I can still remember the first time I tracked my food. I was probably eight years old and we were spending a week at my Aunt's house over summer vacation. We had gone to a babysitter’s place for the day and I had eaten a lot of cookies and I remember feeling horrible and fat for doing so. The previous evening I'd overheard my Aunt say something about my weight and then my cousins told me my Aunt had said they weren't allowed to have too many treats or they'd get "fat like Kim."
It wasn't the first time I'd felt fat. Looking back weight loss and dieting was a constant in our house. My mom was always on some quick fix. She had tried all the branded diets: there were Jenny Craig meals in the freezer, Slim Fast diet shakes in the cupboard, diet pills on the shelf... No matter what she looked like, she was gross and fat and announced it daily. When someone gained weight, she noticed and vocalized her disdain at their lack of control. Although I don't remember her commenting on my weight, the message was clear. You need to be thin to be worthy.
I remember asking my mom to buy me the cutest bright pink bikini in elementary school. My best friend had the matching one and I wanted to be like her. I recall putting on that suit to run through the sprinklers in the front yard and wondering why I had wanted a bikini. I was too fat to wear a bikini, pudgy girls like me wore full bathing suits. I was self-conscious the whole time I wore it. Instead of loving my new suit, I hated it… and myself. That was the last bikini I wore until I was at least 17.
My top weight occurred after a trip to Japan, the summer before Grade 10. When I got home I remember stepping on the scale at my grandpa's trailer and how disgusted I was at myself for eating so many donuts, cookies, and enjoying so much food in general. I decided at that moment something had to give. I'd never had a boyfriend, people teased me for being fat, and I hated myself and how I looked. I approached my mom and asked for some help losing weight. She gave me some diet plans to use including the "cabbage soup diet" and I found a small book that listed the calories and macros for many common foods, which I started using regularly. I asked my mom about diet pills and at age 16, she took me shopping and purchased the first of many fat burners and diet pills I would use throughout the years. I also started doing a lot of reading about how to lose weight, how many calories I should be consuming, and what foods to be avoiding. I slowly began to limit the foods I was eating as well as the variety of foods.
During Grade 10 we had a weight training unit in gym class. It was the first time I'd ever enjoyed activity. There was no competition and no worry that I was going to get a ball thrown at my head or let anyone down due to my lack of coordination and sports ability. It was just me pushing myself. I'd started reading magazines like Oxygen for diet advice, which also promoted fitness and I knew the extra calories I would burn could help me lose more weight. I started going every day after school and asked my parents for a gym membership, as the school fitness center was tiny and only opened for an hour after school. I wanted time to do more, burn more calories, and lose more weight. My mom promised to get me a membership for the summer if I continued going after school as I had and that summer I started my first gym membership.
Although I did some weights, my big focus ended up being cardio, thinking this was the better way to burn calories. Like I'd started with nutrition, if a little was good, a lot was better and I continued to increase the time I was spending in the gym, while simultaneously decreasing my calories. At the lowest my calories were less than 800 per day and I was exercising for at least three hours. Sometimes I would go multiple times a day to burn extra calories. The weight was coming off rapidly and I was so proud of my ability to stay structured and in control. For once there was something I could do well. People had started commenting about my weight loss, which fueled my fire. It became a game, I lost 5 pounds, could I lose 10 pounds? I lost 10 pounds, could I lose 15?... I don't remember being hungry at the beginning, though I must have been starving. I do remember doing all the research I could into how I could be better at dieting. I denied to myself that I had an eating disorder, yet I was getting tips and tricks from biographies written by people who had anorexia and bulimia.
