Short background: I'm eighteen. All my life, even before I took up rhythmic gymnastics, I ate tons of junk food / fast food / wheat noodles everyday. Of course I ate meat and veggies and good stuff too. I never watched what I ate though, or cared how much I weighed for that matter.
From what I could find of my old health records, my BMI stayed at approximately 12 from the age of 7 to 16. (Sidenote: don't be alarmed! This is quite normal in Singapore where girls and boys alike with appalling diets stay stick thin, at least until puberty. A few years ago, they even revised the acceptable BMI standards for local kids/teens to differ from the global standards.) Now, at 18, after I quit gymnastics, it's around 17-18. This might be classed as underweight in certain countries (is it? I'm not sure), and objectively I know I'm not fat, but I'm a lot chunkier than lots of girls around me. My family agrees that I've gotten chubby.
I've been dabbling in paleo for about a year now. I love the joy cooking and eating good food brings me, and I definitely see the benefits. I feel fuller and more awake, my skin is clearer, and what I'd assumed was inevitable joint pain from old gymnastics injuries has vanished. But recently, I've become very conscious of my weight. In fact, that seems to be my singular motive these days. I'm starting to feel like staying off "bad" food is a punishment. I feel panic and anxiety when I think about my weight. I feel resentful that I have to stay off these foods while others stay stick-thin effortlessly. I don't ever purge, but I do go into cheating/binging/fasting cycles. To me, fasting feels like a compensatory mechanism, or a way to stay in control.
I hate associating food with emotions like guilt and shame. Is this disordered eating? Am I couching an obsession with my body image as a quest for better health and nutrition? I don't know if it's scaremongering but from what I know eating disorders are a slippery slope and I'm afraid of where I might go from here. Or am I just making a big deal out of nothing?
This seems like a really dumb question, but what should I do now? How do I restore my normal relationship with food? I definitely want to feed my body well in the long run but perhaps I should take a break, at least until I lose weight? I don't feel terrible off paleo. Even though I'll be eating unhealthy food, I won't experience the guilt and shame from "slipping up" that send me into awful binges, making portion control a lot easier. Or should I keep trying to eat well for the sake of my health but adopt certain strategies and attitudes?
Sorry for the super long and rambling question! I'd really appreciate your thoughts, especially from females! Please try not to be condescending! Thank you :-)
asked byCharmaine (146)
Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!
on March 27, 2013
at 01:17 PM
I'm in the early recovery phase of an eating disorder (26y male, 178cm, 53kg). To me it sounds like you're slowly developing an eating disorder in some form. I can assure you that it is a horrible state of mind and extremely difficult to get out of of. My best advice for you right now would be to get professional help from either your doctor or a psychiatrist. I know this sounds like a big step right now but the pain from slipping into a deep eating disorder is not worth the risk. Please also involve your parents in this.
I would be happy to answer any further questions.
on March 27, 2013
at 01:35 PM
If you need a good reason to err on the side of seeking help, I'd like to share with what I wish I'd known when I was 18: a disordered relationship with food doesn't just affect whether you are fat or thin, or your emotional state. It has profound effects on the health of your whole body: your bones, your teeth, your hormones, your organs.
When I was young I thought, "well, then I will be old, and old people are just old and falling apart anyway. Better to be young and gorgeous now and enjoy it." Well, it just isn't so! If you nourish your body, you can be vibrant until you are 80, and only slow down a little then. It sucks to have your body start falling apart at 40 when you still feel like you're 20, but your body is NOT cooperating!
on March 27, 2013
at 01:01 PM
Yes, dear, if I were a personal friend of yours and I knew you were having these thoughts and feelings, I'd be very concerned about you.
"I'm starting to feel like staying off "bad" food is a punishment. I feel panic and anxiety when I think about my weight. I feel resentful that I have to stay off these foods while others stay stick-thin effortlessly. I don't ever purge, but I do go into cheating/binging/fasting cycles. To me, fasting feels like a compensatory mechanism, or a way to stay in control."
These statements all indicate a disordered relationship with food. Food should not be associated with negative emotions.
"Even though I'll be eating unhealthy food, I won't experience the guilt and shame from "slipping up" that send me into awful binges, making portion control a lot easier."
That would be addressing a symptom, not the cause. In order to address the cause, you may need to get some professional advice. Matt is right; eating disorders do not go away on their own, and it is easier to rekindle a positive relationship with food while you still have your physical health and before those bad habits and dysfunctional ideas are really ingrained.
