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Teen: Either Bingeing Uncontrollably or Sticking ‘Perfectly’ to Diet Plan

By January 8, 2013

I am a 17 year old girl, who has struggled with an eating disorder since I was 14. I am 5’7” and very muscular. When I was 14, I weighed *** pounds (at 5’7″), and I decided I wanted to lose a couple pounds. I ended up losing ** pounds in 8 months. Then, with my mom’s help, I realized I had become anorexic. I started to see a psychologist, but stopped going because I could never find a time to go. One day, I decided I was done with the restrictive eating, but then I went overboard. I starting bingeing on anything I saw, and I gained back ** pounds. Then at *** pounds, I tried to lose weight again, and tried to eat perfectly again. This didn’t work, and the bingeing continued until I weighed *** pounds. Then, my weight stayed the same. Ever since then, I have either been bingeing uncontrollably or sticking to my “diet plan” perfectly. As soon as I go off my plan, the bingeing starts again. I recently had made it back to *** pounds, and maintained that for a couple weeks, but then one day I just gave up. Since then I have been bingeing worse than before. At the end of the day I feel like I’m worthless and ugly, and I hate myself. But, when I’m eating good my confidence is amazing. This has consumed the first three years of my high school life, and I just want it to be over. And sometimes I am obsessed with working out, like everyday or two times a day, but then other times I feel like I don’t want to do anything at all. Do you have any suggestions?? Emily

Dear Emily,

What a roller coaster you’ve been on the past few years…doesn’t sound like fun at all. First and foremost, the best advice is to stop the “eating perfectly on a diet plan,” which is actually contributing significantly to the binge eating. No wonder you are binging out of control; you’re probably hungry. Dieting is completely ineffective because it causes us to become overly obsessed with food and eating, which results in weight gain, usually higher than our body’s natural set point weight.

The best thing you could do for your body right now is to return to “normal eating.” Eat with balance, variety and moderation; eat foods that are tasty and satisfying to you. Eat when hungry, stop when satisfied. Next, be active and return to activities that are pleasurable to you. The same principle applies to exercise as eating…stay balanced. You already know that overdoing exercise can lead to burnout to the point that you “don’t feel like doing anything.” Aim for 3-5 times per week, about an hour at a time, one time per day.

Also, it would probably be really helpful to resume meetings with your psychologist to talk about not “weighing” your self esteem and confidence entirely on how you’re eating/exercising or what your weight is doing. There’s a lot more to your character that makes you uniquely Emily. Be encouraged; you are not alone in your struggle. Continue exploring ways to work with your body instead of against it…that is the best way to stop the madness. Then you can get on with the important matters of your life, like getting the most out of your senior year of high school. Go for it!

Juliet N. Zuercher, RD