Apparently, school getting out didn’t make me any less busy…just changed the type of busy-ness. Oh well…I won’t complain about making money at work 😉
In my last post, I told you all about the fun things I got to do in San Diego…visiting Old Town and La Jolla, eating some tasty food…it was a good trip! But let me tell ya…it wasn’t all fun and games.
On the first day of therapy at UCSD, it became clear that I would have to eat more. Duh. But seriously, I would have to eat more. And really, that’s what everything else is based on.
It would take me weeks to recount to you every detail of the week…and to be honest, I can’t remember it all. But there are a few things that were very significant to me.
Without becoming “weight restored” any work was basically pointless. Starvation does crazy things to our bodies and has significant effects on the brain. Basically, a starved brain can’t rationally process whats reasonable vs what’s emotional, making weight restoration priority numero uno.
Physical Effects of Starvation
Obviously, starving oneself will cause significant weight loss. But what does that weight loss actually do to the body? The answer is frightening. Starvation shrinks the brain. You know that lack of focus? It’s not just because you’re hungry…it’s because your brain has actually changed. Thankfully, it’s reversible when normal eating resumes. Oh and you’ve probably heard about heart issues in Eating Disorder patients. It’s from the heart actually shrinking. And that just terrifies me. Again, this is reversible with normal eating. And lastly, bones become more brittle which can lead to a host of other problems. Of course, there’s the issues of messed up hormones, lack of energy etc, but those three….they kind of slapped me in the face.
Causes of Eating Disorders
It seems like the generally accepted cause of Eating Disorders is media and peer pressure, poor body image and low self esteem. Those probably contribute, but the current research has a different answer. Experts are discovering that the brains of those with Eating Disorders are different than those without. I’m know there’s WAY more science behind it, but here’s what I understand: There is a genetic predisposition to eating disorders. This doesn’t guarantee that someone will develop an ED, but they are more likely to have issues with one. So basically, us ED folks aren’t just nuts…we have different brains!
The structure of the program was very conversational and team oriented. We worked with our families a lot, but also discussed things as a group. Self reflection was a huge element also.
The basic structure of each day was discussion, snack, discussion or activity, lunch, discussion/activity snack, discussion, end. And these snacks were not optional. No, they didn’t tell us exactly what to eat, but the therapists watched and would give us feedback. We also discussed how meals away from therapy went, and sometimes, what we had for those meals. Between the snacks, meal reporting and weight checks every other day, my intake increased, literally overnight. I had no choice. I began eating a starch in the morning (previously too scary). I moved beyond PB&J for lunch. Dinners grew and evening snacks were also more substantial. And it was terrifying. Yet liberating.
My parents and Ron were able to ask questions and learn so much about exactly what I’m up against. They went to San Diego with a basic understanding and a desire to help me however they could. The left San Diego with a much greater understanding and the tools to help me. Again, terrifying yet liberating.
One key part of this therapy is writing a contract – what I agree to do, what my parents agree to do, and the rewards and consequences of adhering to or breaking away from the contract. Basically, I have a range of weight to gain each week. There are weekly rewards (a few dollars in a clothes fund), monthly rewards (manicure, pedicure, etc) and bigger rewards for continued maintenance at graduation in December. Consequences include less walking time (less than the 20 minutes I’m currently allotted), increased intake, and a loss of freedom around plating my own meals and snacks.
Basically, it’s a lot to swallow.
So how am I doing with all of this? Well, I’m doing okay. I will not sugar coat one bit of this and say it’s easy. Because it’s not. It’s hard to eat enough. It’s hard to put together meals that are adequate. It’s hard to not feel like a bum when I walk for less time. You know what’s easy? Gradually slipping back to restrictive behaviors. Choosing the lower calorie option. Settling in to being back at home and loosening up…not working as hard. But guess what. That’s just not gonna work. I have to eat well to be healthy. That’s all there is to it. Whether or not I’m hungry, or whether or not I feel fat, or deserving, or good enough, or whatever — I have to eat that snack or adequate portion. That’s just the way it is.
So here I go! My week in San Diego was challenging, but it is now that the hardest work takes place.
Feel free to comment with questions – I’d love to talk about the program!