Healing from an Eating Disorder

 

Nowadays I am feeling pretty good about myself and about my body, even if I am not at my goal weight or appearance that I want to have with fat and muscle. It wasn’t always that way though. Thinking back, I was happy with my appearance until eighth grade. Before that I did plenty of bike riding, karate class, and even dance class when I was really young. So all of those things helped to keep me strong and lean. It wasn’t until eighth grade that I was not doing much physical activity and was over-eating quite a lot of junk food. The image that I had of myself in my mind was quite different than what I looked like in pictures. I remember when I took a look at some pictures from a family reunion that summer, I was shocked at how fat I looked. I was up to 160 pounds and was looking about the size of my grandma. I was so grossed out by the appearance of myself that I decided I needed to take action ASAP. 

 


I started by skipping breakfast and lunch and eating only dinner. When it was time for dinner I would eat as little as possible with a focus on low calorie foods like vegetables. By the time ninth grade rolled around I had lost a good chunk of weight, but was still quite a bit heavier than I wanted to be. Another thing that didn’t help is that my breasts were super large. I never liked the attention that they brought me and they felt very heavy and uncomfortable for my back not mention made sleeping on my stomach and sides annoying. My chiropractor recommended getting breast reduction surgery when I was 16 so I took his advice and got it. While healing from it that summer I again ate as little as I could and as soon as I got the greenlight from the doctor I started working out. 


By the time I got back into school for 10th grade, I was significantly thinner and everyone at school noticed. No one even realized I had surgery probably because I lost so much weight. Some of the moms would comment to me that I looked amazing and wanted to know what my secret was. I told them I was just eating healthier and exercising. They thought that was great and encouraged me to keep it up. Little did they know that I was obsessively thinking about food and how I could avoid eating it. At that point my parents noticed my eating habits and would try to get me to eat more at my meals. I would try to trick them by taking more broccoli or whatever veggie was available and added that to my plate. They would make comments like “oh geez, Lucy is on her starvation diet still.” I was actually kind of shocked that my mom would be upset with me about not eating much because all my life she has struggled with anorexia and bulimia. These comments they made really didn’t help me at all because although they pointed out a problem, they didn’t reach out to me with love, support and guidance. Even my grandparents would make comments. My grandma would tell me that her and my grandpa thought I was losing my attractive figure and that I should gain some weight. I didn’t understand why they would think this because I thought I looked great. I was so proud of myself for finally fitting into a size 4 jeans!


I’m not sure what did it, but eventually I think I realized that I had a problem and that I needed to put an end to losing so much weight because I already surpassed my goals. Eating breakfast made me feel nauseous so I still skipped that but I would make an effort to eat something light and healthy for lunch like a hummus and pita bread. Slowly I started to put weight back on and was around 130 pounds. I tried to be OK with it even though I didn’t like the little tummy pooch that I could see when I wore tight shirts or dresses. I was constantly comparing myself to other girls and whether I was thinner or fatter than them. 


 By the time I went to college I was back down in weight again because I wanted to look good to all the new people that I met. I don’t know why but for some reason this was important to me. I went back to my old ways of skipping breakfast and lunch and only eating dinner. However, at this point I would not eat something healthy like vegetables, I would go to Starbucks and treat myself to a Venti Starbucks Frappuccino with whipped cream. I would tell myself “well, I didn’t eat all day so I deserve this. This is my one special treat and then that’s it.” Sometimes I could make it home from school and tell my parents that I already ate supper so that I wouldn’t have to eat anything else. Other times if I was home early, I wasn’t able to lie about it so I would again eat as little as possible or food that was low in calories.


