I know – there’s no such thing as Day 0. Just bear with me. Really, there is a reason for this.
Hi there. My name is Carla. I’m 35 years old. And I have an eating disorder.
I have been trying to get control of this thing since I was 18. I really don’t know how I made it this far. Considering how much of my life revolves around food, I’ve actually accomplished a lot. I graduated from university with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Biology. I went to teachers’ college. I taught high school for 6 years. And I’ve almost finished a 4-year degree in Naturopathic Medicine. All while in a cycle of binging and purging, gaining and losing 60-80 pounds on a regular basis – 2 or 3 times a year.
It started in university. I’d always been a thin child, though I put on some weight in my last years of high school. But my 1st year of undergrad stressed me out like nothing else ever had. To cope, I ate. Eating became associated with a temporary break from the constant studying that had become my life. When I realized how heavy I was becoming, I tried to stop. I ate smaller meals. I skipped dessert. I started going to the gym and spending 45 minutes a day on an elliptical. I indulged occasionally, but no more – I thought – than my thin friends.
To my horror, it didn’t work. Which stressed me out more. Which led to more frequent indulgences. After which, I would feel so guilty, I would try not to eat for a day. Sometimes, it worked. But I kept gaining weight.
Then, one day, a physiology professor spent a class debunking the idea of a ‘slow metabolism’. People gain weight because they eat too much and exercise too little. End of story. Minute differences in metabolic rate have very little to do with it. You could have the slowest metabolism in the world, but if you stop eating for a month, you will lose 30 pounds. Guaranteed.
My head just about exploded.
30 days? I could do 30 days! For the chance to get my life back, I could do this. I knew I could. And I did – almost. I ate nothing, and consumed only water, for 25 days. And I lost my 30 pounds. I had never felt anything so amazing in my life.
Then I started eating again. In 4 weeks, I had gained back those 30 pounds. And it kept going up.
I tried Weight Watchers. I tried exercising more. I used laxatives. When I was able to, I vomited. I became vegetarian. And again, and again, I went back to fasting. 2 weeks, 4 weeks. The longest I ever went was 35 days. The most effective was a double fast – when I could pull it off. A 4-week fast, 1 week off, and 2 more weeks fasting. I could lose 50 pounds in less than 2 months, that way.
I wished I could just stop eating. Fasting was easy. I was exhausted, I had horrible breath, I wanted to sleep all the time, and I had difficulty walking up a flight of stairs. But I was in control. I wasn’t consumed by the need to eat.
But you can’t avoid food forever. As soon as I started eating again, I lost it. Completely. I was no longer myself. No longer rational. I ate until it hurt, and then I kept eating. I hated it, I hated what I was doing, and I was completely powerless to stop.
I stopped eating in front of others, because food became associated with shame. With failure. With a lack of self control. Everything I hate about myself. It disgusted me, and I was sure that if others saw me eat – no matter how moderately – they would be disgusted by me, too.
But even if I could hide my eating, I couldn’t hide the effects of it. I would receive compliments while I lost weight, then endure the embarrassment of gaining it all back in front of those same people. The next time around, they would keep their compliments to themselves. When I began gaining again, I would know it was time to move on. After my undergraduate education, I moved 12 times in 6 years.
Each move was a new beginning. A new season of hope. But they all ended in the same way.
Eventually, I quit teaching. Maybe my eating problems were due to stress. Maybe I just really hated teaching. Maybe I needed to be closer to my family.
I came home. I did exercise videos with my 5-year-old niece. I read Joel Salatin, met a grass-fed beef farmer, and began eating meat again. I found Nourishing Traditions and Weston A. Price. I planted a 3000 square foot garden with heirloom vegetables. I found raw milk and pastured eggs. And things got a little better. I applied for a midwifery program, and got an interview.
But by the time my interview came around, I was spinning out of control again. I couldn’t bring myself to go to it.
Eventually, I picked myself up enough to apply to the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. And I went to that interview – not at my highest weight, but pretty close to it. I felt awful. But I was determined to fix myself. I figured a 4-year program would do it.
It didn’t. Even though I took 5 years, to give myself some extra time to focus on my health.
Things got a little better, again. Some years were better than others, but overall, the cycles of binging and purging became less extreme. When I was doing well, my food was really, really healthy. I took long, daily walks. I lifted weights. I did an elimination diet. I took herbal medicines and talked to naturopathic interns and tried listening to my body. But I could never keep it up for more than 4 months at a time. And the recovery took longer. The weight always came back.
Then, in September, I came across something new – not in school, but in an email after watching a docuseries on diabetes. Bright Line Eating.
By this point, I knew I had an eating disorder. I’d read several books on the subject – and been blown away to realize that I wasn’t the only one who felt the way I did, who did the things I did. Knowing I wasn’t alone in my craziness was huge. But these books also told me that this was something I would struggle with for the rest of my life. That it would never get easier. I could do it, but resisting the temptation to overeat would always be difficult. This terrified me. On the other hand, my naturopathic education told me that controlling my food – and my weight – should be easy, with enough knowledge and self-awareness. This was a more attractive idea, but so far, it hadn’t worked. And none of the people spreading this message were anything like me. I don’t know if they realized people like me existed.
Susan Peirce Thompson was the first person who sounded like me, but offered real hope.
She described my problem as food addiction. She explained why I could eat and eat and never be full. Why I would drive through a snowstorm to satisfy a craving. Why I couldn’t stop, as much as I wanted to.
And she showed me how I could break that addiction. How I could break this cycle, and gain control, and get my life back. She said that in time, it would get easier.
I did it. For 67 days, I did it perfectly. And I began to feel really good.
But then, before Christmas, I ate some cheese. And I told myself it was ok if I was less than perfect for the Christmas break. And it got worse, and worse, and worse. And now it is April 22nd if I told you what I’ve eaten today, it would disgust you. Suffice it to say, it included 10 Cadbury Cream Eggs. Ugh, that is embarrassing. I might go back and delete that.
I haven’t been apathetic for these 4 months, either. I’ve been trying to start BLE again. Over, and over, and over again. I started accountability exercises. I started seeing a naturopathic intern again. I joined a support group. I’ve gone days at a time, sometimes weeks, perfectly. But I can’t seem to keep it up. Even though I am convinced that for me, this is the answer, I can’t quite get out of this hole.
Welcome to my newest effort to get it together.
Today was supposed to be Day 1. So was yesterday. And every day, going back to last Thursday, when I finally stepped on a scale again and discovered that I am 223 pounds – 45 pounds heavier than the last time I weighed myself, just before Christmas. Despite that jolt of horror and motivation, I have managed to postpone my starting day for 5 days. Failure after failure. So, to give me the kick in the pants I so desperately need, I am dubbing this Day Zero. Putting it out there, into the world, for all to see. Which means tomorrow has to be Day 1. There’s no getting out of it. No more putting it off.
Tomorrow, I will begin following Bright Line Eating. I will follow each of the 4 bright lines. And I will write about it, every day, right here. For whoever happens to stumble across it on the Internet.
This may very well be a mistake. To be honest, I have some very serious misgivings about it. Some time this year, I will become a qualified, certified, licensed naturopathic doctor. I will have to earn a living helping others with their health. And any potential patients will be able to google my name and find this. How can I possibly expect anyone to trust me, after reading this? Knowing how messed up I really am?
It’s a risk. But I can’t go back now – I’ve already spent 2 hours writing this post. Turn back now, and those 2 hours are lost forever. And also, I’m out of ideas. I have done everything else I can think of to motivate myself. This is it. Do or die.