I vividly remember the first time I purged. I had gone out underage drinking with my friends and drank way too much. I got home and vomited violently into the sink... and I saw it... all the food I had eaten at dinner had come up. It was like a light bulb went off in my head, how perfect is this, I could eat and vomit up those calories before they could be absorbed. Even though my intake was so minimal at this time & my exercise was so severe, I started purging. I forced myself to vomit up any food I did eat that didn't fit into my strict rules, any extra food I had, or even just to get rid of my planned meals. I spent hours in the bathroom. Hours at the gym. Hours studying. Hours working. Looking back, I really don't know how I fit it all in, or how I had the energy to do it all. I was riding a high propelled by weight loss, one that brought me down to at least a skeletal 89 pounds. I'm not completely sure how thin I got because I ended up in the hospital for an appendectomy after this weight was taken. I would predict it got a lot lower, as I was scared to eat after the surgery because I couldn't do any activity to burn off the calories.
By this time there were a couple of people who questioned my weight loss and suggested that I stop. I remember telling them I didn't have a problem. I lied to doctors because I was lying to myself, saying that I did not have an eating disorder. It was many years later that my mom told me the reason we changed doctors in my late teens was my family doctor called her and suggested that I had an eating disorder and needed treatment. My mom said she told the doctor off and we never went back. The closest she got to suggesting I had a problem was soon after my operation. I was laying in the bath and she came into the room (I can't remember why). I remember laying there feeling like my hip bones were going to break through the thin layer of skin that remained, without fat to cushion them. It was actually painful. She looked at me and told me I needed to stop losing weight.
I didn't get help for my eating disorder in my late teens or early 20s. I started eating more after the incident in the bath, but wouldn't let myself get over 98 pounds. Something about triple digits scared me. I continued to restrict and purge through vomiting and over exercise throughout university. My weight slowly started to increase though, because after all those years of restriction my hunger started to rebel and I began bingeing. There had been small episodes of this along the way, but the amounts would not be considered large by a typical person, they did to me because I ate so little. It wasn't until I spent a year in Australia in 2002 as part of the Student Exchange that my weight began to increase because I couldn't afford the gym membership. I also started getting annoyed that others could eat regular portions and maintain a healthy weight, but I ate so little, so slowly my overall intake increased... at the same time my binge eating increased. I started stealing my roommates’ food to eat and buying food to binge on. Somewhere along the way I stopped purging, to some extent because I didn't want to vomit anymore, but also because after so many years of bingeing, I lost my gag reflex and I physically couldn't make myself puke.
My binges got worse and worse. I worked to restrict my food and exercise to prevent it, but still my weight increased. I ate in private, no one knew about my awful habit. In 2010 to lose weight I decided to fulfill a bucket list item and compete in a bikini competition. Yes, my weight decreased, a lot, but my binges increased substantially. Competing was the best thing I've ever done to prove to myself that I could push myself and succeed, but it was the worse thing I could have done for my eating disorder. During these years I lost trust in myself to control my portions unless they were pre-portioned. My nutrients were cut so low that my bingeing was out of control. The yo-yo up and down continued until last year when I'd had enough. I wanted to find balance.
I was fortunate to have met Annette Milbers through competing and friends and approached her in an attempt to get control. She was the first person that understood the crazy voices in my head, the thoughts and thought processes that swarmed my brain around food. For years I had restricted my overall intake, specifically carbohydrates and Annette wouldn't let me do either. Annette showed me that I could eat regular portions, fuel my workouts and not gain weight. My binges decreased, but weekly my head and the habit still got a hold of me.
A year later I was challenged to stop tracking and recording my food by Erin Skye Kelly. I had joined her Achievement Club Fitness Focused Tribe of Awesome because she was teaching gals just like me how to nourish their bodies, enjoy food, love ourselves and fuel our lives. She reinforced the ideas of balance Annette had taught me and for the first time I went more than a week without a binge and the amounts I was eating decreased. Can I say that I'm totally cured? No, unfortunately I still struggle. I've done a lot of reading and I use the ideas from Brain Over Binge. I work on myself, I work on my outlook and I work on my ability to fuel my body, my workouts and my life. Every day I wake up with hopes of a good day, sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. I try to listen to my body and what nutrition it needs. I try to take rest days from my workouts when my body and/or mind is tired. I haven’t fully recovered from my eating disorder and don’t know if I will but I have become better at coping, using strategies and ignoring the negative and sometimes loud voices in my head.