A little background info….
My husband and I have a 4-year old terrier. I used to say that he was like our kid, until I realized that my friends with kids didn’t really like my aligning our dog to their child. Someday we want to have kids — but not yet. For now, our dog is enough of a handful (actually, I think we could handle another dog, but that’s an argument for another day).
Luckily for me, food has always been pretty much a non-event with our dog. I always leave food out for him, and he eats when he’s hungry. He gets a treat after dinner and whenever the little girl next door comes over to play with him. He’s easy. Plus, he gets a fair amount of exercise (we walk him 1 – 1.5 hours/day) and always gets a good report card at the vet, so I’ve never been concerned.
This past summer, we had the dog neutered. I didn’t notice for at least a month, but afterwards he started eating more. I wasn’t measuring his food or anything, but realized that I was filling up his bowl more often. He started to put on a little weight, which was okay. However, he kept gaining weight… and I still don’t think he’s overweight, but he really shouldn’t gain more weight. And I swear I’m not being disordered when I say that.
To top it off, our pet sitter said something to me about it one day. Her words were, “So why is he eating so much? You know, he’s gaining weight and adult dogs aren’t supposed to.” This made me angry for a couple of reasons:
- The first line is a stupid question. “Why is he eating so much?” Uhhh… because he’s hungry? Because he’s preparing for winter? In case there’s a famine?
- The protective part of me thinks, “Leave my poor dog alone. Stop judging his weight.”
- I’m a little defensive when it comes to other people telling me things about my dog.
- The whole “adult dogs aren’t supposed to” thing makes it sound like he’s doing something wrong. He’s not.
- Food / weight is a touchy subject for me. I don’t expect people to tip-toe around me, and there’s no way she’d know that anyway, but still — it is.
My husband and I decided that we’d start measuring the dog’s food. That’s not weird… lots of dogs aren’t “self-feeders” (thanks, Emily, for that term). It was an awkward conversation to have, though. I didn’t want him to freak out and think I was trying to starve the dog. I’m not putting him on a diet — I just want to feed him the appropriate amount.
It’s been about three weeks since we started this, and the whole thing is just killing me. I’m giving our dog the recommended amount of food, and sometimes he’ll still sit at his bowl and cry. I can’t handle that! He’s telling me he’s hungry and I’m saying that he can’t eat something. I’m paranoid about my eating disorder contributing to the situation. It all feels so wrong. After a decade of anorexia treatment, saying “you’ve already eaten enough, you shouldn’t be hungry, you can’t have any more” sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
I usually end up giving in and giving him a little more food (which I know is just reinforcement for begging). I don’t know if he’s actually hungry. I grew up with a beagle who would have eaten the entire bag of dog food in one sitting, were he given the opportunity. The stress of the scenario is compounded by all my “what am I going to do when I have kids?” worrying.
It’s in these situations that I’m reminded of the far-reaching effects of the ED. In the midst of disorderedness, it feels like you’re only hurting yourself. It also seems like recovery is this easy equation:
normal eating + normal weight + healthy relationships + satisfying life = recovery
…or something like that. Too bad it doesn’t quite work like that.