I very rarely write about being a younger person with disordered eating. Partly because everything I knew and taught myself about hiding and being ‘succesful’ with it I learned through reading the forums, blogs, accounts and memoirs of other sufferers and survivors. Their grim stories of ‘I was so unwell this is what I did’ became my plans. Their ‘at my worst I weighed xx’ became my goals. Awful but true.
Frankly though, I just don’t like talking about it. And I don’t need to. I’m a decade past my last incident and am confident that I am okay.
Sometimes though, the world forces you to look back. To remenber. And for me, to be grateful.
I had an amazing friend at uni. Smart, funny, artistic and beautiful. As friends we get along more like sisters. As teenagers that meant we drove each other crazy, borrowed each others clothes and occasionally liked the same boys. And she happened to save my life that year.
Living with me is not fun. Never has been. Likely never will. Ask my parents, sibling, the million flatmates, the Captain and my boys. But this year was particularly rough.
I would sometimes freak out so badly thinking I was so awfully fat that I couldn’t leave the house. I journalled obsessively and was a psycho about my privacy. I once got myself so upset about my body that I tripped out and stayed barricaded in the bathroom for quite a few hours, most of that in a cold shower.
She doesn’t ask questions, my friend. She’s just there.
As the year went on; I started to get sick. Not the obvious skeletal sick, but the worn-down slow-fade kinda sick.
She didn’t ask questions, my friend. She told me to get in the car.
I was too tired to argue.
To this day I can’t really explain what happened next.
I think she kidnapped me.
I remember a winding road that made my stomach lurch.
I remember a small country supermarket with strip fluroscent lighting that gave me a panic attack so bad I had to wait outside for her, gripping the roof of her car praying for my heart not to explode.
And then, peace.
It was a tiny cabin. With books to read and cushions in the sunlight on the floor.
She still didn’t ask questions, my friend.
She did make me drink really strong blue Cottee’s cordial for the first and last time in my life. But somehow, the calories didn’t matter.
She didn’t force me to eat. She took me for a walk along the beach and when we got back, there was food. And I wanted to eat it. Because I wanted to be able to walk it again tomorrow. I wanted to be better.
I got to walk along that beach again today.
She never asked questions. Not then. Not in the forever since then that she has continued to be an amazing positive presence in my life.
I am incredibly grateful. And lucky.
******* This is where I stopped writing for a few hours toying with the idea of deleting this post *******
This is the other reason I avoid writing about my experiences. If this post feels like it trivialises eating disorders or over-simplifies recovery – I don’t in any way mean it to.
My friend is not the magical unicorn. She did not cure me with blue Cottee’s and a walk on the beach. What happened there was she happened to know me well enough to see a crack in the wall I was building. It very well could have backfired. But for me, it was a start. I might add, the start of the next two years of relapses and fighting myself and learning to be okay.
If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, I really recommend having a chat with these guys;
All my love in Health and Strength,
I love it when I read things in my nutrition studies that actually apply directly to my experiences as a former chubster.
Something I read this week was about the concept of nutrient dense versus calorie dense foods. Sounds fascinating right? But as I broke it down in my mind it made so much sense to me.
You see, for the few years that I was obese it wasn’t because I was eating a LOT of food. In fact, everyone who knew me, including The Captain, would swear and declare that they almost never saw me eat. Part of that was that I was a terrible secret binge-eater. Years of disordered eating as I grew up makes it particularly easy for me to hide my habits around food from others. I’m like a self-destructive food Ninja.
But the main part was that I was whole-heartedly addicted to very calorie dense foods.
It means: A food with high calorie density provides a lot of calories in relation to the serving size. A food with low calorie density provides relatively low calories per serving size.
So it looks like this:
or terrifyingly like this:
When I first started losing weight, I was mortified by the AMOUNT of food that I was supposed to be eating. How could it be that I had only been eating a small volume of food once or twice a day (with some snacks) and gaining weight like a prize cow but NOW I was eating buckets of food and losing weight? It really seemed like black magic. Except it’s not. It’s simply caloric density.
A plan consisting of foods with a lower caloric density meant I get to eat a lot MORE food for the same or less calories than my previous high calorie/low volume habits.
Foods that REALLY helped me fill the void left by my crappy diet were things that made me feel full and happy. Things I could eat a GIANT BOWL OF and feel a bit piggy. Because I still needed that mentally. Things like insane amounts of vegie sticks, air-popped popcorn, frozen berries straight from the freezer, a big bowl of fresh green peas…
These days, because I’ve had a few years of training myself to eat more regularly, not skip meals and incorporate more protein into my diet, I don’t get so ravenously hungry any more. While I still love that crazy full-belly feeling sometimes, I don’t NEED it. But in case you do, I hope this helps.
Short post. It’s 9pm and I’m snuggled up in bed. SO very unlike me!
I mentioned in my recent DEXA post that after the freak out of getting a DEXA reading of 32.4% body fat that I sought a second opinion. That was a quick check in on an InBody bio – impedance scanner that came back as 23.8% body fat. AND.. because I am
a nutball thorough and scientific, I booked in to get my body fat measured with calipers by an expert too.
