Monday Motivation: Can Someone with a History of Eating Disorders Exercise and Lose Weight Like a Normal Person? Well, We Can Try.

So after last week's slightly disappointing effort, I was determined to do a bit better on the exercise front this week. And...I did! Wahay me etc. I stink at this whole "bigging yourself up" thing. I have even started pinning motivational quotes to try to keep my mojo going. Also that sort of thing feels more natural when you've worked out and are feeling good, but I fear becoming really annoying with it too.

I like reading about other people's fitness journeys, but at the same time get really annoyed when lifestyle smug-ness creeps in. Or borderline fattist, clean eating inspo type stuff too. The whole "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" thing is never, ever going to fly with me. And I'm ok with that. I am pretty much resigned that I am going to have to try to find a way to do this my way, to have a treat if I want a treat (just not every day), and to also start thinking about things like grapes as treats(!).

Any diet or eating lifestyle that is extreme or restrictive has only one ending for a recovering (I want to say recovered but anyone who has ever dealt with this knows it's a lifelong thing) eating disordered thinker like me: rebellion and bingeing, followed by much self loathing, and then possibly a cycle of starving or "making up" for our bad behaviour.

I know that some people transition from eating disorders into variations of "clean eating", but let's be honest, it is still a form of extreme diet control, which for me is a no go. I have tried and failed every diet going over the years -I'm actually very good at diets, until I am not. Until the "old me" rears her hungry head.

I do believe in one form of "control" when it comes to how I think about food, and that is allowing myself to eat what I want, to try my best to be present about knowing when I am actually hungry, and to not overeat to the point where I feel stuffed. Also, not to beat myself up if I do eat something "bad", because that only leads to more overeating.

Things that have worked for me in the past in feeling happy in my skin and not dwelling so much on food or my body include: the books of Geneen Roth (the eating disorder ones, not the later, more religious ones, which might also be a good read but Idk as I've never read them), and also hypnosis c.d.'s (yes I dig Paul McKenna!), mainly because they encourage you to think nice things about yourself and trust yourself and not treat your body like an enemy that must be tamed.

I found Roth's book "Feeding the Hungry Heart" immensely helpful when I was younger and already had years of starvation, bingeing and occasional purging under my belt. All of the things that afflict so many teenage girls who have a moment in time where they decide they are not good enough and set about "fixing" themselves. From the first few words I felt like I was reading my story, and I had never really shared it with anyone, because while I knew other people had eating disorders, I was pretty sure none of theirs were as disgusting or shameful as mine.

I never even considered myself to have an "eating disorder" simply because I was never skinny enough or puking enough or whatever'ing enough to fit the image I had in my mind of what a girl with an eating disorder looked like. I did not even like myself enough to admit I was one of them, I wasn't even good enough at that very sad, lonely thing.

I went to an Overeaters Anonymous meeting a couple of times in college and compared myself unfavorably to every other girl in the room, rather than recognize we were in the same boat. A very sweet runner girl from the group approached me at breakfast to have a nice conversation and all I could do was stare at the amount of food she was eating and feel envy. The truth is I thought about food and my body and little else for the better part of six years, from 15-my early twenties, often in a very extreme and self punishing way.

That was twenty years ago now, and while I am a rounder shape on the outside, I am a much happier person on the inside. I have weighed 110 lbs and been miserable, and no, being the weight I am today doesn't make me feel great, but I can see positives. It does not mean I don't want to be healthier or lose weight, but I absolutely must do it on my own terms if I don't want to fall into old habits.

When I read books or quotes or advice from people who have never fought a real weight or image battle that give out sage advice like "Just eat healthy most of the time and treat yourself some of the time" I know, on an intellectual level they are probably right, but also I know that they have never eaten a box of cereal or pack of cookies in one setting. They have never deprived themselves of food for a week only to have it all "fall apart" when actual hunger kicks in and takes over. They have never spent hours trying to vomit up a candy bar. They have never put food in the trash to stop themselves eating it and then taken it back out again.

