Lauren’s Victory Over Her Eating Disorder
Written by: Lauryn Lax
The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf.
Hmm..this looks interesting.
It doesn’t have the word “diet” on it…but Solution?
And so about a year ago, I picked up Robb Wolf’s bestseller.
It is important to note, prior to my encounter with this publication in Barnes & Noble, I had read (and lived off) nearly every diet book and philosophy under the sun since I was 10-years old.
The “cut back on sodas, chips and cookies” diet.
The low-fat, no fat-diet.
The eat-only-lowfat breads diet.
The standard “healthy-American-diet-kick” diet (Special K, 100 calorie packs, Diet Cokes and Crystal Light, Snackwells, Nutrigrain bars, Teddy Grahams, Yoplait yogurt, Lean Cuisines).
The “eat 3 apples per day diet.”
The South Beach diet.
The Zone diet.
The 3-turkey-patties-and-steamed-vegetables diet.
The whey-protein diet.
I was always on a diet.
Four score and seven years ago…it all started the summer after my 4th grade year, when I decided my goal for my big upcoming middle-school launch was to be “pretty, popular, and skinny.”
I wanted all the boys to like me, and all the other little girls to be me. I wanted to be the “Queen Bee” and weigh 69-pounds like Shea Gibbs, the most popular girl in school at the time.
I realized I was not “everything” I wanted to be after one day at recess when Shea asked me how much I weighed. Even though I was only a healthy, average 80-pounds, I thought I was fat in comparison to the “it” girl.
And so began what would turn out to be a 14-year battle with an eating disorder.
Before I knew it, the eating disorder took hold of my mind and life, and thus began the fight for my life–and battle in my mind.
For those 14 long years, I struggled deeply with anorexia, and then orthorexia.
In and out of hospitals, treatment centers, feeding tubes, IV fluids, therapist offices, nutritionists. The works.
My parents first caught on that something was “up” the winter of my 5th grade year—about 6-months into my restrictive diet and building obsession with working out (running laps at 10 pm at night in my neighborhood, doing squats in the shower, calf raises on the stair case, running everywhere I went).
They took me to my pediatrician as they had noticed my hair had started falling out, I had developed a rash on my legs (malnourishment side effect), lost about 10 pounds and nearly passed out once or twice at home.
Mono. Anemia. The flu.
The doc ran blood tests…anemic for sure (low iron count).
However, he referred me to a local therapist for some clarification if there was anything else going on, and she diagnosed me with some disease I had never heard of before (except of on an infomercial for a Karen Carpenter CD a few years earlier, when my father had mentioned she died from starving herself):
Treatment first ensued with weekly visits to an eating disorder specialist, counselor, Registered Dietitian and group therapy…all of which didn’t help much at all.
About a month later, I was hospitalized with a heart rate in the 40s and weight of 70-pounds—one pound above my “ideal” goal weight.
“You could die from this sweetie,” my doctor said, but I didn’t believe it.
All I wanted to be was thin, pretty and popular. Why were they trying to take my goals away from me?
In the hospital, I was placed on 24-hours of bed rest and only allowed to watch TV, see my family, make one 15-minute phone call or take a shower, ONLY if I ate all my food I was served.
The dietitian prescribed a steady diet of Poptarts and bagels with jelly for breakfast, chicken nuggets, French fries and Coca Cola for lunch, and spaghetti with meatsauce, buttered bread and canned green beans for dinner. Along with Teddy Grahams, Fig Newtons, Oreos, peanut butter crackers, fruited yogurt and juice for snacks.
“Good, hearty” nourishment.
I spent about 4-weeks in the hospital that first time, and about 10-pounds and food-in-my-system later…I was better, right?
Low and behold, that was only the beginning of what would be a battle for true health versus eating disorder clinical recovery health.
In and out, in and out of treatment.
Up and down, up and down, my weight and health continued to cycle as well.
