I have to preface this post with a TRIGGER WARNING to anyone who is currently dealing with, or has recently overcome any kind of eating disorder or body dysmorphia or depression. If you are feeling sensitive or easilly triggered, maybe walk away. I also need to state that this series of stories will start off with exerts from my journal entries dating back to 2007. At the time, I think I was writing it as a compilation of stories to document my weight loss journey .
I am sharing this now, as a way of demonstrating the very long and windy road I have been on with my body and various eating disorders and diet addictions. I know so many women who have been through the same, or are maybe suffering right now and I hope that in sharing these very real and raw stories, it will take away some shame and maybe even help get you on the path to healing. I considered redacting some facts (like my weight) because it can be so triggering, but I decided to leave them in and hope that you don’t get too caught up in the numbers! Transferring these written entries to my laptop, really took me back and allowed me to see how very very far I’ve come. My mindset has obviously changed so much in 13 years! Working as a health coach and fitness trainer, has really shifted a lot for me and I have healed so much, especially through helping other women overcome these issues.
So grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair and happy reading (although much of it is not so happy!)
17 May 2007
The turning point came when I looked in the mirror and could no longer ignore the cellulite covering my legs, bum, stomach and (most alarmingly) my arms! Getting dressed had become a nightmare. Instead of effortlessly slipping on one of my beautiful and stylish ensembles, I had to tug and pull the biggest and stretchiest pants I owned over my inflated frame and then try and find some sort of dark and billowy top to disguise my potbelly and love handles.
All this coming from a certified and (busy) working personal trainer at one of the country’s top gyms. Clients came to me for inspiration and motivation. I wonder how much they had noticed the expansion of my frame.I wondered how many of them were secretly looking around my my replacement: skinnier, prettier and fitter. Someone who practiced what she preached and looked ‘the part’.
I wondered how many other people, besides my clients, had noticed my weight gain.
I was twelve kilograms heavier than my “normal” weight. That’s a lot of weight to gain (for no particular reason). I could be pregnant at this weight!
I decided to do some digging into my weight history to maybe shed some light on how I got here.
I was always a very skinny child – active, fidgety, with a small appetite (except when it came to sweets!) Other parents whispered and asked my mother if I was ill or had an eating disorder. I was perfectly healthy.
Ballet teachers were delighted with my naturally slender frame. “The perfect ballerina’s body” they said. I felt like an awkward beanpole in comparison to most of the other girls. I longed to GAIN weight and look “normal”. I consumed mass gain shakes. Nothing happened. So I accepted my body, bones and all.
In my early teens, a severe lower back injury interrupted my dancing hobby and led to years of inactivity. When puberty hit my hips started to fill out. Even so, my weight remained a steady 48 kilograms.
At the age of sixteen I discovered Muay Thai and immediately fell in love with the sport. I found a family in the other fighters at the dojo. I took my training seriously (it became my whole life) – training 3-5 hours a day, six days a week. (Crazy I know!)
For the first time in my life I felt empowered, strong, invinsible and really happy and fulfilled.
I was a warrior woman and all I wanted was to go live on an island in Thailand and train, eat and sleep Muay Thai.
I wish I had known then, as much as I do now about training and nutrition. I wish I’d had better trainers and mentors looking after me and protecting me. I was obviously overtraining and under eating, but I was commended on my discipline, commitment and “how good I looked”.
At my lowest point I weighed 44 kilograms. I was still eating, just not nearly enough to fuel my vigorous training. I was so consumed with my training, I never really stopped to take note of how I looked. But then more and more compliments came… and I realised that I needed to maintain this crazy regime to keep my weight down. Most weeks, I would get so faint and exhausted by Thursdays that I would usually binge eat from Thursday night until Sunday and then resume the starvation routine. I would also abuse laxatives and make myself vomit if I’d binged too much or if I had a weigh in for Muay Thai.
After a year or two of this craziness, I cooled off on my training slightly and started eating meat again (I’d been vegetarian for over a year). My weight started to climb, but it was mostly muscle. My body finally had fuel for my workouts. My weight stabilised between 48 and 50 kilograms and I remember feeling my best. I was lean, sexy and strong. Getting dressed was a pleasure and I remember feeling really happy. Oh and I got my period again, which had been absent for over a year during my most malnourished phase.
