Author: Ben

13
May
2019

Progress – Macro Tracking And Food Weighing

As mentioned in my List of ED symptoms post, for many years I had been obsessively tracking calories/macros using MyFitnessPal, obsessively weighing food wherever possible, and planning my nutrition to a T. Ostensibly this was to ensure that my diet was on point and optimised for whatever my goal was at the time (whether that was fat loss or muscle gain). There were a heap of food rules around this, such as:

  • Making sure overall daily calories weren’t too excessive, so that I could eat a large enough meal at dinner time and before bed to feel at least somewhat satiated
  • Ensuring that every meal contained at least 30g of protein (but not too much!) to ensure maximum muscle protein synthesis
  • Attempting to spread those protein feedings over at least 4-5 meals a day
  • Trying to keep carbs a little higher pre and post training sessions; and keep them lower at other times of the day, particularly on days I knew I’d be more sedentary
  • To keep fats down as low as possible – especially if I knew the family dinner (the one meal I don’t really have complete control over) was going to be higher in fats/calories

I ate like this for three years solid, with only a couple of very short breaks of 1-2 weeks at a time  when the family were away on holidays and it was difficult to sustain. The end result was that I felt constantly hungry, grumpy, exhausted and sore. Even when trying to ‘bulk’ I almost never ate enough, because I was so fearful of gaming fat, so aside from one short period where I was letting Avatar Nutrition set my macros, my metabolism almost never normalised and I was constantly in energy deficit.

If I was forced to eat food I hadn’t prepared, this would cause me great anxiety. Going out for a meal was a nightmare – I’d always want to know where we were going in advance, so that I could spend hours poring over the menu and trying to figure out what to have. And since most restaurants around here don’t publish nutritional information it also meant spending ridiculous amounts of time looking through MyFitnessPal’s database comparing similar meals to try and estimate what the macros would be, and planning the rest of the day’s meals to try and compensate for the restaurant meal inevitably being more calorie dense than usual.

Don’t even get me started on Christmas dinners and work functions and any other occasion where I had to try and wing it. I actively tried to avoid most of these, with a fair amount of success. But when I couldn’t, they were a major mindfuck, and inevitably I either ate nothing, or ate too much (in my head), felt guilty and compensated by going walking for long periods and/or restricting subsequent meals.

This was probably one of the most stressful parts of my eating disorder, and I am so glad to be able to write about it in the past tense. I used to tell myself that I’m a numbers guy, and I enjoy having good data on the foods I’m consuming, but in reality it was a massive life thief (to steal a phrase from Christy Harrison) – I know some people have success with it (and I did too, to begin with) but with my tendencies towards obsessiveness and OCD type behaviours, it wasn’t good for me in the long term.

The story of how I gave it up is straightforward. I started experiencing more and more regular episodes of binge eating (and I tracked those binges in MyFitnessPal as best I could) and I eventually recognised that the obsessive tracking and controlling was probably a contributing factor. So to start with, I stopped tracking carbs and fats and just attempted to track protein. That didn’t help much, so on Feb 1st 2019 after another late night biscuit and cereal rampage I decided just to stop tracking and weighing and just try to eat mindfully in an attempt to stop the binges. It didn’t work, and I still experienced (and gave in to) extreme hunger many times afterwards, but I just never went back to tracking.

I was so proud of my record with tracking that I continued to login to the MyFitnessPal app and website daily to keep my ‘streak’ going (their system tells you how many consecutive days you’ve used it in an effort to encourage consistency). The last time I checked it was at 1200 plus days, but then in mid May 2019 I realised I’d forgotten to do it and I logged in to discover my streak had been reset. I thought this would bother me, but it really didn’t. So I took the opportunity to delete the app from my phone and cancel my premium subscription, and can’t see myself ever going back.

On a related note, in early May I started using another app to track food called ‘Ate‘. This might seem a bit strange, after everything I’ve just written, but the process and purpose is completely different. It is simply a food journal, where I take a photo of the meal and ask myself some questions about the circumstances of the meal as well as how I feel pre and post eating. It encourages mindfulness and has been really helpful in learning how to eat like a human again – after so many years of ‘eating by numbers’ I’d completely lost touch with my body’s hunger and satiety signals. In my efforts to eat ‘clean’ all the time, I’d also largely forgotten which foods that I really enjoyed and didn’t, and which foods made me feel good and bad.

12
May
2019

The voice has a name

Don’t all the best ideas come to us in the bathroom?

In an earlier post today I suggested that I should give my ED voice a name, then as I was drying off after my shower it came to me:

My ED Voice.

M.E.D.V.

Medvedev.

Dmitry.

Its name is Dmitry.

Not a reflection on the man himself, you understand, I know nothing of his politics or character, but now whenever that voice pops into my head telling me things that I don’t need to hear, I can just say ‘shut up Dmitry’. For added effect, I could say it in a terrible Russian accent and/or picture myself punching him in the face.

And then of course, I need to do exactly the opposite of what he’s telling me to do.

 

12
May
2019

A list of my ED symptoms

Below I’ve listed some of the behaviours and signs that I felt were symptomatic of a full blown eating disorder. Over time I’ll try and expand a little more on what I mean by each one, in case a one line summary isn’t clear enough.

I originally started writing this list in August 2018 but never published it. At the time of writing this post (May 2019) it’s nice to be able to look down this list and realise that I’ve made heaps of progress in reducing and in some cases completely eliminating these things from my life. In these cases, I’ll try to create separate posts to explain how I came to fix these issues as time permits.

