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Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.


I've noticed something about myself today, a pattern, a way of dealing with stuff that I have repeated throughout my life....something I've never been aware of before, and I'm still trying to figure out how to tackle it.

What I realised is that all the times I've tackled my weight and lost a significant amount of weight, in a healthy controlled way, that there is a process I go through. it's a process that involves gradually withdrawing socially, cutting contact with friends, stopping going to the hairdressers and attending groups, minimising trips outside of the house, and usually getting to a point where I hate my job so much that I give that up too, and then I focus completely on getting healthier and losing weight - which I'm usually very successful at, and lose 70-80-90lbs, and gradually start to engage again and eventually find a new job.

What I used to believe was that it was having no social life and no job that forced me to look at myself and start losing some weight - but I realised today that it isn't, it's the opposite, I do those things when I'm feeling ready and in the right place mentally to lose weight, they are key to making it happen.

As I sat and figured out what it was about, I realised that it was my way of removing the stressors that fuel my need to eat... that's why it works so successfully. When I ranked these stressors, they went from seeing friends at the less stressful end to doing things in public, through to going to work being the most stressful by far, and I realised it was about being judged and how much truth and rationality is in those potential judgements of me, made by others.

I did think that I had resolved my issues around feeling judged, and I really have resolved the feeling that everyone I see or meet will be making negative judgements or comments about me - I know not everyone is like that, I know people make observations but do not necessarily attach positive or negative value to them, I know some people are judgemental - more pity them, I know I'm not perfect but I'm not a bad person, and whatever judgements people wish to make don't detract from my being an essentially good person, I know that there are more exciting and more valuable things to expend my energy on that worrying about being judged....and I have been able to very successfully live my life for about 18 months, feeling comfortable with myself and not worrying about being judged... so what's going on? why have I started declining social invitations, not returning calls from friends wishing to meet, avoiding going into town shopping, and battling the urge to want to give up my work? I know there are issues around supervision that I mentioned in the previous blog thread, but I realised that this weight-loss/judgement associated thing is there too.

What I concluded was that this year I've been catapulted into situations that collectively have been a bit "too much, too soon" for this girl from a very judgemental background, who is just testing out her new found self-confidence ...it's not the prospect of people making judgements that stresses me, I am really not fussed about that anymore, what stresses me is the prospect of some of those judgements actually being true and justifiable and indicative that I'm doing something wrong, letting someone down, not taking responsibility for what's going on.

My partner's gender dysphoria, is something that provokes quite strong reactions in people, she is judged, but I feel I am also judged - people seek to blame someone, what blame do they apportion to me? in my actions was I doing the right thing for my children? was I doing the right thing for her? was I doing the right thing for myself? When you're not sure what you should be doing for the best and there's no clear evidence/advice available to help you, you're feeling your way in the dark and being judged every step of the way, especially as a parent ...it's harsh, it's worrying always thinking "am I doing the right thing? what are the consequences?" and never getting any answers, it's stressful!

And the same with my size now I've regained so much weight - if someone said I shouldn't be working with children because I'm setting a bad example - they'd be right and justified, and I think it every day I go into work, I feel like I'm waiting for the comments. And the same with my own children, I am not setting a good example to them either, and I don't know how to respond when my youngest comes home telling me it's not healthy to be too heavy for your body and that I need to eat less and exercise more, that's what they've been learning at school - cos I know she's right and I feel stressed that I still haven't succeeded at that.

I don't really see any way forward other than trying to take responsibility for the things that people can justifiably make negative judgements about. The gender dysphoria stuff I'm okayish with as we had a meeting with 2 clinical psychologists specialising in that area not long ago, who actually commended how we'd handled things for the girls and even asked if we'd thought of attending groups to offer support and advice to other families in a similar position - but it can still be stressy people telling me I shouldn't let my girls see their father anymore unless he reverts back to being male and that kind of thing, or the funny looks, or the "don't you blame yourself - like wasn't I good enough in bed or something?" (I've had it all!). But the stuff around my weight/size and being healthy and setting a good example - that is the painful truth that I need to get my head around and deal with.

That's where my challenge really lies - as fighting the urge to want to give up work to eradicate the stressors that drive my eating, so that I can lose weight easily is so hard - forcing myself to go against that urge, to somehow stay in work, stay connected socially, and combine that with actually losing weight - that's a HUGE challenge! I posted on the forum the other day about what being healthy really involves - and just trying to do all those things that don't come naturally to me, and without isolating myself and to enable myself to be devoted to achieving that...

...it almost feels impossible!







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