This is in response to this article: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/my-transition-from-an-ill-frail-anemic-college-student-to-a-healthy-strong-and-fit-individual/#axzz2lrqbs2Uy
I feel as though my previous posts about my eating disorder and body dismorphia, were cut short and slightly “glowing” as if I woke up one day and was “normal” again.. I barely covered the muck; and there’s a lot of muck.
My health insurance has been spotty since 18 and I’ve never been diagnosed. Honestly, I probably could’ve found help and found someone else to help me foot the bill, but I’m stubborn and fiercely independent, and I didn’t want help at the worst point. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Majority of the time, I believed I had it under control and I was actually very, very healthy and everyone else just wasn’t as dedicated .
I’ll start from the beginning and move forward. I’ll be as detailed at a can remember.
In my freshmen year of high school, I decided I needed to lose weight (weight at time: 122-125lbs, sz 6 pants). I ate terribly and didn’t exercise except for the walk to and from the bus..and the occasional walk around town with the dogs or my friends/siblings/family. I spent most of my time in front of the computer. I decided I needed to eat a little better and I began to track my intake. I determined my BMR to be about 1800 calories, so to lose weight I would aim for 1500 and do my best to not go over 1800. I wasn’t working out, except the normal walking. I began doing sit-ups and push-ups, walking more often, and the odd work-out VHS. I also hula-hooped. I imagine I did about 15 minutes worth of working out. Eventually I dropped a little weight. I wasn’t content.
By my sophomore year I was down about 5-10 lbs..weighing in at 115. I was 5’1-2″, this was a healthy weight. I didn’t have to struggle too much to maintain this weight. I was mindful of what I ate, but I still ate ice cream, milkshakes, Taco Bell, Wendy’s.. just did my best to stay around 1500 calories and never, ever drank pop. I even added in my burned off calories for working out and did my best to stay in the 1200-1800 net per day range. I was still heavy in my mind. I didn’t want a thigh gap, I didn’t want to have bones sticking out, I just wanted “toned” arms, back, and abs. I added in more body weight exercises..I had a 24.5 inch waist, 35-36 inch hips, and about a 31-32 inch chest.. I believe I wore a 4 at the time. I can’t recall when during that year, I decided to cut my calories more drastically. I decided I needed to net under 1200 calories daily (but I preferred under 1000). I simply restricted and occasionally if I got hungry, I’d eat a couple m&m’s and wait until my next meal. My diet was basically: cereal for breakfast, snack of animal crackers or cheerios during Biology, lunch was usually a lot of fruit, exactly 14 baby carrots, and a granola bar. I’d leave school and eat some candy to not be hungry. For dinner I’d eat whatever was served (my mom usually did: a grain, vegetable, and meat), just in a small portion..if I was still hungry, I’d eat more, but that wasn’t often.
I didn’t binge eat…I didn’t need to because I really just portioned what I ate, only ate what I liked, and I never got crazy cravings because besides fruits and vegetables, I only ate junk food. Mid-sophomore year I got braces. I couldn’t eat properly and I lost a few more pounds. I also figured out brushing my teeth after every meal kept me from being hungry…and when it hurts to eat, you seriously consider what you’re willing to go through. I dropped down to 110 lbs. However, this weight was hard to maintain. I began feeling guilty about eating certain foods (because I would have to write down whatever I consumed and I had a major . I would eat a normal sized portion of food at home and finish and make my way to the bathroom…(if I was alone, and only when I was alone). **Normal portion being: a regular sized milkshake, 2-3 slices of pizza… I knew this wasn’t okay.. but I reasoned with myself and it was rare that I purged..and even then it was a small portion of what I ate, which apparently to 16 year old me made it okay.
Junior year is a similar story.. I maintained 107-110lbs. For homecoming I wanted to look thinner. I was more diligent about my restriction of food for the weeks leading up to it. I weighed around 105 for majority of my junior year. I was tired often..I was exercising a little more (1000 sit-ups every day!, plus whatever else I came up with). There were days where I would only eat ice cream which I imagine was about 500-600 calories worth. Very strict portion control.. if I was hungry, I’d drink water or eat fruit or a couple swedish fish. My lunches were the same as they were my sophomore year. I believed to be “healthy” I needed to be thin and eat few calories. I didn’t look ill, just thin…no one really knew what went on behind closed doors.
