I’ve been struggling with something for a while and I’m not actually sure I feel comfortable talking about it, but there may be someone else out there struggling with the same thing who needs to know they aren’t alone. I have an intense fear of gaining weight.
*****this post talks about eating disorders, this may be a trigger for some of you, please take care of yourself and read (or not) accordingly*********
As many of you may know, I lost 45 pounds in 2017. This is something I have been trying to do for a long time. I gained a lot of weight when I first got sick, on top of losing my independence, suddenly my body no longer felt like mine. I weighed 225 pounds at my heaviest, and I didn’t recognize myself. (I’m barely 5’5″ tall) A few years ago I found out that I have Fructose Malabsorption and went on the appropriate diet to help with that, and at that time I lost 45 pounds, and kept it off. However, I was not happy with my weight. I was still overweight and it ate at my self esteem. I tried and tried to lose weight over the last few years, but it just didn’t come off. I had my yearly physical last year on December 30th, and at that time I weighed 182 pounds. I was determined to lose weight, but I really wasn’t sure I could do it, and I was ashamed that I hadn’t been able to do it before. Then I was put on a medication for my migraines that reduced my appetite. Suddenly I was able eat much less and not feel hungry. (Normally I feel hungry often.) I lost weight, it came off slowly, but it steadily came off. By the time I had my yearly physical last month I weighed 140 pounds. (140 lbs at the doctor’s office, at home I weighed 135lbs) The medication stopped curbing my appetite, now I’m fighting hard not to gain all that weight back. I was able to bake for the holidays this year for the first time in many years, but I didn’t just bake, I ate, and I have been terrified that I’m going to gain….and gain…and gain, yet I can’t seem to stop eating. I’ve gained about 5 pounds. I know how quickly those 5 pounds could turn into 80+ pounds, and I’m desperate to not let that happen. So many people will say that 5 pounds is nothing when you gain weight, they tell you not to worry about it, it’s really not that much, but those same people will tell you how great it is when you lose 5 pounds, how that’s a lot of weight to loose…. How can both of these be true?
When I lost the weight this year I found myself in love with my body for the first time since I can remember, if I ever felt that way at all. I accepted that this body was not as I wished it would be. Let’s face it, a 54 year old’s skin doesn’t really shrink back when you lose weight, but I was happy with what I saw, I loved all of me, saggy skin, cellulite, and all. However, even though I felt that way, I was still terrified of gaining the weight back. At one point, I went to the grocery store and started to buy some gluten free flat bread to make a pizza with, when I saw the amount of calories it had per serving I broke down in tears. I was paralyzed with fear. I simply stood there and cried.
Now, I see myself as fat. I can see that I’ve lost weight, but I also see where I’ve gained some, and how much more I need to lose. (10 pounds seems to be as hard to lose as 50) I see photos of me and I think I look pretty good, then I look in the mirror and know that isn’t true; it takes a lot of effort to look good for the photos, on a day to day basis, I don’t look like that. I look down at my body when I’m sitting in the living room and I’m appalled by the rolls of fat on my stomach, the bulges I feel under my arms, (back fat is not attractive), and the drooping of my breast.
I feel better since I’ve lost the weight. I can get up from the floor easily. I can walk further than before. I go out with more confidence (most days). I love wearing smaller sizes. I think I look good…..sometimes. Other times…well I covered that haven’t I?
I’m scared. I’m terrified of gaining weight. This is an intense fear, yet I can’t seem to stop eating. I’m hungry all the time. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with food for a very long time, my whole life really, I don’t want to go into detail about my past, but I need to let you know this isn’t the first time I’ve struggled. Now it is even more confusing. My weight seems to always be in a state of flux. Since I was able to keep most of the 45 pounds I lost, I was encouraged that I would be able to this time, I’m afraid that isn’t the case. I’m afraid I will need to track every thing I eat to make sure I don’t over eat or under eat. I’m afraid I’ll need to exercise as much as possible in order to keep the weight off, but that is physically impossible because of my health, and I hate myself because of it. I’m afraid I’ll fail and the weight will come back.
I’ve been trying hard to not eat as much, and to eat nutritionally dense foods; this hasn’t happened, instead I’ve been going overboard on sweets and cereal, and I beat myself up over it. The guilt and fear is so great that I have tried many times to make myself throw up. (I can put my finger all the way down my throat and not throw up.) If I could just get it out when I eat too much, I know I would feel better, I would be back in control. No, it wouldn’t take away the guilt (I’m sure it would cause more guilt), but the fear is stronger than the guilt. I’ve exercised to the point of absolute exhaustion (not regularly). I have taken laxatives when I feel I’ve over eaten (not often, but I have). I suffer from chronic constipation and get obsessed with how much that makes me weigh (how much extra weight is in me), laxatives help. I try hard not to have them in the house, so I won’t abuse them. I’ve actually been happy when I’ve had intestinal distress, because it’s a sure way to lose weight. I’ve wanted surgery to make me look better. These actions and thoughts scare me.
I will work on these things. I may go back into therapy, but first I am going to try to deal with it on my own. As many of you know I can’t drive because of the sudden attacks of vertigo I have, this makes it very difficult to get to therapy sessions. Stuart has to juggle his work schedule to drive me places so we try to keep my appointments to one a week, two at the most; if I have therapy every week how can I go to any other appointments? I just want to handle this by myself if possible.
I don’t think I have a full fledged eating disorder, yet. I do not avoid meals. I eat when I’m hungry, even if I feel I shouldn’t be hungry. I have not been tracking every calorie I put in my mouth. However, I do plan to, to make sure I’m not over or under eating, and I will admit, to loose a few pounds. I’m not avoiding foods, I do plan to cut sugar out of my diet for a while, but that’s not a bad thing, right?). I normally do not eat so much that others would find it unusual. (however, I feel it is) I do not purge, but I do admit, sometimes I would if I could. I have a lot of fears and I can see that my actions have been changing because of these fears.
I have Pocrescophobia (the fear of gaining weight); I know this fear could lead to serious health issues, I know it is causing extreme anxiety for me, and I know it is hurting the people who care about me. I will get a handle on it, if I can’t do it alone, I will start seeing a therapist and talk to my doctor. (I promise) Right now, I’m simply trying to be open and honest about this. I’m asking you to not judge, or worry about me, I simply ask you to be witness to my fear and support me while I deal with this.
I do wonder how many people who have a chronic illness struggle with these feelings.
For further information, or help, I’ve listed a few organizations that deal with eating disorders:
- NEDA – National Eating Disorders Association https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
- BEDA – Binge Eating Disorder Association https://bedaonline.com/
- Eating Disorders Hope https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/
- NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Health https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Eating-Disorders/Overview
- NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml