Health & Fitness: College Years with Weight Gain and Accidental Anorexia

This post is a part of a series on my health and fitness journey. The series posts are coming along much slower than I anticipated… they are much harder to write than I thought they’d be! Confronting my past health and fitness issues as I am working on my present issues has not been easy. I still plan to continue writing about my story in hopes in hopes of reaching out to others, motivating myself, and confronting some hard truths about myself. Bare with me! My first post in the series was, “Childhood and Teen Self-Image and Food Relationships.” 

Junior Year of College
Junior Year of College (Sorry about the fuzzy image!)

My college years were likely similar to many other people’s college years. My freshman year I gained the freshman 15 as usual. I started college my freshman year at 130 lbs and left around 150 lbs. College was a hard transition for me because I was working three jobs, taking a full course load, and living eight hours from all my friends and family. By the end of my Freshman year I decided to move back to my hometown and attend college near family. The Summer of my Freshman year I spent working, losing some weight, and trying not to feel like a failure. (If you don’t know me by now… I’m a tad dramatic.)

My Sophomore year was a doozy. I worked three jobs, found many good friends, declared a major in Journalism, and met the man that would someday be my husband. It was a wonderful, whirlwind of a year. Throughout the year I became much more serious about my health and about writing. I’d write for hours and work out for hours. I rarely slept. My roommate never saw me.

How I Accidentally Became Anorexic

Unfortunately, likely due to not being well-educated in food and health, I didn’t understand much about calories and exercise. I *knew* I was supposed to eat 1500 calories a day. I *knew* that burning calories meant I was going to lose weight. So, I’d work out. I’d burn 500-700 calories a day while maintaing a food diary that would hover around 1500 to 1700 calories a day. I’d punish myself if I went over my goal by working harder. My mind was constantly counting calories. I was losing weight—I made it down to my goal weight of 125. (By *knew* I mean I thought it was a truth and later found out that while there is some truth to both those statements, there is much more to it all.)

I wasn’t happy though. I felt like I was hungry ALL the time. I began to have stomach problems, my hair started falling out, and I was tired all the time. My nickname at work was “Chiquita” because I bruised as easily as a banana. I went in and out of the doctor’s office several times until they discovered that I was anorexic. While I was losing weight, I was also losing muscle mass and making myself sick.

“Anorexic? Me? But, I eat!”

It wasn’t something I did intentionally— It was accidental anorexia. (I don’t think that is a clinic diagnosis!)  Not understanding how calories worked in my body made me make mistakes with my body that could have been even more harmful than lost hair and bruising.

I didn’t stop eating or begin working out because I was desperate to be skinny. I wanted to be thin, sure, but I thought I was getting healthy. My idea of health came from reading hundreds of magazines that explained the “way to lose weight and get healthy!” It was from well-meaning, but not understanding friends who would not so subtly suggest I not eat something. It was from friends handing me their “fat” clothes as hand-me downs all the while saying, “I’m never going back to that size.” It was from giving away my skinny clothes to a pregnant girl to wear around her round belly. It was from not understanding about the differences in people’s body types, how foods works in the body, and what burning calories does to the body.

I thankfully was able to catch myself in time to not do any permanent damage. In the end I maintained a weight around 135-145 throughout college. It was a rough realization that I needed to actually pay attention to my body and what I put into it. I learned to eat more for sustenance. I ran myself ragged in college. My senior year was spent prepping for a wedding, working four jobs, and going to school full-time. I didn’t have to really watch my weight because I rarely had time to even think about it. I was always on the move.

Me at my smallest adult size. Please excuse the bell bottoms!
Me at my smallest adult size. Please excuse the bell bottoms!

Looking back, I was a beautiful size. At the time I was fixated on the fact that my jean size was a 10 instead of an 8. Now I know that was likely be the smallest that I will ever be in my adult years. However, I still aim to be a healthy weight and to focus on my health.

Some notes:

  • Even at my smallest adult size I was not a small lady. I had size 9 feet, I had wide shoulders, I had hips that weren’t getting ANY smaller. Judging yourself (or others) on the size of their clothing is just wrong. I’ve learned I need to love my body without worrying about my clothing. I needed to learn how to make me HEALTHIER not smaller. 
  • It is funny now to look back and see how uneducated I was about something as straight forward as calories. I am a fairly intelligent woman, always did well in school, etc. Our food relationships and what we are taught as children matter when it come to things like body-image and weight loss. What people write online and in magazines matter. What we say to ourselves and others matter. It is complicated, but simple all wrapped into one.
  • I don’t believe that FAST weight loss is healthy unless under the supervision of a doctor. I am not a doctor, nor am I an expert in this field. Please talk to your doctor before making any huge life changes.
  • For more information on Anorexia Nervosa or related disorders visit the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders website. 
  • I’m currently writing about my fitness journey over on the East Side Athletic Blogas part of a partnership. I’d love for you to check out the blog or like the East Side Athletic Club Facebook page. 