So of course common sense works for them. But it's not a message I can accept or use without a lot of hard work, and I don't know why but the "it's really quite simple" brigade negating my very real effort sometimes feels a bit pat/somewhat belittling to me. It's not natural for me to eat like a normal human. "Normal" for me is a different measure. Not eating the whole house anytime I have unpleasant feelings, that for me is an accomplishment.

I of course have times when I am fine, usually when I am kept busy, but if I get depressed or lonely food was historically my salve, finding ways around that has been a learning curve that I am definitely better at now, but by no means totally reformed of.

When I begin a regime that involves counting calories or restriction, in any form, my internal judgement barometer creeps up to unhealthy pretty damn quick if I'm not extra careful and mindful. The answer here is maybe not to count calories but frankly that doesn't work for me either. So I'm trying, I am trying my damn best here, to just do what's good for my body and treat it with a bit more care wow, I truly did not intend to write about ANY of that stuff today and I have no idea where it came from. I guess the weird thing is is when I am exercising and doing the "right" things, it feels...ok to admit that I am a mess inside, that I feel more in control of it now yes, but that this being healthy thing is actually really hard work, for most of us, for those of us who are no longer young of metabolism or naturally slim or motivated or who have never hated the way we were made.

And I guess I want to say it's ok to be weak, to admit we are scared and don't believe we can do it sometimes. SO much of fitness motivation philosophy is counter-intuitive, for me anyway, for the person that I have fought to become.

It's so "rah rah tough muscles/look at my rock hard abs and weep/feel the pain if you don't want to be a fat loser"* I don't aim to be perfect any longer, I think we can all just try to do our best and that's enough. I don't want anyone to ever read about what I'm doing and think it's easy or I'm saying it's easy if you are motivated and strong or any of that stuff. I know it's hard, and I feel your pain, anyone out there who also deals with constantly fighting what feels like a neverending battle with your own brain telling you you will never be good enough. SO that is why I am trying to do this thing and share it in as non-smug aspirational "eat this do this" a way as I can.

My Weekly Exercise Log:

1. Davina: Three Thirty Minute Workouts: Cardio Box (see previous Monday Motivations)

Davina: Buff Arms: I love this section so much, it is ten minutes of arm weights and you really feel it the next day.

Sleek Ballet Sculpt: I found this on Amazon Prime, it is T-O-U-G-H! I thought it would be a little before bed stretchy times, it's super hard ballet toughness, I was sweating after 15 minutes. I hope to re-visit it this week and see if I can make it a bit longer!

2. Pilates: Glad I went as there's no class this week. She had us do these plank push ups that focused on our triceps and I wanted to die.

3. Davina: Buff Cardio: This is probably the highest impact Davina section I have found. I managed 15 minutes then dripping with sweat switched to...

Buff Legs: Squatting Lunging Kicking ouchiness. I did most of it, because my knees can only take so much.

4. Davina: Buff Boxing: My legs were still feeling the previous day's workout (I need to intersperse days where possible but sometimes it doesn't work out like that) so I had to give up on the last two minutes of squat/plies.

So I was feeling it a bit more this week, I actually think I can handle an extra workout at this stage but you have my permission to call me an overexercising lunatic if you want! I also walked more this week, days where I didn't work out I walked at least two miles so that helps too. I picked up a Nell McAndrew dvd in the charity shop so we'll see how that goes, also we got a Fire stick because our Amazon Prime app on the Sony t.v. is a pain sometimes, also it has Youtube and Channel Four and Netflix and other stuff - mainly I am
excited to try some of the free Youtube workouts - I have dabbled with the Jillian Michaels one before and come away weeping but I am curious to try it again!

I am posting these pics because I want to show that you know, you don't have to look a certain way to work out. They are not Instagram-worthy (hello laundry basket! I seriously need a stand alone mirror) and that's ok. We do what we can.

 *My own interpretation of course!


  1. Aw, thanks for sharing all of this. As I've gotten older, I have come to realize that almost every girl has gone through self image issues. Even my 73 year old roommate says she use to diet all the time since her early teens, and says if she could go back in time to tell herself how silly it all was she would (also if she knew how "fat" she would get, she would tell herself to enjoy the "nonfat" body while she could).