After about half a year through the semester I went through a break up which left me feeling really depressed and bad about myself. I went the opposite extreme and started to binge on junk food. A lot of times I would do this on my lunch break or study break at college in my car where no one could see me. Other times I would do it when my parents were not at home, spooning my way through ice cream until I felt sick. One time I dug into a half gallon of chocolate cherry chip ice cream that we all loved and kept eating until I was close to the bottom. I didn’t want my family to know that I ate most of it in just a day, so I ate the rest and decided that I would go to the store and buy some more to replace it so they would never know. The only thing is, when I arrived at the store they were all out! Horrified and panic stricken, I drove to the next closest chain of that store which was half an hour away hoping that they would have it, but no luck, they didn’t have it either! I was mortified. I didn’t know what to do about the situation. I thought about buying a different flavor of ice cream, but thought that would be too obvious. So instead I decided to just hope that they wouldn’t notice and not say anything about it. I lucked out and my mom didn’t notice for a few days. By the time she noticed and said something about it, I thought that it was reasonable to tell the truth that I ate it all. Since it was probably over a few days time in her mind it didn’t sound that bad. I never told her the truth about what I did.


By the time spring rolled around I started to notice the weight that I was putting on. When I sat down I could feel fat rolls on my side and I felt disgusting. I started wearing long sweaters partially buttoned up to hide my new figure. Soon it started getting hot and humid out and sometimes we would have our classes outside. One of my guy friends kept asking me during one of our classes how I could stand being outside in my sweater in this horrible heat. He told me I should take my sweater off. I lied and told him that I was cold and that it felt good when actually I was sweating profusely under my sweater and wished desperately that I had a nice body that could be displayed when I took my sweater off. Instead, I chose to keep it on to hide my body from everyone. This kind of behavior continued on and off throughout my four years in college. Sometimes I would go through phases of starving myself, sometimes I would go through phases of binging and then working out like crazy to make up for it. I even tried to throw up a couple times after bingeing, but the whole idea of it was disgusting to me so I never did. I am at least thankful for that because the stomach acid can ruin your teeth enamel.


In my senior year, I quit going to college and moved in with my boyfriend and started to adapt to his eating patterns. I ate the standard American diet with lots of canned food, microwavable dinners, and occasionally I would make dinner, but I can assure you it was nothing healthy. My weight started to creep up again and I would cry to him about it complaining about how I looked and my bad self image of myself. I told him about my eating disorders in the past and he didn’t think it was a big deal. He told me that instead of complaining about it all the time maybe I should just do something about it in so we decided to both join a gym. This was definitely very helpful. Going to the gym helped me to maintain a healthy weight of around 135 pounds, however, it did not solve the problem of me eating junk. 


Finally I was starting to feel better about myself for the next year or so until my manager at Starbucks started making comments to me that I better start watching what I’m eating or I was going to get fat. He had this weird sarcastic sense of humor and would always be putting people down, even his own wife. I tried not to take it to heart too much but I started looking at myself in the mirror a lot more and thought “oh no, maybe he’s right, I am putting on weight and better be more careful about it.” I started to eat less junk food at Starbucks and would snack on things like apples, yogurt and mozzarella cheese sticks. I couldn’t understand it, but the weight would not come off. My manager told me “well, of course not, you’re eating cheese! That is a weight gaining food!” This was news to me because there were lots of magazines at the time saying that eating yogurt and cheese would help you to lose weight.


Soon, I moved to a different state and transferred to another Starbucks. At that store, I befriended a fellow barista who was a vegetarian at the time. She moved in with my boyfriend and I and shortly after she moved in, she went vegan. I was a little bit bummed out when she said she was going vegan because I was thinking that being vegetarian would be easy for me to try because I could still eat cheese and eggs, two foods that I was highly addicted to. I wasn’t so sure that I would be able to go vegan. She loaned me a book that she read called Skinny Bitch and in it was a lot of valuable information about health and also about the sad state of factory farming. All of this was such new information to me. I had never thought about the fact that animals were suffering just so that I could have a meaty meal on my plate, one which was actually not even necessary or beneficial for me to eat. After reading that book, I decided to try going vegan for 30 days. It was the beginning of a new year, so it was the perfect time to get a fresh start and try! Her and I had such a fun time in the kitchen trying out new recipes from different vegan cookbooks and blogs that we read. I was hooked! I was shocked that having meals where no meat was present could be enjoyable and sustainable. For some reason I thought that if I didn’t eat meat, I might become too low in iron and become anemic. This was not true at all! Instead of being lethargic after meals, I felt fueled and energized. I felt so great during that month and lost so much weight without even trying that I decided I wanted to stick with it and make it a lifestyle change. Her and I soon started doing at home workout DVDs together and got into great shape! I started getting lots of compliments at work and felt so great about myself. I would spread the word about veganism to people to let them know that was my secret.