What lessons about weight and health did you learn in your college years?

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Jenni is a freelance writer and media assistant based in Portland, OR. A Well Crafted Party is a blog about all the little things to celebrate in life. Follow Jenni or A Well Crafted Party with BlogLovin, RSS feed, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.
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  1. Reply

    it’s crazy what we’ll put out bodies and emotions through trying to get ‘healthy’ if we’re not careful. good luck with her journey!

  2. Reply

    You make a good point about learning about calories. I’ve been meaning for a while to write a post about why I don’t diet. I definitely don’t take advice from others on the subject- I’m a big girl now, and I know what is best for my body, given that I have put it through quite a bit.I especially hated when people told me I shouldn’t eat bananas if I want to lose weight. Just, no. I get foot and leg cramps if I don’t eat bananas regularly, and frankly, they’re nature’s perfect little portable snack. My body likes them, so I will continue to eat them. It’s so important to speak with your doctor about your nutrition needs- mine thinks I’m doing just fine (and I’m a vegetarian)!

    1. Jenni

      I still don’t understand diets that restrict items unless it is for allergy/stomach issues… It just isn’t practical for me and so it is hard for me to wrap my brain around it. Especially bananas! I couldn’t even imagine the amount of terrible leg cramps I’d be getting. If you’d ever want to share part of your fitness journey on this blog I’d LOVE for you to guest post.

  3. Awesome writing Jenni! I think all of us “larger” woman can relate! I was a size 13/14 in high school and thought I was huge! Now looking back, I realize I was healthy, not overweight. It’s tough sometime the way society portrays how “beautiful woman” are supposed to look…so wrong! And now I feel like I’m reliving it trying to teach my 12 yo daughter the same.
    Good luck and thanks for sharing!
    Tiffany, btw- I have a size 10 foot, LOL!

    1. Jenni

      It is soooooo important to be teaching our children to appreciate their bodies. Hahaha, does that make me old? Thank you for stopping by the blog. I had such fun meeting you in person the other day and hope we can get together soon!

  4. Reply

    You are beautiful, and so brave to be this vulnerable on such a public forum. I’m so glad we are friends and pushing forward through life with one another’s support. I love you girl!

    1. Jenni

      Thank you! You might know the girl that inspired me. 😉

  5. This series is so interesting, Jenni, thank you for sharing your story!! I definitely struggled with body image in high school and college, and my weight went up and down drastically from age 15 to… well, now. But a lot from age 19 – 21!! I ate a low-fat, low-calorie vegetarian diet that I THOUGHT was healthy and I know now was full of grains and processed foods that were bad for me. I worked out (cardio) 4 – 6 days a week for a while and saw NO change in my body composition. I was flabby-skinny. A lot like this story:
    I love her.

    Shocking how little I knew about calories, then, too–I thought it was as simple and straightforward as calories in, calories out… but none of it worked!! Now I know about the hormonal responses caused in the body based on the type of food (see this for some hard science stuff) and know from my experience and my husband’s that eating way MORE calories of fat and protein has caused us to gain lean muscle and lose fat! Especially him–lost 35 pounds by eating more butter and meat, and very low carb. Whew. (I also love this guy’s blog and story about a higher fat, low carb diet for weight loss: .

    Very cool that you’re blogging for a local gym, too!!! I love the “strong is the new skinny” mentality and hope we all can aim for health rather than a physical ideal based on other people’s bodies! Empowering!

    1. Jenni

      Thanks so much. I think sometimes people are all labeled into areas to try to make things easier… but, we aren’t all the same! There are so many differences in how our bodies react to things, what makes us feel good, what choices we’ve made in the past, etc. Thank you for all the great links… I’ve been reading voraciously since trying to get back in a good mindset and work on things!And, I’ve totally seen the difference in you. Your hair is thicker and your skin is so bright and healthy! I never thought you ever looked unhealthy… but, boy do you glow now!

    • Pech
    • August 1, 2013

    I have been loving this series you have been doing on health and fitness, as you are so honest and raw. Since I started taking my blog into more than a thing for myself and family this year, I’ve struggled with the fact I gained weight from dining out more and have started carefully thinking about calories and how much I eat and how much I burn. The forums I read make it sound so simple (just math), but it really is more than numbers because there’s so much lifestyle and emotions embedded in this.

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