After my junior year, I got a job at a restaurant. I was more active, but in the beginning I was still pretty strict to my diet…I still tracked my intake and kept my caloric intake low. Eventually over a few months, I started socializing more often. I began eating where I worked and eating out often. I stopped tracking completely and therefore, stopped purging out of the guilt I felt when I had to calculate my intake.. (because even if I was within my range, I could have done better). I gained weight over my senior year, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought I was getting fat, but with work, high school, college, and a new boyfriend, my priorities had shifted. I believe I weighed 115 by late fall and following graduation I was probably around 115-120.
Post high school, I moved into my own apartment about 2 months after graduating. My diet was basically pizza rolls and whatever I ate a work–I was working breakfast so usually breakfast food. I went to school in the evenings…my school was about 45 minutes away. I paid for school out of pocket and paid all of my bills alone. I also also extremely stressed out over my now ex’s trial and constantly on the edge of a meltdown. I don’t stress eat.. I don’t eat when I’m stressed. And I had no way to relieve my near constant stress.. my only release was walking my dog and crying.
In November I totaled my car and I lost my job. A couple weeks later I broke up with that guy and started seeing a new one. I heavily relied on my family during this time…but I did pay all of my bills in December. In January I got a new (better!) job and unfortunately my dog ran away in February. I cried for days. However, I was handling all of the stress in my life much better because I was determined to be happy. My life began to change substantially from this point on.
My new boyfriend was a great cook which did improve my pizza roll diet. We ate a mix of homecooked meals, fast food, sit-down/diner food, and prepackage food. It wasn’t a fabulous diet, but it also wasn’t horrible. I weighed 120-125. We were typically lethargic and moved very little. (Besides walking for work (5+ miles daily) & school and if we went on a trip)..We typically just stayed at home and watched TV, were online or studied/had online classes.
In the fall of 2009, we joined the YMCA. He was a former high school athlete & had a little gym experience and was just out of shape..and I was a newbie to the gym. He showed me how to use the machines. At first: I’d do those once a week, walk-run for 20 minutes 3x a week, and do a cardio-dance DVD occasionally if it was too crummy out to go to the gym. My goal was to run for 15 minutes straight; from a starting point of only being able to run .10 of a mile! About a month later, I started a weight lifting class at school..that was once a week and I began using freeweights at the Y, but mostly used the machines. Occasionally, I would use the machines at school instead. For the most part neither gym had great free weight equipment and what was there was dominated by a bunch of dudes and very little extra room.
Over the quarter, I added more cardio…running became much, much easier. Before the end of that quarter I could run a 5k. The following quarter, My new goal was to run at least 15 miles a week so I could participate in a study for female runners on bone density. This wasn’t too difficult for me; 3 miles, 5x a week and I really enjoyed running.
The study was really cool..even though I almost passed out when they took my blood. (sorry, I don’t like needles in my skin) The study was on bone density of female runners. I had a bone density scan and had my body fat/lean mass measured on the IDAX machine. I had 20% and 18% on a bod pod. My bone density was well above average, and minus that my cortisol was slightly elevated (I had almost passed out! and it’s normal for runners), my bloodwork was normal. Yay! My only issue was that the study made me track my eating…I ate about 2000 calories. I thought that was ridiculously high (**looking back, I was oh so wrong!..I was losing weight eating that amount!) but I also knew better than to continue to track my caloric intake, as I have a tendency to obsess & skip too many meals–and the three days I had to track made me anxious. I tracked for the three days the study required and then I stopped. I knew I didn’t need to lose weight and I had lost so tracking from there on out would’ve triggered me.
