We Are Survivors - Jen Cruze: Choosing life over perfection.

July 21, 2016

Looking back, Iím pretty sure my eating disorder started the day after I was diagnosed with diabetes, when the dietitian came into my hospital room and "dumped" a bunch of plastic food on my bed. From then on, I would have to pay attention to EVERY LITTLE THING that went into my mouth! I had never been on a diet and always ate healthy with occasional treats. I was a competitive swimmer and ate to be able to swim well. The intense focus on food that comes along with diabetes, coupled with the fact that it is a disease of numbers and I could never be perfect at that game no matter how hard I tried, made me extremely stressed out and I felt out of control.

I was in college when I found out I had diabetes, so of course I "couldnít have the kid kind," and was initially (mis)diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Even though I didnít know a lot about diabetes then, the diagnosis didnít really make sense. I was swimming 4-5 hours a day for a college team and was the fittest I had ever been in my life. I got the message that I was "fat" because of this. I had lost some weight before my diagnosis, and kept losing weight while on T2D medications. As soon as I started on insulin, I immediately gained a lot of weight back. I felt so much better but also subconsciously made the (incorrect) connection that "insulin = weight gain."

It was years before my eating disorder morphed into something bigger, where I was consistently restricting food on purpose, as a punishment. I hated myself so much, and I hated all the intense feelings I was having. It was much easier to feel the physical pain of my body literally wasting away than to face the emotional stuff. It also made me feel in control, while living with a disease where I could never really be in control or perfect.

After running a half marathon at the height of my eating disorder, I knew I had to get help. My body was being destroyed, and I was the one destroying it. Unfortunately, when I reached out to two of my doctors they both said I was fine and that I "might be a little underweight" but that it was okay and there was nothing wrong. I tried to go to a local eating disorder clinic, but I "didnít fit the mold" and stopped going. I finally found a sports medicine doctor who believed me and has been a huge part of my recovery. I pieced together my own treatment team - sports medicine doctor, endocrinologist, a couple therapists, and a dietitian. I ran into a hiccup when I started eating again. I had to give myself insulin for the food; and when I gave myself insulin, I gained weight, which led to restricting the amount of insulin I took. Through the patience and persistence of the team I worked with, I learned to give myself grace and accept myself for who I am. Iíve learned a lot about mindfulness, intuitive eating, and self-compassion.

I continue to swim a few times a week on a masters team, and I feel so much stronger and swim better when I fuel my body and take care of it. I still have to make conscious decisions, choosing life and health over the eating disorder mindset, like not opening that article on Facebook about some new diet or letting the negative thoughts in about eating some dessert. I have learned that it is much more important to stay alive for my family and friends, for what is coming, than it is to be thin and "perfect."

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