September 3, 2012 by Lindsey
A vegetarian diet and a strenuous competitive gymnastics schedule kept me at a healthy weight through middle school. In my childhood, running, jumping, skipping, and playing took precedence over eating. It just wasn’t that “fun”! Of course I loved sugary cereals, ice cream, and birthday cake, but those were special treats and uncommon in the fat-free kitchen run by my incredible supermom.
But that’s where my healthy living (and my math career) ended. The dire combination of a high-stress school and my type A personality pushed me towards emotional eating, an ugly habit I’m fighting to this day. I was able to fend off too much weight gain by staying active in soccer and softball, but I soon lost interest and energy from my draining school schedule and overeating.
High school saw me settle into an overweight frame, bordering on obese. I had funny friends and supportive, loving family that never let me feel like I was what I was–f-a-t. My size bothered me off and on over the years, through sophomore year of college.
Every time I thought about making a change, I honestly thought What’s the point? Some people are thin and some people are fat. And I’m just fat. Lots of my family is fat. There’s nothing I can do about it.
Just Right- for a brief moment
The summer before junior year, a friend at my summer camp job started Weight Watchers. She described the process of counting points and planning meals. I was in awe. It sounded like a game– like a challenge, to get the most out of your points without going over.
I joined Weight Watchers Online that day– July 22, 2006–and I lost 40 pounds in about a year, even though I was studying abroad. I ate mainly whole foods with some of the sugar-free, fat-free diet standbys. I sweated on the elliptical 6-7 days a week for an hour, then walked 30 minutes to an hour on the treadmill. I made workout mixes, watched TV, and Euro 2006. Watching the soccer players run the field for 90 minutes + made me motivated to keep pushing through my own exercise. If they could do all that, surely I could live through this workout! I always felt awesome after. Even better, finally my weight was a healthy one. But, I thought, it seemed to require a lot of effort and dedication to keep it this way.
I was satisfied with my new self and comfortable with my new routines. Very strict with my exercise and food choices, but, hey, I knew (read: thought) that’s what it took. I never really felt like I left The Too Big Girl behind, and parts of my routine were sort of exhausting. And I was usually the only one working out in the gym on a Saturday night. But I did what I did at my tough high school and challenging college– I just dealt with it.
It sounds stupid, but, because I was doing WW sort of on my own terms, I didn’t think much about maintenance. I just kept doing what I had been doing for a year– eating less and exercising more.
Adding to this perfect storm of disaster, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and I had to go back to a college I really didn’t like. I missed my study abroad school, my study abroad life. I was petrified of losing my mom–my best friend, my biggest fan, my whole world.
I poured all my stress energy and anxieties into my workouts. My appetite roared for more fuel for a while, but soon, it dwindled. I drank a lot of water (always have) and that killed whatever was left of my hunger. A lot of food seemed unappealing, but I prided myself on always eating dessert, despite being so thin.
A friend confronted me around Thanksgiving, but I brushed her off because she simultaneously admitted her own disordered eating to me. I thought she just wanted me to sympathize with her and I honestly did not think I had a problem.
At Christmastime, which was also my early graduation, I was so happy to home to take care of my mom, free of my horrible school. My joy was cut short. A few days into the New Year (2008), my parents expressed their concern gently, and I see now they were trying to be cautious but also firm. They urged me to have my blood tested, since I was always freezing cold (and had been for months, even in the fall), lost my period over 6 months ago, and had a few instances of pitting edema while walking around New York City.
I was truly oblivious at this point. I did not think I had an eating (and exercise) disorder. The doctor (still my current doctor, who I love) said the words “You have anorexia,” and I honestly thought she was crazy. How could I, who was once 60 or 70 pounds overweight, be too thin?
I got outpatient treatment from my doctor and psychiatrist I hated. It was not a pretty process once all my starved-brain “truths” came out, and I hated almost every minute of my newly micromanaged life. I had no input in what I ate, when I ate, where I went, if I exercised (no, that was not allowed), what I could do. I couldn’t have a job, but most of my friends were off pursuing the careers of their dreams. I couldn’t move away from my hometown (my longtime goal). My only job was to eat. Overeat.
It seemed horrifying to me– this is just what I spent the past two years battling! Getting myself to stop overeating! Gaining self control! And now I was being told/forced to eat butter, cream, gobs of peanut butter, and full-fat products never before allowed in our fat-free kitchen!
It was disconcerting, disheartening, disappointing. Somehow I had failed at being healthy. And I felt, every minute of my halfhearted recovery, that I was dragging myself back to the realm of the Too Big Girl.
Somehow, with persistence and displeasure and a strong desire to do something better than eat or think about eating, I gained enough weight to be considered “normal” and “healthy.”
But I didn’t have good eating habits–eating lightly throughout the day to save calories and stomach space for a big blowout at night. Cookies, cake, whatever. Nighttime–it was MY time. The day was finally over. I was alone. I could escape. The food soothed, silenced, and smothered my thoughts and feelings. I didn’t care (and still don’t , to a degree–dealing with this!) Lack of a “real” life stress, no job stress, peer stress, parental stress……it all was erased. Food was the best medicine.
Even with my Cookie Blowouts, I maintained a healthy weight, but unhealthy eating. I had 2 food groups: vegetables and sweets.
It was getting ridiculous. (Because it wasn’t ridiculous enough already…)
My body obviously got too tired of only having vegetables in the daytime. But then it wanted more food. All the time. I tried a full breakfast. Lasted about an hour. I tried frequent snacking- um, can I eat all the time ?
After I finished graduate school in December 2011, I was back at home, unemployed and pretty friendless. My life is pretty similar today. I think eating is the most thrilling thing in my day- for the same reasons above. It’s an escape. It’s not job searching. It’s not being asked about job searching. It’s not thinking about job searching.
I eat mostly healthy, but I eat too much. I am terrible at meal planning. How do I know today what I want to eat tomorrow? How do I know this morning what I want to eat tonight?
I’m debating between starting Weight Watchers again, committing to Overeaters Anonymous, getting a nutritionist, or I don’t know what? Mindful eating?
I know I have some trigger foods (nuts, cereal, sometimes baked goods) and I know I will overeat almost anything (hamburger buns even- I can eat 3 in a row on top of everything else I’ve shoved down) and I am a mess.
I cannot find my “just right” body.
My thighs squish together and chafe worse than they have in years. My cellulite is back with a vengeance. I’ve got a spare tire that belongs on a monster truck.
Worst of all, you can’t tell I workout, except in exercise class! My muscles don’t show through the thick layer of fat. I am proof you can’t out-train a bad diet. My diet today is fairly balanced in terms of nutrients, but portion control, meal planning, and learning to say “no” or “just not right now” without feeling deprived are my biggest battles.
I need to learn so much. I want this change.
I want to be “just right” and I want to show you you can be too.