Did anyone know? How did you get help? How did you come to love and accept your body and how did that change all of your relationships, including those with food?
From a young age, I was surrounded with people who were obsessed with food and weight. People who meant no harm, but did not understand the effects it was having on me.
Remarks about people that were fat, the number of calories in the food I was eating, and friends striving to have perfect body were a big part of my life. Like so many of my relatives and friends, I loved hearing comments like “You look really thin today” or even better… “You look so skinny”.
I was naturally thin up until the age of 21, when partying with my friends, and late night snacks packed on 30 pounds. That’s when my obsession took control. I started to diet and went on and off them for the next 20 years, while my weight fluctuated up and down by 70 pounds. The point here is that my highest overweight 160-pound body size was not excessively large, but my 70-pound weight fluctuations and my relationship with food was out of whack!
I was caught in the madness!! At my highest weights, I thought about food and dieting all the time. I tried every regime under the sun, hoping for instant permanent results. I was ashamed about following these fad diets and schemes but I was caught in the undertow of quick fix promises.
At the age of 24, my relationship with food didn’t change – I still constantly thought about what I should and shouldn’t eat, but it manifested itself into an anorexic state, down to 90 pounds. I struggled for seven years with no period, no energy, and constant obsessive thinking about food, due to my hunger and compulsive fear of becoming fat.
In the mad world we live in, I was complimented about how great I looked. Can you imagine?
At 90 pounds, 35 pounds below my healthy weight, wearing a children’s size of clothing and people saying “they want to look like me?” Even when admitted to a hospital for heart palpitations, I confessed to the doctor that it may be due to my lack of nutrition and his response was ” you look fine to me”. Really? I was skin and bones… what was he thinking?
Many close family members and friends knew about my affliction, and when comments were made about the fact that my weight was too low, I thought they were just jealous. For whatever reason, maybe the guilt associated with how and why my illness took root, some very close family members refused to acknowledge my disease especially at its early stages. When folks would urge them to get me help, they would brush it off saying that I just had a “small frame”. Once my weight reached 90 pounds, they had no choice but to admit that there was something wrong.
In my possessed anorexic condition, I would write down my calorie intake and weigh myself several times throughout the day. I thought about eating all the time. Just think about it; when you’re thirsty, all you can think about is … Well similarly, when you deprive yourself of nourishment, all you can think about is food.
An important factor to note is that I never stopped eating. I would always eat! The problem was what I was eating and the rigidity of my behavior. After running for one hour, my breakfast consisted of ½ cup nonfat cottage cheese with ¼ cup bran flakes mixed with artificial sweetener. Lunch was carrot sticks, chicken broth with added dried vegetable flakes and two hard-boiled eggs. Dinner was an entire head of lettuce topped with ¼ cup tuna fish or 6 small shrimp and topped with vinegar. I sometimes had a light beer with that.
Throughout the day, I had carrot sticks, coffee, and I sucked on 25-calorie hard candies (limited to 5 per day) when my stomach growled or when I felt liked passing out. That added up to 700-800 calories in a day. Sounds okay? Maybe in the twisted world we live in it does, but trust me, after doing this every day along with running for six months straight, I was working with 300 calories of energy daily, when my normal intake should have been 2100- 2400. After six months, I was wearing children’s clothes clocking it at 90 pounds.
After years of therapy, I struggled to free myself from the rut I was in, but my wake up call was when the palms of my hands turned orange from the excess carrots I was eating, and my hair started to fall out.
Frustrated and scared, I was determined to return to a healthy weight. After a year, I gained weight, but my relationship with food still suffered and I once again became overweight, this time up to 160 pounds,
I became so angry at the madness around me – the articles and commercials about being thin, the fad diets that never delivered and the so called “healthy” food products that packed on the pounds.
I was fed up and I knew I needed to do things differently, so I finally decided to stop dieting!
That’s right! I stopped dieting altogether to see what would happen if I started listening to my body and stopped depriving it. That’s when my life changed.
As a dietitian, I wanted to make a difference. I think that part of my recovery was due to the fact that I was able to couple my experience with my nutrition expertise to help others. I focused my career on the food industry- helping restaurants and food companies serve more wholesome, nutritious foods, rather than on diet counseling. My books centered around “how to eat… not how to diet”… I focused on how to eat in a healthy way while feeling full and satisfied, not hungry and deprived and I continue to use this as my guiding principle both personally and professionally until this day.
Once I stopped dieting, started a moderate exercise program, ignored the madness around me, and listened to my body, I returned to a healthy comfortable weight. Today, finally free from being caught in the undertow I am now riding the wave of wellness at 125 pounds.