This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and if you asked me if I have an eating disorder my answer would be no. The theme of NEDA Week this year is “Everybody Knows Someone.” In high school I had a close friend who ate so few calories and exercised so much that she passed out in class, yet she still thought she was fat. That’s one “someone” I know. I’ve read posts this week by others in the DOC (you can find many, if not all, of them linked on this Diabetes Advocates post), and have found a few more “someone's”. And now, I’m taking a good long look at my own relationship with food.
Along with seeing food as nourishment and fuel, I realize that I also view it as a reward. After going to the endo and getting a good A1C, I always indulge in an extra special dinner to celebrate. If I’m going through a rough time, I think nothing of picking up a treat at the grocery store. When I want to do something extra nice for Pete I’ll often bake one of his favorites, chocolate chip cookies or brownies, to show him just how much I love him. K.C. loves her wet cat food in gravy, and when I really want to spoil her I’ll give her an extra big scoop. In my mind, FOOD = LOVE.
I also realize my food choices often reflect my mood. Bored? Lonely? Feeling blue? You can trust I’m likely to reach for chips or chocolate . . . . and more than one servings worth. Or I might cook up some (carb-loaded and creamy) comfort food in an attempt to sooth myself. Does it fill the hole in my life? Nope. Will I try it again next time I’m feeling that hole? Yup.
And lastly, I find myself thinking about the past. I look back to my teen years when anything with sugar was off limits, unless I was low. I’ve written before about my realization that my response to low blood sugars is quite Pavlovian. I also remember sneaking sweets up to my room and hiding the empty wrappers under my bed. This was particularly easy when I worked at the grocery store after school - I smuggled the forbidden foods in after working late and smuggled the wrappers out to be tossed in the store’s trash bins. It was also easy when I had candy bars to sell for my Color Guard fundraiser - I’m pretty sure my best customer was me.
I also think about the fact that all of those years being denied certain foods has made me unwilling to consider any food off limits today. I think about how tough it was living on the exchange diet, often being unable to eat when I was hungry or forced to eat when I wasn’t. I remember the regimented life of certain foods at certain times in certain amounts. Quite frankly, it sucked, and I have a hard time believing it didn’t have a big part in shaping my relationship with food today.
Even now, I have to constantly count carbs, and think about how many I can eat at without killing a perfectly good blood sugar reading. I have to determine if I should program a regular bolus or a dual-wave bolus. I need to wait 20 minutes after bolusing until I can eat. If I’m full half way through my meal, I need to finish all of the carbs on my plate anyway so I don’t go low.
And now, if you ask me again if I have an eating disorder, I would still say no. But if you ask me if I have a healthy relationship with food? If you ask me if I think I’m free of food issues? Well, I would also have to say no.