After going vegan, I found that I didn’t worry as much about my weight. With eating more healthfully, I naturally stayed around my setpoint of 130 to 137 pounds. I also didn’t obsess as much about food. Well, I still did plenty of thinking about food, but it wasn’t like it used to be where I would constantly be daydreaming about food and then figuring out ways to not eat very much or binge out of control. I ate more fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds than I had probably had in my whole life and felt so great from it. In fact, I stopped getting colds like I used to every year which was rare for me! 


I continued on for about eight years like this. However, my diet did start to go downhill and I became more of a junk food vegan toward the end of those 8 years, probably because my ex- fiancé and I quit working for a while and became gamers, often spending all day on our PlayStations playing various games and smoking weed. My ex ate unhealthy the whole time that we were together. He did not want to go vegan and in fact he would try to guilt trip me into eating meat, dairy, and eggs because he said it was more fun when we both ate the same thing together like we used to. I couldn’t understand why he kept talking like this because I was firm in my convictions about not eating animals or animal products and was very happy with the way that I felt eating vegan. Eventually, his health started to go downhill and he started experiencing gastrointestinal issues. Each year he got worse and worse and he would spend all day in the bathroom. We went to various doctors and even naturopaths to figure out what the problem was. 


After doing lots of tests, no one could figure out what was going on with his body. I started to take things into my own hands and would do research on the computer regarding his symptoms and what could be the issue. I bought all kinds of herbs, detoxifying teas, supplements, etc. for him to try and see if they would help. Sometimes they seemed like they would help for a couple days and then he would feel worse. He would get upset and not want to try things after a point because he said it would make him feel worse. I thought that maybe his problem could be stemming from what he was eating, so I started buying different things for him to eat to see if it would help. He tried eating low-carb, mostly vegan, and also high raw, but none of them worked for him. He would get frustrated and say that he felt better eating junk food than he did eating healthfully. I thought that maybe it was because his gut was so messed up that he needed to give it time to heal and was not used to digesting certain foods. He wouldn’t stick to any diet for very long to give his body time to acclimate. Meanwhile, the more that I learned about food and health, the more that I wanted to eat raw vegan meals. I started to eat raw for my first couple meals and then would have a cooked meal at the end of the day. After probably about a month of this I decided I wanted to eat completely raw and went full speed ahead! I got quite a bit obsessed and would spend all day in the kitchen preparing various gourmet dishes. It was so much fun for me to experiment and create. Eventually I got into working out again and did various challenges over the course of that year to get back into shape. I also started doing various styles of the raw diet. For a few months I did a keto version to see how that would work for weight loss and how it would make me feel. Then I tried a more balanced approach where I ate low-carb, low glycemic foods. Then I discovered Amen Ra on Markus Rothkranz channel and was fascinated by his claims of eating a 1200 to 1500 calorie diet with heavy intermittent fasting while being able to build and maintain a muscular body. I decided that I would like to give this a try, but instead of doing his cooked vegan version I adapted the diet to be entirely raw. I would eat 1500 cal a day all within one hour and would do about 30-45 minutes of HIIT workouts a day plus yoga and cardio every day. In three months time, I lost a lot of weight, gained quite a bit of muscle and was at my lowest weight ever at 118 pounds. I was very happy and surprised with my results. While I was originally doing this new diet and exercise routine for health and longevity purposes, I did find that I got quite a bit obsessed with it. I would weigh myself every day and if I didn’t drop in weight any further or would go up then I would be discouraged with myself and try harder to work out more or calorie restrict further. 


That’s the weird thing about the eating disorder mindframe. It takes on many different shapes and even when you get to be the best that you’ve ever looked or felt in your life, you can still look in the mirror and see something different than what is actually there. 


After about four months on this program I went through a life change and broke up with my fiancé at the time. I took this life change as an opportunity to drive out to San Diego to visit some friends that had invited me to visit. It was at this point that I started to indulge and stopped calorie restricting. I wanted to enjoy myself at the various raw vegan restaurants in the area as they were a rarity in Colorado where I had lived previously. Soon I found myself over-eating raw desserts that I would bring home from the restaurants. I chided myself for doing that and told myself I needed to try harder to stick to my program. I decided that maybe it would be better to lengthen my eating time frame so that I could eat mainly fruit (because eating one fruit meal a day is difficult due to the high water content of most fruits). I stopped calorie counting and tried to eat however much fruit I wanted like a lot of fruitarians were doing. I gained a little weight, but not much. I think the working out helped to keep me in shape for the most part. Eventually I moved in with my best friend and we started creating various gourmet things in the kitchen. After about a year together I started putting on more and more weight because we would eat so much together and a lot of times I would eat until I felt overly full. My self-esteem went on a roller coaster ride and I would often worry about how I looked when my new boyfriend and I would visit each other. Eventually we went through a rough patch and I started to binge eat at various raw vegan and regular vegan restaurants. I would do this secretly while I was out alone. I would tell myself it was no big deal because I was a dog walker and was constantly burning calories.


After a couple of months like this I finally got myself out of it and back on the straight and narrow of eating only raw like I wanted and not bingeing. I was very unhappy with my new body though and was probably around 140+ pounds. I tried reducing my calories, but found that it was difficult to get the weight to come off. My boyfriend suggested doing a 96 hour water fast to cleanse my body and reset my metabolism. While I didn’t really lose much weight during the fast, I did find that it helped to get me to stop being so overly preoccupied with food. After the fast I tried to eat a lot more fruit and also salads because I found that they filled me up a lot without being really dense. I also did a few fruit fasts with a good friend and the weight started to come off more and more. I started to feel a lot better about myself and was getting closer to my goals. Then, another stressful life event happened where my boyfriend and I were forced to spend about a month or so apart. The stresses of this event caused me to dive right back into stress eating for comfort. I tried to start every day off with eating smoothies to prevent myself from stress eating, but soon enough I would find myself going to vegan restaurants in the area and buying cooked junk food like impossible burgers, pizza, chocolate cake, etc. and binge eating to make myself feel happier. And I would feel happy during the eating part, but right after I would always feel horrible about what I just did. I would go on long hikes and swims to make up for it and I hope that I wouldn’t put on weight, but I still did. I ended up gaining about 20 to 30 pounds and got up to 150 pounds. By the time I was reunited with my boyfriend I looked totally different than when he last saw me and I was so ashamed of myself.

 

I decided to put an end to the stress eating and went back to eating raw, high fruit. Between doing that and my strength training workouts, I was able to lose 20 pounds and got back down to 130 pounds.

Soon after this, I found out that I was pregnant! I was super excited and wanted to eat completely raw and the healthiest that I could with some intermittent fasting. It was very easy to do this the first trimester because I was nauseous most of the day and wasn’t able to eat until the evening. But once the second trimester came around I got my appetite back and started to get hungrier. It felt so good to have an appetite that I started to eat more than I should have sometimes. I also started to crave some of those cooked foods from restaurants that I binged at months ago and would allow myself to go there occasionally. I didn’t do any bingeing, but I definitely would splurge a little too often and eat things were vegan, but weren’t beneficial to me or the baby. I tried my best to keep this kind of splurging to a minimum. I probably went through about a month or two of that kind of behavior and then went back to eating high raw with some occasional cooked meals that I would make (meals like quinoa bowls, Indian chick pea curries, and gnocci. I was determined that I didn’t want to gain more than the recommended 30 pounds during my pregnancy so I tried my hardest not to eat too many calories each day and still get plenty of exercise. I did have some weight gain spurts here and there but then when I noticed them I would slow them down by eating more smoothies and salads and eating less calories certain days. I was pretty proud of myself by the end of the pregnancy and only gained 30-35 pounds. While I didn’t achieve my goal of intermittent fasting and eating only raw, I still ate very healthy and took high quality vitamins and supplements for myself and the baby. 


