I have an eating disorder. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t think I’ve ever talked about it in serious detail. Well, the present time seems appropriate to tell the tale, as I’m currently, right this minute, in the process of researching the ABC diet. The ABC diet is also known as Ana Boot Camp (ana is a slang term for anorexia nervosa). In my lifetime, I’ve had doctors tell me I was anorexic and I’ve had doctors tell me I was bulimic. I don’t know what I am, but it’s definitely a disorder. There’s a very loud voice inside me that tells me this is unhealthy, that I’m verging on a relapse, that I should NOT be checking out new, extreme ways to get thin. The ABC Diet lasts 50 days, and is built around a very strict caloric restriction. Days of fasting are interspersed with days of consuming a maximum of 500 calories. The calorie intake changes day to day, but the lowest day on the program allows a mere 50 calories. Most days average around 200-300 calories a day. Diet experts say that the minimum recommended daily calories consumed should be no lower than 1000-1500. So this diet has risks. Any diet has risks, but this particular diet puts the dieter at risk for low blood sugar, which causes low energy and dizziness. Other risks include malnutrition, fatigue, sensitivity to cold temperatures, paranoia, depression, a learned obsession with calories, fat and sugar intakes, and an increased likelihood to participate in other dangerous eating rituals. Now here’s what scares me. It would be a walk in the park for me to stick to the calorie counting. There are many days in which I consume less than 500 calories, and I fast at least once a week. This would just mean getting a food diary and keeping track of every calorie I consume. So really, it wouldn’t be all that hard for me to stick to the diet’s rules. It worries me/us that we are considering starting this diet Monday. I have a wedding to go to in 4 weeks-that’s half the time of the diet. I really, really would love to shed some pounds before that date. It’s a family wedding-I’ll be in the photos-and I would hate to ruin a beautiful wedding picture by looking too fat. It doesn’t help anything that the bride has an amazingly hot body. She’s tall and thin and gorgeous; I have no desire to stand next to her in any photos. But back to my point-I believe I could do the food part of the diet. The hard part is that you have to exercise obsessively, preferably something super intense like P90X. There’s no way I could handle that kind of workout in my current state of health. I am simply too out of shape to follow such a hardcore program; sad but true. I have no strength and no endurance. It would take me so long to get used to the exercise portion of this diet that half my progress would be spent just getting to a “normal” fitness level. I just don’t know how to remedy this situation. I can start working out today but there’s little chance I can speed up my metabolism and start burning the kind of calories that this diet recommends. I currently eat so little every day that my body has gone into “starvation mode”-this is according to my medical doctor-and is therefore hoarding calories and storing fat within me. My doctor actually told me that to lose any weight, I’d have to start eating more. So perhaps this ISN’T the right diet for me, as it certainly isn’t an increase in my food consumption, but rather a steep decrease. I just don’t know what to do.
I remember the very day I first decided that I was fat. I was in 3rd grade, just 8 years old, and I was not at all overweight. (Have you heard this story before? If so, I apologize for being repetitive.) The weather was very warm and I was wearing shorts. I was sitting in class, in my desk, and I happened to look down at my thighs. I couldn’t help but notice how, when they were pressed flat against the seat, they spread out much wider than when I was standing. Something clicked in my mind, and right then and there I decided that I was too fat. I went home and walked to the store and purchased my very first diet soda. I hate to age myself, but it was a Tab; that was the only diet soda made at that time. It was sweetened with saccharin, and so it was bitter. I didn’t like it, but I forced myself to drink those cancer-causing ingredients, and so began a lifelong habit of drinking diet sodas. I’ve been drinking them so long now that I usually can’t tell the difference between a regular soda and a diet soda; I’m just used to the bitter taste. I’ve been a Diet Coke fiend since it was first introduced, and to this day I drink mostly coffee and Diet Coke. I realize now that this is a terrible habit, and that even diet sodas still cause bloating and weight gain. I understand that I must give up my Diet Coke habit in order to successfully lose enough weight to make myself “happy” (whatever that means). So I’m ready. I’m drinking coffee right now, and after I’m done I shall switch to drinking water for the rest of day. I intend to drink water only everyday from Monday until we leave for the wedding, which is on May 19. I also intend to ingest diuretic pills so as to shed even more water weight. I realize that this is a quick fix and that I’ll only be losing water, not actual fat, but that’s OK right now. I just need to shed some pounds for the wedding; I can begin to focus on body mass index after we get back from the wedding trip. The wedding is out of state, and my husband and my mother and I are driving down for the whole weekend. Mom has to be there for the rehearsal dinner, as she’s the grandmother of the groom. My husband and I are not in the wedding, but we are attending both the wedding and the lavish reception, which is to be held at a mansion in Savannah, Georgia. It’s a very long drive for us, but since my husband has never been to Savannah, and because I simply adore that city, I am really excited to make the trip. The wedding and everything surrounding it should be a blast. I will get to spend time with my big sister, whom I rarely see as she lives in Utah, and my niece and of course my nephew is the groom. He lives in L.A. and so I only see him once a year or less. He’s very, very health/fitness conscious, and I dread having him see how much weight I’ve gained since he last saw me. The weight gain is not due to overeating, but rather is a side-effect of the medication which I must now take. Worst. Side effect. Period.
