I should be happy right now, thrilled even. I am living my dream of decades! Two years of keeping a strict diet, no sugar, only sprouted grains, and a healthy amount of fat, usually 50% and a resistance/weight routine for 6, now let me say: I’m under 22% body fat! I made it after decades of hanging around 28-32% with a pre-diet spike of 38% My being at my goal, in the fitness range, was supposed to mean I was happy with my body. Well, I’m here, and there’s still this feeling of malcontent Ahhhh hello recovered eating disorder brain.
I was informed repeatedly growing up that I was a bit chubby, needed to eat less, workout more, and the like. My Mother had her issues with weight when she was younger, and she was trying to help, just in a detrimental way. My first memories of that occurring were about Hannah’s age. Way too young to be thinking about that. I received these comments even when my godfather thought I was anorexic. She had fears of me not being popular and that crushing me, but it’s not like she provided a better alternative. One memory sparked my anger when I started middle school, one of the fattest girls was in the most popular clique.
For this and other reasons I ran away in a sense, I begged to go to boarding school. Joyfully I went and met my downfall: the freedom of a full vending machine and no one to raise a fuss, I started to eat far more than I should. After JV practice I would sit on the sofa, binge Rice Krispie Treats, and watch some sitcom or weird movie. However, I still went home every weekend where my weight received a few remarks here & there. I swore to myself that I would be good, but I couldn’t stop eating all the treats. One evening in the library I found a memoir of someone who had anorexia & bulimia. While I’m sure this book was in the library with the intent of education & exploring the world, but I saw the solution to all my problems. I started throwing up. Using my finger, a toothbrush, whatever I could find that worked. It got to the point where I could do so silently and not sit on the toilet waiting for everyone else to leave.
My teeth didn’t feel great, my mouth started to get sores, and I remembered another part of the book, laxatives!!! At first, my consumption was as directed, but I was gaining weight still, so I took more. Hello rock bottom, literally. I was running to the toilet and could only make it to halfway sitting… I hit the wall. Thankfully most people were out and I wasn’t discovered as I cleaned all of it.
I told the school psychologist the next day thinking this wasn’t self-harm and so would be confidential, but it was, and she called in my parents. They started giving me Prozac, and it went poorly, so I was switched to Depakote, a medication for bipolar as seizures weren’t a thing. (it still burns me that no one told me). This continued for a while, and then we just stopped therapy and the drugs, and I don’t recall why. I managed to keep myself from throwing up, but the guilt and shame at every bite had not gone away. Nor has the body dysmorphia.
My Mom was mostly good, but a little over a year later I was declared ‘still too fat.’ I had to stay at home, workout every morning and study for hours after school, away from the kitchen. When that wasn’t enough, I was off to fat camp where I was treated oddly because, according to the campers, I did not belong there. I was the skinniest one so they mostly just sent me out to help balance the school horses. The diet was very controlled, but lacking our current science: bagels, Gatorade, sandwiches on rolls, and the like. I lost about 10lbs in two months, and my size went down by 1, she was happy.
What followed was about 20 years of hating my body, feeling guilt at eating anything not healthy, and beating myself up regularly. In the beginning, it was diet after diet. Have you ever lived on one movie box of Junior Mints a day? The Zone diet, the South Beach Diet, Sparkpeople, IIFYM? Spent years tracking every bite down to the gram? Thankfully that’s the one obsession I’ve managed to stop, mostly because it was a Pain in the….
My husband is wonderful and has been since we began dating. In the beginning, he told me I had a great body and he thought I was sexy, but I couldn’t believe it. I was about 20lbs more than I am now. When compliments didn’t work for a few years, he switched to, “I find all versions of your body hot, it doesn’t matter to me how big or small you are.” That one worked much better. He’s been retraining my brain for 13 years now. I believe him because he’s seen me at my largest & smallest and his actions match his words, all affection and bed sport maintained no matter what my size.
That brings me to the present. I have a weird relationship with my body. At one point I was 168, I looked and felt amazing, it was like a high, but I couldn’t keep doing the diet as strictly as before, so I’m up to 173 (the assessment scale is with clothes on & a belly full of water). I’m not happy, I’m not sad, but I continue to be ultra-focused.on my metrics. Daily morning scale stops wristbands for steps, and now Whoop that tracks my heart and shows sleep, strain, recovery, etc. I want all the numbers!!!
Last week I started going to my gym again with authorization from my physical therapist, and I found my old friend, the body assessment scale, and my new obsession has begun.
I’ve been in recovery for bulimia for 20 years, but my brain still acts like it has an eating disorder. I spoke to my (new) therapist about this last week. About how I teach my daughter that bodies are essential for what they can do. That I try to tell myself that and it doesn’t seem to click. Unless I was my very lowest weight, it wasn’t going to work; nevermind I’m trying to gain muscle. I’m not a CrossFit competitor or a model, there’s no need for me to be perfect, just functional and easy to move about it. I don’t want to weigh myself daily and have that number dictate part of my mood. I’ll have to ask next time how to go about being able to say “It is what it is” about my body, not just the rest of my life.
I’ve gone from wanting <22% body fat to wanting to have a healthy relationship with my body, I suppose that’s progress in it of itself. Now to find where to start that I haven’t already tried.
If you have an eating disorder or disordered thoughts please consider these resources.