So yesterday morning, the great Kate from Pro Training calipered me. Having someone in my personal space pinching my fat is less than my idea of fun, but I figured I could cope. Kate is very cool and despite her not actively being my trainer or coach was really generous with her time. Funny story, I can’t recall exactly what the reading was BUT that’s probably because it was nowhere near 32.4%
I think it was 23%. Or at least somewhere near there. Sweet.
So, this is the end of my
nuttiness scientific collection of baseline data. The average of my three tests is 26.4% – I’m okay with that.
But what DOES come next?
First goal is to be back under the 20% by calipers and/or InBody fairly soon.
I’d love to do a photo shoot for fun sometime later in the year. Something fitness-y but pretty and fun. No rippling muscle needed, no stress, just as a marker of what I’m up to at this point in my life.
Maybe I’ll compete next year, maybe I won’t. I love it and missed it this year so will be working in that general direction but with my health, balance and happiness firmly out in front.
And for 9.38pm on a Friday night, that’ll do for now.
Have a great weekend peeps.
Hey all – here’s a special guest poster for you today! Enjoy!
When it comes to weight loss, you mostly only hear success stories. Not many people are willing to say that they’ve tried and failed. As a matter of fact not many will tell you that they’re even attempting to lose the weight. I will put my hand up and admit that I’m one of those people. There are 2 people who know that I’m actively trying to lose weight and I know that they’re my biggest supporters.
Why won’t I tell anyone else? Because weight loss does not come easy to me. It never has and I don’t think it every will. See people who don’t have much weight to lose and haven’t struggled with it before just don’t understand how much willpower it takes to lose a single kilo.
Your willpower has to be strong, your mind set has to be in the right place and you have to be better organised than the military.
What goes wrong for me? The mind games. I have never understood struggle until I decided to loose the 40kg that I had in excess. I want to lose it so bad, but my mind plays games big time. If I have a bad meal I would just go ahead and make it a bad week. If I miss one exercise session than I just don’t feel motivated enough at the next one and when the scales don’t place nice and show you’ve had a gain when you’ve worked really hard than that becomes very discouraging. And then the roller-coaster starts all over again where bad eating is involved.
The mind is a funny thing. It can either help you get to where you want to go or really sabotage you.
I would love to know how the lovely readers of Sailor Vee have overcome this struggle and made their weight loss journey a successful one?
Sometimes I choose not to blog things. Sometimes because I am too busy to write. Sometimes because I don’t think whatever it is is interesting enough to interrupt people with. And sometimes, it’s simply stuff I don’t want you to know.
Yep. I got secrets. Sorry.
So when I preemptively told the blog-o-sphere that I was having a DEXA scan, I sort of set myself up to NOT be able to do that. Which kinda sucks.
To clarify, the whole reason I wanted the scan was I know that I need to move away from the significant obsession I have with weighing myself at least once a day. I do KNOW it’s a bad idea, not a great reflection of my body composition and can’t really be trusted to give me accurate information. In fact, Cathy knows my level of pain with the scale and tagged me in this post on IG during the DEXA day:
So I had the scan. I had it done at the University of Tasmania sports science unit. To be fair, the scientist did advise me that it was a very old machine and not capable of the type of information that modern DEXA units are. I still was a little taken aback at the sheer age of the thing. It looked like it was made in the 70’s from a factory conveyer belt and my Grandad’s camera. Fo Realz.
Also different is the level of information you get back from a modern DEXA. I was hoping for detailed information about the specific location of body fat held, but sadly this model was only capable of averages per limb and the trunk. You don’t get a print out of the information, but a written summary of what the operator interpreted from the scan. Even my sports scientist wrote though there was some ambiguity in the scan and the results may have been skewed in certain aspects.
But hey, enough blaming the equipment.
I came in at just over 32% bodyfat.
In all honesty – I was expecting 25-26%. I would have been annoyed but understood 27-29% and would have been stoked with anything under 25%.
Nope. The machine in all it’s science-y wisdom says 32.4%.
I waited to feel crushingly sad. I put my polite face on, paid the man and walked to the car in the eerie drizzling rain, wondering if I was going to cry. I sent a message to a friend letting her know what it had come back as and said that I might cry. But I wasn’t crying. Not even close.
I sent a message to The Captain. I had promised him that getting a DEXA would end ‘the crazy’, which is the umbrella term we use for just about anytime I talk about my weight or size based on ridiculous perceptions I have of myself.
Being the awesome husband that he is, he offered to come out and hang out with me for awhile. He knows this stuff can knock me about a bit. But still, I was fine.
Not quite fine enough to leave it alone though…..
I mentioned in my previous post that I have in recent times been using an Inbody scanner to do a electrical bio-impedance measure of weight, muscle mass and body fat. So….
I drove straight to the gym and did another one. To compare apples with apples. As best I could.