    For me I have to be careful not to let my emotions dictate my eating choices, I notice that the slightest negative feelings make me not want to eat. Or if I'm sick. Usually in both cases I just want to drink my calories ie alcohol which is not a road I want to go down.

    1. I think not wanting to eat only happens to me when I am sick or super stressed, I know it is not ideal either. I try not to drink when I am sad because there is a history of alcoholism in my family, but sometimes it does appeal - I probably eat a cookie instead :-/ I think nowadays it must be so much harder for young women especially with the amount of photoshop & other unhealthy body stuff on the internet. We really need to be told from a young age that we come in all different shapes and sizes and that is o.k. Thank you for reading! :-)

  2. OK ... I am shit at dieting. So bad it's not funny. So I have finally accepted that tampering with the food I eat is not for me. I do a kind of low GI thing and that's all. I gave up on the dieting thing. Also McOther cooks! I do go to the gym but I find that the thing that has motivated me most is pain management. Oh yeh. I have really, and I mean really, arthritic knees. I jumped over a wall in a state of alcohol-fuelled exuberance aged about 25 and stuffed one up for life. Then I rode my bicycle gleefully into the path of a car I didn't see and screwed up the other one ... well ... the car did but it was entirely my fault. That happened about three years ago, so my ligaments are a bit soggy, and in some instances, missing, so if I don't have legs like Charles Atlas it all slides about and gets very uncomfortable. So it's gym or grim.

    It's amazing how motivational, not aching is. I have never lost weight, although I've lost inches and about a dress size so far, and I look exactly the same as you in front of the mirror! If I could lose weight my knees would hurt a lot less but clearly weight loss is a bridge too far. So I'll stick with the gym, and tell myself that a partial success is better than a full on failure. I think, basically, women are usually a certain shape, and the way they are portrayed in the media, etc is an unusual (and mostly unattainable) shape.

    Just thought I'd share this.

    Fist bump etc.



    1. Thanks M, breaking the lifelong scale obsession is no easy feat but I am trying! I also need to build up my quads so hopefully I will someday not have horrible knee pain at the drop of a hat (I know weight loss would aid that too-same boat!) You are lucky Mcother cooks, mine will chop things if I take a whip to him! ;-) Seriously well done though on getting to a level of fitness where your body is thanking you by not being so grumpily arthritic! I hope I can do the same in the future! :-)

  3. IT might be worth getting your Doc to refer you for phisio. There are some exercises that feel fine to do but would make things worse in my case. I did have to find out what I was allowed to do before I really got going but for me results were quite quick. The improvements began after a few weeks.

    Keep on trucking :-)



    1. I did do private physio for awhile, I know the exercises I should be doing (I could do better at keeping up with them but a lot of my pilates and dvds cover most of them). The wait times here for NHS physio are a joke unfortunately! :-/

  4. Hey Steff, thank you for sharing your story! It is always good to see what works for you and what doesn't. I am sure you will be able to achieve your weekly exercising plans. I have to say that I am always feel way better when I do a little bit more exercises, especially outdoors or with open window at least. If you want to go for a power walk let me know! I am always up for it especially after my walk to Garthdee today. I was so hot and definitely not in best shape hahaha Best Wishes, Iga x

  5. A very open and honest post, I have been there so good on you for being so brave and honest. Also I agree, a lot of these clean eating, paleo etc type diets are obsessive and unhealthy. One of the girls in my work is on this vegan, clean thingy and is to my mind creepily focussed on it.

  6. Okay, I read this post twice and it really got to me deeply. I wanted to respond with so much. My response is that I have so much response I am not able to respond, if that makes sense? Like, my response would be a confused and disorganized essay/diary entry on your comments platform. It got me deep inside. It meant a lot to me to read this. Maybe someday I will write a post of my own. Just know this really really meant a lot and got to me.

    1. Thanks Becky that means a lot to me! Writing down stuff helps, who knew? ;-0 Seriously I recommend it though. x