How It Began
It started as a child. I would ask for no butter because I didn’t want the added calories. As a teenager, I thought being vegetarian would help keep me thin. The problem was that I didn’t like many vegetables so I ate carbs instead. In college I gained a significant amount of weight and after losing it decided I would never do that to my body again. I tied weight to happiness and the gap between my thighs as a measure of success.
Society praises me for my body. As much as we high-five healthy eating and exercise, we are more in awe of those who don’t outwardly appear to “work for it” and still stay thin. I get comments about how fast I bounce back after babies or how incredible it is that I don’t exercise and yet stay so thin. These comments only fuel my obsession with not eating and create more mental blocks when I want to eat.
When I try to explain what stops me from eating, it gets confusing and muddy.
- Do you get hungry? YES.
- Does your stomach growl? YES
- Why don’t you eat? I’m too busy / I forget / I can’t think of anything good to eat / I feel nauseous
- But I see you eat! Indeed, when I am around people, I will eat. Most people can’t tell.
- But you are a healthy weight! I do eat once or twice a day and mostly high-calorie foods vs. healthy foods, so my weight is low-end healthy.
- What happens when you don’t eat? I’m irritable. I get headaches. I get dizzy. I stay thin.
- Why can’t you just set a timer and eat something? I wish. I know what to do. I can recite the steps. I can make the plans and I don’t follow through.
I’ve been having headaches and dizziness that I couldn’t explain. I made an appointment with a new primary care physician. The initial exam showed I had low blood pressure but outwardly had very healthy stats. With no other good explanation for my symptoms, we talked about food and I was open with her (a first for me) about my eating habits. She guessed that much of my physical symptoms were a result of hypoglycemia related to anorexia. A series of blood tests confirmed her suspicions were correct.
Due to my extremely poor eating habits over the last 20 years, I have developed hypotension (low blood pressure), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), anemia, gall bladder disease and a slew of vitamin deficiencies. This is putting strain on my organs (particularly my liver) and causing symptoms such as dizziness, anxiety, headaches, mood-swings and lack of concentration. I was given a handful of meds to take every day and a referral to a nutritionist.
I can turn this around. My body is crying out for help, and there’s only so much that medication can do. I have to eat. I have to find a way to beat this and put healthy food in my body at regular intervals to combat the hypoglycemic shock it’s currently in. I have to do this for 3 months before I see / feel results. So far, I’ve been able to add one more meal / snack in during the day, but if I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I revert to old habits. I’ve confided in a few friends who text me to see if I’ve eaten and to offer support and that has helped immensely. Feeling pressured or judged makes it worse. I’m trying to replace my unhealthy meals with better choices so that at least I’m feeding my body with good food. Often, healthy food makes me feel good so I’m likely to eat healthy again.
I vow to be a better example for my children. I promise to praise them for their healthy habits and not their body shape. I will be honest with my friends and counselors instead of acting like I’ve got this under control. I will only take on what I can handle and I will be aware of what that is. I will take breaks. I will feed my body and my mind. I will cure my body so that I can survive for my children.