The only thing I can see as a “starting factor” to my eating disorder is that I began taking birth control about the same time and started dealing with depression off and on. I have been battling with bulimia, bingeing and purging, since I was 19. Now, almost 32, I look back and wonder how this ever became a sickness, an addiction. I am doubtful that anyone that suffers with any form of addiction ever planned on it becoming a full-blown addiction.
To begin with, I would purge once in a while, not every day. Sometimes a few months would go by and it wouldn’t cross my mind. After I got married in 2002, I hit a terribly rough spot where I was bingeing and purging a few times a day. My face was constantly puffy, my back hurt all the time, my sleep patterns were totally erratic and I was constantly exhausted. My periods were irregular and the doctors kept switching my birth control. Gradually I kept gaining weight. (On a side note, I decided to stop taking the pill altogether.)
I thought that I could lose some weight if I did the “Wild Rose Detox”. I went to naturopaths and secretly hoped that they would put me on a restrictive diet that would help me lose weight and figure out what was “wrong” with me. I tried restricting calories and living on the vegetable soup diet or fat free yogurt and rice cakes. Nothing worked and my eating disorder spiraled deeper and deeper to the point where I would realize at the end of the day that all I did was continually eat and throw up. I would go to bed crying and wake up and start crying again. What a waste of my life!
After a few years of “experience” being bulimic, I started to realize the worst things for me were: Hormones….I went on fertility meds thinking we could get pregnant that way….holy, BIG mistake, the worst bout of bulimia and depression hit. I vowed to never touch anything that would affect my hormones, and my brain, that way again, processed cereals, toast with honey or jam or, well, toast in general, and peanut butter. Even fruit, if I had 1 apple, peach, banana, whatever, I would have at least 4 in one sitting. It’s nothing for me to plow through a “club pack” of cereal in 2 days, or a 10-pound watermelon in the same amount of time. Don’t even start with me about fresh baking….or stale baking for that matter. It didn’t even matter if I liked the taste of what I was eating or if I enjoyed anything about it. I just ate ‘til I was beyond full, painfully so, but still craving more, then I would purge and start
I had times where I would have muscle spasms for days, my heartburn was so bad I swore I was turning into a dragon (my husband probably thought that too because I was a snappy, miserable beast), swollen lymph nodes, sweating hot flashes, and blind spots of light would flash in my eyes “for some strange reason”. My teeth have horrible acid-wear and it’s only a matter of time, I’m sure, ‘til they start to cost me a fortune. I had “weird things wrong that I didn’t understand” because I lied and covered up what I was doing, these were just “unexplained health issues”. I was, and am still, ashamed and embarrassed.
In 2008 I started a new journey, so to speak, in bodybuilding. Since I was a kid I always remember being in awe of anyone with muscles. I was never into athletics and “working out” always meant taking step aerobics and bodyweight group classes 3 times a week. I hadn’t the slightest clue where to start but I met a former National competitor at my gym and he said he would help me, gave me a workout program and eating plan. This was more of what I considered an “old-school” regime, but it worked;
Traditional bodybuilding weight routines, at least 30 minutes of cardio 6 days a week, and a high carb, very low fat meal plan, calories in/calories out. I was able to stick to the eating quite well most of the time but as time went on I started to binge and purge every few days, usually just once at night. Overall I thought I had found my “cure”.
After my first 2 shows (only one week apart), I started to “fall apart” so to speak. I was afraid of fat. I was still living on oatmeal and egg whites, chicken breast, fat free yogurt, rice cakes, skim milk, and Splenda. My sleep fell to shit again and my muscle and strength gains came to a screeching halt. Not only that, I was getting my “old shape” back with back fat, love handles, and bingo wings.
Then, through my cousin, I met an Olympic coach who specialized in nutrition and sports therapy. He asked me what I was eating and he was in total shock that I could even gain muscle as a natural bodybuilder eating as little as I was eating and what I was eating. He did a few tests for me and found I was very estrogen dominant, my cortisol was through the roof, my testosterone was low, my androgens were low, and my insulin was too high. He suggested I get on a high fat, high protein, low carb diet as soon as possible if I was serious about competing.
