I had always been active as a kid, and actually had hyperthyroidism which kept me relatively thin during my childhood, but I had radioactive iodine treatment for it in Winter 2013 to make my levels more stable and to avoid Graves Disease. When I ended my freshman year of college, I knew my hyper metabolism wouldn’t last forever (and it didn’t), so I decided to make a healthy lifestyle change. I began a ‘quick fad weight loss’ diet which promised to lose __XX__ amount of pounds in 2 weeks. Basically, it was a 2 week low carb/low calorie diet with my food being limited to protein, veggies, some fruit, and eggs. I remember a lot of those 2 weeks I would obsess over what I could eat after I was done with the diet. I’d look up delicious recipes, or healthified treats, and was pretty much obsessed with the foods that I couldn’t eat during the diet.
After the 2 weeks, I lost about 10 pounds (ending around 103 at 5′ ft tall) and I was ECSTATIC. Except for one thing… I didn’t know what to do after the ‘diet’ was done. Could I go back to eating normally? Could I add bread back into my diet? Could I have a piece of candy? I was terrified of losing all my progress, and of what would happen if I did let myself have those foods again. What did I end up doing? I restricted further – kept the same diet and kept my calories and carbs low. I didn’t want to lose all the progress I had made. I developed an unhealthy obsession with healthy and clean foods, and feared any ‘unhealthy’ food. I was eating around 700 calories a day and worked out 2+ hours a day. I ended up losing more weight and got to my lowest around 93 pounds, but without much muscle and around under 15% body fat, I may have lost weight, but I didn’t look very healthy. You could see my ribcage and my bones, but at the time, that’s what I wanted. I had body dysmorphia and thought I was never skinny enough, that I could still lose some more fat from my thighs or hips or lose more weight.
My parents had a talk with me and told me, pleaded with me, to eat more, to not work out as much. They saw me at home, so weak that I could barely walk up the stairs without being fatigued, or even getting too tired to fold laundry. I was moody, snappy, and not a very nice or happy person. But I realized they were right, I wasn’t healthy; I was deprived, and all I wanted was to be able to eat delicious food that I had restricted from myself. This is when I went to the opposite extreme: Binge Eating.
Once I allowed myself to eat the foods that I had said ‘no‘ to so many times before, I couldn’t stop. I’d raid the buffets, eat a full loaf of bread with peanut butter and cottage cheese (strange combo, but that was one of my favorites), and would feel so ashamed and try to sneak food to binge on. It was terrible. I thought to myself ‘before I started this diet, I was able to say no to candy or a brownie when I was offered one, but now it’s like I CAN’T SAY NO TO ANYTHING.’ All my body wanted was food, and lots of it. What I know now is that this was a natural response of the body: it had been deprived for so long and on such low calories, that it NEEDED to replenish itself. It needed nutrients, and when it had the chance, it got it. Anything I could get my hands on, I would eat it.
Every time I had a binge, I would think, ‘It’s ok, I’m going to start again tomorrow‘. And it would continue. The cycle of ‘Eat Clean/Binge Eat’. At some point I was so fed up, ‘Why isn’t this working? How did I diet before? Why can’t I have better self control?’ And so in early summer 2013, I gave up. I stopped working out, I stopped trying to eat healthy, I just gave up on the healthy lifestyle, thinking that I would never get to my goal, that I’d just be happier where I was right then and there.
I snapped out of it and thought, hey, I am NOT happy like this. Sure I’m eating all these delicious foods, but I’m not happy with my body, my energy, and that made me unhappy with where I was in life. I decided to get back at it, but with a different approach. I started IIFYM in June 2013, if it fits your macros, and I was amazed at the FLEXIBILITY I had. Before, I had the mindset of clean vs dirty, unhealthy vs healthy food, which gave me the ‘Ate one cookie already? damn I messed up.. may as well mess up the rest of the day’ view of food. But with If It Fits Your Macros, I learned it’s not always about what kind of food you eat, but the amount of food you eat. By following IIFYM, I saw myself losing weight, even while still eating the foods I had ‘off-limits’ in the past! But in reasonable portion sizes, I saw that it was still possible to enjoy all the foods I loved in #ModerationNotDeprivation!