In treatment, to be forced to gain weight by overweight and/or out of shape clinicians, on foods that I questioned enjoying and left me feeling awful both inside and outside my body…
Then, out of treatment, only to go running back to my “old ways” out of fear and hatred about the treatment my body had been put through.
My parents surprisedme at the beginning of my 7th grade year, and sent me to treatment at Remuda Ranch in Arizona for two months for my first inpatient facility experience.
Same story, different place.
Buttered bran muffins. Apple crisp and peach cobbler.Little Debbie snack cakes and Twinkies. Ice cream and granola bars for snacks. Turkey and double-Swiss cheese sandwiches with chips for lunch. Sausage pizza or seafood pasta Alfredo for dinner.
I felt sick, bloated, nauseous, tired, sad, throughout that whole treatment.
The highlights were the 15-minute walk we got twice per week and horseback riding once per week around barrels in the center of the treatment campus.
I made another trip back to Remudathe following spring for three months after relapsing right after getting out, as well as more hospitalizations and tube-feedings at home in the next two or three years following that.
Then, come age 16, I was at the “end of my rope” and a family friend suggested I meet a personal trainer who he said had changed his life.
My parents were reluctant to letting me try anything related to exercise, but were also at the “end of their rope.”
So I started weight training with the trainer three days per week, then progressing to five, and not only started feeling better, but started eating better.
My trainer came from a body-building and boxing background, and he taught me basic gym techniques and workouts (supersets, squats, deadlifts, presses), as well as proper eating with 5-6 small whole foods meals per day.
No more Slim Fast shakes or Boosts, Nutrigrain bars or Teddy Grahams for me.
Gradually I began to gain healthy weight and muscle and went from 85-pounds to 110-pounds over the course of about 8-months—and felt great!
I’d like to say it was a happy ending from there…but low and behold, that little obsessive eating disorder voice was still tucked away in there—longing to be a perfectionist, still not 100% accepting of me.
I moved to New York the summer before my senior year of highschool to study journalism at Columbia University—and made it my goal to be the “fittest I had ever been” that summer while away from my trainer, my home gym, my healthy food (surrounded by gross college dorm food), and also immersed in New York City “culture” (a lot of thin, beautiful model-like girls around me at Columbia).
I lived off canned protein drinks and dry roasted unsalted peanuts that summer, and began working out 3-4 hours per day.
By the end of the summer, I was down 10-pounds, and more than that, had developed a new dependence and coping mechanism to feeling achievement and allowing myself to eat: Training—a lot.
Chained to Stairmasters, treadmills, and weights for hours on end…the cycle continued for about a year until the first 3-weeks of my college experience at the University of Texas-Austin.
After going through sorority rush and being cut from every sorority (I was very thin and flat-out scary sick), I fell on my face…
Forced to re-enter treatment by an eating disorder specialist doc after my first appointment with him—heart rate in the 40s, weight in the low 80s.
Treatment ensued for the third time inpatient…and same story, different place.
An overweight Russian nutritionist, who told me she wanted to “plump me up and give me big breasts like hers”, sitting around on couches and bean bags in therapy and groups for hours on end, and being forced to eat food delivered from a catering truck. Breakfast cereals, bagels and soy-protein shakes for breakfasts. Slimy salmon, pasta, wraps and sandwiches, gelato and cakes, macaroni and cheese. Yogurt covered raisins, prunes, yogurt, gummy bears, Oreos for snacks. I was told I was disordered when I requested almonds and hard boiled eggs from the snack list, or that I wanted to learn how to make physical activity a part of my life in a healthy way.
Three months into it, I had put on about 25-pounds, feeling bloated and inflamed yet again.
Skin breakouts. Nausea. Sluggish. Poor digestion. And still obsessed with overexercise and under-eating—I wanted anything but what that treatment was teaching me.
I held on and maintained subpar health through the remainder of my college years, although I was dying on the inside.
Unhappy. Wanting more out of life. Inspired by those truly living healthy lives.
