Friday, December 10, 2010

The Joy of Pooping

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That's right -- pooping. 

We tend to be generally familiar with many of the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder in our loved ones -- dramatic weight loss or gain (depending on the disorder), obsession with food and weight, depression, isolation, and so forth.  However, we don't talk much about what happens after a person with an eating disorder starts to get better.  Although I've been mulling over this idea for a post for quite some, Clare's post on her struggle with the physical fallout of her food restriction and compulsive overexercise spurred me to get writing. 

As you may know, although I have struggled with using eating as a way to soothe myself, my most life-threatening battle with disordered eating manifested about five years ago in starvation, food restriction, and overexercise.  I dropped to 112 pounds, which is not much on my 5'7" frame, and for a while would eat only salads (which contained nothing more substantial than veggies and low-cal dressing).  I experienced heart palpitations, thinning hair, dry skin, constant feelings of cold, a non-existent libido, extreme fatigue, and bruising due to my body's lack of fat.  It was, in a word, bad.

By the grace of God I somehow found myself being treated by a loving therapist twice a week, who challenged me to increase my food intake and, more importantly, ask why I was abusing myself so much.  And, slowly, I put healthy weight and fat back on my bones and so entered recovery. 

Happy, right?  Looking back, yes, I know that this was all very good, even while I might not have shared those sentiments at the time.  But there were side effects that accompanied my slow journey back to health that nobody talks about.  Although the side effects each recovering disordered eater experiences can be very different, my particular struggle was with poop.

Yep.  Poop.

As I worked to attain an adequate daily food intake, my body struggled to digest anything and everything.  This side effect is fairly common with folks who restrict food, especially if there has been laxative abuse involved.  My problem was probably compounded by the fact that, even while I was including nutritious additions in my diet, I still enjoyed a massive veggie salad everyday.  Combining my bowl of uber-fiber with my already comprised digestion meant that I had gas.  Lots and lots of it.  Basically, I smelled like poop all the time.  My students asked why it smelled like somebody had soiled their pants.  It was mortifying. 

I wish I could give other recovering disordered eaters a works-like-a-charm method to avoid this bloating, constipation, and gas.  But there isn't any such method.  All I can say, as trite as it may sound, is that it gets better.  Just keep working on getting better, and your body will eventually follow. 

And for those who know someone who's battling an eating disorder, be kind.  Understand that your loved one is very much aware of her poopalicious issue, and that she needs your reassurance that you are still by her side, even if it is a very smelly side at the moment.  I am so blessed that the Best Husband Ever showed this grace and love to me.  Instead of pointing out that I smelled, or that my stomach was always distended, he didn't even mention it until much, much later, after I was out of the gassy woods, and even then he reassured me that it was okay.  He knew it wasn't my fault, and that he preferred it to my being on death's door, completely imprisoned by anorexia. 

Please extend the same love to friends or family who are struggling to climb out of the pit of disordered eating!  Although it may seem like a small courtesy -- or maybe it seems like a huge favor -- do it anyway.  Your loved one will be profoundly grateful.

Is there a side effect that you or a loved one has experienced during recovery that no one ever said to expect?  How did you or your loved one deal with it?

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6 comments:

  1. How wonderful that you are finding healing. I trust you have the merriest of CHRISTmas filled with joy and peace...and should I say the scents of cinnamon and cloves.

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  2. Thank you GOD and Beth for sharing this. I was in the poopless stinky ass club as well. And I am much more regular now, thank GOD. What a nightmare. I went a whole month once without "going." A month. People asked if I was pregnant.We need to talk about this crap. No pun intended.

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  3. Lindsay and James CoDecember 11, 2010 at 3:56 AM

    Oh you are so right and I love that you shared this. I suffered from a digestive disorder 2 years ago and lost a bunch of weight. Food was not absorbing properly and I was sick as a dog. I also smelled like one too. (kinda funny). Its funny how God uses these things to show us how to heal. By the grace of god I am now getting back weight and yes, the poop smell is going away. My loving hubs aid they same thing and was super sweet about it. Cheers to recovery and to smelling the ROSES!! hehe.LC

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  4. I actually posted about this a few months ago, as anyone who loves veggies can be a bit, um, fragrant at times. But on a serious note, years of restriction and overexercise/laxatives/IBS did a huge number on my system, as you can imagine. It's take a long, long time, but the past couple years my body has regained a sense of "regularity" that I have come to depend on. (Let's be honest, if you can't go, you're one cranky woman.)My best advice is just to keep pushing through it all and not giving into old behaviors. It's so easy to slip back to what makes you comfortable when you get uncomfortable. Toughing it out and waiting for your body to forgive you is so much harder, but so worth it.

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  5. I'm in this exact place right now, recovering from an eating disorder. A few months ago it's like my stomach just stopped working. I never became completely constipated but going to the bathroom was no fun. It still isn't. I never know if I'm going to be able to go or not. My medical doctor told me that I'm constipated cuz I need to gain weight. Then I went to a GI Dr. and he couldn't really figure it out so he said it looks like IBS. I need help! Do you think this is IBS or is it from the eating disorder and it will get better if I keep eating?? Please respond to this!

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  6. Hi Nahum,

    I have no idea what is causing your GI troubles. You should get a second opinion from another doctor if you are unsatisfied. But I know that for me, my issues resolved as I put on weight, and ate more fat. Be sure to drink a good amount of water, too. Good luck!

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King