Don't judge yourself by your friends. Don't judge yourself based on your family thinking you are chubbier. Sometimes we rely too much on the judgement of people who are supposed to be there for us, whether or not they know the whole story, have our best intentions in mind, or have a healthy relationship with food and weight themselves.
You are right to be concerned. You should be proud that you recognize these behaviors and attitudes in yourself and want to stop going down that slippery slope and get back to health. I hope that you are able to get the support that you need.
on March 27, 2013
at 01:13 PM
Anonwho -- I totally understand where you are coming from. I too, like many young women I think, used to feel compelled to compare myself to other girls around me and struggle with staying away from "junk food" in some kind of weird controlling effort to remain thin. I applaud you for recognizing that feeling guilty about food is NOT right, and for having the guts to come at this thing head on.
It is a slippery slope -- one that led me to being vegan (when I was your age) in an effort to stay thin. Ironically it led me to be the most sickly I have ever been in my life (for some people it works, I'm not one of them). I would binge and purge w/ SAD foods and then try to compensate by fasting/exercising which made me feel like hell and feel tremendously guilty about the food I ate. This in turn created an endless cycle ... feel like crap, binge on sugary foods for a high/release, guilt ensues so you purge and then you feel like crap and it starts again. This is also when I was my heaviest -- my body was not happy and as a result I could not get lean no matter how much I tried.
Being paleo for me is about wanting to live a long, happy and full life. It's about treating my body with respect and compassion and putting into it the things that make it feel the best and grow the strongest. Begin reshaping your thinking around food. Stop looking at it as "I can't eat that or I'll get fat" thing, look at it as a "I chose not to eat that because it makes me feel like shit" thing. Maybe for you right now it's not really even about eating healthy vs not healthy -- it's not easy being the one teenager in the group who doesn't eat the same noodles because they feel guilty after they do it. IMO you need to just relax a little and stop worrying about eating paleo all the time esp at a young age when you're just getting to know your body.
If noodles make you feel sick, don't eat them. If you're simply avoiding them because you're worried about getting fat that's another story. No one eats perfectly all the time -- you should do what you feel best doing and if that means eating noodles every now and then, then it's NO BIG DEAL. One bowl of noodles every once in a while won't hurt you (unless of course you have some type of reaction like gluten intolerance, celiac etc...).
Check out this article on the 80/20 rule for some more thoughts on balancing your food choices. It takes time to come to the realization that it ultimately doesn't matter what anyone else looks like or is doing -- what matters is HOW YOU FEEL. Maybe Paleo won't be for you, maybe it will be -- that's ultimately something you will figure out as you grow. Do lots of self experimentation and just remember to do whatever you feel good doing! Hope something in there helps you :) sorry to ramble back!!
on March 27, 2013
at 01:09 PM
I can relate so much to what you wrote. A lot of women get caught up in this pressure to be thin for the sake of being thin, regardless of what it's doing to your health. I struggle with it on a daily basis. I have eliminated most of my anxiety and most of my joint pain by eating paleo, yet I can't honestly say I wouldn't give it up to be thin without having to think about it so much. I realize that's a really messed up way to think.
It's not a dumb question at all and I think it's a really good thing that you are so self-aware and interested in nipping this in the bud before it gets out of control. I think one of the first and most important things you can do is to get off PH and the internet in general. We are inundated with unhealthy images all over the internet. Some of them are obviously unhealthy (thinsperation boards on pinterest) and some of them feed into our insecurities in more subtle ways (when you see someone post their height and weight on PH and you end up comparing yourself). I think too much information often has the opposite effect than what's intended and we end up more confused in the end.
I would advise you to continue to eat a Paleo diet and not obsesses over the non-paleo foods. It might not be a popular opinion around here, but if you can handle the occasional non-paleo foods, plan a meal where you can eat whatever you want. I personally fear doing that, but I often wonder if it would be good for me to have a "cheat meal." Possibly over time it would help to stop the obsessive thinking.
Are you working out? I'd encourage you to lift weights if you don't already. It has been a great thing for me to build muscle. I feel like a badass when I get done and it's a positive measure of progress where all a scale does is mess with my head.
