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I Started Out Dieting Normally, But Then I Became Obsessed

By November 19, 2012

Over the last 8 months I’ve changed so much. I lost at least 60 pounds or more, but I feel like I’ve lost everything good inside me. I started out dieting normally, just watching what I ate and exercising, but then I became obsessed with how many calories I’m eating, which at my lowest was 350, and I was exercising all the time and not going out with my family and friends or doing anything fun. I haven’t even sat down and watched a movie in a couple months now (which used to be my favorite activity). I recently went to the doctor and they said that I was at my “normal” BMI and that there wasn’t any problem, but that if I keep losing weight then I can talk to him about having an eating disorder. I’ve been trying to increase my calories each week I’m finally up to 850 which is I know is WAY to low but it’s seems to be so much. And I’ve tried to cut back on exercise by 30 minutes or so but I never ever sit down. I’m so tired of not being my fun self anymore. I’m crabby and cold all the time. I’m just not sure what to do anymore. I do see a therapist but not as often as I should. I’m just so worried about gaining back all the weight I’ve lost. Is there any way I can find a balance with calories and exercise, and be happy and healthy again? I appreciate any help and thank you for having such a wonderful site! – j.

Dear J.,

First, I am so sorry that half of your story, your very experience, was not visible to the physician. Unfortunately doctors and professionals are not equipped with empathetic X-Ray vision. They can not put a stethoscope to your heart and actually see a visual image of you never resting, losing pleasure, turning down nourishing food to stay within a specific calorie range and seeing your mood increase in crabbiness.

Apparently, the physician experienced one very small aspect of you: the weight of your physical system on that given day. Now, imagine that prior to the appointment you had a stack of post-it notes and on each note were different messages that communicated the following:

  • I am obsessed with calories
  • I have held myself to only consuming 350 calories in a day
  • I refuse to go out with family and be social
  • I stopped doing things I used to really enjoy
  • I am worried about gaining back the weight I have recently lost
  • I am crabby and cold all the time
  • I am not my self anymore

Suppose you placed each one of those sentences (written on a post it note) on the scale. And you turned to the doctor and said, “these are the thoughts that you are actually weighing.” I imagine there would be no delay or debate over your increasing struggle with disordered eating.

Do not let the physician’s ability to catch or not catch your condition to end your quest for help. I think deep down, when you are still, you know something clicked in you that is robbing you of who you once used to be. Fight your way back! Make an appointment with your therapist and see if together you can take steps to return to enjoying movies and family again!

Take care,

Leanne

Dear Julie,

I totally agree with Leanne – it sounds like your physician was looking at your condition through a very narrow lens. It’s sad when medical professionals wait until a certain weight or clinical criteria threshold is met to intervene. Clearly, you are already suffering emotionally, and with the very low calorie levels you are following, are not adequately nourished. Your instincts to seek help are right on, and I agree with Leanne that you should see your therapist.

BMI is just one of countless measurements of health, so it is only a small piece of the puzzle. A “normal” BMI does not necessarily equal a physically healthy person. With inadequate intake of calories and nutrients, bone health is compromised, the immune system is weakened, digestive problems develop, depression can be triggered, and menstrual cycles become less frequent or stop—just to name a few negative effects. In addition, consuming too few calories can slow metabolism. Part of your lack of interest in doing the things you used to enjoy, is because your body isn’t getting the fuel it needs.

To understand the basics of eating healthfully again, read some of the articles in the “Eat Well, Live Well” section of our site. Since you have been very restrictive in eating, you may have temporarily lost sensitivity to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. (This is why you feel overwhelmed by trying to eat more.) You would really benefit by seeing a nutritionist who specializes in disordered eating, to help you get back on track. He or she would probably start out by having you eat small meals six times a day, while your body readjusts. This professional could also monitor your weight and allay any fears related to eating too much. See “Finding a Nutritionist” if you need guidance, or your therapist could make the referral.

I’d also recommend that you read Constance’s book, Life Inside the Thin Cage—and perhaps give a copy to your physician, so he can be enlightened!

Hang in there. With the right support, you WILL break out of this and experience joyful, healthy living.

Warmly,

Ann