Here are some ways you can tell I'm getting better:
1. The desire to binge is largely gone. Until the other tonight, I hadn't thought about it in weeks. WEEKS. That was really good. But it's not completely gone, and it will come back if I don't stay vigilant about refusing conversations with myself about how I could lose weight.
2. I'm doing non-incidental exercise regularly for the first time in years. It may be "just" yoga, but it's making a difference. I'm more flexible already, and I want to sit and lie in entirely different ways because suddenly those ways are no longer comfortable.
3. I'm actually feeling hunger on a regular basis because I'm usually not eating until I get hungry, rather than just because now is the time for food.
4. The incidence of me snacking in the afternoon because of boredom has dropped significantly.
5. I no longer cringe at calling myself or being called "fat". I did cringe when my husband described himself as "grossly overweight" after a visit to the doctor (don't know if that was their word or his own), but I think that's because "grossly" implies a world of disapproval and loathing which I find really distasteful.
Here are some ways you can tell I'm still getting better:
1. Over the past few days, the diet talk has been sneaking into my brain again, mostly around, "my friend is getting married in a bit under a year, if I do X, Y and Z, I bet I could be a size 20 by then...". The result? Had a bit of an unreasonable incursion into the ice cream the other night. And it wasn't the normal "I just want a little more ice cream" kind. Alas, I know the difference only too well. I think the problem is that I've been doing so well that I started to think that having conversations with myself about how "I could be looking in X time if I would only do Y" wouldn't be destructive. I was wrong. It is. There's not a genuine difference between me being able to look at size 20 bodies and think "I want one of those because mine isn't good enough as it is" and between doing the same thing with a size 6 body. It's not okay for me to idealise a smaller body, even if that smaller body doesn't seem as unrealistic as a size 6. And it's not okay because as far as I've come - and I have - I am still recovering from an eating disorder, and "recovering" doesn't mean "cured". Recovering means that when you start having conversations with yourself about how doing X, Y and Z will make you even a little thinner, it isn't very long before you've eaten all the ice cream and feel terrible because you've eaten all the ice cream and are still fat.
And there's the other aspect, which is that when I start thinking like this, I stop exercising again. I'm well aware that there's more than a little Mary Quite Contrary going on here, but that's the way it works for me. If I think I'm exercising to lose weight, I stop doing it. And I am really proud of how far I've come in terms of moving my body. The last thing I want is to lose that ground because I've taken it for granted.
2. I still have to consciously stop myself mid-thought about losing weight in any capacity whether it's because I'm getting more exercise or eating in a less crazy way or what. I still have to say "stop" and force myself to turn around. It's working, I think - hence the reduction in binge eating - but the neural pathways are still there and still run automatically if I'm not careful.
3. I haven't yet learned to deal with feeling full. Some months ago, I saw a post in which a fat activist was decrying Paul McKenna's "I Can Make You Thin". In my newbie innocence, I slightly defended as being pretty close to intuitive eating (which, actually, it is in a lot of ways, though there's a fundamental assumption that thinner is inherently better which isn't good, and McKenna never clarifies that people may just find that their natural weight is higher than they think it should be). She wasn't terribly impressed with the defence because it included the notion of eating consciously, and she considered that an unreasonable expectation. I get what she was saying. Maybe it is, if the "full" sign pops up in your head in a normal way.
But you see, I've never really learned to stop eating. I stop when there's nothing left. And the consciousness is important because if I'm reading or watching TV or whatever, I'm not paying attention to what my body is saying, and I breeze past it. Not to mention, reading or watching TV or whatever is how I have always, always disguised binges - from myself, I mean, not from others. I don't binge in company, generally speaking. But paying close attention to other things has always meant that I haven't had to pay attention to the actual process of eating. And while I've come a very long way in relation to binge eating, I still treat my meals with this same attitude, that they're something to hide, to just tuck out of the way and pretend didn't happen.
Turning off all the distractions and paying attention to my food and what my body is saying in response to it...well, I'm not there yet, but I think this part is going to be as important as breaking the connection between exercise and weight loss. It is hard.
4. I will still eat food at any time if it's there. See point 3. I am no longer going to look for food as a distraction (mostly), but that won't stop me from eating whatever is in my drawer.
5. I have stopped worrying so much about being fat (well, had, till I let the "I could be X by Y" thing get off the ground again), but I have instead started to worry about how I'm going to look if, with all this progress and exercise, I lose weight and my stomach deflates like a beach ball.
So there we go. This is a hard process, and I have to keep working at it constantly. And then I have to keep reminding myself that I'm working at it constantly so that I don't just start giving myself a hard time because I'm fat or because I'm failing.
Of course, the biggest problem at times is that I don't know if I'm going to have to keep working at it constantly for the rest of my life. And I get tired.