Later that year, during my Matric exams, I started to feel depressed, stressed and anxious. I was scared of change – of finishing school and that chapter of my life. We had just moved into a new house. I couldn’t train due to an injury and I was not coping well.
I started to self-medicate with food. I would eat a whole loaf of bread in one sitting; boxes of chocolate, cake, pizza – anything I could get my hands on. My mom would shout at me that the groceries she’d just purchased had “disappeared”.
My body ballooned from 50 kilos to 62 kilos within in a few months.
In my journal at this time I wrote:
‘… God I hardly recognise myself. I don’t even want to leave the house. My tummy, which my entire life has been flat as a pancake, is now bloated and blubbery and the fat rolls are spreading around my ribs. My ass is five times its size and dimply… My arms are shapeless hunks of fat. My face is swollen and blemished… This self-sabotaging must stop. I’m entering the big world now.’
It makes me so sad looking back. At a time when I should have been excited and out experiencing and living and loving (and just being 18 years old!) , I was trapping myself under twelve kilos of fear and fat. I look back now and think “what a waste!”
It took me about six months of being miserable and uncomfortable before something inside me said: ‘STOP! Enough!’ I stopped binge eating and started exercising again and slowly, but surely my weight dropped to about 53 kilos.
I felt like my old self again. I had confidence. I was smiling and happy. I could go shopping and wear what I wanted again. Life was good. It was at this weight and around this time that I met my boyfriend. I also started my personal training career. I felt fit, slender and inspirational.
Although over the next two years or so my weight would fluctuate between 54 and 57 kilos, it was not hard to maintain and was mostly stable.
Then about 18 months ago, multiple issues came to a head. I started to grow bored at work. I knew this was not where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I needed more stimulation. I needed to pursue my other passions. I was also under a lot of financial stress, due to a mountain of debt that I had aquired through reckless spending. My puppy had been run over and died in front of me, which was obviously devastating. The biggest issue was that I hadn’t properly dealt with or extricated myself from a previously abusive relationship.
To numb all this stress, frustration, pain and boredom, I began to binge eat again… on an almost daily basis.
The binges were insane. Jumbo size packets of chips, whole slabs of chocolates, packets of sweets and cookies, cake… all of this would be consumed in the space of about an hour. I would often get to the stage of feeling really uncomfortably full, heart pounding, almost nauseous, but I would continue eating – trying to fill the void; trying to kill the boredom; trying to numb the pain.
My weight steadily climbed. I trained less and binged more. I would sometimes even cancel clients and go and binge (like a drug addict). My favourite clothes were pushed to the back of the cupboard in favour of loose, baggy sacks. My skin broke out. I was lethargic and withdrawn.
I withdrew from my boyfriend. I felt so fat and ugly. I didn’t want to be touched or seen naked.
He was supportive and told me I was beautiful. I don’t think he could see my pain and what was going on in my head and my heart. I told him I wanted to go to Overeaters Anonymous and he said I was being ridiculous. I usually binged in private, so he never really witnessed the extent of my overeating.
I felt so uncomfortable, sad and depressed. I cried almost daily. I was angry with myself. Why did I punish myself? Why did I purposely go on a mission to make myself fat and miserable? Why did I want to hold myself back from my true potential? Why did I want to stop myself from living a happy and fulfilled life?
The light in my head was slowly being turned back on…
It’s like the chicken and the egg. I’m not really sure what came first and what caused what… My depressive episodes and my binge eating episodes.
Since the age of fifteen, I remember suffering bouts of depression. I felt like I was in a black hole. I didn’t want to see people, do anything or even leave my bed. It’s like a switch would be flipped and suddenly I would sink into a deep sadness. It could last anywhere from a day to two months.
Eating my feelings was how I would cope. I ate and ate and ate and then I would gain weight and feel even worse. A vicious cycle.
I never considered talking to anyone about my feelings, seeking help or taking medication. I believed (and still do to a degree) that if your symptoms of depression are mild and sporadic, that you can control and recover yourself through diet, exercise, meditation and other lifestyle choices.
