I stepped on the scale this morning and felt fear grip my insides. +3 pounds from what I was two weeks ago. I closed my eyes, inhaled sharply, stepped off the scale and re-calibrated my mindset. I walked back to my room fighting through waves of panic and defeat. I was getting ready to step in front of my full-length mirror hanging from my closet door to evaluate where I had gained the 3 pounds when I reminded myself what a dark and twisty road that leads down.
Not evaluating myself in the mirror this morning might not seem like a big step, but for me it was a momentous victory. Another step in my recovery and healing. You see, I’ve lost 100 pounds, but in doing so lost sight of my reason for weight loss and found myself making alliances with eating disorders. I say plural with eating disorders because it was not one specific one, it was a nasty cocktail of whatever I felt would get rid of my caloric intake for the day.
If you’re reading this you’ve probably known me long enough to have seen me lose the weight or if your new, my consistent posting about fitness on Instagram is enough to clue you in that I’ve made some incredible milestones in fitness and health. I won’t bore you with the backstory of how I came to that weight loss.
This time last year, I was spending a significant amount of time starving, purging, taking “skinny pills” and sweating away calories. In January 2018, I reached, what I thought at the time, the pinnacle moment of my weight loss when I started to no longer lose weight, but rather maintain it. I found myself continually frustrated that my hour workouts, copious amounts of water, clean eating and uptick in active lifestyle were no longer dropping the needle on the scale but rather staying neutral.
I made the sad mistake of hopping my way over to the nearest supplement store and asking the clerk what kind of legal products they had to get me skinny. I started taking water pills to get rid of excess hydration, a form of hydroxycut to give me caffeine and metabolic burner boosts, cinnamon supplements and a plethora of other lame attempts at losing the excess weight. I pushed all of this and more for several months, watching the pounds come off again and I found myself satiated. I had put my happiness in the sight of the scale going down, all while preaching to others that the scale is a poor determining factor in weight loss and should not be relied upon solely.
By April, my body had found itself adapting to the weight loss regimen I was putting it through and plateaued again and I found myself panicky with the shadows of summer and swimsuit season looming over my head. So along with the supplements I was already pushing I added laxatives to my capsule diet. I’ll spare you the obvious and gory details, and as much as I hate to admit they worked, I found myself so depleted of hydration, energy and motivation that I increased my take of caffeine pills to help contrast the lack of everything else.
There were a ton of other factors at this point edging my weight loss spiral to the chaotic mayhem it became. I was still in training at work, which is arguably one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through. For four months I found myself scared to go to work, stressed, holding on to the mindset that everything I did was wrong, and had no desire to continue on. I lost sleep (several hours a night) and lost all desires to eat. I found myself wearing uniforms that were too loose and I enjoyed the feeling of my ribcage against my body armor at the end of a shift because I was in control of nothing else at the time (at least that’s what it felt like) and it gave me a misplaced sense of comfort that I could control my weight the way I did.
May came around and while the work stress continued, the training was over and I found myself putting less pressure on the weight loss. I chugged along in the gym, drank my gallon of water everyday, consumed my capsule diet, ate some food, and got enough sleep every night to help me survive the next day.
One morning in June, I was in the shower rinsing my hair, when a big clump of it came free from my scalp. I stood there staring at it for a second, absolutely in fear that I inherited my Dad’s baldness. Dude’s can totally pull off any balding look, but girl’s…haha…that’s a definite no go. These were all the red flags I should have paid attention too, but I didn’t because weight loss had become an addiction, and I’ve been doing my job long enough now to know how fast and easily addiction sneaks in and takes hold of someone’s life.
Later that month, I was invited to go on a cross-country driving trip to California to help a friend of mine re-locate. As excited as I was about it, I found myself buckling down again to cut any excess weight before the big trip. I had sights to see and wanted to document this epic journey, but refused to look like I did at the time. So from the month of June to August I spent time after any sort of meal with my finger or toothbrush at the back of my throat, excavating calories from my body, at home, at work, and one time even after a date. Every time it got to be too much, I reminded myself that I had California to look forward to.
