Life With Ed, Part 8: When You Try to Lose Weight The Normal Way

Disclaimer: This is a series of posts about my experiences with anorexia and bulimia.  Many of the things I discuss could be extremely triggering if you are dealing with an eating disorder, so please read at your own risk. I am not an doctor or a therapist. I am simply telling you my story.

Thankfully, it’s been awhile since I’ve written a Life With Ed post. I’m happy to report that I’ve made a lot of progress in my recovery, particularly in the realm of my actions. I’ve mentioned previously that the key for me in the early steps of my recovery was learning to control my actions first and then my thoughts later, because the actions were a lot more manageable. So, I’m happy to say that I have not purged since February 17, 2013, the day before my stomach surgery (hey, one for the road, you know?)! I never thought I would be able to say something like that.

That being said, I’ve also touched on the fact that I’ve gained some weight since my back surgery that I’m not happy with. While it was only about 8-10 pounds, that’s a lot for me, and it put me at the highest weight I’ve ever been, which sent alarm bells off in my head and nearly triggered a jump into the deep end. It wasn’t only the weight that was worrying me – it was the age-old battle of how to eat, diet, work out, etc. in moderation without triggering a relapse. Historically, I’ve only been able to maintain recovery if I don’t count calories or track my exercise. I get too competitive and freaked out if I keep track, so I generally just run based on my training plan and eat based on what I feel like eating and hope for the best. It always evens out one way or another.

So what to do when you’re a recovering anorexic/bulimic who wants to lose weight without triggering a relapse?

Well, I wish I could answer that question, but I can’t. I’ve never done it successfully.  I can only tell you about my experience and what I’ve been doing so far. To start, there was clearly an issue with how much I was eating versus how much I was exercising. Calories in vs calories out – basic math, right? So I started tracking what I’m eating using My Fitness Pal, which is a free app and website. At first, it was so challenging for me to get my calories where they need to be because I was used to eating as much as I wanted and drinking tons of beer. Plus, I wasn’t able to exercise very much at that point, so it was hard to “earn” any extra calories with exercise.

Oh hello, evil eating disorder brain

Let me stop right there. One of my big challenges right now is struggling with the mentality of “earning” my food. I feel terrible about eating on the days when I don’t exercise. So I always exercise. I’ve been working out an insane amount to try and lose weight and not feel bad about what I’m eating. Even though I’m making the healthy choices, I still feel like I don’t deserve them. Yes, I know my body needs fuel, and yes, I know that I have to eat enough to prevent injury and make progress in my training, but that still doesn’t change my thought process before every meal. It’s always a battle. Last week, I forced myself to take a rest day on Friday in preparation for my long run on Saturday because my body was exhausted, but I was a nervous wreck all day trying to keep my calories down even thought I knew I needed the fuel and that I would make up for any “extra” that I ate during the run the next day. That is stupid. I know it is stupid and I can’t help but feel that way. It’s annoying.

As motivating as apps like My Fitness Pal are for some people, they’re dangerous for me. For example, each day when you complete your food diary, it tells you how much you would weigh in five weeks if you ate like that every day. The problem? On days when I burn a ton of calories (like long runs or days when I bike and do Body Pump) and can’t possibly eat enough to catch up, I see these super-low (to me) numbers on the screen and I think “I can totally do that.” Again, it’s a battle because part of me knows I shouldn’t, but the other part can’t help but be extremely tempted to undereat, overexercise, and see those crazy numbers.

Ultimately, what I’ve realized is that I really am just ready to be back to my normal weight and be done with this. I don’t want to relapse, and I feel like I’m mentally torturing myself every day. That being said, it’s not as simple as saying “well, don’t worry about the scale” because regardless of what the numbers say, I feel like crap when my clothes don’t fit or I’m noticeably bigger anyway. Would I love to tell you that I’m one of those people who loves their body? Sure. Absolutely. Can I say that honestly? No. So far, I’ve been able to eat healthy food and a decent enough quantity to feel like I’m at least doing ok and not taking things too far. I guess I just wish my brain would shut off and let me be in peace, for once. That being said, as much as I’m having a hard time with my thought process, at least I have been able to restrain myself enough to keep my actions in check. That was impossible a year ago, so I have a lot to be proud of! Who knows? Maybe this time next year, my brain will be in check too.

LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you have a hard time with the mental of aspect of losing weight, one way or the other?

28 thoughts on “Life With Ed, Part 8: When You Try to Lose Weight The Normal Way

  1. “Would I love to tell you that I’m one of those people who loves their body? Sure. Absolutely. Can I say that honestly? No.” this is so true even though I’m on the opposite side of everything you are going through.

