Paleo Plan

My Formerly Disordered Eating

I just received this message below from a reader, which I thought was a good topic that a lot of people could relate with.

Neely!

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.

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5 Comments

  1. I remember when I started losing weight, I was in the gym for hours a day and eating 1200 or so calories…I was a 262 lb. man at the time. (still a man, no longer 262 lbs.) I was losing weight all the time, but I was MISERABLE! The only thing that kept me going was the scale changing – it was not healthy.

    When I finally got to Paleo, everything changed. I look at food differently, I look at life differently, I look at work differently. This shit changes people.

  2. Rebecca

    When I started my weight loss experiment I was 14 years old, probably 140-150 pounds at 5’2″. I played soccer and had just made an elite team and all of my teammates were super skinny. I slashed calories, started working out obsessively and got myself down to 107 pounds (I know some girls my size look good at that weight but my mother got asked if I was on chemo, so it’s not a good weight for me). I think I was eating 700-800 calories during the week and then would absolutely pig out at a buffet after our soccer weekend was over. I think that’s the reason I didn’t feel miserable, although I remember many nights not being able to sleep because I was so hungry. Couldn’t give in to the hunger ’cause that meant I was weak and an incredibly fat person (I’m shaking my head at my former self for thinking that way).

    Now I’m in a healthier place, 130 pounds, size 8 and transitioning to a Paleo lifestyle. I don’t need to lose weight (though I wouldn’t mind replacing some of the lingering fat with muscle), and it’s a good feeling.

  3. Rochelle

    Sheesh. I’m there right now. I had my 4th baby in October and was 5’6″ and 204 lbs. Today, I’m 152 lbs and have been struggling with the inevitable plateau. I am trying to switch my mindset that it doesn’t matter what the scale says and that it’s how I feel and my health and wellness that are more important. It’s so hard to let go of it though. For months I’ve been saying I need to be 140, I need to be 140 over and over again. Every day revolves around losing weight, losing fat, gaining muscle (so long as it doesn’t interfere with losing weight), and getting down to the size I want to be. It is exhausting. I’m exhausted and frustrated. I’ve been reading about Paleo for quite a while now and am ready to make the switch, but I’m doing it for me, not for the weight loss. I’m working up the nerve to toss my scale and toss my 140 goal and just be. Just eat the dang food and exercise and train with what I want to do and not freak out every day about a pound lost or a pound gained.

    • Rochelle – I hear you. I encourage you to give Paleo a try and see if it helps. Keep me posted!

  4. Karen Bates

    Wow Rochelle, I can relate. I still think I should weigh 140lbs. I stopped getting on the scale because I’m so disgusted with the number that comes back. I’m 5’6″ and weigh 172 lbs. I was working out doing a boot camp 3 days a week and running 3 days a week training for a half marathon. The lowest weight I’ve gotten to with all of this activity is 165. I’ve stopped the boot camp because of a running injury, but I am finally back to running, and training for 2 half marathons and a full marathon next year. My boot camp instructor went paleo and has done very well, as well as one of my friends in boot camp. She’s been completely paleo since March and has lost 30lbs, she looks incredible.

    I’m teetering on the edge of clean eating vs. paleo. I’m not quite ready to give up dairy 100%, but I am willing to give up sugar.

    I found this website and I am very excited about the recipes. I’m hoping by changing my eating that I might be able to become a little leaner and make running a lot easier on my body.

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