It’s not something I aspired to. I didn’t get out of bed one morning and decide, yeah, today’s the day this is going down. It just happened – slowly, progressively – happened. It’s consumed 23 years of my life. It’s all I know. It’s who I am.
My name is Amy, and I’m Anorexic.
Yep, there it is. My issues with food and exercise started when I was 11 years old. I’ve pretty much done it all – hidden food, thrown it away, thrown it up, exercised it away – and this is just the PG-13 stuff. I’ve been hospitalized, through outpatient programs, in therapy and on medication. I’ve been deathly thin and at other times at a healthy weight, but one thing that’s been constant is the never-ending battle in my mind and my mental struggle with food, weight, exercise and body image. I’m not going to go into major details here and now, but I will be talking about all of this ‘stuff’ at Paleo (f)x in April and I’m working on a book. Right now I’ve been seeing an awesome doctor since the end of August, and for the first time in 23 years, I’m truly getting HEALTHY – not just body, but also mind and spirit.
Why am I ‘coming out’ about all of this now? Well, it hasn’t been a secret – my history with food is out there. I’ve been around the block a couple of times – through all my ‘recovery’ missions though, the thoughts and the obsession never truly went away. There were always rules around food – how much, what types, when I could eat – and exercise was mandatory. These behaviors and habits were my safeties, my coping mechanisms, the only things in my life that I could control – I didn’t know what to do without them. Mine isn’t an isolated case. Every day, I work with, talk to and see people struggling with food – some of them recognize it and others are in a place of denial, searching for any possible explanation for why they’re in the situation they’re in and most of them are looking for a simple solution. There are stories on the internet about people that have been ‘cured’ of eating disorders, food addiction, binge cycles, etc. just by switching to a Paleo, vegan, ketogenic, bodybuilding, or other diet types – unfortunately, there is no style of eating or food elimination that can change, take away or heal the ‘junk’ behind the behaviors. What effectively happens is one obsession, one coping mechanism, is simply traded for another. In my case, Paleo was a convenient way to JUSTIFY restriction. I entered the eating disorder world with an intense fear of fat, a fear that didn’t go away with Paleo – it let up a little but it also villainized many of the foods that were once ‘safe’ to me. Now carbs, dairy, beans, grains, and fat were evil and my list kept getting longer.
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t catch this when it was happening and I’ve asked myself that more times than I care to think about. The reality is that when you’re into something – like really into it, there is nothing else. There’s no outside the box. The eating/exercise behavior or coping mechanism is ALL THAT MATTERS. You start believing the lies it tells you – and with 100% honesty, I can say that I was truly convinced that there was something physically wrong with me and that was the reason for my low weight and for how I was feeling. The last thought that crossed my mind was that it was my eating disorder – AGAIN. I spent thousands of dollars on a functional medicine doctor and tests to FIND something, anything, wrong with me. I was scared, but I was trapped and I didn’t know how to stop it. I knew my workouts were out of control, I knew I was losing weight – but I was eating, that’s how I justified it to myself. All of the other times I had done this, I was starving myself. It wasn’t like that this time. My eating disordered mind was smart – a seasoned pro at manipulating my food and exercise so that it could stay in control. There were times during a workout, lying in bed at night, during the day – that I would wish something would happen – I would get sick or injure myself badly enough to have to quit doing what I was doing. I wanted and needed someone to tell me that I could STOP.
I know that there are a lot of you reading this that can relate to this on some level. Even though it may not look like you’re struggling on the outside – it’s still there. You too are trapped in a living hell, consumed by food restriction, binges, overeating, food or exercise addiction, food obsession and control, a fixation on a certain body weight or body fat percentage – the label isn’t important, stopping the cycle is. Know that it is OKAY to STOP – and that the cure doesn’t lie in more restriction.