I obviously didn’t heed this advice all the time and kept on self-medicating with junk food…
And so the other day I was feeling sad and mad and blue. I took myself to the gym wearing my disgusting ‘fat’ training uniform. All around me were these really fit, gorgeous and groomed women wearing cute little gym outfits. I used to be one of them! I had a whole cupboard full of cute little gym outfits. I thought “Stuff this, I don’t want to feel this way anymore!” This wasn’t me. This wasn’t the life I had envisioned for myself. I wanted to be young and free and out there in the world making my dreams come true, not wasting my time, money and energy self-sabotaging.
And just like that, a light in my head was turned fully back on and I felt ready to lose weight and keep it off.
21 May 2007
I’m not going to lie to you: put on weight is super easy (don’t exercise and stuff your face with as much junk as possible) , but losing weight and keeping it off requires hard work! Here’s the science: If half a kilogram of fat is equal to about 3500 calories, I would have to burn or be in a deficit of 84000 calories in order to lose 12 kilograms. If I consume 500 cals less a day or burn off 500 cals through exercise, it should take me between four to six months to lose the weight in a responsible manner.
This will require discipline, hard work and lots of motivation. The prospect of finally going to the beach and feeling really hot in my bikini is a thrilling idea.
Conquering my mind will be my hardest battle. My mind plays tricks on me. It tries to convince me to self-sabotage as soon as I’m starting to make progress. The fact that I acknowledge this behaviour maybe means that I am one step closer to conquering it.
I plan to really start embracing exercise again. I know that once I’m into it, I really do love it and the way it makes me feel. Six days a week, for at least an hour, I will do some form of exercise.
I plan to eat healthfully – moderate carbs, high protein, dairy, fruit and veg. I also plan to listen to my body and to satisfy cravings in a controlled and responsible manner. I plan on living life and that includes moderate indulgences of wine, cake, pizza, etc NO BINGING! That is not healthy for the body or the mind.
I think finding joy and fulfilment in my life will be the most important factor in losing weight and keeping it off. Living a truly authentic life means that I won’t have to feed my soul or fill any voids with food. I’ll already be too “full” of love and joy! 🙂
23 May 2007
Every day is a struggle in the beginning. I’m trying to break bad habits and enjoy healthy habits. There’s still a battle going on in my head. I want to change. I want to look and feel good… but there’s that little part of me that wants to self-sabotage. It shouts “Don’t train!” and “Go buy a cake, a bag of chips and five chocolates and we can eat it all.”
In the past, I have tried to shut that voice up, but it seemed to just fuel the fire. I have given in to that voice and it grew stronger. So now I am learning to acknowledge this part of me. I ask it why it is hurting or bored and what it needs to feel better besides binge eating.
It’s really hard. On past weight-loss attempts, I’ve been “good” for a week or so and then this voice kicks in and I just want to rebel and mess up any progress I’ve made.
Now I’m trying to think long-term. Can I eat and train this way for the rest of my life? If the answer is “Yes”, then I’m ok… At the moment I’m just trying to form some new healthy habits. Apparently it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I can hang in there! Most of my life I have lived, trained and eaten healthfully. I just have to get back to that mindset.
Ultimately, once I’ve reached my desired weight and maintained it, I hope I can stop being so obsessive about eating. I hope that my life will be balanced and full, so that I don’t spend every idle moment contemplating food and my body. I hope that one day I will no longer want or need to count count count calories day after day after day. I hope and wish and pray that I will be able to just regulate my eating and exercise intuitively. I hope that I will be able to truly listen to my body.
30 May 2007
Putting on weight seems like a quick and easy process. One day you’re thin, then you eat twelve pizzas, two cakes, five pies and the next thing you’re fat! Losing weight (responsibly) is much harder and much slower. I feel like I’ve been eating well and exercising forever, yet it’s only been ten days! There’s still that little voice that tells me I should reward myself for being so “good” by going and eating a whole lot of junk food. I will not listen! I know that the half kilogram that I have worked so hard to lose could be regained in a matter of minutes.
Yesterday I threw on a pair of combat pants that were usually loose fitting – they were tight. Another reminder of how much work is still to be done to undo the consequences of my self-destruction. To add insult to injury, while I was in the grocery store, my buttons on said pants popped off. I feel so sad and ashamed. It’s ok. It’s yet another anecdote for me to use to never let myself get like this again.