Friday, October 28, 2011

The Genesis of Disorder

I've written before about the problems that I've had with my starvation-type eating-disordered behaviour.  I've talked about the health problems it's caused me; if I've been restricting again, I even experience rumination syndrome for a few days afterwards, no matter how little I eat, though I find that it does subside after awhile.  I've talked about the possible reasons behind my tendency to ignore my body's hunger cues.  I've been an advocate, as much as a small-time blogger possibly can be, of the concepts that fat bodies are not necessarily diseased, that health is not a moral imperative, that fat people don't deserve to be treated badly, and that eating disorders, even if they're cleverly disguised as diets, are as harmful to us as they are to thinner people.  But I don't think I've talked much about what kept me dieting long enough for it to become an actual problem for me.

The thing is, as awful as I felt, for the first week and a half or so of my doctor-induced state of starvation I felt as if I was accomplishing something.  I was acting grown-up; after all, adults go on diets all the time, don't they?  (I was about 21 years old at the time, and I'd already developed my distaste for alcohol—remember, the drinking age in Ontario is 19, so I'd been legal to drink alcohol for two years by then—and was unfortunately somewhat offended by anything to do with sex at the time, particularly after a not-exactly-stellar experience a couple of years before, so it may not be very surprising that I felt that dieting was a Very Grown Up Adult Thing To Do; it was practically the only Special Adult Thing that I could allow myself to experience without offending my tastebuds or my prudery.)  I was Taking Control Of My Health.  So as awful as I felt physically, and as afraid as I was to eat anything at all, there was still something activating the reward centre of my brain.  My doctor had constructed a doom-and-gloom picture of my future as it would inevitably be if I didn't drop approximately half my body weight as soon as possible, but she'd also promised redemption of a sort if I did my damndest to force my body into a thinner shape.

Dieting became, as much as anything I'd learned about in my Catholic school, an absolution of mortal sin, which in this case was, of course, fatness.  And as resolute as I was at the time that I'd never be swayed by organized religion again, I was completely taken in by the Cult of Dieting and Thinness.  And as short as my "conversion" lasted, it was years before I really realized how truly dangerous and harmful it had been to me.  Somehow that three weeks managed to rewire my mind to the point where my default behaviour, unless I continually remind myself of the necessity of good, nutritious fuel for my body, is to avoid ingesting anything but water or tea, which has led to a number of problems over the years.  And I suspect that the initial feeling of control and purpose that I had in that first week and a half was a major reason why this happened.

Dieting, restriction, and self-starvation can be awfully alluring because of what's promised to you if you faithfully keep on with them.  But in reality, their results seldom, if ever, include better physical or mental health.  Don't let what happened to me, what's still happening to me, happen to you.  I'm still discovering what the long-term consequences of these behaviours are for me, and so far none of them have been pleasant.

No matter what you look like, no matter what your size and shape are, you are worth more than this.  So am I...but even as I've acknowledged this on the conscious level, it has been, and it continues to be, ridiculously difficult to break the old starvation pattern that was set up for me seven years ago.

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