After the baby was born, I was amazed to find that my desire to eat cooked foods dwindled. More and more I found that I craved eating fruit, nuts, and seeds. I was so happy about this and eating raw once again felt effortless. I was at a max weight of 160 pounds or so at the end of the pregnancy and when I checked out of the hospital and came back home I was down to 148 pounds. I was so amazed by this and happy that I didn’t have too far to go to get down to my pre-pregnancy weight of 130.

Soon after having the baby, I did a 21 day melon fast with a group of fruit-loving friends on Instagram. I didn’t want this fast to be a focus on weight loss though, I wanted it to be more of a cleansing experience because I felt that I needed one after some of the foods I had eaten while pregnant. I thought this would be a nice reset for me and it definitely was. I didn’t actually feel any detox symptoms during the fast. I felt very content eating only melons during this time. I was really amazed that I was able to stick to the 21 days when I wasn’t sure if I would even last 3 days at first. It felt good to get away from eating raw gourmet meals and eat simply melons. They were super hydrating and also helped me to produce a lot of milk for my baby. I also dropped down 8 pounds to 140, which I was very happy with. After the melon fast, I set a goal to lose the last 10 pounds and to stick to eating high fruit as much as possible with an occasional raw gourmet meal in the evening. These last 10 pounds have been very slow coming off, which I hear is normal so I am trying to be very patient with myself. I found myself getting preoccupied with weighing myself every day and even had a mini meltdown that put me in tears one night. I decided that it would be best to get my fiancé to hide our scale so that I wouldn’t keep obsessing about the numbers. It shouldn’t be about the numbers, it should be about health first and secondly about how I feel. As I’m sure a lot of you know the numbers can fluctuate all over the place depending on water retention, the amount of muscle you have, etc. so right now I am still not weighing myself and I am doing another fruit fast with my best friend. This one is a lot more flexible as I am allowing myself to eat whatever food I want, even fatty fruits like coconut and avocado are allowed. I’m finding that this is very enjoyable to me because sometimes I crave simple fruit, sometimes smoothies, and sometimes savory meals with some fat in them. This helps to keep me feeling balanced and energized so that I can walk dogs, do my postpartum workouts and go swimming in the evenings. 


So, this is where I am at right now. Trying to love myself both mentally and physically through my actions. I think it’s so important to be patient with yourself and not beat yourself up when you make mistakes. Having balance is so important because when you have a tendency to have an eating disorder it is so easy to fall back into them by going to extremes. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a ways to go on my journey. I still find myself looking in the mirror more often then I think I should and judging myself. I try my best though to catch myself and to look at myself with love and acceptance knowing that the way that I look right now is because of an epic journey that I just went through, creating a new life inside of me. Having this amazing baby is so much more important to me than the way that I look or a number on the scale. And the fact that I am breast-feeding means that my body may have a tendency to want to store more fat for creating milk than it usually would. So, I try to keep that in mind and remind myself that if I am not losing weight as fast as I had hoped for, it’s OK. I am just going to keep on eating the healthy foods that I know are best for me and doing the workouts that will help me to become stronger and healthier. 


I know there are so many of you, especially females, that struggle with these kinds of thoughts. I want you to know that you are not alone. For a long time I really thought that I was a minority in this, but thanks to social media and people becoming more transparent about themselves, I am realizing that this is actually so common. I want you to know that you are so much more than a number on the scale or the way that you look. You are also a beautiful spirit inside a body. And that spirit is one-of-a-kind and special. Love yourself and show yourself that love through your thoughts and actions. The more that you do this the more that it will spill out to others to help them, and it will also return back to you! Please feel free to message me if you would like help with your eating disorder and I will be happy to provide support and advice if you would like. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my story. I hope that it helped someone. 


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