On scan 2 months ago exactly I came up as – having 31.6kg muscle mass and 28.7% Body fat.
Yesterday – 33.2kg muscle mass and 23.8% Body fat
So, what did that experiment tell me? That comparing data from the same machine with conditions as similar as I could (same time, similar clothing etc) showed that I was heading in the direction I need to.
AND – because I want a third and independent non-scale reference point – I have an appointment to have my body fat read with calipers next week.
But what did I LEARN from today?
That peace of mind for me in not in the numbers. Not even in the better numbers from the InBody scan. It doesn’t put my soul at rest. It doesn’t make my life easier or even really validate my feelings about the work I put in being worth it. I wish it did. Some part of me really, really wants to cling to data to tell me it’s all okay. Numbers are part of a sport that I really enjoy. Transforming your body in incremental steps is far easier to celebrate when you know the height you need to climb and the progress you make each week. That’s going to be the ongoing struggle.
But at the very end of the day, hanging out at home, I kept coming back to the idea of what I wanted to know from this whole exercise. I wanted a non-scale baseline where I could come back and reference this point in the preparation in three, six, twelve months and know then what I’d been doing for my body.
It was never going to tell me if I was happy with myself. Only I can do that.
So I did. Stripped down, no make-up, at the end of the day with 4 litres of water and 1900 calories in my belly – this is me.
And if this is 32.4% body fat, or 23.8% body fat or 40% body fat – I’m pretty darn okay with where I am.
Yes, I want to grow and develop and be lean and have a physique that others aspire to. But feck it – I’m strong, happy and healthy and capable of doing anything I want.
And I want to continue on this fun-filled adventure of eating lots and well, lifting heavy things and generally living life like a boss without guilt or shame or feeling like I am supposed to be anything other than where I am.
So yes, I’m going to change. I’m happy to be open and honest with you about the road and the fact it’s not going to be easy, and sometimes not pretty. And yes, there will be more scans, and tests, and weigh-ins.
But what did I actually LEARN from the DEXA. I learned that I’m okay. I’m better than okay, I’m good. And that I don’t need a machine to tell me that.
Beep. Boop. Beep.
So we are coming to the end of my year off. Balance achieved, muscle growing nicely and health is finally back on track.
Which means… it’s time to think about the next goal.
I make no secret of the fact that I still struggle with having an accurate perception of my body. I freely admit also that I am a lot heavier than when I competed last week – about 10kg above that stage weight actually!
I am known for throwing massive tantrums, some angry, some in tears, because I want to be super lean again. As much as I know this time off was needed, it hasn’t been easy. I get crabby at The Captain because he is naturally slim and can’t possibly understand. I don’t believe him when he tells me I am not “fatty-fat-fat” as I may have ranted. He reminds me that I am healthy, stronger than I was a year ago, with more muscle and for the most part – less crazy. Not right at that moment. But mostly.
I hate the scales. Which is funny, ‘cos I’m pretty sure they hate me back.
Measurements are good but if they go down is it because I’m losing muscle? Or should I look at an increase in size as new muscle under my body fat and not get too worked up about it? And where the hell did I measure my ‘waist’ at again last time anyway?!
Honestly, I like hard numbers. When I was initially losing weight all that mattered was the number on the scale. When I was competing it was still largely about the number on the scale, but also about measurements and being calipered. Calipers…urgh.
So tomorrow, I’m having a DEXA scan.
What’s a DEXA? It’s a groovy machine! DEXA stands for Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). It assesses total body bone mineral density and highly accurate measures of the body’s soft tissue composition (muscle mass and fat mass). By measuring my body’s muscle mass, fat mass, and bone mineral density, it can determine the total body fat percentage, and changes in regional body composition. So, HOW MUCH fat I have and WHERE the fat is hiding.
Woohoo. Or yikes. Depending on how mentally prepared I am for the outcome.
Last time I had a DEXA was when I was at a ‘goal weight’ for weight loss but before I had really dreamed much of training heavily with weights or cared about much more than my BMI. I came in at just under 30% body fat then and coming from obesity (I estimate I had been 40-45% at my heaviest) I was pretty happy.
I didn’t have any DEXA scans while I was competing last but did have my body fat percentage tested by someone very experienced in it each week. In the week of my last ever show I came in at a fraction under 14%. There is a lot of literature about DEXA readings coming up higher than caliper readings as a DEXA also includes the fats in your body NOT held in your skin (so internal fats around your organs etc aren’t reflected in a caliper). So it can’t be a direct comparision.
I do sometimes use the InBody scanner at my gym which is a bio-electrical impedence type (like a VERY expensive version of bathroom scales that do body fat) and it had me back at about 28% a few months ago.
This infographic isn’t perfect, but is a helpful visual of how different percentages might look. Keep in mind the women pictured are all different ages/heights/builds/poses etc so it is a ROUGH guide:
I don’t really mind where I land on the body fat percentage tomorrow – I’m just more excited to have firm data as my start point which will allow me to build and shrink in the right ways again in the future.
Wish me luck!