Update 24th July 2019: I’ve done another review of these symptoms and many of them are gone or greatly reduced. I posted about it here.

  • Overly obsessive about tracking and weighing – even weighing things like salad greens. I am completely free of this now, see my progress post!
  • Overly obsessive about the ‘perfect’ macros. Getting 30ish grams of protein every meal etc. Also gone, see my progress post!
  • Obsessively looking at nutrition labels when shopping. Mostly gone, see my progress post!
  • Anxiety when forced to eat anything without a nutrition label – to the point of avoiding family occasions and eating out, and taking over virtually all the cooking at home. This is totally gone now, and I just don’t care any more – see my progress post!
  • Restricting food all day in order to hoard macros for an evening feast. Progress here – see my progress post!
  • A ‘scarcity mindset’ – going to the supermarket multiple times per week to ensure all the staples are always available to make the ‘perfect’ meal with the right macronutrient breakdown. See https://tabithafarrar.com/2018/05/brain-malnutrition-scarcity-mode/ I’ve made progress here too – see my progress post!
  • Refusal to eat certain types of foods that aren’t ‘healthy’. No chocolate, no regular (high fat/carb) ice cream, very little cheese (or any full fat/high carb dairy), no pastries, very few biscuits/cakes, etc. Good progress – see my progress post!
  • Fear of excess carbohydrate/fat – to the point where I was generally eating under 40g fat per day, and sometimes under 30g. Tried to eat low carb whenever I didn’t feel like I was active enough. Also good progress – see my progress post!
  • Seasoning all my meals like mad to try and make things tasty. Pepper, salt, low calorie sauces like sriracha / Walden Farms, mustard etc. Tick this one off – see my progress post!
  • Microwaving teas and coffees right after making them so that they’re nuclear level hot – to try and make them last longer so I enjoyed them more. Tick this one off too – see my progress post!
  • Very moody especially around meal times if I wasn’t left alone to eat. ‘Bullguarding’ food. Not so much now – see my progress post!
  • Started craving carbs (especially stuff like breakfast cereal and sweet stuff like sugar) really badly particularly after I started on TRT. Would eat some erythritol straight out of the packet every time I made a hot drink. Still love the carbs – but think that’s normal – see my progress post!
  • Compulsions to move. Getting anxious when not hitting at least 250 steps/hr and 10k steps/day – to the point of walking round the room in the middle of meals, or tapping my thigh to get step counts up. Almost gone – see my progress post!
  • Walking after every meal; which is not in and of itself a bad thing (in my opinion) but getting anxious about it when the weather is bad or I’m otherwise unable to go for a walk immediately after eating is disordered. Good progress – now I walk for joy, not because I feel compelled – see my progress post!
  • Over reliance on supplements. Creatine, whey protein, casein protein, vitamin D, BCAAs, Ashwaghanda, ZMA, Pre-Workout, and others at various times. I still take supps but not so many – see my progress post!
  • Over reliance on caffeine especially as an appetite suppressant. Drank a lot of black coffee – which I don’t dislike – but it was one of the causes of major bladder flare ups. Good progress – see my progress post!
  • Obsession with gut health. Started consuming lots of different stuff for this – regularly drinking kombucha, apple cider vinegar, and eating sauerkraut, kimchi and those type of foods. Still there, but I don’t consider this a major concern at this point – see my progress post!
  • Binge eating! Although most ED recovery resources would call this ‘extreme hunger’. This didn’t start until I allowed myself to eat more, and my metabolism improved a bit, then the floodgates opened and things got worse before they improved. They’re still happening, but less frequently now, and I’m logging them to identify triggers.
12
May
2019

The Association Between Food and Movement

So today I lifted weights again, for the fourth day in a row. I’m pretty sore, and really wasn’t super keen to train, but I’m planning to deload next week so I want to really put in a big effort this week and get as much stimulus to build muscle as I can while I’m eating in a surplus.

At least, that’s the sensible part of my brain talking.

Underlying that (relatively) sensible thought, was my ED voice. (Sidebar: maybe I should give that voice a name – I’ve heard of others doing this and I think it’s a technique used in CBT). Anyway, the ED voice was saying something a little more irrational. At breakfast, it was something like ‘if you train, you can eat a bigger breakfast, because you’ll burn off those carbs’. So I ate two extra pieces of toast at breakfast.

It also had a followup, which was something like ‘you have a 300 gram rump steak in the fridge for dinner tonight. If you don’t train, then it would be such a waste of all that protein and you will probably just get fatter!’ – I always feel like I have to ‘earn’ my food. This is so fucking irrational. I need to eat. I deserve to eat. I don’t have to bloody well earn it. It’s something I NEED to do no matter whether I train or not.

This association between food and movement is an ED hallmark, for me I have a bit of a double whammy in that not only do I have lifting (which is really important to me, as I still have aspirations of looking somewhat muscled at least once in my life) but I also have the Fitbit giving me anxiety around whether I achieve 250 steps every hour and 10k steps every day. The latter is less of an issue these days – honestly, I could probably take the Fitbit off, if I wanted to – I’ve had many occasions lately where work or other commitments have prevented me from getting up and moving and the anxiety about that is significantly less these days. But I do still believe there are legitimate health benefits to taking a 10 minute walk after every meal in terms of digestion, blood sugar regulation, and those sorts of things, as well as just a chance to get some alone time with one’s own thoughts. So even if I didn’t wear it, I think I’d probably still try to do those little walks when I could.