Throughout that year, I began eating healthier.. we ate out less. Eventually, I cut out fast food completely. Partially this was to save money, secondly, after I stopped eating fast food regularly, I just felt so much better and didn’t crave it. After I stopped considering fast food an option for food and would only go to sit-down restaurants..(which costs 2-4x as much! with a limited budget, that can’t happen everyday.)..it was simple to eat food at home. Plus, my boyfriend at the time was a very good cook. We ate pretty clean..but not restrictive–like I said we ate out occasionally, I still had ice cream, Twix bars, and pizza… We just ate mostly quality food (we read labels for ingredients was the biggest change). And I only ate junk food I really liked (growing up a picky eater is REALLY beneficial in that regard..I refuse to eat things I don’t actually like, healthy or not) But, eventually I began feeling guilty about indulging in “unhealthy” treats..even occasionally.
I now do not question that I was too focused on “clean eating”… I would berate myself for “overindulging” (as in half a pint of Graeter’s instead of a forth, like the serving size). Those indulgences led to purging. I ate ice cream everyday almost, and felt guilt for eating too much so I would purge..daily. I shut my mind off to this. This was my dirty little secret. All the while I was in school talking and learning about leading a healthy lifestyle through moderation.. I knew moderation worked. I had results from that. But the rules didn’t apply to me because I needed to do better. Indulgences meant failure and failure was not acceptable.
On the exercise front: By late spring/early summer I had upped my weekly mileage to 50 miles or so, still lifting 2 times a week full body. I was also obsessively tracking my caloric output. There were days were the room would spin.. I didn’t understand why. I wasn’t getting stronger due to all of the running..and I was slowly getting thinner and thinner.
I weighed in at just under 100 lbs one day at the gym. This was a HUGE reality check for me. I knew 102-104 was the low end of “healthy BMI”. I wasn’t necessarily aiming for that. I wanted to have a more defined physique. I made it my goal to have 15-16% body fat, but I needed to gain muscle to get there.
I can’t say I actually made any major changes except that I vowed to try not to purge. But, I was terrified of losing my cardiovascular fitness. I NEEDED to keep my mileage up. I continued to run 40-50 miles a week, plus walk about 5 miles a shift at work. Enter: obsessive tracking of steps taken per day and calories burned during my 3+ hour work outs or my Two or Three-a-days. Instead of purging, I was exercising excessively to compensate for the food I ate because I still feared getting fat, but I wanted to look “fitter” so I figured exercise more.
I ate a pretty high carb diet, high in fiber. I had terrible IBS from the combination of diet and running. And my then boyfriend said I had “vegetarian death farts”.
I did put on a few pounds.. maybe 5-8. I was hovering in the 105 range most of the summer. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat enough–intentional or not, I would get dizzy and my blood sugar would drop while I was at work. I was afraid of drinking pop, so I would put sugar in water and drink it. Eventually, I brought a granola bar to eat half way through my shift. (anyone who is a server can understand, you don’t always get to eat at work, but sometimes I would barely eat before a double and refuse food on my mandatory break, so about 95% of the time this was my fault.)
Cut to about two months later..
I was at the gym overnight (12am ish was when I normally worked out). I was running on the treadmill, that day was a short day.. just 5 miles. It felt like something (bead/small pebble size) was in my right shoe.. I stopped mid run and wiped out my shoe. There was nothing in my shoe..but it still felt like there was. I don’t recall if I finished my run or not..but I ran at least 3 miles. I went and lifted a little and headed home.
The next day I went to get up for work. I couldn’t put weight on my right foot without intense pain. I could barely get out of bed, let alone walk down the stairs! The pain started in the lateral most metatarsal (pinky toe side of mid-foot)..shot into my heel, into my ankle, through my lower leg and finally ended above my knee. I began to panic…and for once it wasn’t about my mileage or my cardiovascular fitness.. it was about my job and general mobility. I couldn’t waitress if I couldn’t walk..really, I couldn’t do much at my job if I couldn’t walk or be on my feet.
