Written by: Donny M.
”You have gained a lot of weight, Donny. You don’t look good”. I looked up from my violin, having just rushed into her office, excited to play the newest piece I had learned in orchestra. I was crushed. Expecting to hear praise of my improving skill on the instrument, I heard only the criticism and disappointment in my mothers voice.
She had always been thin. Wheat grass shots, running at 5am, reading magazines on the elliptical every morning…. I had long since given up on ever having a body like my mothers. I thought I exercised enough, swimming once or twice a week. But ate whatever I wanted, when I wanted. A pint of Ben & Jerry’s was a regular after school treat, and a tray of frozen lasagna was warmly welcomed as a pre-dinner snack while watching tv. My weight ballooned and my self-esteem plummeted. I had long since given up on achieving the thin Ambercrombie model bodies of my high school classmates.
Until tenth grade, where a traumatic event sent me into a downward spiral. I stopped eating almost completely. I skipped breakfast and lunch, eating a normal portion of whatever dinner my mother served, but no more than that. I became moody, withdrawn, and extremely depressed. I was unpopular, never the girl that was asked out on a date… My mother caught wind of my eating disorder but I resisted psychiatric help and pretended that I was fine.
This continued on into my freshman year of college, where 20 pounds lighter, I felt that I could have a fresh start, a new life. I met a great guy and entered a healthy relationship. I gained 30 pounds of relationship weight, eating whatever he ate. Pancakes, french toast, and bagels for breakfast. Eggs with liberal amounts of cheese. Pizza and tuna melts for lunch. Chinese food or pizza for dinner. Snacking on ice cream, chips, and cookies.
And I didn’t even notice (or ignored it) until my clothes stopped fitting. I walked into a store and the only size dress that would fit me was a 12. One year prior, I was wearing a 6. I was floored. Almost instantly, my eating disordered habits came back. I stopped eating and started waking up at 5am before class to hop on the elliptical for 2 hours. I walked everywhere and subsisted on liberal amounts of diet coke and minimal amounts of Larabars. I broke up with my boyfriend when he caught wind of my eating disorder out of shame (and fear that he would try to stop me) and spent all my time at the gym.
The weight fell off. Now a size 4, I was on top of the world. But if I hadn’t exercised for at least 2 hours that day, and if I hadn’t eaten less than 700 calories total (and then exercised all of them off), it wasn’t a good day. I was failure. I entered an unhealthy relationship with a similarly fitness focused grad student, and the destructive cycle continued. I dropped classes and became a part-time student so that I could spend more time at the gym. I would alternate eating 3 green apples a day, or 3 Chobani yogurts a day. When that relationship ended poorly, I realized that I had hit rock bottom.
I walked into Student Counseling Services and asked for an appointment with a psychologist. I joined an eating disorder support group, and worked in close conjunction with an eating disorder specialist, nutritionist, and doctor. Months and months of tears, lost battles, fresh starts, and small victories followed, but slowly and surely, I started to get better. It was painful, grueling, and emotionally exhausting, but I kept on fighting.
I was eating 5-6 small (but square) meals a day, and working out an average of 3 days a week for 30-40 minutes (usually a fitness class offered by the university). When I started dating a great guy (now my fiancé) I was wary of the new relationship weight gain, but continued seeing my therapist at least once a month, and eating properly.
But I didn’t feel great. More often than not, I endured sever abdominal pain, bloating, and flatulence. After my boyfriend insisted that I see a doctor, I was diagnosed with not just lactose intolerance, but with celiac’s disease. I was floored. I loved bread, and dairy products too, and couldn’t imagine cutting them out completely.
My doctor mentioned that buying Lactaid was an option, but if I could handle it, he suggested cutting out all dairy and grain, and adopting a Paleo lifestyle to heal my gut. He told me to go buy a copy of The Paleo Solution and start absorbing it. I bought a copy off of Amazon that very night and haven’t looked back.
In the months since, I feel transformed. My body has never felt better. My weight is healthy (and stable). My hair has a wonderful shine to it, and my skin fairly glows. The acne that had previously plagued my back and chest has vanished. I have endless amounts of energy and my insomnia is gone. I workout at a local CrossFit box at least 3 times a week. I truly feel like a changed person.