My friend, Amy Jones, MD, RD, LD wrote an article posted on the NFCA website about celiac disease and eating disorders. I have to admit that I have always wondered if my eating disorder had anything to do with my having celiac disease or vice versa. It’s a lot like the chicken or the egg…which came first? I am not sure if we will ever know or if it even matters. What matters is my health and adherence to the gluten-free diet.
My therapist suggested I read the book “Life Without Ed” by Jenni Schaefer, as it really helps show the eating disorder as a relationship, as opposed to a condition. For years and years I struggled and fought with what I thought was "me", or what I called "My Brain" inside my head. That voice would say things like, "Your stomach is getting flabby.", "French fries are bad for you.", "You aren’t thin enough.", "If you aren’t thin, what are you?" and "Your thighs have cellulite on them – perhaps skipping dessert is the way to go?". It wasn’t until I read "Life without Ed" that I fully understood that this voice wasn’t truly me, it was my eating disorder, or as Shaefer calls it – “Ed”.
I have had a hard time understanding that this voice wasn’t me. I knew right from wrong in the scheme of my eating disorder, yet I couldn’t stop myself from that train of thought and acting on the impulses to measure my food, to mentally keep a running tally in my head of the calories I was ingesting daily, or to step on the scale and then let that number dictate how my day was going to go.
After reading “Life Without Ed”, I began to realize that I had choices. I didn’t have to obey “My Brain”. I could acknowledge what it was saying, but then choose to do as “I” wanted – eat what I wanted to eat, not what “My Brain” thought I should eat. There are still many days that I struggle with this, but when I find myself arguing with “My Brain”, I stop to see if I can figure out what is going on. Am I anxious, nervous or upset? Chances are that I am, and the familiar, comforting routine is to control the variables – measure food, weigh myself – so that I will be somewhat soothed. Choosing to disobey “My Brain” means there will be uneasy feelings in the beginning, as this is uncharted territory, but I have found that those feelings soon give way to a feeling of empowerment. “I” can make decisions regarding food and I will be just fine.