  2. This too is my life right now. I actually stumbled across your blog and was at first upset because I also like to be a t-rex runner (you should make shirts I would buy one) and then saw this article and realized I am dealing with the exact same thing right now. Thank you for sharing and stay strong. At the end of the day I try to tell myself it is not how I look but it’s how much faster and stronger than I was yesterday, last week, last month and last year.

    1. I actually do have shirts, Jill! I just need to get around to doing another order. Thank you so much for sharing some of your story with me! It’s really hard but it’s nice to know I’m not alone (and neither are you!)

  3. I’m sorry to hear you struggling again:( I’m learning it’s a major mental thing for me, and there’s also a seasonal effect to it as well. For me, it starts getting worse in the fall around late September, and as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, I eat less and less because the opportunity to burn it off isn’t there as much as it is during the summer. It get progressively worse through the winter, and then once Spring hits and the days get longer and warmer again, I start exercising and eating more. In conclusion: I hate my weight at the beginning of September, but love it in late March. :/

    1. That’s really interesting! I tend to think about my weight less in the winter because people are more covered up and there isn’t as much opportunity to be in a dress, shorts, etc. I can definitely see what you’re saying, though!

  4. First, I have to commend you for being so responsible for including a disclaimer/disclosure about your post being a possible trigger for others with eating disorders.

    Second (but also first), I’m so sorry that you’re struggling but the fact that you recognize your struggle and are able to articulate so well is such a good thing! It doesn’t lessen the difficulty but it keeps you aware.

    You always write in a manner that many people think but don’t have the eloquence to express and while I hope this battle isn’t painful and frustrating for an extended period of time, I do hope you continue to share your thoughts, feelings, successes and failures so you can get support from those that love you (IRL and virtually) and so you can help others. Because I truly believe that you help others!

    Again, if I can ever be of help personally or professionally, you know where to reach me.

    PS – ITA about MyFitnessPal or any other tracker of sorts. They’re not for everyone because of exactly what you touched upon.

    1. Thank you, Melissa. I hope I am helping other people. If nothing else, I hope other people who are suffering don’t feel quite so alone or crazy! I’m not sure whether writing about this stuff actually helps me get better, but it certainly helps me put some order to my thoughts. I so appreciate your support!

  5. Oh hell.
    I’m sorry to hear what you’re dealing with. I can’t say I understand as I never had an eating disorder but I know how much time I spend thinking about my weight and the way my body looks.
    The stupid thing is I am doing my best to really start loving my body. I mean, I love it in a friendly sort of way, we don’t seem to have integrated into a one fully loved being. If I’m making any sense. 🙂
    That said, I’ve wanted to lose some weight for years but never gave it much thought as I looked normal. Turns out love stress is a good way to lose weight although I wouldn’t really recommend it.
    Now that I look great, I’m again worrying about my weight. Why? Because I don’t want to gain what I lost. And the most stupid part of that? The fact that I found an optimum balance in my life when it comes to food and exercise so I’m worrying for nothing.
    I will deal with it all one day at a time but I’m rather upset with the society we live in that it made me so self-conscious of my weight and scared of not fitting into the world if I’m not thin enough.
    That is not how people are measured for who they are.

    (sorry, it seems like I went on a little rant there in the end) 🙂

    1. I completely understand how you feel! It’s very odd, because I find that the more weight I lose, the more self-conscious I am and the more weight I want to lose. There is no such thing as a goal weight when my eating disorder really has a grip on me. I’m not quite at that point yet, but I can easily see it escalating. It is a shame that there is so much pressure in society, but that’s the world we live in, I guess!

  6. I can only imagine how difficult and hard this is for you. I wish I could provide answers or advice but I know you are strong and will make it through this. I cannot wait for you to get back strong into your training.

  7. This is the most responsible (and honest) post I’ve seen on this topic. I hope writing it all out has helped in some way. I can’t imagine struggling with this on a daily basis and trying to navigate the pros and cons of tracking your food intake and exercise because of everything you have gone though in the past. I hope you continue to share here and make forward, positive progress. One day at a time, right?

    1. Exactly, Allie! One day at a time. Hell, sometimes it’s one meal at a time, but that’s all I can do.

  8. While I know what its like to live with a back that’s f’d (you are doing way better than I am BTW) I don’t know what ED is like. But to my observation, you are amazingly resilient. In your young life you have powered through enormous challenges that would have flattened many people. You’ll get through this one too, even if it feels hard right this second.

    1. Thank you so much, Claudia! I don’t always feel very resilient, so it is nice to be reminded sometimes. I hope your back gets better soon!

