Exercise anorexia

**WARNING: Some of the content/images in this post may be triggering for individuals in recovery from an eating disorder! **

It was time to get back on a diet.

My eating disorder makes it difficult to lose weight without going extreme…

Even when I’m making every effort to not be obsessive, I find myself subconsciously testing the boundaries.

In 2015, I found a new way to “cheat the system” and have an eating disorder without “having an eating disorder”.

It started as a semi-innocent attempt to lose a little bit of weight and quickly spiraled into a full fledged eating disorder- but not the type of eating disorder that people talk about.

Although I wasn’t quite “clinically” overweight…yet, I was the heaviest that I had ever been and I felt like I needed to take control of my health.

November 2015

Losing weight freaking sucks.

I swear that you are never more “hangry” than when on a diet.

In 2009, I was hospitalized for anorexia and bulimia. (Read for more on that experience in Tell me to eat? I’ll starve myself.)

Whenever I think “lose weight” my brain goes immediately to starvation.

Starve yourself = get skinny.

When I’m serious about something I want results and I want them quick.

With the help of my Fitbit activity tracker, some low calorie/ high protein drink mix, and a food logging app, I had everything I needed to go full on eating disorder for almost a year.

I struggle with severe anxiety.

Many days it about controls my everyday life.

At the start of this new “diet”, I experienced the relief from my anxiety with an endorphin high achieved by high intensity exercise.

It also just so happened to fit right in with my new “healthy lifestyle”.

The statistics on my Fitbit were THRILLING- driving me to push myself beyond my limits.

The next piece to my master plan was the PERFECT protein powder.

Researching like crazy to find the best low calorie, high protein, powder.

Eventually choosing a brand that offered an 130 calorie serving while packing a whopping 30 grams of protein.

The original plan?

Substitute a couple meals with the protein shake.

The actual plan?

Protein shake with water for breakfast- 130 Cal

Protein shake with water for lunch- 130 Cal

Regular dinner with the family- max 300 Cal (typically consisting of a bite or two that I would chew very slowly to trick myself that I was eating more.)

Days that I didn’t have to cook I’d drink a third shake for dinner and skid through the day with 390 calories.

This new “diet” allowed myself a measly maximum of 560 calories a day.

Before I knew it my eating disorder was out of hand.

The initial adjustment was insanely hard.

I would think about food every second of every day.

It was miserable.

The only way to distract myself from the hunger was by exercising… all. day. long.

It wasn’t abnormal to have 600+ “active minutes” every single day.

There wasn’t time for anything else anymore.

My days literally revolved around trying to exercise the hunger out of me.

This was explained to loved ones as, “the more I burn, the more I can eat!”

Though the calorie allowance never actually adjusted.

Exercise became the most important thing in the world to me.

I withdrew from friends because I knew they wouldn’t be “up” for what I did all day- and I had to do it.

There were no exceptions, there were no “breaks”.

I clearly remember dropping out of anxiety therapy because I didn’t want to sit down for a full hour and not be burning calories.

But oh no, “I didn’t have an eating disorder”.

I was just “being healthy”- which also happens to be much more socially accepted.

Don’t get me wrong.

Exercise is indeed very healthy and an extremely important aspect of health.

This wasn’t just exercise though, this was an eating disorder.

February 2016

Exercise wasn’t healthy when it began taking priority over every other thing in my life.

390-560 calories a day is totally unacceptable- certainly not adequate fuel for 15+ miles of exercise a day.

Exercise anorexia is still not clearly recognized as an eating disorder, though some developments are being made in that direction.

I’m writing this because I know loud and clear that these behaviors were just as deadly as my anorexia/bulimia hospitalization in 2009.

Even though I weighed 100 pounds more this time around and was practicing what our society views as “normal healthy behavior”, it was equally valid as an eating disorder.

Eventually I plateaued and the extreme behaviors weren’t making me any skinnier.

By then, I needed to be skinnier… a lot skinnier.

If you have an eating disorder you can understand the feeling of never being skinny enough.

