The following is a transcript from an interview I participated in for a friend’s Developmental Psychopathology course.
What was the diagnosis that took place? What age was the diagnosis at?
I had extreme disordered eating, exercise compulsion, and orthorexia (but orthorexia is not officially recognized by the DSM* yet). I was not officially diagnosed with anorexia but was extremely close. The DSM criteria for weight was missed slightly, even though I considered myself a full-fledged anorexic.
*DSM refers to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Who diagnosed you? (Doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.)
A registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders.
Lowest weight? BMI percentile (if you know it)— height at the time?
89 pounds at 5’1.” BMI 16.8, underweight category.
Would you say there was an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat at the time?
YES. Yes. Yes.
What was a persistent behavior that interfered with the possibility of gaining weight?
Calorie counting, restrictive eating, obsessive exercise, unhealthy obsession to only eat “clean” (called orthorexia). Literally was terrified of anything high calorie, processed, or refined.
Would you say you didn’t really recognize the seriousness of what was happening for a while? When did you realize it?
Definitely. My hair was falling out, I bruised very easily, I was freezing all the time, I developed gallstones, but all I cared about was being a double zero pant size. I didn’t realize the severity of what was happening until I had to have my gallbladder removed at age 16 and the doctors questioned my parents about my weight. They suspected I was being starved at home.
Did you suffer from electrolyte imbalance? If yes, any cardiac arrhythmias? Hypokalemia (low potassium levels)? Osteopenia (reduced bone mass)?
Probably all of these but never had bloodwork or a DEXA scan. I did experience heart palpitations all the time.
Did you also struggle with depressive and/or suicidal thoughts? Anxiety?
Depression and anxiety, yes. I had panic attacks when I had to eat and emotional breakdowns every day. I was never suicidal but hated my life.
What issues happened in your family?
My relationships were terrible. I fought with my parents all the time. My grandmother who was always my best friend would yell at me out of fear and force me to get counseling by the dietitian. I was very angry and bitter. Our relationship suffered immensely. I lost the majority of my friends as well.
The trigger to the whole beginning of it?
I was always heavier and out of shape growing up. I was bullied by kids in school and one day I decided I just wasn’t going to eat anymore.
Tell me about your recovery. Who helped you? What was the recovery like? Would you said you’re still recovering? Tell me all the positives that came out of your experience.
My recovery will probably go on for the rest of my life. I still struggle with eating and exercise habits sometimes. I still track everything I eat every single day. For a while I settled with mediocre recovery – I was a healthy weight again but still punished myself with hours of cardio exercise, I joined sports teams just to stay skinny, I was still terrified of “unhealthy” foods. It wasn’t until I started studying nutrition, dietetics, and exercise science that I overcame these things. I don’t think I truly “recovered” until the end of 2018. These disorders started in 2011, and I was always on some sort of crash diet since I was 10 years old. Still, more good came out of it than bad.
I would not be the person I am today had these experiences not happened. I now study nutrition and exercise science because of my past and live a very happy, fulfilling, and balanced life. I have already been accepted to a Dietetics Master’s program and was granted an internship. I am at the top of my cohort academically because I am so passionate about helping people overcome psychological issues with food and weight loss. I enjoy “junk” foods in moderation. Now I exercise because I love working out, not because I hate myself or feel the need to burn hundreds of calories as punishment for eating. I changed my sport to powerlifting because of my past. I now appreciate my body for what it can do, rather than how much it weighs. My purpose in the gym is to be strong, not skinny. I track progress by how much weight I can lift, instead of how many ribs I can count. Overall, I am very grateful for my past because it shaped the woman I am today.