Diet Has Gone Too Far

By September 13, 2012

This website has brought to the surface a lot of questions about my own health and eating habits. I had been overweight my entire life until last year when I joined an nationally organized weight loss group. I lost 40 lbs and now at 5’8″ 142 lbs I should be happy. However I am not. I think about food, calories and exercise all day long. This is not an exaggeration. I plan out my meals days in advance. I do not eat anything without reading it’s food label first. I have even begun cutting all of my food into very small pieces thus dragging my meals into hour-long stretches. I am constantly scouring for recipes that I know I’ll never make because they are too fattening. (Though I do love baking and bringing food to my co-workers.) I have always exercised, but now I find that exercise rules my life. I make plans around my workout schedule and have even cancelled or changed plans to accommodate my workouts. I typically eat around 1200-1400 calories/day and burn around 400-500 calories/ day via my workouts. This is all effecting my health. I am losing too much hair, my skin has big dry patches and I’ve become iron deficiency anemic. I am beginning to feel like a prisoner in my own body. I’m not sure where to turn. I’ve tried to talk to a couple of friends but they act like since I’m not literally starving myself or purging that I don’t have a disorder. – HM

Dear HM:

Thank you so much for sharing your current concerns and thoughts. I believe that doing so is the healthy part of you reaching out. Yes, you need to pay attention to these warning signals! Obsessing about food, being generally discontent, doing excessive (yes, excessive!) exercise, restrictive caloric intake, daydreaming about foods you won’t let yourself eat and health effects, such as anemia and thinning hair – these are major signs of disordered eating. As a rule, Constance asks us NOT to mention her book too much. Of course, as panelists, we have no economic interest in her book – we are clinicians who really believe in her message and in helping people. But I must tell you, dear reader, your case is exactly why many people are excited about Constance’s book.

The truth is, you are living “Life Inside the ‘Thin’ Cage.” Just because you are following a popular national diet plan and not appearing to your friends to be “starving” doesn’t mean you do not have a serious problem. You are among the epidemic of women whose lives are consumed by dieting. As Constance explains in her book, this problem can be as devastating to our bodies and spirits as Anorexia or Bulimia Nervosa. It has a name, Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. We just don’t talk about EDNOS as much as its two partners, AN and BN. You can learn more about this by reading Constance’s book. I urge you to talk to a nutritionist who specializes in intuitive eating. This professional can explain to the effects of your low caloric intake and obsessive exercise.

A registered nutritionist or dietitian can also help you learn to trust your body. Also, when you’re ready, you locate a therapist near you. Our article about finding treatment can give you some guidelines.

You’ve already done the hardest part by being honest with yourself. I’m so proud of you for taking this step! It can be a great journey… take another step…