It’s hard to pinpoint a time when it began. I know the desire to lose weight started for me at a very young age. I can recall not being allowed to diet in the 4th grade and still saying to myself I would try, but just not tell anybody. I didn’t know the first thing about dieting except that my older sisters did it and I saw them ordering salads. I hated salad. Finally, my mom let me join weight watchers with her when I was in 7th grade. I lost a few pounds of what my mom told me was “baby fat”, but I was never satisfied with the way I looked. I was chubby and wanted to look like the other girls, the pretty, skinny, popular girls. During middle school I wanted to change just about everything about my appearance. I wanted blonde hair and green eyes– I thought I was boring and plain.
I dieted on and off all through high school. I was fairly happy with my appearance, but didn’t allow my imperfections to take over my thoughts or mind. In early college, I didn’t think much about what I ate or what I looked like, but I always had the belief that I was just above average, not skinny but not too overweight. I was still self conscious and hated being in a bathing suit.
I lost a lot of weight naturally one summer after taking up running and surfing. These activities were fun for me: social, challenging, and I enjoyed them. It wasn’t until I moved away to school that I realized I couldn’t keep up this active lifestyle and I gained a little weight. This sent me into oblivion. I felt awful about myself, my self esteem plummeted, and I started over-exercising. I was training for my first half marathon when an achilles injury prevented me from running. I still ran through the half marathon with my achilles swelled up like a golf ball, but at the end of the race, I was going to need to stop running and let my achilles recover. This made my world stop. I was depressed and distraught and was terrified I would gain more weight. I eventually started running half marathons again after recovering, but I was frustrated with my body for not losing the weight I had gained. I had added in daily mile swims, plus Insanity workout videos every night. I was going for runs in between classes and taking hot yoga. I finally got fed up with my lack of weight loss and began counting calories. After one summer of extreme calorie counting and restricting, I finally lost some weight and was just about back down to where I was before. But I still was not satisfied with myself. That was when I began carb counting.
The paleo diet was brand new– I discovered it after loads and loads of research regarding daily calorie and protein intake. There wasn’t much research or hype out there about paleo yet, and it was so new that my family and friends grew concerned: it’s not healthy to cut out carbs, they told me. My mom was the most upset. I would argue that I wasn’t cutting out carbs, I was cutting out “bad” carbs. So I started to hide it. I didn’t want people to be worried about me: I knew what I was doing. And as a result, I dropped a lot of weight in just a few weeks.
This was when the bingeing started. I was cutting out a lot of my favorite foods. I vividly remember laying awake one night thinking about all the foods I was going to miss: French fries, bread, chili, pasta, desserts, rice… the list goes on and on. After my drastic weight loss, I would “make up” for the foods I missed by bingeing on them and then working out and fasting the following day. And this was the beginning of a downward spiral that would last the next year and a half:
Giving up social events because I couldn’t or didn’t want to eat what everyone else was. Secretly judging people for what they were eating, especially when they thought they were being healthy (since I knew the “real” way to be healthy). Making late night grocery store runs to load up on all the foods I’d been craving, and bingeing until everything was gone. (This included anything from gallons of ice cream to bags of chips, cartons of cookie dough, loaves of bread, bags of donuts, packages of cookies, all in one sitting. The list goes on and on). I would run around 7 miles a day to “make up” for my binges. I was out of control and didn’t think anything was wrong. I desperately wanted to lose weight, but couldn’t give up my love for food. Little did I know, the bingeing was a result of my extreme restricting. I thought I would finally get a handle on things… every day I would start over, just to binge 2 or 3 days later. Restart. The process was exhausting. Some nights I would be laying in bed eating until I thought I was going to have a heart attack. My heart would be racing and my body would be so bloated it legitimately scared me. I would fall asleep crying, feeling awful and sick, and would wake up with the most terrible guilt, usually just to start bingeing again first thing in the morning. It was an addiction.
I continued to put on the facade that I was healthy and fit, and I felt the desperate need to uphold that image. I was the workout buff: the runner, the insane friend who wouldn’t miss a workout no matter the cost, the girl who would wake up and run 5 miles before everyone else was awake. I was the clean eater from whom people sought advice. So during my midnight McDonald’s french fry binges, I would sneak in my house hiding the bag from my roommates so they wouldn’t judge me. So they wouldn’t know. The ice cream sandwiches that I would pound in one sitting would be hiding in my bag, too.
This went on for about a year. I didn’t think God was in this eating disorder. I didn’t think His glory was going to come out of this. I had been lukewarm: a believer but not an avid follower. I hadn’t gone to church in years. But something occurred to me one night as I lamented over not wanting to go out with my friends and drink, because alcohol would put a wrench in my diet plan.
I could find friends at church who didn’t want to drink, who enjoyed being active and healthy and who wouldn’t interfere with my “healthy” lifestyle. So I began looking into churches in my area and got plugged in to a Bible study at a church I found and loved.The bingeing continued well into church life and no one knew, until I continued so out of control I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I was paying more than a few hundred dollars per personal training session twice a week to attempt more weight loss. I was bingeing before and after Bible study, telling myself it wasn’t a sin or a disorder. I was bingeing at home and in my car and after work and at work. I was downing anything and everything to get my fix before I had to cut out all the food I enjoyed again and “restart” the vicious cycle. Binge. Starve. Exercise. Repeat.
Read part 2: The Recovery here