You could die as a pile of bones and still believe that you left this world “fat”.

And that’s what fuels this sick addiction.

I continued trying to amp up my workouts.

‘5 more pounds!’

One day, literally waking up from the kitchen floor.

Instead of feeling scared and ready to throw in the towel, I felt an overwhelming rush of pride.

I had starved and overexerted myself to the point of literally collapsing and this was something I accepted like a trophy.

My “out” came when I became pregnant in June 2016.

No way was I going to harm my baby trying to achieve the perfect physique.

My body quickly packed on the pounds after months of starvation.

I had zero energy, was hungry all day long, and embraced this change in protection of my pregnancy.

February 2017

Thankfully, I have been able to maintain regular eating habits after a short relapse postpartum.

I still haven’t lost all of my baby weight… and that’s something I’m learning to be okay with.

I’m blessed to have a husband who loves me just as much at a size 10 as he did at size 0.

You guys, these superficial standards that we all feel the need to chase after are so ridiculous.

God didn’t create food so it would give us panic attacks.

You are beautiful exactly the way you are. ❣️

Freedom from my eating disorder has been incredible.

I’m not confined to superficial desires anymore or the disappointment that comes with them.

Instead I’m choosing happiness, self love, and confidence.

You are all you have.

Be kind to yourself.

Self love looks beautiful on you! ❤️

January 2019

Check out my blog, Project Identity for more inspirational stuff! 💕

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, check out the links below!

Meet Nikki, my eating disorder. talks about who is really in control when you have an eating disorder.

Understanding Bulimia for more info on Bulimia.

Tell me to eat? I’ll starve myself. my hospitalization for Anorexia/Bulimia.

Through the ears of my eating disorder for loved ones of someone struggling!

Drop a comment or send me message for additional help! ❣️💕❣️

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Tell me to eat? I’ll starve myself.

It was my senior year of high school and I was in rehab.

My mom had finally reached her limit of sleepless nights trying to find me.

Give me a curfew? I wouldn’t come home at all.

Ground me? I’d leave anyway.

Age 17 was a rough year to say the least.

I was an absolute mess.

“No you are NOT putting her in a foster home!”

My brother shouted as he barged into my room, hanging up the phone, telling me to hurry and pack my stuff.

I didn’t know what was in store for me but I sure as heck didn’t imagine it would be almost five months until I returned home.

I spent a week at my brothers house while we waited for the news on my fate.

He was instructed to deliver and watch me swallow my Antabuse- as my mom typically did.

Antabuse is a prescription medication for alcoholics.

If you consume any alcohol while taking Antabuse you will get violently ill.

Neither of them knew that I’d swapped the real pills with a lookalike I had found in my Mom’s closet when she forgot to lock her door one day.

Inpatient rehab would eventually be the verdict.

Before I knew it I was stripped of my belongings and sitting in a treatment center.

Everything was out of my control.

Something inside me was burning to act out and the options in doing so were limited.

At mealtimes I would sit at the table in a daze with only a glass of water.

Some days I would feel guilty for drinking the water and purge it back up.

Tell me to eat? I’ll starve myself.

I was 13 years old when I first purged.

My best friend left me… my boyfriend broke up with me.

Life got hard and something in my head told me to go to the bathroom and throw up my food.

The rush it gave me became a staple stress reliever.

Prior to checking into rehab I was already underweight.

In my head writing it off as “not being hungry” or “forgetting to eat”.

Whenever I did consume food, the stressful situation at home would almost always result in purging.

It didn’t really get out of control until everything got out of control.

Subconsciously I was becoming addicted to this relationship with food.

The feeling of my skin tightening around my bones was like a high.

(*actual photo of myself three months after treatment*)

I was alone in rehab while my peers were working on their senior projects and letting out for Christmas break.

That Christmas was hard.

I’ve always loved Christmas but I just felt so unwanted, abandoned, and alone.

I was the only kid in the center that was there without a court order.

“What is going on???” filling the pages of my daily journal.

