Have Anorexia, But Don’t Want to Gain Any Weight

By November 21, 2012

Thank you for your website, it is very helpful. I have been underweight according to others’ standards for about 3 years now. I have not menstruated in over 5 years and was clinically diagnosed with anorexia by my doctor about a year ago. I don’t see most of my behavior as a real problem, but my husband really hates it. I feel okay as long as I don’t binge and purge, which I do if I feel I have eaten too much or the wrong kinds of food. Mostly I just avoid eating, with the exception of some foods that sound good, if I have exercised enough. On weekends I allow myself to eat jellybeans because I get up and exercise for 4-4.5 hours before I come home to fix breakfast for my family. I don’t want to eat “healthy” food. It sounds disgusting to me. I guess deep down I know I need help, but I am not even that thin (5’6″ ***lbs). I have Celiac disease, and was seeing a nutritionist for awhile. She said I needed a therapist, but my husband doesn’t think that will work. He says I just need to decide I want to change. The problem is, I don’t want to gain any weight. I am afraid all the time, and sometimes I start shaking and sweating uncontrollably. I have no friends where I live and no insurance. Sometimes I feel there is nothing I can do. If I eat a couple days in a row, my husband is really nice, but if I don’t eat what he thinks I should, he really gets angry and says I am not trying. Maybe I would do better if I actually wanted to gain weight. God, just reading this makes me feel like a lunatic, but I feel trapped and hopeless. What can I do? – anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Here is what you wrote in short form:

  • Five years without menstruating
  • A diagnosis by a medical professional of Anorexia
  • Conflict and possible contempt between you and your husband and food
  • 4-4.5 hours of exercise before cooking for family members
  • “Bad food” list versus “Good food” list
  •  Diagnosed with Celiac Disease
  • A desire to not gain any weight
  •  Afraid all the time

Without ever meeting you, the above words describe someone “trapped and hopeless.” You ask: “What can I do?” At the risk of sounding like a very popular TV psychologist, you will not be able to change what you do not admit. You are not willing to admit (even though your letter and list above tell the world) that you use food, you use your body, you use your mind, will and spirit to hurt yourself.

But I believe there is HOPE for you. You write, “I guess deep down I need help.” This phrase is sandwiched between you sharing your husband’s perception of your behaviors, your nutritionists’ perception of your behaviors, and your doctor’s perception. Multiple people in your daily living operate on the idea that you have food/weight/and body issues. But you, deep down, are not 100% convinced you ready to tackle life without your behaviors. Your schedule, your regimen, your approach to eating/living is most likely a literal comfort zone for you.  Really admitting that what has been your comfort, your sanctity, your control is unhealthy and needs to be changed must rock your absolute world.

I encourage you to consider running an experiment. This experiment will help you know the best way to stop what you have been doing (approach to food/weight/appearance) and start something different.  Each morning when you get up I want you to consider flipping a coin. When the coin lands on “Heads” I want you to live that day as if you are fully convinced that you can no longer keep doing the same thing you have been doing for a number of years and, instead, you will do one small thing different. When the coin lands on “Tails” simply live that day as you do every single day. The goal is for you to pay attention and notice what difference it makes to you when you intentionally choose one way over the other.  Keep a journal.

There is no magic wand to make you want to gain weight and be different then you are. There is no magic wand to get people (your husband/doctor/nutritionist) off your back about your eating, your weight, and your nutrition regiment. But there is a way for you to decide how you want to live. I would strongly encourage you to locate a therapist in a nearby larger city or establish a mentor/disciple relationship with another woman who can provide feedback and relationship. See “Finding Treatment.” I fully believe that when you decide you can admit you (1) have had a problem for  a long time but did not want to face it, and (2) admit that you need help and can not do this alone.

May you find the path to healing that truly sets you free!