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Dieting for an ex-ED sufferer?


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Hiya, guys!

 

So a few years ago in my late-teens I suffered with disordered eating, namely, eating 700-800kcal a day, purging, etc, being quite underweight. Its been a long time since then or at least, about 5-6 years, and I'm just a regular adult who has always been petite but who has the tiniest bit of squish/body-fat after lockdown that isn't normal for me and that I want to get rid of - its making me feel really unhappy in my own body.

 

I've tried since making better choices by starting to have salad for lunches at work and still having whatever the S.O makes for dinner, normally healthy-ish anyways. But without a way to really track what I'm doing I'm losing motivation fast and am not sure I'll even see results.

 

I know that calorie counting works. I spent a long time doing it. But I've also spent many years slowly trying to forget how many calories are in every food, to not associate my morning coffee with a probably quite high number, etc. I'd make sure to have a sustainable goal and nothing like I used to. The pro side is that I know calorie counting works and its been a few years.  But I'm worried about the what if - what if I undo a few years of work and start to feel guilty/obsess over numbers again? Once you know them they take years to forget and that's only if you're so lucky,' yknow? How can I ensure I do it without opening up old wounds?

 

Is there anybody here with a history of disordered eating who managed to diet in a healthy way later on? I'd love some insight here. 

 

Thanks guys

Yunn the Level 0 Recruit

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Hi @Yunn - I'm glad you're staying conscientious of how your past issues around food could lead to unhealthy patterns now. I also had issues with disordered eating during college, although not to the level of restriction and purging that you experienced. Later on, I did diet and count calories after gaining weight due to hormonal imbalances, but I largely tracked to make sure that I was eating enough because I was also doing powerlifting training at the same time. 

 

One of the biggest things that helped me was switching my motivation from losing weight to athletic/fitness achievements - I started powerlifting and became more focused with the weight on the bar than the weight on the scale. I'll caution that that can turn unhealthy, too - injuries and setbacks happen, and it's not good for a person's worth to be tied to how much they can lift, either - but learning to enjoy that process of gaining new skills and getting stronger is a great motivator. I also starting focusing more on eating enough to make sure I was making progress and supporting my fitness goals. I'm wondering if there is any sort of fitness activity that could be a good motivator for you, too, and allow you to see progress in a different way? It doesn't have to be lifting - any sort of activity that you'd enjoy doing (and wouldn't be a form of punishment) would be great - yoga, dancing, hiking, roller skating... . I'd also encourage you to try something new if you can because the beginner gains in any activity can be a great motivator. Eeking out smaller amounts of progress when you're already skilled at something can be discouraging.

 

You've also mentioned that you've gained weight over the pandemic - that is very understandable after a stressful and unusual year! A lot of our habits have changed during lockdown periods, and I'm wondering if your weight might slowly normalise on its own (i.e., without tracking) as your eating and exercise habits return to normal or as you form new habits to replace the pre-pandemic ones. I know that can be a slow process, though, which is one of the reasons that a new fitness goal might help with that process by providing an alternative motivation and distraction while your body changes. As you say, calorie counting works, but it isn't the only successful way to lose weight. I'd be tempted to try other approaches first if you're concerned that counting will take up too much headspace and reintroduce habits that you've worked very hard to unlearn. 

 

It also really stood out to me that you said you've gained the "tinsiest bit of squish" and that has made you "really unhappy." Having fitness, health, appearance goals is perfectly valid, but that is a very strong response to a small change in your weight/appearance. If you have the resources, it might be helpful to work with a therapist and/or another qualified expert (e.g., trainer/nutritionist) who has experience with eating disorders. It's possible to accept your body and at least be neutral about it while you work on your goals. Even if you are unable to work with someone on this aspect, I've found it very helpful to work on a body image goal alongside any dieting goals. I also curate my social media to help my mindset and follow people like Molly Galbraith (here is her "love your body challenge") . I'll add the caveat that I'm not a therapist myself, and if you are worried about your mental health, I'd highly recommend seeking professional help. 

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@alanna Ah, I'm very late to respond to this but I just wanted to say thank you for such a complete response! I've actually since gone onto a calorie counting diet on a deficit and after about 3 weeks, its going really well. I'm finding myself motivated - and happy to be able to pat myself on the back on the daily by actively tracking something so often. Doing something about it, albeit small, has made me feel infinitely better about my body too, regardless of results. I'll stay alert but am glad to report none of my old disordered behaviours or thoughts reappearing! 😊

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Yunn the Level 0 Recruit

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20 hours ago, Yunn said:

@alanna Ah, I'm very late to respond to this but I just wanted to say thank you for such a complete response! I've actually since gone onto a calorie counting diet on a deficit and after about 3 weeks, its going really well. I'm finding myself motivated - and happy to be able to pat myself on the back on the daily by actively tracking something so often. Doing something about it, albeit small, has made me feel infinitely better about my body too, regardless of results. I'll stay alert but am glad to report none of my old disordered behaviours or thoughts reappearing! 😊

 

That's a great mindset to have! I'm glad you haven't had a resurgence of any disordered thoughts and behaviours, too - I'm sure the self-awareness you have helps a lot here. I hope the tracking continues to go well and help you reach your goals :) 

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