Two hundred seventy pounds. I step off the scale and sigh. When the scale isn’t moving with a healthy diet and exercise, and the bad thoughts begin again, something in the back of my intellect reminds me of the only way I’ve lost weight before — by starving myself. After all, everyone wants to see results, right?
Eating disorders as a whole are relatively misunderstood, and the misunderstandings become even worse if you don’t “look” the component.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder defined by an unhealthy restriction of calories and sometimes over-exercising. Patients diagnosed with anorexia are underweight and suffer from intense body dysmorphia, and the physical effects of long-term restriction can wreak havoc on a patient, both physically and mentally.
Atypical anorexia is practically the same as anorexia nervosa. The only difference? The patient isn’t underweight. The “atypical” part means the patient is of normal weight or overweight. In my occurrence, for my height, I’m considered morbidly obese. No one notices the effects of atypical anorexia when I curtail my meals to a few bites a day. Instead, they praise my weight loss as me finally getting control of my body and being healthy again, when nothing could be further from the truth.
I’ve never had a healthy relationship with food, but the first time I actually experienced unhealthy food restriction and anorexia was my first year of college. This is not exactly surprising, as the stress of leaving home and higher education leads to the fruition of a number of mental health problems, eating disorders included. But I fell into anorexic propensities initially by collision. I simply had no money.
The college I went to had no meal plans for students on campus, and my father couldn’t afford to send me fund or food. Near the end of the first year, I was surviving exclusively off the occasional social food event and what my roommate in a similar stance could get from her slightly better-off parents. It wasn’t a great time and it eventually resulted me to drop out of school.
But there was one positive, at least in my eyes … I lost weight.
Enough weight, in fact, to finally be what was considered a “normal” weight for my height. I felt great about myself, but when I’m thinking rationally, I know how bad off I truly was. I was a “normal” weight, yes, but it was the result of losing muscle density , not fat. I was prone to getting sick highly speedily, and vertigo constantly beset me.
Yet when it comes to overweight people , no one particularly cares how you lose weight, merely that you do. The ever-present and ever-dangerous dieting industry is a testament to that, with fad diets that can destroy a person’s physical health as they strive for a body that looks like our society’s idea of health. Meanwhile, I’m overweight, but all of my physicals have had me in completely perfect health.
Being fat feels like a cardinal sin in society. So it’s little wonder that I continuously fall back into anorexic eating habits, despite clearly knowing how bad they are for me. My worst drift back into atypical anorexia was about five years ago. Life events set me under an incredible amount of stress, and I eventually stopped eating any meaningful dinners. I lived off crackers, energy beverages and the occasional chicken tender if my belly could handle it. I even meticulously counted my calories in a tracking app and dismissed the app’s daily warnings that I was eating too little.
No one batted an eye when I lost 40 pounds in three months or so. Instead, everyone told me how good I seemed and that they were jealous of my weight loss. It was the confidence booster I needed, but it also reinforced in my intellect that maybe becoming anorexic wasn’t a bad thing. I was even saving fund not feeing so much!
I aimed up get highly sick about five months into this restriction cycle. Since my immune system wasn’t at its best, I caught a nasty virus going around and was feverish and bedridden for a few weeks. As I lay in my apartment sick and alone, I realise I had to start taking care of myself. I slowly started to eat more, although it wasn’t enough when I began overexercising again. It wasn’t until an accident injury my knee that I was sufficiently sedentary to really stop the cycle.
But when a restriction cycle ends, the weight gain begins. This isn’t a amaze, given that most brains will activate a “starvation mode” when, well, they think you’re starving. When person stops limiting their calories, the body may then store as much of this newfound energy immediately as fat, just in case it happens again. It makes recovering from different forms of anorexia very hard — when you’ve been fighting tooth and nail to lose weight, gaining it back faster than you lost it can send you into another spiral.
Thankfully, I have a good support system in my life that can see beyond the idea that weight loss equals good. Having someone just notice that maybe I should eat a second helping of food, or perhaps I should grab some cashews to go with that energy drink was enough to help me “ve realized that” what I was doing to my body wasn’t right.
That was the last time I went into a full anorexic spiraling, though I’ve had plenty of close call since. Certain restrictive diets can trigger my tendencies, and while I’ve learned healthy ways to count calories, I have to be careful about tracking both calories and my weight when my mental health is low. I’ve had to learn how to control my impulses by myself because I know no one else is going to believe any of my issues. Even if they did, get insurance is payable for expensive therapy is hard enough when you have anorexia nervosa. It’s almost impossible if you’re saying you’re anorexic and don’t seem anorexic.
I’ve learned to pay attention to what I feed, in a good way, and feed as healthy as I can. I’m lucky that I can deal with my symptoms without drug, even if my metabolism is ruined. It takes a lot to push away the bad thoughts of “eating too much” and looking at my body negatively, but as long as I remember that I’m working to be healthy , not thin, it becomes easier to look at myself in the mirror.
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