I took some regular strength ibuprofen and eventually, I felt “okay enough to suck it up and go to work”. (I should mention, at this point, I only took pain killers of any kind if I thought I would die from the pain. It was from a small bottle I bought when I got a second degree grease burn, from setting my arm in corned beef grease over a year prior to this..even then I hardly used it; I have decent pain tolerance). All this did was take the edge off. But after walking around quite a bit at work, it started to ache again. It went from just the base line ache (shifting weight through my foot was unpleasant, but manageable) to OMG I NEED TO CRAWL UP IN A BALL AND CRY! in a matter of 10 steps. I just stood there every time that happened & took many deep breaths, as it is socially unacceptable to crawl up in a ball and cry in the middle of a restaurant. Only a few people noticed I was acting weird, but I honestly couldn’t even explain what had happened or why it hurt so bad.
Unfortunately, you can’t just go to urgent care for “foot pain” and I definitely knew it was “sports related”. I also knew not to run on it. (thank you schooling! ok–and I’m also smart enough to know if it hurts to walk, running = no bueno) I made an appointment with a sports specialist, but had to wait a week. Grrrrreeeeaaattt. Besides work and school the rest of the week, I was not on my feet. I didn’t run, I didn’t workout.. I finally saw the doctor–at the point the pain was near gone–and got an X-ray. No break, no stress fracture! Yay! But, he let me know I had plantar fascitius and if I didn’t want a stress fracture I needed to cut back my mileage and take it easy for a couple weeks.
Over the next couple of weeks I eased back into running.. I ran most days of the week, but much shorter, and slower. The remaining of my training for the Columbus Half marathon in Oct. 2010, I ran a max mileage of 30 miles in a week. I didn’t gain any weight really.. I maintained 104-108. I rounded up my weight on my drivers license.–weighing too little was just as bad as too much.
During this time, I got a new job at a gym and was in school full time nearby..it was an hour commute from home and we were working on finding a new apartment & moving closer to by new job. Between all that, I didn’t have time to weight lift and maintain my training for the race so I only ran.
After finishing the Columbus half marathon–I was horribly sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat for 2-3 hours, even then it took me about 2 days to get back into a regular eating routine. I took a few days off from exercise.. the following weekend I was sick with a really bad cold and despite attempts to at least walk on a treadmill, I couldn’t even manage that. I took another few days off.
When I started working out again, I focused on lifting and still ran most days of the week. As it is Ohio and it starts to get winter-y in October, I needed to re-acclimate to the weather. On Thanksgiving I took my mom’s new puppy for a his first run! By Christmas I was running outside for at least 5 miles, 5x a week. One day a week I did a “long run” which would go up to 7-9 miles. This was nothing like the mileage I was doing before, but I was obsessively lifting instead. I worked out 6x a week between the gym and running..on Sundays, I didn’t take the day off instead I did an intense core workout while I marathon watched Hulu.
By January, I was about 110-112 lbs. I liked the way I looked. I had put on a little muscle in the time I reduced my runs and increased lifting.. by February though, I started to gain too much weight. I was hungry constantly. I couldn’t stop eating. I couldn’t sleep for more than 5 hours at a time..and my work outs were still relatively similar to Dec/Jan.
My ‘normal’ meals were:
– Breakfast: 1-2 eggs + 2-5 egg whites, 2-3 pieces of french toast (with no sugar syrup)
– I was starving about 2 hours or less later and I’d eat cereal with milk
– for lunch, vegetable quesadilla made with two low calorie (60 cal per) whole wheat tortillas, 1/4-1/2 cup cheese, and however many veggies I wanted..with 1/4 cup salsa (organic medium from Giant Eagle, which is my absolute favorite store bought). sometimes I’d have a little ice cream
I’d head to work after that and hit the gym..I normally would eat cereal dry at work to keep me from feeling too hungry between meals. After I worked out I’d eat a protein shake or bar or have milk.
– For dinner, I just had whatever I felt like, usually a vegetable, carb, and protein. Somewhere in there there was usually a fruit. Sometimes we’d order in food, even then the worst I got was a cheeseburger and fries, that I never ate all of. Which as we had to walk about .5 mile, we normally just packed.
