In this podcast Tabitha talks to a guy in recovery
Transcript thank you Marie!
Hello there, welcome to this week’s podcast. This week I had the pleasure of talking to a guy called Chase. And Chase is in recovery from an eating disorder. First Chase got in contact with me a while ago he was asking me a question on a YouTube video and he actually wrote me an email, his email was about his dog and he was just saying how thrilled he was about his relationship with his dog Belle had changed, had improved back to what it was before he got his eating disorder since recovery. So that’s what really got us introduced and Chase said that he’d like to share his recovery story. So that’s what we are doing today and without further ado, here’s Chase:
Chase: OK, my name is Chase, I’m a 22 year old recovering from an eating disorder. If I had to think about what started my eating disorder, it probably would have started back in college when I just had a realisation that I needed to make smarter decisions, my entire family has always had heart conditions and technically I’m the next one in line. So it started with me just realising that I needed to make smarter decisions. Instead of going out to the store and grabbing a ton of convenient food I needed to sit down, cook the things I wanted, cook the things I knew my body needed. So it kind of started there, and of course starting to cook my own food, I started dropping weight, looking better and feeling better. So on and so forth. Everyone kept going on that I was looking much better, I was looking like everything was going good and so on and so forth.
And then I started getting into fitness and trying to push myself to lose that next 5 lbs or so on and so forth. I downloaded an app that was called My Fitness Pal and this app works for a lot of people and I’m in no way saying this should not be used, I know it works for some people, other people it just doesn’t. I turned out to be one of those people because I would log how much I ate and eventually it started becoming an obsession and really spiralled out of control to the point where I believe I was overestimating how much I was actually eating but still cataloguing all of this food that, it was a mess, an entire mess until finally I realised that peoples comments started going from ‘Chase, you’re looking so good’ to ‘Chase, are you OK?’
Of course I’m in denial this entire time and I’m saying, there’s nothing wrong with me, these people just don’t know what they’re talking about. Everything’s fine, everything’s fine. And it really did just beginning to completely spiral out of control because I started realising that I wasn’t going out with friends near as much, I wasn’t taking any kind of social aspects of my if in to consideration any more, a lot of my hobbies kind of died out and I was starting to become more of just another body in the room and I wasn’t, it was truly a nightmare.
So I didn’t begin to realise that I had a problem until around Christmas time last year so that would be Christmas 2017. When I was just still trying to log every single thing that I ate and still trying to not go over a single, a single one of the goals for the day and in my mind, if you went over that limit, you couldn’t have anything else for the rest of the day, it was a nightmare. What I think finally started my realisation that I needed to recover was just my family had finally told me that it had to come to some kind of end, they realised that I had taken this fear of having a heart attack to an extreme and now I had developed anorexia and it truly was, they could definitely tell that this wasn’t the Chase that they knew. They finally called me out on it and I was fortunate enough to be able to begin somewhat.
OK it was at that point that I realised that I did need to start eating more because I had gotten so obsessed with making sure that I wasn’t going over that limit that was set for me. I just realised that obviously I need to make some kind of change. So yes I was still using this app and yes I was eating more, but I was definitely not eating enough and just beating myself up over absolutely nothing. But it was, what was really hard for me was there were so many foods that I wouldn’t even go towards.
One of them was hot chocolate, I know, it seems so silly to me now that I would have such a problem with just wanting a cup of hot chocolate. Feeling like I had come so far to give it up. But I was like give what up? I might be eating more but I’m not eating the foods that I want. I’m still actively restricting and it had to stop.
I was at work one day and I had some free time so I was just doing some research and I found your blog and it really just inspired me to at least make one more solid attempt. I went to the break room and I grabbed a hot chocolate but I still couldn’t make myself do it. For the longest time, I couldn’t, I just couldn’t make myself drink anything that had added sugar in it, I was just so petrified and I never could figure out why. So even though yes, I was starting to eat more, I was definitely not eating enough and I was living what your blog referred to as a half life and it was, it truly was terrible.
But I finally managed to overcome to all of this when I finally deleted the app. It was the day before Super bowl Sunday 2018. My parents were out I had the house to myself and I wanted a hot chocolate so bad. We had those little cups of hot chocolate and my mum would drink those all throughout Christmas time and there I was trying to hide but mixing water with unsweetened cocoa it was disgusting. I don’t know how I managed to drink that it was awful.