Every day I get to help others that are fighting food battles and seeing/working with so many people/clients struggling with food/exercise issues hurts my heart. I get it. I know what it’s like to be ‘in the trenches’ and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. There are some folks out there that have questioned my ability to do my job based on my history, but as my doctor put it, “Who better to help people with food issues, than someone that has food issues.” If you haven’t been through it how can you help someone that’s in it? This stuff is ingrained in me and I can often identify it in others just by glancing at simple one page questionnaire. I have turned away clients that are insistent on starting a ketogenic diet, but tell me that they have issues with binges when they try to go from a normal diet to Paleo. I have clients that came to me looking for answers in lab results, maybe it’s a thyroid thing, a hormone thing, a gut thing; maybe the autoimmune protocol and a crap ton of supplements will take care of it. Often the answers that I give them aren’t the ones they want to hear – but I refuse to feed the cycle and will do everything I can to give them their lives back. I love my job, my past is not a secret – it is something I share with many of my clients, none of them have deemed me incompetent, or have stopped working with me because of it; in fact, most of them have thanked me for understanding and for giving them permission to STOP. I am right now, giving you, this same permission. It’s okay to STOP, it’s okay to cry (I’m crying, right now, as I type this), it’s okay to feel, and you are NOT ALONE. I’m in the trenches with you – it may seem like a lost battle, but keep fighting – we’re going to win the war.
There is so much more to this story – it’s my life, it’s not pretty, it’s far from perfect, but it’s made me the person that I am today. We all have a story, one that has led us to where we are now – but the ending is still waiting to be written. I am determined to make my ending happy and yours can be happy too. If you’re trapped, reach out, there is help, you’re not alone and there are people that get it. I get it.
If this story bored you to tears, stop reading now; but, if you’d like to hear more, I will be speaking at Paleo f(x), April, 11-13th about my experience and about our crazy, complex relationships with food. I am also writing a book with the gory details and if it gets picked up by a publisher, you’ll hear the rest of the story.
Noelle @ Coconuts & Kettlebells says
Thank you for “coming out” and telling your story to the thousands of women who need it. I can relate to a number of things you expressed – and it’s true, it’s something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. For the longest time, I was so ashamed of the cycles I was on, and the self-hatred was all consuming. I wanted so badly to SCREAM out for help, but I was terrified to tell anyone who I “really” was. I know there are so many who will read this and find it so encouraging! I’m like many women who started Paleo as the next diet plan – but eventually found ultimate neurotic peace for the first time in my adult life by eating nourishing foods. Hopefully your Paleo F(x) talk will be published online so it can get out to the masses! Thanks Amy.
Amy Kubal says
Noelle, thank you so much and I am SO happy to hear that you’ve escaped the hell that is the ED life. Stay strong and we’re gonna win the war!! 🙂
Well done! This is a truly courageous and loving move that has inspired me and will help countless others who have been in the same boat, as well. I had worried that you might be struggling from the podcast and your photos, but your candid revelation and insights here give me hope that you (and I) can attain real health.
You are the strongest woman I know, Amy! If anyone deserves to find health, you do!
A guy who relates says
Amy, kudos. I’m a guy who had a very rough stretch with binging and bulimia. It was the outgrowth of a very “healthy” series of lifestyle changes that got me from morbid obesity to (what I now recognize as) good health, but I was never as thin or built as I wanted. After some time in an outpatient program, I’ve stayed away from the worst parts of my own eating disorder. But being more paleo has been scary – from fear of fat, to worry that I was “justifying” another set of unhealthy restrictions, etc …
Thank you for being candid. I look forward to learning more. Stay strong and healthy.
I have battled bulimia off and on for 3-5 years. I also am a male and I find it difficult to fully admit my problem. Thank you for courageously commenting.
Melissa Hartwig says
We are so, so proud of you. I know how hard this can be, especially when you are in the public light. You have no idea how many people you will inspire and how many you will help by sharing of yourself and your story so freely. We love you, and support you, and are so glad to see you happy and healthy.
Danielle Vallee says
Amy! You are amazing! I knew that when you counselled me last summer and I’m as sure of it now as ever. You are courageous and strong and kind and smart. And oh yeah, you’re funny as fuck, too.
Sending you big big hugs from Montreal! You got this!!! THANK YOU for sharing (and all you do)!