  9. A little over a year ago I was at the lowest weight in about 7 years for me (go divorce weight loss!). Now I’m up about 12 pounds from that and I’m pretty much freaking out.

    I completely understand the crazy mental aspect of things and how freaking difficult it is. I don’t dare pull out MFP because I just can’t. I know I need to eat more salads and drink less beer. I know once I do that and start running again I’ll be fine.

    Until then? I keep trying to tell myself that 1) I’m worthy and awesome and 2) I’m not actually overweight.


    It’s so, so difficult.

    1. Isn’t it so ridiculous? I feel like normal people wouldn’t freak out over these amounts of weight, although maybe I’m wrong. It’s definitely less stressful to try and just eat in moderation without using stupid MFP, so I hope you are successful with that! And you’re not overweight, you’re a total babe 🙂

  10. I struggled with anorexia in my mid-20’s (I am now 34) and I still fall back on similar habits. My experience in recovery is similar to yours in that I started with my actions first. I focused heavily on making good eating choices and exercising moderately. I gained a lot of weight but since have gone down to my happy weight. I could lose a few more pounds but it would have to be a very restrictive diet and that definitely stressed me out. Since I started with my actions, my brain has followed. My destructive thought patterns have decreased dramatically and food, weight and exercise don’t stress me out as much anymore. Running allows me to release that stress.

    Thank-you for all of your ED posts, it takes a lot of courage to step out and share your story.

    1. Thank you for sharing some of your story with me! It’s such a relief to know that you’ve had success starting with your actions and letting your brain follow. I hope that I get to the point one day where my brain has followed completely, but either way, some relief would be good. I do have a happy weight that I am fine at as long as I don’t think about it…but then as soon as I start trying to lose weight again, it doesn’t seem nearly low enough and I want to do more.

  11. I am not surprised it has been challenging for you … I had almost sent an email a few months ago, but frankly I didn’t like the way it kept coming out and didn’t want to ‘false trigger’. Crap.

    But I definitely get the struggle – I went 9 days of vacation without running … and ate more than normal including many things where I didn’t control the ingredients! So naturally my body was telling me I had gained 100lbs, even though my clothes told me otherwise … it is really hard.

    There is no easy answer to any of our screwed up thinking … I mean, I got incredible comments on our company outing yesterday that I wrote about … but that didn’t make me self-doubt any less as Idominated the dessert at our end ofthe table …

    1. Aww, that’s nice of you to think about sending me an email! I really appreciate it. It’s such a mental battle (that you obviously understand) and sometimes I just find it exhausting. It would be nice to just enjoy food like a normal person and not feel bad about it, but that may or may not ever happen. I always laugh when I see shirts like “I run for wine” or “I run for cupcakes” because I wish it was that simple!

  12. I wished I was as strong as you, in your recovery from ED. I hate that food is the minute by minute struggle of our every day lives. I am very proud of you for several reasons.
    1. Candidly expressing your ED to the world. (AMAZING, to say the least.)
    2. Openly state that you struggle with it, even the last time your purged.
    3. Recognizing that you are struggling with it.
    Just, like you, eating correctly for the rest of my life. I don’t even know how people eat three square meals a day. Also, like you, gained weight, because of cycling (I have never been more hungry in my life, I hate it.)
    Every time I see one of your posts about ED, I am extremely grateful because I know that I am not alone.
    Keep it up, I miss you a lot and just know that you always have someone else that understands these issues.

    1. Thanks girl! Ugh, being hungry all the time is the WORST! I totally relate. I struggle with that a lot when my running mileage is high. That was actually pretty much the only good thing about my back being hurt – I wasn’t nearly as hungry! I understood what it was like to feel satisfied after eating…sigh

  13. We’ve discussed this in person, but a lot of the reason that I get the mental roadblocks revolves around 2 facts: a) I have dieted both ways (to gain and lose weight) and b) I used to have to be restrictive about food for health reasons. But the fact that I have a tendency to do a mental count to make sure that I am getting enough means that it is ever difficult for me to break out of that rut. I’m doing so, so much better about this, and that is largely a result of training–it forces me to break down my barriers. But I will always be slightly anxious about the possibility that I might “regress” to my bingy ways, or “regress” to my controlling ways. The one thing that I am very happy about is that I never used food to punish myself, but on the other hand, the fact that these personality quirks are just that, and innate, is also something that doesn’t escape me.

    1. It definitely makes it more challenging when you have to watch what you eat for medical reasons. It makes it impossible to ever let your guard down! It’s good that you seem to have found a balance and a positive relationship with food – not everyone can say that, for sure!

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