But again with the restriction of calorie/macro counting, I saw myself slip back into old ways. I was tired of counting, tired of fitting the exact carbs, protein, and fat, and soon gave up macros. I went back to the habit of overeating/binging. While they weren’t as bad binges as they had been in the past, they still were occurring. I thought,
‘Seriously? It’s still not over? What’s wrong with me… I’ll never get rid of this….’
In Winter 2014 I picked up the book, ‘Intuitive Eating’ and read it all within a few days. It was an eye opener. I realized the key to getting my body to its ‘ideal state’ was NOT another diet. It was actually the opposite. It was that I needed to stop thinking that I needed to get on another diet. My body is smart. My body knows how much it needs, and what it doesn’t need. I didn’t need to CONTROL it with another diet it, I didn’t need to make it work against nature, I didn’t need to deprive it to get to my goals. I just needed to listen to it. Be in tune with my hunger cues, what I was really craving, and what I just thought I was craving. The first few months weren’t easy. I thought I was always hungry, so of course I overate in the beginning. It was hard to get rid of the diet mentality. There were many times where I thought, ‘Well if I just cut back a bit now, and lose some fluff, I’ll be happy… maybe I shouldn’t eat as much fats.. maybe I shouldn’t eat as much carbs…’ etc etc. But I took a step back to see what I was doing to myself. Sure, it’d be faster to do a quick fad diet, it would get me to my goals, but would it help me MAINTAIN my goals? No. Was it the best for the long-term success and the bigger picture? No.
I started to realize that I needed to find something sustainable and maintainable. Something that I could continue next week, next month, next year, for the rest of my life. Could I keep eating like this for the rest of my life? Could I keep doing these workouts for the rest of my life? I needed to make sure I actually enjoyed it and that I could stick with it. I continued to practice intuitive eating, ate the foods that my parents prepared for me, had treats and snacks and all the foods that I had tried to restrict so many times, and guess what? The foods that were so tempting to me all those previous times, started being less tempting. All the foods that I would binge on and then restrict and then binge on and restrict, stopped looking like ‘the forbidden fruit’. I was able to say ‘NO’ to treats and sweets, not because I thought they would make me fat, but because I actually didn’t want it! I couldn’t believe it. Just by simply changing my mindset — 1) knowing that there is no dirty vs clean, 2) learning that I could have the foods I wanted in moderation, 3) realizing that I didn’t have to go on a ‘diet’ to reach my ‘ideal body’ (aka whichever body I can maintain while still loving and being happy in life with my food and exercise choices), I was finally able to reach my ultimate goal: to just be HAPPY in my body and with my lifestyle.
Any disordered eating, whether anorexia or bulimia or binging and overeating becomes a habit that I’ll be honest, is hard to beat. I had created a continuous loop in my mind and my body reacted with what it was used to, making binging an automatic response. But did I do to combat that? Replaced the habit! Do other activities that have the same outcome and reward. Am I feeling bored, or sad, and want to feel happy? Then I’ll pick up a book and read, or play some guitar and sing, or talk with friends and family. Is my mouth just bored? Then I’ll chew some gum or chug some water. Whatever you can do, replace that old habit with something new and beneficial to your life. If you need a good read on how binging is a habit, read Brain over Binge (warning: some passages may be triggering to some readers because they include graphic descriptions of her binges). If you want to read a great book on habits and replacing habits in general, read The Power of Habit. You will not be disappointed.
I’m not saying I’m ‘cured’ or that I’ve beaten my eating disorders, but I’m a hellllll of a lot farther than I thought I would ever be! I’m still always on that #FightForBalance. Always working towards balance in all areas of my life: fitness, foods, family, relationships, my job. I’ve learned important lessons through my journey. And I hope that it’s helped you, and I hope after you read this that you don’t repeat my mistakes. Learn from them, and practice the same lessons I’ve learned:
- Food is not evil or unhealthy vs healthy and good.
- You can have the food you love, ANYTHING! In #ModerationNotDeprivation.
- You don’t have to go on a diet to reach your ideal body type.
- You have to replace the binging habit you’ve created with another habit.
I hope my story has helped you in some way.
And Remember, always #Fight For Balance <3