But this app also has different foods that you can log, it already has the calories, how much sugar, how much fat, how much carbs and so on and so forth so I was just like, I’m going to do it regardless. So I just put it in, but then the nutrition label just caught my eye and nothing matched up, the calories didn’t match, the amount of fat didn’t match, nothing matched and I realised that this app had been feeding my lies. And that was when I got so mad and I said that, I had actually said out loud that this app had ruined my Christmas and it was beginning to ruin my life and I deleted it.
And I made the hot chocolate and I drank it. Did I freak out when I was drinking it? Yes because now my brain is in this whole mindset of, you eat anything that is quote unquote, safe, and you’re going to have a heart attack because you’re next in line.
So I continued reading your blog and just again yeah I drank the hot chocolate and I deleted the app but I knew I was still trying to keep track. It’s like OK an egg has such and such number of calories and it’s more protein and blah blah blah but finally I realised that I had to stop. I had to look at foods that legitimately scared me and I had to face them one by one until it was, until I could eat again and not feel fear. Because I realised that my relationships were just going down the toilet it seemed like I couldn’t hold a conversation with anybody because that what eating disorders do. They don’t just make people skinny, they turn people into people they are not and you just become this hollow shell and it truly is a terrible experience to anyone out there who is listening right now, I promise you, I can not tell you how much I promise if you can push through recovery, push through the uncomfortable feelings, yes it’s uncomfortable but your relationships will get 1000 times better I promise.
I especially knew that because even my dog would look at me like she was scared, like she knew something was wrong with me and I knew that I would be so irritated even at her just nudging me. So I realised that this isn’t me and I just have to face these fears like one at a time so I sat down and said it was time to tackle something small, something simple lets start with a glass of real whole milk.
Now just a quart of milk and I was shaking, I couldn’t not figure why, I knew I drank milk all throughout my childhood and I knew that this had to be the first step, I knew it wasn’t going to kill me but for some reason I just couldn’t make myself do it. had to sit back for a minute and I thought to myself, why am I having such a hard time drinking milk? Well randomly I started thinking about Star Wars, I guess because the new Star Wars movie had just come out and it took me back to the old scene where Luke is sitting around the dinner table and he pours a glass of milk and the milk is blue. Now as a kid, I always thought that was the funniest thing ever, it was like ‘Oh look, his milk is blue!’ For some reason I started thinking about that and I looked at my glass of milk and I turned around and I got the food colouring out of the cabinet and I put blue food colouring in my milk and other I did that I kind of buried my face into my hands and I said ‘Am I really resorting to the tactics you would use to get a picky 3 year old to eat?’
But finally I looked up and I said to myself, if that is what it takes then I know that I need to do it and I said, it’s hard now but it will get better and I drank the milk and I felt great throughout the rest of the day.
T: And I just think that’s genius and I think that’s something that many of us work out that we need to do when we’re in recovery. We need to get us out of heads. And for you, turning that milk blue got you out of your head and turned that experience into something else which I know you might think that sounds really silly, putting blue food colouring in milk but it’s not, it did what you needed to do, it got you out of your head, it got you drinking that milk and like you said, you kind of knew that day that you’d done something amazing.
C: Well another thing is that when you can kind of get away from that whole ‘This is scary’ feeling, it’s like all of a sudden this milk had gone from being an incredibly scary, this is going to kill me to it’s not so bad and then throughout the rest of the day I felt a lot better. So it was probably the very next day, I did the same thing again, I put blue food colouring in my milk and I still enjoyed it and it was at that day no more almond milk because that was the big ticket item, the unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Eurgh. Even thinking about that now, it’s disgusting. I don’t know how I made myself drink that when I was sick.
So I started tackling every little fear food like that, everything from burgers to pizza and it was, it sort of became like a game. I was finally able to look at foods and start saying like everybody else might say that you’re terrible, but you’re exactly what I need. So it sort of became like this game where every time I was able to tackle one food, it was a point, it was another nail in that eating disorders coffin and I noticed as I was starting to gain weight, I knew the weight gain was inevitable. I knew it had to happen.
