Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Extremely Healthy VS. Unhealthy Obsession

*Warning: this blog post will address some very personal issues regarding weight, weight loss, etc. So if you are sensitive to this subject please skip this post*

As a food blogger and avid reader of numerous health/food blogs, I've decided that I need to be completely honest in regards to my body image, my health, and my mental attitude in regards to food/exercise.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I've lost over 100lbs over the past four years yet I didn't mention my obsession with food and exercise. It's nearly impossible for me to remember a time in my life that I didn't struggle with body image.  I struggled with being overweight for most of middle and high school even though I swam regularly and ate fairly healthy for a teenager.  I could never be that teenage girl who could eat french fries and still be thin.  The idea that I couldn't eat like my friends completely boggled my mind until I joined Weight Watchers after my freshman year in college when I discovered that all metabolisms are not created equal.

Though I weighed my heaviest in high school, I faced the most emotional trauma in middle school.  I had a girl cut my hair and write nasty things in school notebooks because she thought I was fat even though I fell within the healthy range for my height and age.  By the time I reached high school I still struggled with weight by constantly being on a diet in public while eating ice cream and candy in my bedroom increasing my emotional dependence on food.   By my senior year, I weighed close to 200lbs (190lbs according to my physical at the beginning of my senior year) yet I would eat salad for lunch then come home and eat an entire bag of Starbursts.  I overcompensated my unhappiness by allowing "friends" to walk all over me because I felt unworthy of friendship or love because of my weight.

I graduated from high school and started attending Virginia Tech where I began heavy drinking on the weekends and daily ice cream trips to one of the dining halls.  Unlike numerous colleges, Virginia Tech is known for having fantastic food.  So after one semester (and my senior year of high school) I had gained another twenty five pounds.  I would go through phases of unhealthy eating then crying to my best friend about how I hated my body and being fat.  Finally she told me she didn't want to hear me complain anymore until I did something about being overweight.  That day I went to the gym in my dorm and told myself I would do at least 30 minutes of cardio.  I spent the entire semester working out and loosing almost 10lbs just by exercising.  That summer my mother and I joined Weight Watchers and I began my journey to learning how to eat to live not live to eat.

Fast forward to present day, I'm a vegan (with occasional soda indulgences) who exercises 5-6 days a week.  You'd think I'm much healthily than the girl who joined Weight Watchers almost five years ago but unfortunately I'm not.  At 5'4, I weigh (fully clothed and having eaten several meals) only 110lbs, 89.4lbs of muscle and my body fat is only 14.9%  (the minimum healthy body fat percentage for women under 40 is 20%).  Because my body fat and weight are so low, my metabolic age is 12 (and I'm 23) which has caused some other complications since I'm physically 12.  My bone mass is 4.8lbs which is barely considered healthy 110lbs and under (healthy is 4.3lbs though if you weigh over 110bs you should have 5.3lbs of bone mass).  In fact the only healthy number is my percent body water which is 62.6% which means I currently receive all my minerals, nutrients, etc.  As a matter of fact, my iron level is incredibly high for a twenty something female due the massive amounts of spinach I consume on a daily basis.  My biggest problem is I eat the right foods I just don't eat enough of them.

I've transitioned from eating food for comfort to being terrified of what food will do to my body.  When you've lost any amount of weight, the idea that you have to gain weight and actually eat fat is terrifying.  After dieting for five years I can't shut up the inner voice in my head that's mentally counting calories and freaking out over highly fattening foods even ones that are good for you like avocados, nuts, etc.  I can't handle hunger when I get hungry because I have no fat reserves.  I've allowed myself to become so hungry that it hurt to thiuk. It makes me feel like a hypocrite to blog about healthy eating when I know I'm not healthy.

Slowly I'm working on my food issues and trying to listen to my body cues.  I've had cycles of binge eating where I'd blindly eat half a jar of peanut butter in a matter of minutes not realizing that I ate that PB because my body NEEDED that fat.  But with the help, love, and support from my family and close friends, I'm working on being okay with eating and loving my body.  I have to eat when I'm hungry, eating is not a reward for intensive exercise.  It's okay that I'm hungry and it's okay to eat when I am hungry especially if I'm eating healthy and nutritious whole foods (and I don't have to eat a salad for every meal).  My body loves me and now I need to learn to love my all of body.  I'm going to take it one day at a time realizing that some days will be better than others but I've wake up every morning appreciating my body and what it does for me.

If you struggle with body image or weight loss or another type of "eating disorder" please contact a health care professional or a close family/friend for help.  I've shared my story because I hope I can help someone who has struggled like me.  You are NOT alone.  The National Eating Disorders Association website has numerous resources for individuals struggling with ED or friends/family members who believe that a loved one is struggling with an ED.  Or if you would just like to talk to someone feel free to email me at

Here are some pictures that document my "weight" story over the past couple of years:
My senior year of high school (Spring 2004-195lbs)

My junior year of college (Spring 2007-160lbs)

My senior year of college (Spring 2008-140lbs)

Spring 2009 (120lbs)

Spring 2010 (110lbs)

Right now I'm trying not to focus on a specific number but my body. When I'm no longer metabolically 12 and my body returns to one of a woman, I know I'll be at a healthy weight.  

Again, I've shared my story because like many other girls, women, and even men, I struggle everyday with loving myself and loving my body.  I want you to know that you are NOT alone in your struggles.  And you ARE beautiful regardless of numbers or pant sizes.  Food is not your enemy, it's necessary for life.  If you're struggling with body image or food or exercise, please contact someone (even me) if you want to talk about it.  As corny as it sounds, the first step is always admitting/realizing you might have a problem and then talking about it with someone close to you.

And since I've been so mean to the poor girl in the pictures I've shown you in this post, I've apologized because I'm still that girl with a little less body fat but with the same beauty, intelligence, and integrity that I've always had.


  1. Sarah,

    I think I knew you when you were struggling with weight issues but didn't know how to deal with them. And I think probably I should have noticed and tried to help, especially because I was struggling with similar issues of my own at the time . . . well, let's be honest, the issues have never really gone away. I stumbled onto your blog rather by accident today and was quite taken aback by this entry. It is a very brave post, and I commend you for it, both for putting yourself out there and for trying to reach out to others. Some day, I may take you up on the offer to talk, but for today I'll just take solace in the solidarity of a mutual struggle.

    someone you once knew

  2. I could have written this same thing 3-4 years ago. I had lost about 40 pounds and was terrified of gaining it back. I never really restricted the amount of food that I ate, but was very picky about what I ate. It got to the point where my friends and family were starting to worry about me. I changed it and I did gain about 10 pounds. But, you know what? 10 pounds is not that big of a deal. It's been very hard to come to that conclusion and I always think that I want to be back at where I was when I was too small, but in reality, I don't.

    Sorry, I wrote a small book here. Point is, that I can definitely relate.

  3. You are so brave for sharing this. I hope you are able to restore a sense of balance and overall health to your life! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.