Life felt like a never ending nightmare.

At the time my brain could never understand that it was my actions that landed me here.

Instead, I spent over a month saturating myself in feelings of worthless shame.

It was a dark time….

Five weeks into rehab and I’d lost a significant amount of weight.

Every day looking more like a skeleton and less like a human.

Tightly fastening my size 0 jeans with a belt so they wouldn’t slide right off of me.

On New Years Eve we were offered a slice of pizza.

This was a real treat and I wanted to participate so badly.

Eventually accepting a piece and racing off to the bathroom immediately after.

This time one of the counselors had followed me.

I’d been caught.

There I sat in the office as the counselor called my mom.

Thankfully it appeared I’d be discharged early and finally able to go home.

Or so I thought…

Instead of my driveway we parked at an office building in the heart of Denver.

“Where are we?!?!”

I asked perplexed.

“You need to talk to someone about this food thing.”

The Eating Recovery Center would be my new home.

At intake the feelings of abandonment began to drown me.

“I don’t have an eating disorder!!!”

I pleaded.

“My mom just doesn’t want me so she’s trying to put me places!! Please!!”

It was time for my “moment of truth” on the scale.

My 5’11” frame weighed in at a whopping 102 pounds.

Considering how tall I am this put me at a BMI (body mass index) of 14.2.

If you are unfamiliar with BMI, 18.4 or lower is considered underweight.

In diagnosing anorexia nervosa they follow this chart:

Mild: A BMI of >17

Moderate: A BMI of 16-16.99

Severe: A BMI of 15-15.99

Extreme: A BMI >15

Nothing I could say or do could get me out of this situation with a BMI of 14.2.

Extreme like everything in my life seemed to be by that point.

At my height, I’d have to weigh in at a minimum of 133 pounds to make the lowest possible “healthy weight”.

That meant I’d have to gain at least 31 pounds before going home.

Suddenly out of every sense of control.

Mealtimes were spent with hands above the table.

The food was fairly good but there was A LOT of it.

Three massive meals AND three snacks a day.

If you didn’t finish every piece of your meal (including butter) in the time allotted then you had to drink a Boost nutritional drink.

Bathrooms remained locked and you needed to be accompanied by a staff member to use them.

On the bright side though, this center was a huge upgrade from the last.

We were able to keep the majority of our belongings.

Meals were prepared by chefs and served on silver platters.

We got to go outside for fresh air multiple times a day.

We could even turn off the lights at night.

I knew that if I didn’t cooperate, I was never going home.

The gig was up (at least for the time being).

Three and a half months later I completed treatment.

Today marks just over nine years since checking out of recovery.

In this time I’ve had more slip ups than I could possibly count, including an excessive exercise phase that deceived me for months.

(Exercise anorexia post coming soon❤️).

BUT I’ve had way more successes than failures and that is something that I’m extremely proud of.

CONTROL played a major role in my eating disorder.

Which is actually sort of crazy to think about because when I’m active in my eating disorder I am not in controlmy eating disorder is.

It’s so easy to forget this.

Recovery from an eating disorder is a lifelong process that requires daily maintenance.

It’s a process that I’m willing to work at!

My life is worth so much more than a number on a scale.❤️

If you are battling an eating disorder I encourage you to read this post ➡️ Meet Nikki, my eating disorder ❤️

Understanding Bulimia sheds a unique light on the complicated illness.

For more on addiction read Running 😊

Check out my blog for much, much more!❤️

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Understanding Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder that may live closer than you think.

Why?

Because people who have bulimia are generally of average or above average weight!

I sat down with my best friend and asked her EVERYTHING about her experience with this complicated eating disorder.

This is Brittany’s story. ⬇️❤️⬇️

  • You are so normal… how did this all start?

“Restricting and excessive exercise were the start. I had a strict 1,200cal/day diet. The catch was that if I went even just five calories over then instead of stopping I would just keep eating because I “already screwed up”. Like out of control eating. THEN I would panic and exercise for hours at a time like 3x a day. I could do homework while I ran on the treadmill so it was a sustainable behavior in college.”

