Before (January 2004):
Height: 5' 6"
Weight: 93 lbs
After (September 2006-present):
Height: 5' 6"
Weight: 123 lbs
Why You Got Started?
For as long as I can remember, regular physical activity has been a part of my life. As a child, I can remember playing sports, riding bikes, and taking pleasure in outdoor activities. In high school, I stayed in shape and maintained my weight of 117-120 pounds by running cross-country, playing basketball, and doing exercise videos.
I occasionally over-ate and packed on a few pounds, but had no problem taking them off with a little extra exercise and some diet adjustments. Thinking back on this period of my life, I know that there were times when I focused too much on food and weight. Overall, though, I was pretty happy with my appearance and felt as though I was fairly healthy.
However, my whole attitude about food took a dramatic and unexpected turn near the end of my sophomore year in college. During high school and college, I was involved in a tumultuous off-and-on relationship. Although no actual physical abuse was involved, emotional abuse was rampant.
Cutting comments, separation from family and friends, and endless fights were just some of the unhealthy features. Although I tried countless times to cut off all communication with the individual, he would always seem to find a way to get back in my life even if it meant following me 300 miles when I went to college. His persistence finally paid off - for him at least. In fact, when he asked me to marry him, I said "yes" with the mistaken notion that I had no other choice.
Even though the engagement intensified my disordered eating, the problem actually started to develop a few months before the engagement. It all began as a diet to drop the 5 pounds I had gained during my sophomore year. However, after successfully taking off those pounds, I didn't want to stop. My weight and how much I ate was something that was totally mine. It was something I had complete control over when I was feeling that I didn't have control over my future. Saying "yes" to him only made me feel even more powerless over my own life.
Added to this, my continuation of my self-depravation was fueled by comments about how good I looked and the tremendous sense of pride I felt when all my clothes no longer fit. Even though the compliments ceased when I hit about 110 pounds, I didn't stop the extreme dieting and even increased my cardio regimen.
As a result of my strict diet and intense exercise program, I eventually reached 93 pounds. People stared at me all the time and whispered behind my back. My family and friends expressed their concern and begged me to eat, but I convinced myself that they just wanted me to be fat and that they were jealous of my size and amazing self-control.
Although I displayed obvious signs of ill health including constant coldness, dizziness, lethargy, depression, excess hair growth, and brittle nails, I never once actually believed that something was wrong with me and I continued to starve myself and ride the stationary bike or run on the treadmill for a couple of hours daily.
Then, one day something just clicked and I made a decision that helped me to turn my life around. My mom took me aside to tell me I didn't have to get married and she would support me if I decided to break things off. We talked for a long time about my unhappiness and my current state of health.
By the end, I decided I had to end the engagement to save my life. Just saying it to mom made me feel better and when I finally carried out the plan, I felt a huge sense of relief and felt like I truly had some control over my life again. I began to slowly eat a little more and stop obsessing about calories as much.
After a couple of months, I was finally able to eat dinner with my family occasionally and go out to a restaurant once in a while without having panic attack. I was also able to decrease the time I spent on cardio activities and even take a day off every once in a while.
A few months into my recovery, my brother who'd been lifting for a couple of years showed me a Muscle & Fitness Magazine and encouraged me to start lifting to gain strength and improve my appearance. I started with light free weights and simple videos. I eventually joined a gym and began to lift more seriously, which I have continued for the past 2½ years.
How You Did It?
Once I began lifting in a gym, I met a trainer who offered to design a program for me. It was a 3-way split program, in which I trained each body part twice a week. The trainer also encouraged me to continue doing cardio, but to aim for less than 40 minutes daily to avoid losing muscle mass. I followed the regimen he recommended faithfully, arriving at the gym by 5:00 a.m. to put in my workouts before my nursing classes began.
From my research, I learned it is best to eat several mini-meals per day rather than 3 large meals. I applied what I learned and aimed to eat something every 2-3 hours. I also learned the importance of eating foods that promoted muscle growth such as protein.
Within a few months of training and eating better, I put on 10 pounds and gained an amazing amount of strength. I loved the energy I had and the compliments that I began to receive. I also loved how I was able to use my new strength to do everyday things like moving furniture. I also loved seeing my muscles grow.
