Trigger warning: discussion of eating disorders and body image.
I just got off the bus and I’m still brooding over some things I overheard…
The woman a few seats away was speaking (er, yelling) very loudly on the phone to a friend about weight and body image. It was pretty clear that she wanted the whole bus to hear her “helpful” advice.
And you know, she did have some helpful advice… she suggested not weighing oneself, not counting calories, not thinking about foods “not to eat”, etc. She advised her friend (and the rest of the bus) to eat things that she feels good about eating (fruits, vegetables, etc) and to love her body and take care of it.
What she said should have made me feel GREAT about myself… but it didn’t because she also implied that “fat” people DON’T already do those things and that weight loss is as simple as eating well and exercising. Now for some people, it is that simple. But it’s never been like that for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fat. I’ve always ate much less than others and I exercise moderately, but I am always gaining weight and weight loss is virtually impossible. In fact, I ended up with a pretty horrific eating disorder, because people kept telling me that weight loss was as simple as calories in-calories out and telling me that I must just be eating too much. I starved myself… I ate 600 calories a day, walked 3 or 4 miles a day, and lost about 1 to 2 lbs a week, which is the amount a normal person would lose eating about 1500 calories a day.
When I got to college, I started eating 1,200 calories a day, and gained 40 lbs in 8 months. I talked to my doctors, but they kept saying “you must just be eating too much”, as though I didn’t know how much I was eating. Even my friends at college were (and are) worried about me, because I ate so little. But I figured the doctors were right, so I started eating less… and still didn’t lose weight. As it turns out, I have mild hypothyroidism and PCOS, which isn’t helping me at all. My hypothyroidism went undetected because my levels were just on the cusp of the “normal” range and it took a lot of pushing and shoving to get someone to do something about it. But I’ve recently started treatment for hypothyroidism (there is no treatment for PCOS, but there are ways to control some of the symptoms) and am still figuring out medication. A few weeks ago, I managed to lose 10 lbs in a little over a month (I was also awake/alert and stopped losing hair!). Of course, I changed medications and gained those 10 lbs back, but I know that I can eventually find the right type and dose of medication to make my body work with me.
I’m not “fat” because I eat bags of doritos and lay around on the couch. I drink green smoothies, eat salads and raw nuts, and walk frequently… but I do have endocrine disorders that directly affect my metabolism.
Not everyone has thyroid disorders, but they are under-diagnosed. It’s not a well-understood disease, and doctors are still arguing over what “normal” levels of TSH are, as well as other diagnostic criteria. Try eating well, exercise, and sleep, but if you’re still freezing cold all the time (I wear wool sweaters in the summer!), exhausted, losing hair, and gaining weight at an impossible rate, then thyroid disorders are worth looking into. Here are some helpful links: