This is a story that I’m sure you hear all the time. I am 21 years old and have struggled with an eating disorder since my early teens. I have been inpatient twice and went through a partial program once… upon admission, I was 5’4” and 140 lbs. The doctors said, “well, we typically set a weight goal at a BMI of 19, but since you’re already well above that, maintaining should be fine.” With a heart rate in the 30s and having had a heart attack, I wonder what on earth they were thinking.
You see, I am one of those oh-so-lucky patients whose healthy weight rests around BMI 25-26. At BMI 24, I lose my periods, and at BMI 23, I was severely ill. No one in the eating disorders world seems to know what to do with an anorexic (and yes, I was every bit anorexic, after losing nearly 40% of my body weight) who is not severely underweight according to their charts. When I explained to the doctors that I had always been heavier, stronger, more muscular than “average,” they said that it was clearly due to bingeing and that I would see that my weight would drop. Excuse me? I had not eaten in 9 days; did you just say that I’m bingeing? A doctor cannot possibly help when he is not even treating the problem that actually does exist.
I found the ATDT forum… oh, 2 years ago now. Yes, I am a patient, and it saved my life. Finally, I heard when I KNEW was right. That I was NOT crazy, I was sick. Food was the medicine I so badly needed. I understood why ONE missed hunger cue (and oh, those took a while to sort themselves out) would invite Ed back full force. Why it was important to eat and to eat enough. Why it was important not to let myself sit at that not-quite-high-enough BMI. I have not missed a single meal nor ignored a single hunger cue since October of 2008. My mom is terribly fat-phobic and hounds me about “too many carbs!,” so a very close friend at school took up the role of, dare I say it?, food police, completely at her own intuition. She so quickly understood what was Ed and what was me, and she “refuses to tolerate that jerk,” as she says. One late evening, my stomach was growling and I said that I would eat “soon.” A friend came in with oatmeal cookies, which I politely turned down. She took a cookie and put it on my lap, taking my book from my hands. “Eat it. You are hungry and you were offered food. I don’t CARE if Ed doesn’t like it, you EAT IT, because I don’t want that jerk in my room.” I ate the cookie and, having broken Ed’s hold, got a glass of milk and some peanut butter.
In October, I was about 8-10 pounds under MY healthy, feel-good, super-strong-body weight. Now, I am solidly 15 pounds OVER it. I have not once overeaten, but I have not denied myself any foods, either. Yes, I still occasionally need some encouragement to eat certain things, but I will not give into “that jerk.” I overshot my natural set point, and now, I am slowly settling back to it.
Through all of this, reading your forum has encouraged me: yes, I need to eat; yes, I need carbs AND protein; yes, my weight will settle, and YES, my 5’6”, 160 pound healthy body is perfect, just the way it is (anyone wants to question that… I can bench 145)! I still see a nutritionist who has been with me all the way on that. I have a meal plan (in exchanges) that I occasionally use when I start to have trouble making choices. Also, it helps me to look back on a day when I’ve eaten intuitively and see how close to the meal plan it is (usually, very close), to reassure myself that I’m not going far over. I no longer count calories or weigh/measure food, ever.
My message is two-fold: one, to encourage anyone who has ever heard that their healthy body is overweight.
Secondly, thank you for getting the TRUTH out there, and thank you to the parents on ATDT who helped to save my life from Ed, whether they’ll ever know it or not.