I just received this message below from a reader, which I thought was a good topic that a lot of people could relate with.
Congrats on the wedding, and hope you both are enjoying the month off. I was wondering, time permitting, if you could possibly write an article that delves into your ‘slightly anorexic’ stage? And how you specifically overcame this? I’ve been paleo for over a year now, but I’m still in that same mindset of slight to extreme restriction. I am seeking out medical/psychological help… but would love an inspiring story. I read your body image article, but if you have any other specifics I’d greatly appreciate it. If not… TOTALLY understand. I’m asking a lot.
Here’s my response.
It’s really embarrassing as a nutritionist to say that I was ever even “slightly anorexic”. I could tell you I starved myself slightly for “research” purposes, but that’d only be a fractions of the truth. I’ve known since nutrition school that I had some eating disordered tendencies after I took a quiz sort of like this one. Before that time, I just thought it was normal to be preoccupied by the size of my thighs all the time and worry constantly about how I would become super thin.
I finally got serious a few years ago and decided I’d experiment with calorie restriction for real. That stint lasted a handful of months where I actually had the self control and desperation to tightly control my portions no matter how weak and crappy I felt. Honestly, it sucked in that I felt light-headed and irritable a lot of the time. But it was also a happy time for me because I was finally losing weight I’d been trying to lose for years. I was thrilled every time I stepped on the scale (which was every single morning) and it was sometimes a pound less than the day before. I was elated. I bought a bunch of new clothes. But when I didn’t lose weight or – God forbid – I gained weight some days, I got scared, frustrated, and anxious. My whole mood became dark and panicky.
Eventually, I stopped. Why did I stop? Because I started to like how my body looked. I wasn’t so “sick” that even at 95 pounds I still hated my body. I was like, “Yeah, that looks alright,” so I stopped tracking my calories online and started eating more. Then I gained a few pounds back and realized I felt SO much better with more food in my body. At that point I was happy I had more energy, but at the same time I always had that 95-pound standard set in my mind. “I should be x pounds lighter. These pants should be loose on me. I’ve failed…”
I was never sickly skinny or only eating celery sticks and crackers all day. I was always eating at least 1,200 calories a day. I think I just call it “anorexic” because of the highs I was getting from the weight loss every day, the lows I was feeling when I didn’t see the weight loss, and how much thought and energy I was putting into it. For years, even when I wasn’t restricting calories, I lived with constant fear of gaining weight or not losing weight. I was obsessive about it – it was one of my main goals in life to lose weight.
Anyway, until my epiphany this year that I’m fine the way I am, I was having that negative self-talk pretty constantly. Ever since I was 12 years old I’ve had those thoughts, and I’m sure many of you can relate. At some point losing weight and being the skinniest person I know just became less important to me, and I believe that point was when I started valuing myself as a person more. I started caring less about those 5 pounds when I started trusting myself more and being more grounded and secure in a lot of aspects of my life – work, love, money, family. I’m 34, and it’s taken this long for me to realize that on many levels, I’m ok. The body image thing just followed as I became more grounded and self-accepting.
However, if I were 20 or 30 pounds heavier, who knows if I’d be in the same place. I think I’d still be trying to lose weight. The difference would be that at this point in my life, I’d hopefully hate myself less in the process and accept my weight as it was, knowing there was room for improvement and that I’d get there eventually…
Anyone else ever struggled with self loathing due to a few extra pounds of fat? Do tell.