I was terrified but I did what he said. I ate steaks, which I didn’t enjoy the taste of the fat on at first, chicken wings, dressings on my salads, whole eggs…oh my gosh, no! I ate tons of vegetables, heavy cream in my coffee, cheese, cheese, and more cheese. I kept cereals out of my house, and peanut butter, any of my “trigger foods”. My husband still had his bread for sandwiches though, and chips, cookies, etc., which I would then get into from time to time…and regret it…and purge…and feel like shit all over again. Things were not perfect but they were better and I knew it had something to do with avoiding carbohydrate foods and processed things. Low-carb eating gave me the gains I needed and, through modification of fat and calorie intake, removing dairy and all processed foods, of course, in contest preparation, took me to a 3rd place finish in lightweight bodybuilding, at Canadian Nationals in
I decided to tell my husband everything. It did not go well. He just didn’t know how to take it and I had been lying for years. But then we were okay, he said he was scared and that’s why he reacted the way he did. Then I started seeing a psychologist. He was really good for me and I liked the fact that he said if my new style of eating was working then I must have figured out how to help myself in that manner and just had to dig to find the underlying reason it started. I should have stayed with him but after some time he referred me to a woman who “specializes” in eating disorders.
The fun begins….I need to find other things to do than eat. I need to stop being “afraid of carbs”. I need to eat “normally”. I need to make an “activity box” to stay busy. I have to buy a special cookbook with “meals that meet Canada Food Guide guidelines”. Meals were to be from 3 food groups and snacks from 2 food groups. So if my “snack” was (get this…) “a handful of chips and a pickle” that’s okay. OH MY GOD!!!! WHAT??
The “medical community” has NOT failed us?
If limiting carbohydrates and eating a ton of fat has completely turned around my mood, balanced my hormones, cleared my skin, made me happier, improved my cholesterol, why is it “bad”?
The symptoms of the eating disorder only got worse around the visits with this psychologist. I disliked her very much and was very angry. The last straw was when she suggested I go on the pill for 3 months at a time, or use the patch, so I only get a period once every 3 months, since that’s when I have the hardest time dealing with food; I refuse to go back to that “professional”.
My friend, Jenn, who worked at my gym, suggested I check out Robb Wolf and Mark’s Daily Apple. She listened to me and believed what I “discovered” about myself and my eating habits and said that Paleo could help me even further by eliminating artificial and inflammatory foods from my diet. Honestly, I know it will be my answer.
I say “will be” because I have had a very hard time getting rid of artificial sweeteners, kicking my dairy habit, and getting to bed on time. My sweetener is in my coffee, as is my cream, and I still use artificially sweetened whey protein powder. Cheese is always in my fridge. As long as I stick to strict Paleo though, I have no cravings, I don’t get hungry, I feel satisfied, I sleep better, I am happy and positive, I think clearly, my body stays lean without thinking about it, I have energy for workouts and a hard physical job, the list goes on and on. Best of all, I don’t binge and purge and constantly obsess about food. The “magic” of the low-carbohydrate eating style does just as Stuart, the Olympic coach I talked to, said it would; I gain muscle quite quickly, I have a lean midsection, no bingo wings, far less back fat, it’s amazing, and no calorie counting.
Fruit and I still do not get along. I have a very hard time limiting it…think “entire bag of grapes, then 3 bananas, then more if it’s available”. Then I crave anything sweet for days. I have to be very careful with baking I make from coconut or almond flour, putting the brakes on nut consumption, and nut butters, there’s no way I can have honey in the house. For the past month I have been dealing with the occasional binge eating (often including things like yogurt or bread even) but have avoided purging. Boo for weight gain, yay for huge accomplishments otherwise. Somehow I am learning to forgive myself or not dwell on the negatives of over-eating so much.
This sounds like 100% strict compliance is needed for me to fully recover, and thanks to the accountability I now owe everyone, and myself, I will start. Brain chemistry? Hormones? What is it that the food so affects that I “go crazy” and can’t control myself when I eat “foods” that we were never designed to eat? My (former) psychologist and my doctor both deny that there is any correlation between what I eat and how I respond to it, in terms of binge-purge cycles. It MUST be in my head because I am “afraid of carbs”.
I just want to know if anyone has had a similar response to changing their eating and lifestyle patterns. What do you find is the most help when it comes to staying “on-track”? I also want to let you know (this sounds so clichéd) that you are not alone, you should not hide, no matter how ashamed you are, talk to someone, and do your own research if the medical community leaves you feeling like it is your fault. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be happy, healthy, and look after yourself the best you can. Stand up for what you believe.
There is so much more I want to say but I will leave it at this and thank Robb for all of his work he does and for sharing his knowledge with everyone, inspiring me, and improving the health of so many people.