  • What is this type of behavior called?

“Bulimia non-purging type with excessive exercise.”

  • What were your beliefs about yourself during this time?

“I thought that having a good body was the only way people would like me. My self worth was completely wrapped up in my body image. ‘I am as worthy as the shape of my body.'”

  • When did your eating disorder behaviors begin to change?

“After graduating from college I didn’t have the time to workout 3x/day.I had a full time job.

Every day became a ‘mess-up day’

Over time it turned into less restriction, more binging, more purging.”

  • Describe what a “binging episode” is like?

“When you’re binging you feel like you’re in a dream- like you aren’t really there. You lose all control and all ability to feel. There were times I likely consumed over 10,000 calories in 30 minutes. As soon as you REALIZE what’s going on and what ALL you’ve eaten, you totally panic and go to purge. You never get rid of ALL the calories you binged though. It’s a vicious cycle.”

  • What is the name for this type of behavior?

“Bulimia.”

  • Was it fairly easy to keep your eating disorder secret?

“Absolutely. I hid it for eight years. I would keep stashes of ‘binge food’ so I could binge and purge without people noticing that huge amounts of food were gone.”

  • When did it reach a point where you decided to seek help?

“Eventually I went to a therapist because I was gaining so much weight and freaking out. I gained 40 pounds in 6 months. That was the only reason I ended up asking for help.”

  • Was seeing a therapist the only form of treatment you did?

“No. Shortly after starting with my therapist, we decided I’d need to start treatment at The Eating Recovery Center.”

  • How was your experience in treatment?

“Initially it was really hard. Almost everyone in the center had anorexia. They would get frustrated if I wouldn’t finish my meal because they didn’t understand why someone of my shape was struggling. There is a shame associated with Bulimia…It’s like your eating disorder is not valid if you don’t look a certain way.”

  • How are you doing now that you’ve completed treatment?

“Binging is very rare now- maybe once every 3/4 months. Purging is addictive though and much harder to get rid of. When you throw up it releases dopamine. It’s an instant anxiety relief when I’m overloaded.”

  • What are your feelings about your eating disorder now?

“It’s FREAKING HARD to get rid of! I have a lot of responsibility now. Recovery is a weird word to me… I don’t know if I’ll ever fully recover and be able to live without these food obsessive thoughts. It’s a process that requires daily maintenance.”

  • How did control play into your eating disorder?

“Binging is such an out of control experience. Once you realize how out of control you were while binging, you panic and want to take back control by purging. Bulimia is a constant battle of control with yourself. It got extremely out of control at one point and eventually led to my entire world coming out from beneath me. I’ll admit that it’s ‘freeing’ not being in that chaos anymore. I feel in control of my eating disorder now.”

  • What do you want people to know about Bulimia?

“It’s sad that there is a shame surrounding binge eating. People don’t look at it as a life threatening problem. Anorexics are typically forced into treatment because they are so thin. Bulimics have to find the courage to seek help because the warning signs just aren’t there. You can die from bulimia. Even if someone looks healthy they may be lacking nutrients. When you binge it’s typically all junk food. When you purge it releases nutrients. That can mess with your mineral levels among other complications. Throwing up your food is not a healthy behavior no matter what size you are.”

“I’ve learned that my emotions are what they are but they aren’t controlling me anymore. People with eating disorders try to suppress their emotions. You are aloud to feel the way you’re feeling. Accept your feelings for what they are. Try to weigh the consequences of “just doing it once” and be aware of how quickly it can spiral out of control. I said, ‘this is the LAST time!’ more times than I could possibly count. Re-establishing your individual identity apart from your eating disorder is really important. My eating disorder is named Nikki.”

(Read more about Nikki by clicking this link, Meet Nikki)

“Nikki isn’t putting the blame on something else. Nikki is silencing my own thoughts and separating them from my actions.”

You can find more information on eating disorders by clicking the link below.

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EATING DISORDER HELP

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