One funny thing about my weight gain when I started gaining weight of course, your first thought is, if I’m going to gain weight the first place it’s going to be is right around my stomach and I was actually wrong, I know this happens differently for everybody but the first place that I gained weight was actually in the muscles in my legs. My muscles had grown, my arms and legs when I was sick were pencil thin, they looked just like there was nothing underneath but when I started eating more, that was the first place that it went.
So it’s like I realise that my body was smart enough to know what it needed and obviously the first thing that it needed was to get the muscles back in my legs where it belongs. So it was definitely an eye opening experience. I feel great, I look great and the biggest thing is that my relationships are improving. This is what I was saying earlier with my dog Belle, I love that dog to death and when I started having enough energy to go out and play with her again I could tell that she seemed a lot happier because she seemed like she had her Chase back.
T: And did you find, because I know that I found when I was sick, I mean I was an animal crazy child and all through my teens but when I got sick, I just lost interest in animals. It’s like they suddenly became an inconvenience. It was in the way of me doing my thing of doing my silly rituals and routines that I had to do every day. I would often get agitated with animals for just being in the way and things like that it and it was really marked in recovery that my love and adoration of animals came back and it was really welcome.
C: Right I could definitely agree with that because whenever I would just be like sitting in the living room, Belle just might nudge my leg and I would just get so irritated with her about it and looking back on it now I just realise I probably put her through hell and I can’t apologise enough to her about that. Fortunately I think that she’s very forgiving she always seems like she has a little smile on her face.
So it’s definitely good and again, this is just one little message for everybody out there, I promise your relationships would improve, I can tell my relationship with my family is a lot better, I can tell that I feel a lot happier and it you don’t realise how much of a difference that makes until that difference is there and you really, it truly is amazing how much of a difference that makes and how much happier you feel.
T: I think that you can connect to people on a different level when part of your brain isn’t wondering where food is and worrying about that all of the time. And you don’t have all that mental hunger there and the irritability that most of us feel as well when we’re in a state of malnutrition. So it all makes sense really as to why you’re not the most brilliant social self version of yourself that you could be if you’re in malnutrition or restricting food. But it’s not like that was anything, I don’t know I guess I knew that I wasn’t particularly good socially but in a way I didn’t recognise just how bad things had been until I’d recovered and things got better.
And if you could pinpoint what a couple of things are that you can think were the primary things that you needed to address to get where you are, what do you think those things are?
C: Oh the things that I had to change was, I needed to stop seeing all these numbers as maximums, so many people give these meal plans and all this diet advice and it’s like this is what you’re allowed to eat, you can’t see it as your maximum. You need to see it as your minimum if that makes sense.
T: Yes and follow your hunger I guess.
C: Exactly, and that another thing. If you’re hungry, you need to eat. There’s just no question about it. Hunger is your body telling you that it needs food and that’s how it goes. That’s how we’ve been since we were hunters and foragers, if you’re hungry, you need to eat.
T: Simple as that.
C: It really is.
T: Thank you so much Chase for sharing your story with us, I especially loved the bit about the blue milk because I think that’s genius and I think that anything that can us out of our heads and shift that sort of fight or flight anxiety state that we can go into, the sympathetic nervous system, when you’re faced with a food that’s scaring you and that did that for him. That’s shifting it back to the childhood memory and making it just like a game, this is playing, this isn’t this big scary situation. I just think that’s a wonderful thing and it just shows how smart people with eating disorders are when they realise this is the problem that I have to solve. I have to get this freaking glass of milk drunk and it scares the heck out of me. So how am I going to make it OK?
And that’s how Chase solved that problem and that’s exactly what we need to be in recovery. We need to be problem solvers and it doesn’t matter how inappropriate it might seem that a grown person is scared of food. If that’s your reality and that’s the problem that you have to solve and that’s the issue that you have to get around in order to be successful then that is your reality. So tackling your reality is doing things just like that. So I think that alone for those of you who are in recovery and dealing with this stuff and dealing with fear still on a day to day basis.
Taking home from that, what are things that help shift you out of your head? When you are in that sympathetic nervous system fight or flight response as a reaction to food but you’ve got to get it done anyway. So thank you to Chase for inspiration. That’s it for this weeks podcast, cheers and until next time cheerio. Oh just going to apologise in advance, podcasts might be a little less infrequent for the next week or so. I’m moving house, it’s kind of a big deal (laughs) bye.