– after work (10 pm) I’d usually eat another quesadilla or PB jelly sandwich…or cereal or ice cream…sometimes a portion of frozen pizza.
then I”d go to bed by 2-3 am and wake up by 7-9 am. I can’t figure out why I wasn’t exhausted then.. but I imagine I was but I was so used to it it didn’t matter much to me..
As you can imagine I started to gain weight.. I attempted to control my eating, but I just felt like I was starving myself. I was bloated and uncomfortable by mid February and headed to the Dr. to see why I just felt so hungry even after a large meal. This was wasted trip as the nurse practitioner just ignored me, saying it was “normal”. I’m sorry but for someone who feels no self control around food and even with attempting to lower my intake, nothing the scale wouldn’t budge. I did all of the right things exercise wise..but 4-5 cardio sessions and 4+ weightlifting seasons weren’t allowing me to lose weight. And still manages to gain weight very quickly…that’s not normal. She did inform me that I have scioliousis.. which was *so* helpful.
In March or April, I had moved out of the apartment with my now ex. I was struggling with eating healthy due to the move and I’d eat breakfast at home, eat lunch out and usually eat dinner out too. I still worked out quite a bit.. but I was beginning to hate it. I hated cardio and I didn’t want to do it anymore.
My weight hit 125-130 around this time. I began to freak out..that’s the most I’d ever weighed. I had considered myself “fat” at 120 for most of my life. I panicked. I began trying to figure out what was going on with me. I still wasn’t sleeping well.. I could’t lose weight..
After a couple weeks of too much dining out, I started eating at home and resumed my french toast, sandwich, quesadilla routine..My weight was about 130-132ish.
My coworkers were trying the Paleo diet. The first time I heard about it was back around the time I was training for the Half; I laughed at it because I knew I needed a high carb diet for my training. But, I was still eating a high carb diet and very little protein as I wasn’t really eating meat too often. After learning more about Paleo I decided it would be a good option and the lack of protein and meat in my diet was why I was “so fat”. My plan was to do paleo strict for two weeks, have one cheat meal, and repeat for “the rest of my life”.. because paleo was a “lifestyle”.
Cut to 2 weeks later.. I had lost 8 pounds. I tried new meats, and learned to like new veggies. I eliminated all processed food..Which sounds too good to be true.. but here’s the dirty little secret of it. I hated eating meat that much..I wasn’t necessarily energy deprived during the day as I had cut out most cardio except a class or two and one or two elliptical sessions..and was only weight lifting. I just ate fruit before working out for simple carbs. I went to bed hungry every night because the last thing I wanted to eat before bed was more meat and vegetables. I ate “too many” nuts, dried fruit, and eggs for a strict paleo diet.. but I wasn’t about to eat chicken or steak for breakfast or snacks. I estimate my caloric intake to have been somewhere between 1000-1500 most days. Now I decided I wanted to have a cheat meal. I wanted to have the most unhealthy things I could think of: Pizza and ice cream. I ordered a large ZPizza and went to store and bought a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I was only have 1 cheat day and didn’t want my food to go to waste, and I wasn’t going to be able to eat any more for two weeks so I figured live it up. Within 3 hour I had eaten the entire pizza, minus a few crusts and the pint of ice cream. I felt horrible. I felt sick. I felt horribly guilty. I went to the bathroom and purged..purged as much as I possibly could. By the end of the day I had gained a couple pounds back. “Never again” I thought to myself.
After that incident, I decided to have a “cheat weekend” where I could have pizza and ice cream.. but in a weekend I’d only eat half of each, place them in the freezer, and save it for the next weekend–this actually worked out much better. But, I was still eating too little. By the end of this experiment (I lasted about 2-3 months and then I couldn’t resist all the food my new guy was cooking)..I had lost about 13lbs.