I feel like I'm always posting this link (I swear I have no stake in this website!), but there are a few posts I read over and over when I'm feeling like crap. www.paleoforwomen.com/?s=disorder
Good luck to you!
on March 27, 2013
at 10:41 PM
Everyone has provided you with some great encourgement so far. Good on you for picking up on these abnormal behaviours because you obviously sense that something is not right and that's your rational/human brain telling you so. That takes courage to admit and some insight others don't pick up on until years into a eating disorder. Hopefully you've caught the problem before it escalates and I encourage you to keep focusing on building up a healthy mind that involves self-love, forgiveness and finding joy in other areas of your life.
I just want to share some 'science' about that matter which having an understanding of, even on a basic level, can help you understand why you feel like sometimes you have no control over the matter. These cheating/binging/fasting cycles you are finding yourself trapped in - these can get addictive because these habits are being hard-wired into your brain. They become your survival mechanism. You're animal instincts are saying to your body, "Here we go, I'm being starved again, time to load up on food to prepare myself for the next fast. Time to binge and gorge myself." This is counter-intuitve to your goals no doubt, because the body is suddenly in a survival mode which means it wants to conserve energy and store fat. So you see, forcefully starving yourself and not listening to your natural body cues wreck havoc on these body signals (that everyone tells you to listen to), to a point where you don't know what's going on and feel like you can't trust your body. This is something every eating disorder sufferer will tell you - I can't trust my body. They can't trust themselves around food all of a sudden. And they are right because their brain signals have been broken. But the good news is, you can rewire your brain by ensuring you are giving it all the vital nutrients it needs to function and operate properly and you will be able to listen to your body once again.
Of course, this is one piece of the puzzle. I would always advise to seek profeesional guidance to talk through any emotional problems you may have surrounding food and getting support on that front... but it's important to understand these 'habits' may land you in a full blown addictive state like an alcoholic or smoker. It's at this point your body starts becoming depleted of valuable nutrients as you deprive yourself of foods which are crucial to helping keep your brain stable. So my advice is, stay clear of any dieting, low-calorie/restrictive eating habits in an attempt to lose weight. Focus on nourishing your body and your mind. Focus on what you really value in life and that happiness is not attached to how thin you are.
on March 27, 2013
at 11:45 PM
First, you are awesome for admitting this on a public forum. Second, I think it is an even better idea to voice this exact thing to the people you see every single day. Seriously, just come out with it to them. If not, you will make it a secret which will evolve into a world of lying. I developed anorexia nervosa at around 18 years old. I did not seek help until I needed my heart restarted one night at age 20 or 21(aka I died for a brief period of time) after I had recently dropped out of college for the second time and was forced to quit my job, both forced upon me by my parents who realized I wasn???t healthy enough to take care of myself. Thing is, I literally do not recall almost 4 years of my life due to a damned eating disorder.
Like you, I had been in competitive cheerleading, gymnastics and dance my whole life and the world of college opened doors to beer and this sheltered child went buck wild. From ages 18-27 I did not have a period, not one. I just got it on my 27th birthday this past fall. The toll it took on my mind and body does not even closely resemble to impact it made on my family and friends. Seeing your own child in this condition and seeing your own child die is nothing any parent should EVER experience. It is a nasty hideous disease that is absolutely the hardest thing to conquer you will ever embark on simply due to how selfish it is.
???a way to stay in control.??? This stuck out to me. The center of any eating disorder is control in what you envision as an otherwise uncontrollable world. Acceptance of the inability to control a lot of things in life will take you a long way. Focusing on what can be controlled in a healthy way and focused on healthy aspects, thoughts and activities will slowly retrain you to see where you thoughts should be. Fasting and binging like you do is a ???future tripping??? problem. You forsee the fast ever before you begin the binge. During the binge you may be thinking about the fast and vice versa. Nasty cycle, remind yourself food will always be there, the next morning the next afternoon, the next hour the next minute and that this current thought on binging wont be solved 5 minutes after your done and keep people surrounding you when you get this urge to seclude yourself and allow yourself to sit with these thoughts.
Also realize that fasting is not control. Do you see control in others because they fast? Do you see control in others because they eat like you did growing up? Those are both disordered thought patterns. It doesn???t sound like gymnastics had an impact on your disordered eating just that the impact of food became an issue when you stopped the sport. Careful that when you go see someone you make that distinction clear if it is so you receive the best help you can get. And lastly, do not lie to yourself or your loved ones. It will make the trap youre currently in harder and the hole to get out so much deeper