P.S. I had my own “coming out” recently too… complete with unicorns flying over rainbows! 😉
Thanks so much for writing this, I know/relate exactly to the feelings you describe. I came to Paleo several years into “recovery,” initially it was incredibly freeing to go from a mentality of being crippled by food, any food, to having this guideline where “I can do anything that fits in here and it’s okay! I can know it’s healthy!”
Unfortunately, I’d gained a lot of weight throughout recovery, over time not seeing the weight loss purely from paleo eating meant increasing restriction (start tracking/cutting calories, cut out fruit or nuts, suggestions go on and on), that eventually reached a point so far from where I started or the spirit of the thing, that when trying to relax myself to be reasonable/balanced, just putting teriyaki on my chicken & veg resulted in a complete meltdown of guilt and shame.
It really sucks. Even after moving beyond the immediate physical issues, no matter what you do the mental issues are still there lurking, you are really brave to share that vulnerability with others who may (or may not) struggle with the same.
Thank you for sharing and I bet the rest will be THE BEST!
So happy that you are getting the help you need to get better. Thank you for being brave and sharing.
Love you, girl.
Corben Thomas says
Congrats Amy, I know that was hard. We’ve spent some time discussing various aspects of eating disorders and how exclusionary diets perpetuate them. You’re on the road to freedom and happiness now. Remember, keep those eyes forward so you can high step any potential road blocks. The next round of Lick Ice Cream is on me.
Amy B. says
Thanks for being human, Amy — and for admitting it! 😉 I don’t have the eating disorder background you do, but I’ve certainly fought my own battles with food. Now that I’m a nutritionist, myself, sometimes I feel like a fraud because I’m not always perfect and I still have a couple of demons on my shoulders. But I try to keep in mind that someone who can empathize with clients is likely a better practitioner than someone who’s always spot-on and can’t relate to how difficult some of the emotional issues surrounding food are.
You’re very brave to be so open about this, especially since you have such influence in the community. I bet you’ve helped a lot of people ease up on themselves today just by admitting this “out loud” in such a public way, and showing us that even the people we try to emulate and who we think have all the answers are as human as the rest of us, with all the weaknesses, fears, struggles, beauty and wisdom that comes with it.
Love your strength in posting this Amy! I can relate to every word and am so proud of all you’ve accomplished!
Thank you so much for bringing attention to this subject. As a recovering anorexic myself I can completely relate to everything you’re saying. As you also mention, its not about reaching a certain or the like, its about being happy with your body and being able to enjoy life without feeling guilty all the time – I’m not at all there yet despite gaining some of my weight back. Its difficult not to exercise everyday when you’ve been used to that for such a long period even though I felt utterly miserable and fatigued.
Anyway, I’m really looking forward to hearing your talk at Paleo FX!
Christi Lynn says
Thank you so much for this! Wish I could hear you speak at Paleo f(x)! Will definitely plan to get your book……I relate to too much of this post but am holding onto what you said…..but the ending is still waiting to be written…..
Jennifer Wyatt says
Thank you, thank you, thank you (as I sit here bawling my eyes out)! I am also in the constant cycle of battling/recovering, and probably always will be, from life with various eating disorders, most currently body image obsession. I can’t wait to hear your talk at Pfx, though I certainly hope you’ll be handing out tissues. You are an inspiration, and one of the reasons that I decided to start my pursuit of my RD (at the young age of 37). Thank you for your honesty, your understanding, your inspiration, and for all that you do in this world!
An aspiring health coach says
Having joined the Paleo community only a few months ago, I am discovering that there are many extremely intelligent and thoughtful people involved in it and I count you amongst that group. I truly enjoy your blog posts on this site, which are always written with a sense of warmth and wit.
I admire you for doing such a courageous thing in sharing your story and struggles publicly. I am halfway through my program to become a health coach and I know that sharing my own humanness is what’s really going to make me a success in the field; that’s how I will connect with my clients. Obviously, you are doing the same. In this world, it makes a huge difference to feel that you’re not alone and receiving support is key.
I wish you all the best on your journey back to health.