I began gaining that weight back, I wasn’t restricting, I was regularly exercising..and I ate pretty healthy–no fast food, ate out only occasionally, no alcohol..mostly homecooked food… Eventually I was 130 again. At this point I decided SCREW IT. I was clearly “Destined to be fat”. (or at least 130-133 lbs)
Then something weird happened.. I stopped gained weight once I was in that range. I had even started occasionally having fast food and drinking once a week. I thought it was weird..but I was just happy to have found a sticking point. I was sleeping more, not obsessing about exercise..and I hit many new PR’s.
Over the next year I maintained that weight…
I began partying quite a bit about 5x a week and even worked out less.. While all of that wasn’t “healthy”…it did show me I didn’t need to kill myself at the gym or berate myself over every dietary indescression. I ate out a lot. I ate a lot of pizza. I drank quite a bit. But, Maintained around 132-135.
One day in February/March 2012, I pulled a muscle in my side. It hurt like hell. I’m not sure how I did it. All I know is it put me out of commission for working out because heavy breathing made me want to cry and was nearly impossible. Actually just walking for too long or breathing “wrong” hurt. I also started getting really bad acid reflux…so bad the only foods I could eat were vanilla ice cream (less then 1/2 cup, more caused a flair up), sprite, and plain boiled white rice. Obviously I lost a few pounds.. actually about 10 in two weeks. It was miserable, my stomach would just laugh at antacids..they didn’t work at all. I also ended up with a UTI. Lovely. After I got that taken care of, things started to turn around after about a month my side got better and I began to be able to eat “normal” food.
I had to ease back into eating. I had to experiment with food. I still get acid reflux to this day.. certain foods are worse and I avoid because of this..but for the most part I can eat small portions of any food I want. My weight did go back up to 132-135..but this was okay because I felt like death at the lower weight–(healthy and “fattish” was better then miserable and “thinnish”)
I maintained this weight for a few months. By the end of summer the stress of the “party life” was too much for me. I started going out only twice per week and by simply doing that I lost a couple pounds. I added some longish (30-60 minutes, someones longer if I was watching TV or talking) cardio sessions in for stress relief/burn off extra energy after a bit and maintained that weight with no effort.. I didn’t diet. I just ate enough food.
In February 2013, I got a new job and began “cleaning up my diet”. (I wasn’t eat enough protein, fruits, or veggies) I tired Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer (diet only, I did my own exercise routine as her’s is heavily machine based). I was doing two a days (cardio in the AM for 20 minutes or so to “wake up” and weights in the evening with my BF) I was trying to lean out to see what would happen. I did lean out a bit.. but the low carb aspect of the diet wasn’t food for my mood..it made me very moody. I’d get into an argument about dinner everyday after the gym with my boyfriend because I was low carb. After awhile I realized weighing 118 and being a little leaner wasn’t worth being a grumpy guss. I stopped following that diet and added more carbs to my diet. I only gained a few pounds.
I shifted my focus to getting stronger and building muscle. And ironically, I look leaner, despite the weight gain. I have basically maintained the same weight range for a year..and I cut cardio. Currently I eat whatever I want, when I want (EatTheFood!)..I do one cardio session per week (I teach a spin class, it has to happen but it’s only 30 minutes). I lift heavier. I’ve hit new PR’s at 10 pounds light then 2 years ago. I lift in 5, 45-75 minute sessions per week. I don’t kill myself daily in the gym, I just put enough effort in to continue to see results. I get enough sleep most nights. I don’t party any more..I drink occasionally, if I feel like it. And most importantly..I’m so much happier and less stressed.
Oddly, this is what I had learned in school and it took this long to sink it. Moderation isn’t just for the general population.. It also applies to everyone. The diet and fitness industry as just skewed our view of what “healthy” is. Thin and trim doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Food doesn’t have a moral compass..it is just food. A healthy balance and consistent effort will get results. If you love a food, you don’t need to cut it out forever, unless you’re allergic/intolerant. Moderation is key.
I make sure I drink enough water, eat enough protein, and eat enough food to fuel my activities.
So there you have it.. recovered bulimic to paleo-er to ETF and finally in a good place with my relationship to my body and my diet/exercise routine.