When your diet becomes an obsession

The following blog post is going to be both a personal story and an inspirational one. It is a story about finding ones true self, about learning to accept and love who you are, regardless of the number on the scale. Because believe me, you are so much more than a number!

How it starts

My story begins in college. Like most girls in their 20s I wanted to look good. I was never a skinny girl, I was definitely on the chubby side, but I was also never overweight. In my final year in college, with the prom and the yearbook photos on the horizon, me and my friends decided it was time for a change. It was time to lose some weight, to look our best.

Diet fun

So we begun researching. “What would be our ideal weight? How to lose weight? How to lose weight fast?” You get the idea. I’m sure most women googled something like this at least once in their lives. The beginning of my journey was really good and healthy. At the time I was eating fast food daily, so switching from that to home cooked meals and salads, cutting down sugar and alcohol made me feel amazing.

Not too long after that I started working out. I had never worked out before so the pounds kept coming off, I was healthier and skinnier than I had ever been. Calculators starting telling me I was at my ideal weight. I could let go of the diets and start trying to maintain my weight.

Like most people entering this maintenance phase, I gained back a couple of pounds. And boy, did I freak out! I went right back to my diet. And so begun a long journey that became very dark and unhealthy very quickly.

The diet journey

The first months on this journey were perfect. I was discovering new hobbies – working out and cooking. Being a nerd by nature, I enjoyed doing research – healthy foods, low carb, low fat, keto diets, raw vegan, paleo. You get the idea. I started researching workouts, I ended up knowing more than the trainers at my gym. Everyone was telling me I should consider a career in this area! I was on a roll!

What I failed to see was that I was eating less and less. I had to buy new jeans every two months because the old ones didn’t fit me. Did that worry me? Heck no! It meant I was doing great. I had set new goals. I had to get to the same number of pounds as some of my favorite actresses. And all of that by not eating and working out at least two hours a day!

It was now a little over a year since I had started this journey. Every time I felt my body refused to lose weight, instead of seeing it as a sign of what it was  – I was already way too skinny – I changed the diet and workout regime because I thought it was a plateau. It wouldn’t be too long until my body would start giving up.

workout

Denial

I remember it so well. I was going to group classes at the gym, classes which I loved. And slowly, I started feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore. At this point I had been working out for almost two years, I was a pro at the gym. And day by day I realized simple things like squatting were becoming harder and harder. My knees started hurting. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong, so I asked my trainer. Everybody told me my form was perfect. But maybe, just maybe, I should consider taking short breaks. Like working out 6 days instead of 7. Or cutting back to one hour instead of two everyday. My indignation at their words was huge! They were so stupid, how could they say that me? How could taking a break make me stronger?

Breaking down

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was going home one evening, after a long day of work, one hour swimming in the morning and another at the gym in the evening. I had eaten around 500 kcals that day. I stopped at the grocery store near home to buy eggs. And there was all this chocolate and bags of chips there. I was like hypnotized. I bought five huge chocolate bars and three bags of chips. I got home and I ate them all in half an hour.

Yeah, I was sick afterwards, as you can probably imagine. I think anyone would be. After all that passed, panicked kicked in. I’ll gain weight. I’m such a failure. I have worked so hard to earn this body and I’ve screwed it all up in half an hour. But it’s ok. I’ll make it up for it. I’m not eating anything tomorrow and I’ll work out twice as hard. Did it work? The first few times it did. It was a bulimia of sorts, I realize it now. I ate than I starved myself. This cycle would soon become my hell.

By this time I had lost most of my friends. I had stopped going out during my ‘perfect diet’ days. I was afraid I would gain weight cause I would have to eat out and God knows what they put in the food in restaurant! The bulimia days weren’t any different. My energy levels were lower than ever, the joint pain was becoming worse every day and my immunity was at its lowest as I constantly had a cold. Eventually, I stopped working out. Finally… I couldn’t take the purging anymore either. So I went full into binge eating disorder.

Acceptance of the problem

I couldn’t tell you how long my BED lasted for. Every now and then I kept trying to punish myself by not eating, or by restricting the foods I would eat, only to binge worse than before. I gained weight. I gained back all that I had lost. And then I gained more. It seemed it would never stopped. I hated myself so much.

I could distinctly remember the days before all that had started. The days before I knew what diets were. When I could tell exactly when I was hungry and I could choose what to eat without hating myself for my cravings or without counting the calories in every bite. I missed the days when I could enjoy being with my friends. And I could taste sweets without ending in a 5000 calories binge. I knew listening to my body was possible. I just didn’t know how to do it anymore.

How I recovered, what helped and how I’m managing thoughts of self-criticism today in the next blog post.

Body image – what we’re supposed to look like – is made so unattainable that all girls are put in this position of feeling inferior. That’s a horrible thing.

Amy Heckerling

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