I first began my dance with medication and weight gain when I was 16 and the doctor put me on Lithium; I gained about 30 pounds. I was horrified at how puffy my face got. But I endured it until the day came when my medication was switched. Some of the pills they put me on caused me to lose weight, and that was always a pleasant bonus for me. But many of the psychotropic medications I’ve been given over the years have had the unwanted side-effect of weight gain, often substantial. I’m currently prescribed six different medications: 2 atypical anti-psychotics, a regular anti-psychotic, an SSRI antidepressant, an NDRI antidepressant, and an anti-anxiety medication of the benzodiazepine class. I have no idea which ones of these drugs are causing the weight gain, but when I began my newest prescription I noticed a jump in my weight, a big one. And so it could be that more than one of them is causing the weight gain; but which ones do I give up to lose the extra pounds? And seriously, is it worth it to lose my mind in order to be thin? (someone inside me is screaming “Absolutely!”)
Now as far as my eating disorder goes, I’ve been showing signs and symptoms since that fateful day when I was 8. After that first Tab, I became obsessed with calorie counting and sugar, fat, and carbohydrate control. I quit using sugar and switched to an artificial sweetener, and I began buying reduced-fat, low-cal, and sugar-free foods. I also began to regulate how much I consumed and adhered to a strict diet. It was also around this time that I began to exercise obsessively. At the age of 10 I went running until my legs turned to jelly, played tennis, did aerobics (with my Jane Fonda videotapes), and wouldn’t go to bed at night until I’d done a specific number of sit-ups (100) and leg lifts and other floor exercises. All these behaviors stayed with me throughout my teenage years and by high school I’d begun fasting. There were several occasions wherein I passed out at school from lack of food. But then my prescriptions changed and I gained weight and it was out of my control. So I began making myself throw up. After a while, it was easy. I got sick every time I ate. This helped drop some weight but was very unhealthy. I didn’t care though. I continued to starve myself and fast and throw up and eventually, in my 20s, I began using laxatives as well. It was in my 20s that I reached my lowest weight. I achieved this through the use of diet pills, which were basically just speed, and also I quit taking my psychiatric medications. If I got hungry, I’d pop a pill and smoke a cigarette instead of eating. The diet pills, along with the starvation, the obsessively exercising, the vomiting and the laxatives all helped me achieve a weight of 98 pounds. I was so proud of that fact, although at the time I was convinced that if I’d only lose “a few more pounds” I would really look good. I remember the constant weigh-ins. I was always on a scale, and I obsessed over each and every pound. Later, my doctor made me get rid of the scale, and I’m forbidden to own one now. I remember lying in bed, running my hands along my rib cage, counting each rib to see how bony I was. I also took great pride in having pelvic bones which stuck out prominently. And I’d lie there and suck in my stomach and see how concave I could get it. When I see the photos of me from that time, it’s bizarre because I’m torn in different directions–the K(s) with the eating disorder think I look good, while the other K’s think I look frail and unhealthy. I remember what a typical day’s food intake was back then: no more than 5 saltine crackers and a plain baked potato. That’s it, along with coffee and Diet Coke. And I fasted every 3rd day. It’s amazing I didn’t cause some sort of permanent damage to my body. But this is my life, or how it’s been for most all of my life. I also later went through a phase, at age 30, where I’d gained so much weight due to the medications I was on that I became seriously depressed and absolutely gave up at one point and began compulsive overeating. I’d binge and eat everything I could find. I could eat a whole package of cookies, and sometime I did. I’d eat like this at night, so that no one would know about it. I was ashamed and I hid my eating. No one ever saw me eat-it was my secret. But I reached my heaviest weight during this time, and that was 183 pounds. (God, it’s hard to admit that, even though I don’t weigh that much anymore.) The throwing up and laxatives and diet pills came into play again and I shed it eventually, but because of the medication I am on, it’s been a lifelong struggle with my weight-it goes up and down. Right now, I’m somewhere in the middle, but on the chubby side in my opinion (thank you new meds). I currently flip-flop between complete starvation and binging and purging. My husband doesn’t know about all these habits of mine, and I intend to keep it that way. All he needs to know is that I want to look good for him, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes. So I’ve stocked up on a variety of appetite suppressants, carbohydrate blockers, metabolic stimulators, and calorie-restricting pills. Plus some good old fashioned “legal speed”. I’m not sure how all of these things are going to fit in with The ABC diet, or if I can fit them in at all. I don’t know exactly how I intend to shed this weight, but I guarantee you it will be unhealthy as hell. And I will adhere to my strict diet and exercise program at least until the wedding. After that, we’ll settle into a healthier-eating/daily exercise routine and hopefully I can achieve a desirable, “normal” weight. I just hope I can properly gauge what a “normal” weight is. I can’t continue to live this life of extremes. It’s getting more and more dangerous as I get older, and I’m beginning to fear for my health…but not enough to stop.