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Chronic Dieting and Panic Attacks

By February 5, 2013

Hello, I’m 34, mom of four ages 2-to-7 years, and have issues with chronic dieting and panic attacks. I have been exercising compulsively as my newest outlet to offset the need to diet, but I continue to become panicked because I’m trying to not follow a diet. I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease and that has really thrown me for a loop. Now I’m frantically searching again for the “best” diet to go on because I feel my thyroid will never work normal again. But I know this is not the solution and I need to break free from the yo-yo dieting. I just keep thinking if I could just loose 15 more pounds – even 10 more – then I could be happy and then figure out the normal eating. I am 5’2 and weigh *** and have come to accept that I will never get back to my favorable weight which saddens me. So now I just hope to reach at least ***. I gained ** pounds with each of my pregnancies and I am constantly reminded of it every minute of the day with my excess skin and bulge at my belly, which I think contributes to my constant worry over what I am going to eat next. Sometimes I think that if I could just get a tummy tuck I would be better because no part of my body bothers me. I know I can continue to tone my arms and legs but I can never take away the loose skin on my stomach. I just finished reading the book Life Inside the Thin Cage and it seems like every recovery goal is to accept the weight you are at and realize that once you begin to eat normal you may gain some weight but you will be happier? How can I convince myself this when my weight is technically too much – I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. One of my concerns is that I do not like any vegetables and every healthy eating plans say that you need vegetable servings – I am so used to restricting what I eat I really have found myself not liking many options of food. So there I am standing at the refrigerator, not know what to eat because nothing sounds good. So I put off eating for hours to the point I’m so hungry I go after a bowl of cereal or usually whatever is sweet in the house. Sometimes I have to make a special trip to the store for cookie dough. I’ve been trying to find info about this and everyone’s stories seem so different. I don’t understand how I am to get a taste for food back. I have even fixed something I thought sounded good and I have went to take the first bite and spit it out and threw the meal away. The food just turns into something disgusting. This happens so often and I can’t find any info about this. It is like I have an aversion to most foods. What is this? I panic trying to cook and trying to fix meals for my kids is an overwhelming task. Also, after reading, it seems like everyone with EDNOS is striving for this outside image for others and I don’t feel that is what I do. I feel like if I can obtain my weight for me- then I will feel better- so I feel my situation is more about fulfilling myself than trying to impress other people. I am a believer in Jesus and have been trying to learn more about having a relationship with God. My friend suggested to me that I need to explore this relationship more and figure out who I am as a person – Wow where does that even begin? I have always been defined by my career, being a mom, being a stay at home mom, etc. I just don’t know where to turn. I do want so much to just be normal – to enjoy life – to not obsess – to not panic – to be free of food. Sometimes I think it would just be easier if I did have anorexia so it would be more of a real problem that my family would understand, but I don’t have that willpower. General Questions *How do I know the right amount of exercise? (3-5 days per wk- 30 minutes- 50 minutes? *Do I need to follow food servings to try to get to normal eating (so many veggies, fruits, etc per day) Is it ok if I do not eat veggies? In Search for Answers, Jennifer Foods I can eat and usually turn to: Pita pizza Nachos- cheese, chips, salsa, fat free refried beans, ff sour cream Peanut butter & Jelly- 1 slice whole wheat bread, 1 tsp jelly,1 tbsp peanut butter Egg, toast, grapes ½ banana Diet soda (water is hard for me to drink) Oatmeal low sugar Ham sandwich with mustard Burrito Graham crackers and peanut butter Luna bars. – Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

We appreciate all the time and thought you invested into composing your letter and telling us your story.  Many people share similar fears, frustrations and concerns. I can’t address every aspect of your letter, but will try to cover some main points.

First, let’s talk about your worries surrounding the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease. As you are aware, this is a disorder that results in having an underactive thyroid. Without treatment, metabolism will be slower—but replacement therapy with thyroid hormone is generally effective and should restore it to normal levels. Your doctor will be closely monitoring your dosage, so talk to him/her about your weight gain concerns. I would also recommend that you discuss your food aversions, which could possibly have a medical cause.

It is clear from your letter that your preoccupation with food, your body and your weight is really draining you. You are most likely restricting your eating to try to “feel in control,” reduce anxiety and build your self esteem. The truth is you CAN enjoy life and be free of your fears and obsessions. Reading Constance’s book was a good start for recognizing your EDNOS, and it IS a serious problem (like anorexia). Self-help is just not enough for you at this point, however, and I strongly urge you to see a counselor specializing in disordered eating. (See “Finding Treatment” for guidance.) He or she can help you dig deeper to find the root of your eating issues and help you overcome them. You also might be referred to a registered dietitian for further direction regarding your nutritional concerns.

For general guidelines regarding “normal eating and exercise, check out the articles “Eleven Keys to a Healthy Lifestyle” and “A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Weight.” These will give you a sense of goals to set for healthy living in a non-obsessive way. But I think at this stage that you might have trouble putting them into practice without professional help.

Concerning your issue with vegetables, there are so many to pick from and many different ways to prepare them (such as grilling or roasting). I would encourage you to try experimenting when you feel ready. But if you still absolutely don’t like them, you can get needed nutrients by eating a variety of other foods as described in the articles.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to pursue a deeper relationship with God. Draw on His strength, wisdom and power to pull you through all of this. A great resource to help you is the book Thin Within, by Judy Halliday. I don’t like the title (we are not all designed to be thin), but it is packed with encouraging scripture and tools to help you break free from the bondage of food and the scale.

Many blessings to you on your journey towards freedom. Life will soon get so much better!

Ann Capper, RD, CDN