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

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?

Health & Fitness: Childhood and Teen Self-Image and Food Relationships

Health & Fitness: Childhood and Teen Self-Image and Food Relationships

I’ve been going back and forth about whether I was going to post about my health and fitness journey on the blog. It is such a personal and, often, frustrating part of my life. But, I figured that posting about my journey may do one or all of three things:

  1. Let someone else know they aren’t alone
  2. Motivate me to do better and stay on the right track
  3. Show a real-life (non fitness/health food guru’s) health and fitness journey.

This series will cover my image issues and fitness journey. I am beginning in my childhood and teen years and traveling up to adulthood. I feel that many of my food issues and my self-image realities stems directly from my childhood and teen self-image and food relationships. I will still be posting recipes as per usual… I’ll just start including some of my healthier meals in addition to my butter and pie loving posts. I’ve had weight and body issues my entire life, so I am pretty much aware of what I am doing right and wrong and when I am doing it. I am a strong believer in EVERYTHING in moderation. This view is not shared by everyone, but it is what I’ve found works for me (when I stick with it!).

In addition to writing about my journey of a healthy self-image and life I am writing a 6-week fitness series. I’d love for you to visit and read about my fitness journey. I received membership to East Side Athletic Club  in exchange for work I’m doing on their website and am telling my fitness story on their blog. I’d love to hear what you think of it!

Childhood and Teen Body Issues

Image Issues in Childhood & Teen Years

Me in my Sophomore year of high school. At this time I was a size 6 (US) approximately 115 lbs and thought I was overweight.

I was a tall, lanky adolescent. Mainly I was ALL limbs. I played softball (though, I hated running) and enjoyed chasing after all the boys on the playground when I was in elementary school.

However, after elementary school I stopped playing sports and started becoming more and more studious. I was often found with a book in my hands or in front of a computer chatting with friends or creating HTML websites. You might have called me a nerd. (Some still do!)

The lack of activity in addition to puberty made me gain weight. I was taller than a lot of the girls. My feet were larger. I felt awkward all the time. And, while, looking back, I was thin and still quite lanky— I felt FAT. Though I had a flat belly and long limbs… I wore shorts and baggy t-shirts over my bathing suit. I slouched when I walked. I covered my waist with my arms when I sat. The me I saw in the mirror made me sad.

One story that often comes to mind from this time in my life was, of course, one where I was trying to impress a guy. I was at a summer camp leaving the cafeteria with friends. I had a donut and a cup of yogurt in my hands. The guy I had eyes for was walking towards me and my group of friends. In a flash I threw the donut into a bush and sucked in my (non-existent) belly.

I look back now and wish I had appreciated my body more. I was thin! I was agile! I was YOUNG!

Image Issues

At prom my sophomore year with my besties— Jamie (left) and Stacey (right).

Binge and Starve: My Circumstances Shaped My Food Relationship

My food issues stemmed from a lot of different places. First, my grandmother was very overweight and suffered from diabetes. I had to learn how to give her injections just in case her blood sugar levels dropped. I feared that future more than anything. Second, we were very poor. We were the kids that had free school breakfasts and lunches due to income…. and, we wanted to go to school because we knew we would get two full meals in the day. Sometimes our pantries only held white bread and peanut butter.

So, while I feared getting fat… I also ached for food. This often led to overeating when food was plentiful and letting myself go hungry when food was scarse. I often would get stomach issues and cramps that sent me to the restroom for long periods of time daily. I began to love the taste of PeptoBismol. Food was my savior and enemy over and over again.

Food and Body Awareness: The Role of Adults

I had wonderful, loving role models. They never called me fat or belittled me. They tried getting me access to healthy and plentiful food. They did their best But, they were not the best role models for what to eat or how to take care of the body. The adults in my life at the time didn’t know the best ways to approach food and body issues.

I don’t want my son to have the relationship with food that I had. I want him to get to enjoy his food and see how it can nourish the body. I want him to be able to enjoy the way rich, wonderfully prepared food can taste. But, I also want him to learn that those items are not for the everyday.

I know that my example is going to be the most distinct way that he will learn about food. I hope to provide a good example so that his childhood and teen years don’t resemble my own. I also plan on actually talking about food and nutrition as he grows older.


Body Image Issues

My senior photo— cheesy as all get out— but, looking back I think I looked great!

Did you have issues with your food relationship when you were a child/teen? How do you plan on teaching your children about food?

Thank you for reading about my health & fitness journey. To read about my current fitness goals please check out my post over on East Side Athletic Club’s brand new blog. I’d love your support as I work on getting healthier!

** I received membership in exchange for my work with East Side Athletic Club. I did not receive further compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. **

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