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18 Year-Old Male Recovered Anorexic with New Concerns

By January 7, 2013

I’m an 18 year-old recovered anorexic. When I was 15, I had problems with my high expectations regarding sports and relationships and eventually found myself in a rut and an eating disorder. It was a struggle to get back up to a healthy weight and in the right frame of mind again, but I did it. Now I’m a freshman in college, living away from home, and I’m finding concerns related to disordered eating that I want to address. Over the past two months I have lost around 5 pounds at most, which my doctor says is understandable, and that he isn’t too worried about it unless it gets really out of hand. However, I do know that I had become dependent on certain forms of exercise that I was able to do while at home that are either (1) less available here on campus or (2) I know I need to use the time instead to focus on my studies. For the most part I think I’m doing well, but I would also greatly appreciate some reassurance and some advice if any can be offered. I’ve been keeping in touch with my mom and discussing some of the problems, but I don’t want to begin associating her with disordered eating problems and prefer to keep her as my mother and support. We have a new gym facility that has just opened up, and I have been trying to go from anywhere between an hour to an hour and half, three days a week, with a good mix of cardio and weight training. I know all the implications of an exercise regime and what is needed of me if I am to follow one, but sometimes it’s hard to get myself to listen to my own advice even when I know it is correct. Could you give me a basic run down of what is healthy exercise to engage in on a weekly basis, what types, how much, etc? I’m sure it will be along the same lines of what I’m doing, but hearing it from someone else has always helped. Also, I know my caloric intake has likely diminished, and I know that I have also begun chewing and spitting to a certain degree, something that I have never done much before. I know I stick to the minimum calories while I’m away from home. It’s a security measure I’m sure, I go for around 1200, but I know that is probably not enough, and I probably don’t get that much anyway, unless chewing and spitting contributes more than I’m letting myself believe. I have also begun thinking about calories more too, probably as another blanket of security. Any advice you could offer would be awesome, as I would really appreciate some goal setting help. Thank you so much in advance. I’m so glad I found your site; you guys do a great job. – T.C.

Dear T.C.,

Hats off to your hard work in recovery and obvious insight into the struggles of this illness. Sounds like you’ve worked really hard. You have a great mindset. Know your triggers and do your very best to make good choices. Your exercise regime would be appropriate if your weight was stable and your calorie level was higher. For one desiring weight maintenance, 3-5 times per week, an hour at a time, one time per day is appropriate. Within that hour or throughout the week, including stretching, weight bearing activity and cardio activity is best.

As for the 1200 calories, without even knowing your height and weight, that calorie level is too low to support normal activity for an 18 year old man. If you aren’t already seeing a counselor, I would suggest setting up an appointment to discuss the motive for starting the chewing/spitting. There is likely an underlying deeper reason for picking up this new behavior. One goal might be to add 1-3 snack times into your day, if you don’t already, or to increase your food intake by 3 servings of something (any type of food to start) every day for a week.

I hesitate to recommend increasing by a particular calorie level so as not to perpetuate unnecessary calorie-counting. Talking to a dietitian, even for one session, could help set you in the right direction. You are very wise in seeking counsel sooner than later before the weight or behaviors get out of hand and down the “slippery slope.” You are definitely capable of making a few changes in your meal plan to get right back on track. Keep up the good work!

Juliet N. Zuercher, RD