Amy-It seems empty to say “thank you for the great blog post” in comments, but I mean it. My little twist on your tale is (in case anyone cares:)) I’m 5’9″, athletic and weigh 175 pounds–and I started out thinking I was okay because I was the strongest and fastest kid in school. But I also have a lifetime of people telling me I’m too big (parents, volleyball coach, boyfriends, anyone who ever saw me step on a scale). When I was in the Army the weight requirement for a woman my age and height was 163 (though it looks like these days it’s been increased by 10 pounds). 163 is very light for me, and even with a brutal regime of starvation and exercise I only made that weight once.
I spent the next ten years spending craploads of money trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Nobody every said “well, the screwy blood sugar, total cholesterol of 113, heart rate of 35 and failing thyroid might possibly be because you’re starving”.
Ahhh-I hate it when I do these confessional type comment posts; see how you got to me there? Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing. I know how incredibly hard it can be to open up about these sorts of things, especially being a health professional who is supposed to have food matters “under control”. I myself have pushed myself with calorie restriction and over-exercising to the point that I am now working through hypothalamic amenorrhea in order to become fertile and start a family. When I first spoke about this publicly, I felt unbelievably vulnerable and thought “how could anyone trust a health professional who has health problems herself?”. To my surprise, I actually received a lot of support and people thanking me for writing about it. Many girls contacted me who also had HA and said they took comfort in reading my posts.
Know that you speaking publicly about this is going to help so many people in a similar situation and maybe prevent others from heading down this road themselves. From the bottom of my heart, I truly thank you and wish you all the best. xx
Amy Kubal says
Thank you so much for the reassurance. 🙂
Good for you Amy! You are very brave for admitting this to yourself and coming out like this. You could have easily let this going on for much longer but you did not. Be proud of that. You are so intelligent and funny, and you deserve to be healthy so that you can keep doing the important work that you do. You can’t give up on yourself; you can only move forward. We all have regrets in life and that is all any of us can really do. We need to forgive ourselves and move on. Good luck with your recovery!
Bret Schultz says
Amy, thanks for posting. I have 3 daughters being raised in our culture’s confusing body image/food info environment, and although food issues have not been my thing, so many of us can insert our thing in the truth you have acknowledged: “You’re probably wondering why I didn’t catch this when it was happening and I’ve asked myself that more times than I care to think about. The reality is that when you’re into something – like really into it, there is nothing else. There’s no outside the box.” Cannot wait for your book!
Kudos, Amy! So many people need you not only for your knowledge but also your experience and compassion, and tough love if need be. I feel like this is the start of something big for us within the paleo-inspired eating community and across all ways of eating actually. Makes me want to go to Paleofx this year too, there are gonna be some great conversations ❤️
Praveen elango says
thanks for sharing your story, Amy! it made me tear because I can relate to your struggles. I hid and threw away food as a kid and lost so much of my health and vitality to vlc paleo that I began to fear for my life. it is so sad that eating disorders have become so socially accepted and often go commended, as I have found from personal experience. I admire your honesty and strength, and wish you all the best!
Brad Dieter says
This is incredible. You have been one of the people in our field I admire the most as a person and a professional. We are so lucky to have your voice and hearing your story makes that voice even more powerful! You are a rockstar!
Amy Kubal says
Brad, thank you so much – I am flattered. And, you are pretty darn awesome yourself! 🙂
Melissa Preston (Goldner) says
This is great that you did this. I have wondered from time to time how you were/ are doing with your eating disorder. Do you remember sitting in Mary Harris’ class talking about how “we don’t eat candy”. I too went through my own recovery after finally escaping the perfectionism of the CSU nutrition program. I recovered around 25 years old, went back to school to get my masters in counseling, and now combine the two degrees to help people with eating disorders. I agree with you- my clients often tell me that they feel more comfortable telling me their stories because they know I went through it and I get it. I am so glad you are getting help and really feel as though recovery is happening. You are in a rare position in that you have alot of fame with your career, and have the potential to reach thousands of people with your message. I envy that! If you are ever in Denver and would like to catch up find me on fb 🙂 Keep going with finding your authentic voice and speaking the truth about this horrible illness. I feel it is my mission in life to help others with it. Sorry for the long rant.
Amy Kubal says
Thank you so much for the comment. Let’s save as many people as we can from the hell that we lived. There is hope!! I’m going to send you an email so we can actually talk. 🙂
I literally said these words to my therapist at least 100x in the last month….