Which leads me to graduate school in the fall of 2010 after graduating from UT the prior spring with a degree in broadcast journalism.
I decided, I wanted to make it a life-goal, a career goal to help girls recover from their eating disorders—and to improve the flawed treatment system for helping girls do so.
Up to 50% of girls who enter treatment NEVER recover—and many professionals, families and centers scratch their heads and wonder why?
Many of the treatment centers out there operate from the same food philosophies and treatment structures.
Even though I was not on top of my own “A-game” yet, I definitely wanted to help girls to beat ED.
I entered Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. to pursue my doctorate in occupational therapy.
Low and behold, I hit rock-bottom after my first year.
The stress of school, student loans, and my lingering already poor health, ate away at me-literally-and I whittled down to a mere 79-pounds.
Out of control, ED almost won. Almost won my life.
Six-hours of workouts dealing with stress. Eating only turkey patties shipped in from my hometown Little Rock, Ark. from the only place I would eat from. Little fuel. Dead tired. I was hanging on by a thread, barely functioning. I had low self-confidence and wanted to be well—truly well—so badly, but really didn’t know how to do it. Didn’t know what recovery and health could really look like after such a skewed view from the treatments and hospitals I had been in and out of.
A group of about 6 fellow gym goers intervened in my life last August 2011, at 4 am when I was about to go inside for my first 2 ½ hour workout for the day at the YMCA.
They said, “Lauryn we can’t keep watching you do this to yourself” and they drove me to Vanderbilt Hospital.
Hospitalized with a feeding tube, IV fluids and heart monitors, I wondered just why—just why—my life had brought me back down this road again.
And then, on my bedside in the hospital, I re-read the book I had picked up in Barnes and Noble—just months before.
The Paleo Solution.
And determined to make a change. To pray about a change.And to fight for that change.
While I was forced to enter treatment once again by the doctors…I knew I had a knowledge I had never had before—a knowledge on how to truly take care, love and accept my body when I got out of treatment—no matter what foods they forced me to eat, non-movement they didn’t allow me to do, or how long I spent in treatment.
I had a secret I had never had before to re-writing history: The Paleo Solution.
Eating real, whole, God-given-to-the-earth foods, plenty of fats, meats, fresh produce. Resting my body well. Working out hard, but appropriately.
Treatment was tough—spent a total of 8 ½ months in treatment that time around.
Endured a lot of takeout pizza nights, Egg McMuffin biscuit sandwich breakfasts, Eggo waffles, peanut butter Graham crackers, pancakes with syrup, 9 cheese slices per day some days (I am lactose intolerant), soy protein shakes, ice cream, Chinese food takeout, pasta 2-3 nights per week, bagels every Wednesday, and on and on…
But coming out, no matter how awful or awkward I felt in my body, I was determined to NEVER EVER go back down that old road again.
Rewrite history I did, thanks to Robb Wolf’s inspiration and the CrossFit community I found post-treatment.
Living and leading a CrossFit lifestyle, and nourishing my body well with real foods, I radiate, I glow and am a new person, from the inside out.
I was blessed upon leaving to treatment to have met Games’ competitor Guido Trinidad and his wife Virginia, who invited me to come to work with them at their box Peak 360.
I recently got my Level 1 CrossFit certification, and a hope and goal of mine is to inspire and help others—particularly women—find true health, healing and happiness through self-care, exercise and nutrition.
I am currently in the debate of what to do now—whether go back to grad school, or launch my career full on now.
I know if there is one thing I know for sure—it’s that I want to change the way treatment is done and introduce girls struggling with eating disorders to the “secret” I found for leading a healthy lifestyle.
I finally have found a lifestyle that works for me, makes sense, and truly represents recovery—freedom from calorie counting, exchange counting, label memorizing, weight obsession, overtraining—freedom to LIVE!
Living for today.
If you like, you can follow my journey I have kept from the beginning of this last treatment in Miami, FL up until the present on my blog: