods. But I must wonder, if I had eaten this way my entire life would I have developed an eating disorder in the first place? Are eating disorders a stress response that emerges not just due to western media, but also because of the standard western diet?