At this point, I had replaced sound and healthy logic with misguided ideals of skinny versions of me that I would do anything to achieve. Wearing a size 14 in pants was not satisfactory and I would not rest until I saw single digits. I was getting compliments left and right on my weight loss and while they seemed to fill up my hollow, decaying spirit, they lasted in my system about as long as I would let food take up residency – not long. I was being flattered by guys and I found myself enjoying the new found attention. Apparently my personality that was completely amazing before any weight loss was better emphasized with a slimmer version of me. I began to see myself as only acceptable to guys now because they wanted this slender Beth over what I used to look like. All of the attention and the desire to not let people who had been encouraging me and supporting me this whole time fueled me to push harder towards the wrong goals.
After I returned from California I found myself slowly losing a grip on things. I found myself getting injured easier, taking longer to recover from strained muscles and constantly achy. I was struggling to maintain an appetite for any sort of food at this point and finally decided to talk to my doctor. On top of an entire gamut of other issues, my unhealthy choices had led to hormonal imbalances that were fueling my physical ailments. The doctor gave me my options, and like a fool, I decided to wait on them and just see if everything righted on their own. In November, after a particularly rough day, I caved and decided to start prioritizing my health again.
Why share this now? Why post something so personal for anyone to read? Last week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and I clapped silently for several friends that were open about their own struggles on social media. I admired their strength in admitting they had a problem and were actively engaging methods of recovery to reestablish their own health. I didn’t post because I struggled with the shame and embarrassment of what I allowed me to do to my own self all while encouraging others to pursue the right ways to lose weight. While I have been working towards my own personal goals of recovery since late November, I have still refused to admit there was ever a problem. Because when the fat girl gets skinny, it’s celebrated, no matter their methods.
I stumbled across a poet, Blythe Baird several months ago in which she wrote a poem called “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny”. In her poem one line sticks out more than the others:
“If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin to begin with, you go to the hospital.For Full Poem Click Here – (Worth the Listen)
If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story.” – Blythe Baird “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny”
So back to my question, why share this now? I have a couple of reasons, but one that I hope will challenge your own perspective. There are people all around us pining for a change in their weight. Whether or not it’s 100 pounds or 15 pounds, people embark on their own health journeys regularly. When you see someone working towards their own goals, I hope you staple the question “How are you losing the weight to make sure you keep yourself healthy?” along to the compliment of “You look strong/healthy/fit.” I had one person reach out to me when I was fighting my own battle with eating disorders who called me straight out on how I was doing it. They had been fighting their own eating disorder for years, and knew exactly what I was going through. While I didn’t listen to the individual immediately, I found myself reconsidering every-time I purged knowing that there was someone out there aware of how I was hurting myself and actively engaging me in conversation about it. Their awareness of my problem was enough to make me pause and try to find an alternative, eventually leading me to seek out the help I needed.
My second reason for sharing, is to serve as a warning for people out there who are trying to lose weight. Whether that’s you or someone you know, it can get out of control very easily. Losing 100 pounds has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself, I have removed stress on my heart, improved my cholesterol levels, minimized knee pain from carrying too much weight, have fewer weight-related back problems, and have given myself months if not years of my life back because of healthy choices. But I can speak from experience that all those healthy choices can become clouded in the desire to lose more, faster.
Since November, I have put on 15 pounds, but I’ve done it in a way that my body has been able to utilize in a healthy manner – HELLO bigger Biceps and Quads! My fears of gaining weight are slowly but surely withering as I put on healthy muscle mass. I’m also choosing to accept the fact that the stretch marks and loose skin are a part of my success story and survival. I still have big goals and dreams in fitness and I’m just getting started, but I’m choosing to let my body do what it does naturally.
“I used to be proud when I was cold in a warm room.
Now, I am proud. I have stopped seeking revenge on this body.
This was the year of eating when I was hungry without punishing myself and I know it sound ridiculous, but that shit is hard.”
– Blythe Baird “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny”