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Extreme Exercising and Dieting – How to Stop?

By May 23, 2012

I’m hoping that someone will PLEASE help me and not just shuffle out more “get over your issues about food” advice. I’m 18 yrs. old currently I weigh *** at 5ft 7in. I was up to 130 but I lost *** lbs during the last two months. I have been somewhat diagnosed w/ anorexia (I’ve never seen a psychologist) by a doctor and have been to a nutritionist on several occasions. I don’t think I really feel like I’m fat; it’s just that I don’t want to weigh above 120. This is weird, I know, but somehow I like how my body feels to me at this weight. I’m also an EXTREME exerciser. I exercise for 2 to 4 and a half hours a day, 5 to 6 days per week. If I can’t exercise I get angry and irritable with those around me and I feel depressed and like a failure. To put it bluntly, I don’t EVER want to miss my exercise. I’m afraid that diet, food, exercise, and body image has taken over my whole life. I can hardly interact socially anymore without worrying about others discovering my psychotic behavior or finding out that I’m “weird.” I obsess over nutrition, food, and health. For example: I eat no red meat, sugar, white flour, preservatives, or anything else that would be “toxic” to my body. I don’t ever care about missing junk food because I honestly don’t desire it. I fast if I think I have “polluted” myself with something toxic and I’m into “organic” whole foods. My diet is very rigid. I basically eat the same foods every day. If I eat something “different” (which is hardly ever) I feel like I’m near insanity with worry over it. Somewhere out there I hope there is help. I don’t know what a normal healthy lifestyle is anymore since I’ve been on this bandwagon the past 4 yrs. I feel very embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I have a problem to my family, and I would rather die before letting anyone know that I’m battling psychological problems. And I’m also wondering if there is a chance that I will weigh above 130, or “look fat” on a normal diet? I know this is a lot to answer, but I REALLY need help. Please write me. Jenn

Dear Jenn,

You are so right! Eating disorders are not a matter of just “get over your food issues.” As your situation unfortunately reminds us, disordered eating can be a prison, a torturous cycle of extreme fear, anger, compulsion, obsession, rigidity and shame. You’ve lost a large percentage of your total body weight in the last two months. Losing such a significant amount of weight so quickly makes you less able to cope physically and emotionally. It can, of course, feel very addictive to be underweight. Like you – a lot of my patients don’t necessarily think they are currently fat, but the fear of gaining consumes them.

And yes, you are right about the depth of your exercise addiction. It sounds as though it dictates your life. Your narrow list of safe foods is also so limiting. Four years of your life is a long time to have sacrificed to this prison.

Of course, there is help out there. And there are hundreds of thousands of people who understand how easy it is, in this culture, to find yourself in this dilemma. As Constance discusses in her book, sadly our culture thinks chronic dieting and lots of food rules are normal. As you hint in your writing, they are not.

There are many paths to getting better – therapy, residential treatment, intensive nutrition therapy, support groups and reading. My bias is to encourage you to be assessed by a treatment professional or program. See “Finding Treatment.” Then commit yourself to a long journey step by step. It sounds as though, Jenn, that the healthy YOU has lots of spunk. Turn that spunk into rebelling against the dead-end road of disordered eating. Please connect to our links for treatment specialists and facilities. And keep in touch.

Fight Back,
Fb Team