These accomplishments made me want to train harder and eat even better. After 2 years of training, I reached my current healthy weight of 123 pounds, which is 30 more pounds than my lowest weight. More rewarding than the weight gain has been my increases in strength. For instance, I went from being able to do a few assisted pull-ups to being able to do 45 unassisted ones and being able to perform 20 pushups to 160 pushups!
I would have to say that my return to health was facilitated mainly by a healthy diet consisting of protein, fruits & vegetables, and whole grains. However, I have used a couple of supplements during my journey - mainly protein supplements.
I have a whey protein shake everyday after weight training and sometimes in the afternoon. I also have 1-2 protein bars per day. Flavors of supplements I like: whey protein in vanilla ice cream or butter toffee. Mmmmm!
A Sample Day Of Diet
I aim to eat 6 mini-meals per day, each consisting of protein, carbs and a little fat. Most days, I consume roughly 2,400 calories a day. This gives me a constant supply of energy and fuels my busy days at work as well as my work-outs. Here is an average day:
- 1/2 c. oatmeal with a sliced granny smith apple
- 1/2 of berries
- and splash of milk cooked into it
- 1 cup of coffee
- Weight training & cardio
- Protein shake made with 1 scoop whey protein and 1 c. skim milk (sometimes added coffee or frozen banana)
- 1 small protein bar (approx. 200 calories)
- Bagel sandwich (low-carb, whole-wheat bagel topped with 2 slices of fat-free cheese, 3 oz. lean meat, lettuce, mushrooms, pickles and mustard)
- small piece of fruit or fresh veggies
- 1/2 c. cottage cheese
- mixed with small container of low-fat, high-protein yogurt
- warm fruit burrito (cooked apple, berries and sugar free maple syrup wrapped in a low-carb, high protein tortilla)
- Large protein bar
- piece of fruit or veggies
- Large salad (lettuce, tuna, cottage cheese, shredded low-fat cheese, various fresh veggies, granny smith apple, 1 serving of nuts, light vinaigrette)
- or Egg, cheese, and turkey burrito (2 eggs, 3-4 oz. cooked turkey, serving of cottage cheese melted in eggs, and sautéed mushrooms, onions and green peppers wrapped in whole wheat, low-carb tortilla)
A Sample Week Of Training
3-Way Split: 6 days on, 1 day off per week; Abs & cardio (40-60 min.) daily.
Monday, Thursday: Arms & Chest
*Unless otherwise noted, I do 4 sets of each exercise (Reps: 12,10,8,6). I lift successively heavier weights with each set and combine lifts into supersets.
Click To Enlarge.
21's Using The Curl.
First 7 Reps - MPEG - Windows Media
Next 7 Reps - MPEG - Windows Media
Last 7 Reps - MPEG - Windows Media
Tuesday, Friday: Back & Shoulders
4 sets of each exercise (Reps: 12,10,8,6).
Narrow Lat pull-down
Wide Lat pull-down or Pull-ups (40-45 reps)
Upright Row with barbell
Wednesday, Saturday: Legs & Butt
Leg Press- 3 sets of 25 reps
Hack squat- 3 sets of 25 reps
Lunges- 3 sets of 25 reps
Leg Extension- 3 sets of 20 reps
Dead lift- 3 sets of 25 reps
Hamstring Curl- 3 sets of 20 reps
Donkey calf raise- 3 sets of 25 reps
Abductors-3 sets of 20 reps
Adductors- 3 sets of 20 reps
Sunday- Rest or light cardio
I usually perform cardiovascular exercise for 40-60 minutes daily. I generally complete half of it before my weight training and the other half of it after I am finished with the weights. I use the stationary bike, treadmill (15% incline, 7-8 mph), or elliptical machine with medium resistance. Two to three times per week I perform HIIT training for 20-30 minutes.
Suggestions For Others
Anorexia is a disease that was a lot easier for me to fall into than it was to overcome. It permeated every arena of my life and robbed me of memories and happiness for over a year.
Also, in spite of my recovery, I think that a part of the disease will always be with me and some of the thoughts I had will haunt me for the rest of my life. However, I have realized that I have the power to control it rather than let it control me. By conquering it, I have learned that I have the strength to accomplish any feat that I put my mind and my heart into.
By sharing my story, I hope others will see that overcoming anorexia is possible. I know that there were times when I felt completely trapped and hopeless.
My desire is for others to see that there is a way out and that there is so much more to life than worrying about food, weight and appearance. I know it is possible to find health, gain strength and live a life free of anorexia because I am proof.