“I spent thousands of dollars on a functional medicine doctor and tests to FIND something, anything, wrong with me. I was scared, but I was trapped and I didn’t know how to stop it. I knew my workouts were out of control, I knew I was losing weight – but I was eating, that’s how I justified it to myself. All of the other times I had done this, I was starving myself. It wasn’t like that this time. My eating disordered mind was smart – a seasoned pro at manipulating my food and exercise so that it could stay in control. There were times during a workout, lying in bed at night, during the day – that I would wish something would happen – I would get sick or injure myself badly enough to have to quit doing what I was doing. I wanted and needed someone to tell me that I could STOP.”
SOMEONE STOP ME PLEASE… well, I’m going to get someone to stop me… MYSELF… headed to Eating Recovery Center in Denver, CO… would love to hear from you or anyone who has been there….
Amy, I was a student of yours a few years back and always wondered about you. I randomly thought about you and looked you up to see how you were doing (creepy, I know! Lol) but you were such a wonderful teacher and taught me so so much about nutrition which I am passionate about!! We all have stuff and I never would judge you! You were a memorable person in my education and I’m so glad you are getting better!! And sorry if this is really random and you probably don’t even remember me!
I suffered needlessly from an eating disorder for years, in part, because my true dietary needs were not deemed appropriate for a female. I always craved animal protein, but was encouraged to carbo load as an endurance athlete. This left me filling ill and lethargic before races and during practice. I also did not enjoy being forced to eat meals in a scheduled fashion, i.e. three meals a day. My brother, who is not an athlete, was allowed to eat whatever he wanted because he was a boy. When my body screamed for protein I was shut down by numerous coaches, dietitians, and doctors. Some even went so far as to suggest that I must have too much testosterone which was causing me to desire animal protein and “overdevelop” muscle. My craving for meat was considered unbefitting for a female and I’m still angered by those who discouraged the consumption of nutrients my body needed due to sexism. I’m technically on a “Paleo” diet, but in truth I came to this way of life by listening to my body rather than reading about it first. It is only now that I finally understand that my intuition about how and what to eat was RIGHT for me. If I’d been treated like a human being from the beginning I could have avoided a lot of pain, confusion, and injury.
Women are people too and we deserve meat! Paleo is not just for the boys…
Hi Amy. I was definately moved by your story I read via Rob Wolff’s website. I have a similar and interesting story to share w/you if you would like to hear it. I recently did have a tragedy in my life that did force me to “stop exercising”. Please email me if you would like to hear details.
Best to you!!
Ok….I just want to say I love you….and am in complete admiration of your puissance/power….in face of this horrible malady….I am an eleven year “veteran”…desperate to “get out”….and your words …and humor touch me more than you could ever know….Thank you for this….From across the “pond” in France….Bisous…Donna
Thank you for this. It was extremely brave and well said. I am a male who went from 350 pounds to 175 lbs. this made me happy right? I my dreams realized. Unfortunately, it led to a fear of relapse, food restriction, periods of bulimia and unreasonable goals like sub 10 percent body fat, getting a six pack, etc. I find your article so powerful and it hits home for me. Thank your courage and thoughtfulness.
Daniela Morán. says
Dear Amy, I live in Chile (a country next to Argentina) and my situation is very similar to what you described. I´m 30 years old, I have an eating disorder (anorexia or orthorexia) and my hobby its long distance running, wich is my therapy: like the one thing I can do really good. The thing is that I eat little, I exercise a lot (3 to 5 days a week for one hour and a half, max. two hours, including a 30 minutes light weight traing 2 times per week) and also Im suffering accute depression since one of my brothers died (august of 2007).
Bottom line, most of the nutricionist or doctors here are not very good so I need to find help elsewhere and I would like to know: if I change my way of eating into one centre in consuming real foods, like in a LCHF diet, based on the comestibles you eat in a truly mediterranean diet, could that repair some of the bone density, hormonal and metabolism damage that I have cause over this years and would I gain weight; should I restric calorie intake for a while until my metabolic rate goes up or improves?
Waiting for your answer, best regards,