The Balancing Act of Trying to Lose Weight While Recovering From an Eating Disorder

I’m overweight and I’m fat. It’s not a secret and I find it liberating to say (Your Fat Friend sums it up better than I ever could here). I’m currently at the biggest I’ve ever been, and it took me a lot of hard work to get here.

I had an eating disorder growing up, which I’ve talked about before. The short version is that from ages 8 to about 19 I suffered from EDNOS, which is eating disorder not otherwise specialized. I restricted calories just enough that my parents wouldn’t get suspicious, mostly just eating a tiny breakfast and a tiny dinner, but I wouldn’t eat otherwise. Or I’d overeat every once in a while and punish myself by purging either by vomiting or exercise. There’s a history of EDNOS in my family, a lot of which I witnessed growing up, and I was also in the entertainment industry as a child, so it didn’t take long for me to get Officially Messed Up. The first time I made myself throw up, I was 8.

It wasn’t until I went away to college and was away from everything that I got on the journey to recovery. Of course there are ups and downs, but I considered myself much better after about age 19. It was like something shifted, and even if I had a recurrence of the same thoughts, I no longer felt the compulsion to act on them. I went to therapy and learned how to face the thoughts head on and defeat them. Eating disorders become a part of you, especially after having them embedded in you for years and years, but you learn to live with them and are always in recovery. I did consider myself, for all intents and purposes, #Healed after my late teens.

It’s been 3–4 years since I adopted healthier habits, and for the past year or so I haven’t had a single slip-up. I was proud of myself and allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted without a care in the world. I went to an event for curvy women. I bought cute plus-size clothes. In 2016, my self-confidence was the highest it’s ever been. Unfortunately, 2016 was also the year that I was diagnosed with asthma and my acid reflux (which I believe is a consequence of all those years of starving and puking on purpose) got worse. Basically, the reflux makes me cough, and the coughing exacerbates the asthma. Both are controlled now, but they’re unpleasant. I’ve also had troubles with blood pressure since high school, and for now it’s controlled, but it also got worse in 2016.

In 2016 I also had a job that required me to be on my feet 8 hours a day, and with my 5 foot tall frame and excessive weight on my legs, I was in pain. Like, awful foot pain. Not to mention, this job was in a hospital and I saw young people in their 30s and 40s with preventable health issues that began in their 20s. These two things, my leg pain and my fear of developing worse blood pressure which would lead to a stroke at 40, motivated me to become healthier. I didn’t have time for exercise but I began eating healthier, and to my surprise I pulled it off relatively easily.

I am now between jobs, and my next job doesn’t begin until April, so I have two months of free time. I decided to begin working out and try to lose some of this excess weight, because extra weight also makes the asthma and reflux worse. I felt healthy enough mentally to embark on this journey without falling back into EDNOS. I decided if I was going to do this, it wasn’t going to be to lose weight. I set myself a realistic goal: sign up for a 5k before summer and successfully complete it. I began doing the Couch to 5k program (which I can’t recommend enough. Try it!). I also began tracking what I ate with the Lose It app, because I wanted to keep myself accountable if I began to binge or restrict.

For a couple of weeks it was good. I was making progress, going from no jogging background to being able to jog for two minutes without dying. I felt good. Springy. The gym gave me energy and I was eating yummy new healthy things (blueberry greek yogurt is life).

And then I slipped, and I came tumbling down.

There’s a scale at the gym. I avoided it for two weeks which was a success, but I couldn’t hold out. One day, I decided to step on it. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? I’d been dieting for two weeks and working out essentially every day. I had lost at least one pound, right?

The scale told me I weighed fifteen pounds more than I did when I started working out.

I jumped off the scale, face red hot, and felt like the world was spinning. I kept my head down and stared at the ground, just waiting. Please no, please I’ve kept it at bay for over a year, no no no no –

You idiot fat bitch of course you weigh more-

No are you serious come ON I’m healed now and shiny and I don’t have these thoughts anymore not anymore-

You need to go throw up right now-

No I’m not going to do that, you can fuck off and go away because I don’t listen to those thoughts anymore-

You are so embarrassing, I mean can’t you feel your fat slipping over your yoga pants, and didn’t you have to fish in the XL area for these pants, GOD you are so fat holy shit you are absolutely gross-

Think of something else, ummm okay I’m going to crochet when I get home-

Whatever, do what you want, doesn’t change how fat you are. Ew. Your body is sad. You are disgusting. If you were thinner, your life would be so much better. You’re already exercising and eating better; take it to the next level. Just puke once or twice. Get some diet pills. Go sit in the sauna for 45 minutes.

I went into the locker room and locked myself in a bathroom stall. I pulled up Google and of course was met with lots of information about gyms purposefully loading up their scales so they show that people weigh more than they do, in order to get more people to sign up for gym memberships. I thought the thoughts were over, and then-

Get in your car, go to Target, buy a scale, and weigh yourself. Actually that’s good, because then you can weigh yourself once a week. Or twice. Maybe everyday. Just to keep track. Get some diet pills while you’re there. I know you were planning to use the money to buy your groceries, but this is actually better. Then you won’t have money for junk. Win-win.

I scrunched up my face and screamed inside my head.

I’M NOT BUYING A SCALE. OR UNSAFE PILLS. ARE YOU KIDDING. THAT’S LIKE AN ALCOHOLIC HAVING A GIANT BOTTLE OF WINE IN THEIR HOUSE. IT’S RELAPSE 101. I’M NOT DOING THIS SHIT. GO AWAY.

And the voice went away. I was shocked by how quickly it disappeared. I took advantage of its absence and raced home before I could cave in and buy the scale.

I got home, threw myself in the shower, and cried. Then I dried my eyes, breathed deeply, and told myself to get over it. The next day, I made myself stay home on purpose and take a rest day. I made it a point to eat whatever I wanted. I kept tracking it of course, and watched my calories go over the daily budget. I knew I could work out to get rid of them, but I chose not to. I felt anxious and guilty and angry at myself but I pushed through it. No way. I’m staying home.

I woke up the next morning and felt cleansed. I ate a healthy breakfast, made myself a smoothie, and went to the gym. I walked right past the scale and felt surprisingly fine. I realized what had happened was a momentary lapse and not a full blown backslide into everything I’ve overcome. I was overwhelmed with relief and took a moment to appreciate myself.

I feel recommitted to my goal and am going to continue exercising 5 days a week and watching what I eat because it’s what I want to do. If the thoughts come back, I’m going to deal with them again and make them go away again. I have to trust that I am stronger now. I’m not going to let fear of a relapse keep me from my health goals. There’s a way to do this and stay mentally healthy, and I’m going to figure it out. I have to figure it out.

It’s a delicate balancing act, and I’m taking it one step at a time.


This piece has been published on Be Yourself

2 thoughts on “The Balancing Act of Trying to Lose Weight While Recovering From an Eating Disorder

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  1. I stopped over a year ago and recently had an incident that nearly had me starting all those bad habits again. I had that loud internal conversation and forced myself that going back to that horrible controlling life wasn’t what I wanted so I pushed my thoughts to say I wasn’t going to do anything and I would be OK. I had eaten a large takeaway with my family. I managed not to do anything and it was OK. I will draw on this experience next time I am tempted to revert.
    I too need to lose weight as the doctor has told me to. But I am terrified to diet because I don’t want to relapse. I am happy being free of my eating disorder and don’t want it back but I need to lose weight and not sure how to do this without the ED coming back?

    Liked by 1 person

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