How can I recover from anorexia
How I experienced and overcome my anorexia
By Laura Pomer | February 03, 2020, 7:03 a.m.
One of the few things teens can control is their food intake. And watching your body change (quickly and drastically) accordingly gives you a strange sense of power, and that can be literally addicting. So it was with our author, who slipped into anorexia nervosa through an eating disorder. She reports from this time on FITBOOK.
I was only 14 when a friend of mine started her first diet. At the time, I had no idea about any nutritional values or healthy eating habits. Does chocolate contain fat? I didn't know and I didn't care. Before, I was someone who, while waiting at the bus station, bought a chocolate bar or a cheeseburger (or both) out of boredom. Out of mere curiosity, I joined the diet and as a result developed an excessive awareness of food, which would later cause me serious health problems.
With the first boyfriend, it all took a back seat. Not least because you often ate together - and ultimately had someone by your side who seemed to please you. So there is no reason to urgently beautify or change yourself. It wasn't until around my 18th birthday (when I wasn't fat, but still dissatisfied with my “baby fat”) that the thoughts of dieting came back.
Starving as a kick
It was a summer that everyone in my family saw his own thing made. Shared meals at home? Nothing. So I thought to myself: If we don't eat together anymore anyway and I want to lose weight anyway, I can keep myself to a minimum while eating and watch what happens. That worked really well and made you want more - or less: What would happen if I halved a measly slice of whole-grain bread in the evening?
Also interesting: »Whole grains are worse than sugar!
Clearly, it gave me a kind of kick not to eat anymore. Every additional day, every additional night that I managed to get by on a minimal intake of calories pushed me to the next goal - tomorrow I might get by with even less. When others around me bite into a croissant or a slice of pizza, I in no way envied them. On the contrary: I felt sorry for them, felt far superior to them! I didn't need something as mundane as food. Should they all get fat! “Eat another roll” - such sentences became an insult in my mind.
Little food, a lot of exercise
All of a sudden, calories determined my life. More precisely, the inner compulsion to have to burn every calorie I consumed again. Every little food intake was followed by a jog or I went to train in our basement on the bicycle ergometer. I didn't eat anything at school, but I still had to use up some energy. I kept interrupting the annoying sitting in the classroom (with the pretext of going to the toilet) with stair climbing sessions in the school building.
Before school or after, but definitely before a meal, I had to have worked out on the bike for half an hour. I dropped out of long school days earlier if I hadn't been able to do that with sport beforehand.
Fine line between thin and to thin
Losing weight was of course very quick. And at first it went unnoticed by my close friends and family. Because they saw me every day, which is why they didn't notice the first changes.
And because I didn't look unhealthy at first, I got a lot of compliments. I was approached on the street by agency people and fashion designers and asked if I wanted to model for them. Suddenly EVERYTHING fit and stood me, even tight clothes that I would have previously felt uncomfortable in. No matter how much I lost, however, my stomach always bothered me.
So I went ahead and stood on the scales every day. And actually it was a few grams less every day, which triggered an indescribable rush of adrenaline. My BMI soon reported being underweight. But it still looked good; found I at least.
Also interesting: What does the BMI say about your health?
At some point that tipped over. My family began to worry and to take a closer look at what or whether I was still eating. At this point my mother was already searching the rubbish bin in the kitchen because I had made a lot of things disappear there that had previously been parked under the edge of the plate.
She also introduced meals together again, and if she did manage to hold me at the table and force a portion of pasta on me, I would just run twice as long afterwards. In my condition, jogging wasn't possible for a long time, I had simply become too weak. I then had to burn off my calories by walking for hours: from home, on the outskirts of the city, to the center and of course back.
Speaking of weak. Soon everyday tasks became too much for me. I kept moving, but looked more like a zombie. I ran out of energy and dragged myself through the day - always with a bottle of water under my spindly arm. There were no more bras that fit me, I was completely emaciated. You could count my ribs through the clothes. One day a little boy in the city opened his eyes wide at the sight of me and shouted: "Mom, Mom, you can see all the bones of this woman!" She looked similarly shocked and pulled him away from me in panic.
Who is still honest with me anyway?
That encounter hit me pretty hard. Nobody had made such a direct (and hurtful) comment in my presence before. Except for my parents and brothers, nobody seemed to think I was too thin. My friends pretended everything was normal. The fact that I just watched them eat and sipped at my water was obviously not worth mentioning. Did my family log on to me? Didn't I look so sick in the end?
Yes, I did. I had already lost so much physically that I was shivering from the cold in bed at night even in midsummer. I didn't get my days anymore, had bad skin all over my body. I was given the pill because a blood test with a hormone check revealed something dramatic to me: I was not yet 20 and already on my way to menopause. I also suffered from a precursor to osteoporosis and had to start taking birth control pills immediately to counteract bone loss.
Warning signals? Might be. But I liked being able to fold myself up like a pocket knife, to make myself very small. All of this had long since become an addiction.
By now I was so light that I was shocked myself when I looked at the scales. And it got less and less with each passing day. When I was 1.79 meters tall and weighed only 48 kilos, I realized for myself that it was getting tricky. I started to cry, but I also knew: I can't just stop like that. How far could it - and I - go?
Stress hormone as an energy source
The answer: down to 45 kilos. From a purely rational point of view, I could have understood back then that 16 kilos below the medical ideal weight is far too little. But I didn't see this rattle frame in the mirror, I only saw this big belly. The thought of gaining weight again - unbearable.
What helped me to continue not eating back then: a well-known stress hormone. The experience with the little boy in town gave me a real adrenaline rush. And that came at just the right time: In the seconds before, I had felt so powerless that I hardly dared make the 20-minute drive home. Now I had enough energy again. When I got home, my mother received the pale image of her elders with a protein shake in her hand. “You drink this now. Or do you want to drop dead? ”In fact, I'd rather be than choke down those disgusting calories. Another rush of adrenaline, I got excited, screamed at her in panic, slammed the door behind me and went "for a walk" again.
Paranoid in your own prison
At that point in time I couldn't drink (let alone eat!) Anything that others had prepared for me for a long time. Was I found too thin? Then I would be given calories in the form of sugar or fat. Part of me already knew then that I had to break this vicious circle. But that didn't work.
I also no longer had the strength to meet up, read something or go to university, I was always tired. I had to give up my law studies in the third semester.
I understood that in order to live I had to gain weight. But I didn't want it at all. The result was that I quasi gave up. All attempts by my parents to have me treated failed. No psychologist or psychiatrist got through to me. If the only solution to my problem was that I had to weigh more, then I would rather not live at all.
Tricks to endure hunger
I felt nothing but hunger. I was always hungry. It was practically the benchmark for ensuring that I did everything right. Even before that, when I had eaten more than one apple a day (a green one, because it was less sugary), I had to stop myself before this feeling of hunger vanished too much. I hated but needed it.
During the day it was not a problem to endure the hunger. Just falling asleep was difficult with a hole in the stomach. So my bedtime routine consisted of frothing hot, low-fat milk to make it bulky and filling my empty stomach with it. I drank slowly and when the foam started to collapse I whipped the milk again.
Not available for help
My friends still hadn't asked me about my underweight. As I was to find out years later, when I was feeling better again, they were afraid of hurting me. Less close acquaintances reportedly feared stinging a wasp's nest because they suspected a serious physical illness.
My mother suffered a lot - and gained eight kilograms over the years. The reason for this was that she wanted to show me that food is something beautiful. She sat down with me and (apparently) enjoyed her breakfast, snacks, or particularly large portions for dinner. Don't I want something too? I couldn't, even if my growling stomach suggested otherwise.
It wasn't bulimia
So the tide has turned
It was my dentist, of all people, who pushed me in the right direction. In my family, he was actually not considered particularly empathetic. His comment, which should make me think, was correspondingly clumsy. “Start eating again. You are in the enviable position of indulging in good things that others must fear gaining weight. Enjoy it better! Otherwise you will soon be instructed and force-fed. "
Flat, superficial, not even realistic, because you can't just admit adults because of refusal to eat. But it reached me anyway and somehow flipped a switch inside of me.
And how! I started eating again. And now my body has thrown itself on everything I have offered it out of nowhere. Probably out of fear that the next period of hunger would not be long in coming, I started relatively quickly. I didn't get fat, but I soon looked a lot healthier, which of course showed on the scales. And that didn't scare me anymore. At 52 kilograms I found myself really good, but according to my friends I didn't look "like a person" again at 58 kilograms. In the years that followed, I fluctuated between 57 and 59 kilos.
So after my anorexia I stayed relatively slim. I didn't take up the sport again in the years after - it was too risky for me to fall into a fitness mania again. In addition, the way I did it was no longer fun for me. Now I just wanted to "just" try to enjoy my life. That also meant drinking alcohol now and then - I hadn't been able to do that for years because it had too many calories for my taste and I was physically far too weak for it. A sip of wine would have blown me away.
Also interesting: after a year without it! "Why do I drink alcohol again"
Once an eating disorder, always an eating disorder?
Many people believe that anorexic people will always have a disturbed relationship with food, even after they have overcome illness. And in fact, the topic will probably remain my Achilles heel, even as an adult I had relapses from time to time. The triggers for this were mental crises, undefined stressful situations or phases in which I accidentally lost weight. I liked that a little too much and the addiction set in again.
Eating is just a symptom
I have only known for a few years when and why my problem arose at the time. And what traits I have inherited that make me prone to such extremes. The food, the calories, my body - these are all just symptoms of an anxiety disorder - I have to keep working on them.
But what I understood (almost independently of anorexia): that I don't have to be the one everyone says is “so thin”. That was my label for many years, I wouldn't have known what to define myself without.
Today I weigh 60 kilos and feel good about it. But my weight also fluctuates from time to time. That's why there are always phases in which certain pants no longer fit me - and that's okay. Earlier would have already a Minimal pinching of clothing caused a nervous breakdown in me.
My body thanks me: some of the functions that were believed to be lost have miraculously returned. At the age of 34 I even get my days back, for the first time in my life, without the pill simulating a woman's cycle. So maybe it's not true that I can't have children, as several doctors have prophesied over the years.
Also interesting: is it really healthy to take the pill?
I'm not happy that I went through this (and did it to my family). But I can't go back and at least try to get the positive out of my experience. For example, that I can really enjoy little things that others might take for granted. Not a day goes by that I am not happy for at least a brief moment that I broke out of this prison. So the chances are good that I will not get “on the wrong track” again.
If you yourself or members of your family or friends suffer from eating disorders, you will find a lot of information on anorexia and telephone advice on the website of the Federal Center for Health Education.
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