I wonder whether anyone can relate but I used to think that somebody would have to be within or heading towards a dangerously low weight for mental health professionals to talk about anorexic behaviour. However, back in 2011-2012, I spent 6 months in this horribly restrictive headspace that almost ended up with me sectioned against my will using the UK’s Mental Health Act.
How did it begin?
I didn’t realise it at the time but I was later diagnosed with Complex PTSD (I’ve since recovered). One day, probably trying to cope with trauma, I found myself thinking that 800 calories was to be my maximum daily intake. Not a calorie more. In many ways, I was probably trying to find something in my life that I could control. I was 287lbs so it was seen initially as me just ‘eating healthily and being very careful’. But I obsessed about calories. Everything was weighed and calculated to the nearest half calorie. As you can imagine, the weight just fell off but my grip on the calorie limit got tighter. After 800 calories, my limit went down to 500 calories, then 300 calories and ended up 250 calories a day.
How can you survive on 250 calories a day?
Well, it turns you can’t for long! Initially, I become extremely creative with what I ate so mushrooms were my friend. Lunch would be a low-cal cereal bar of 68 calories. I was never hungry but I became very devious at avoiding meals. The children were younger and when my husband got back from work, I’d say that I’d already eaten, etc. In 6 months, I lost 112lbs. And whilst I was just into the overweight range even at my lowest, I carried the weight in a way that actually made me look skinny. People would tell me that I’d lost too much. I looked gaunt. I had large black circles under my eyes.
So, if you weren’t underweight, how was it dangerous?
My heart was affected. When it became noticed by a mental health nurse that I was in this very dangerous headspace, I had to start having ECGs every two weeks to check my heart and blood tests. And I developed Long QT Syndrome that affects how the heart beats. It can be fatal. My bloods were also a mess. There were frequent discussions between the mental health team, the severe eating disorder service, my GP, etc. On one occasion, my ECG results were so bad that I had a call from a nurse later that afternoon saying that I was to go straight to A&E where they were expecting me.
What helped you recover?
I was formally assessed under the Mental Health Act which was to decide if I had to be taken to hospital where they’d do whatever was needed to break out of this trap and save me. I don’t know what it was but something just shock me out of this headspace and I got my calorie intake up to 1,000 and then back up to how I was before.
You’re on a weight loss journey now. Do you see yourself slipping back into this anorexic behaviour?
Being very honest with myself, yes, I think there’s potential. A few weeks ago, I found myself working out how to avoid meals but I had to give myself a good talking to! “Eat Erika, just eat!” That did the trick! I’m not counting exact calories as I think I could become obsessed with counting again so I’m aware that my intake is in a certain ballpark. But it’s liberating that I’m losing weight AND eating without being scared! Yes, I wish in some ways that I’d been helped all those years ago to slowly increase my calories so that I’d get a better relationship with good and not end up so big. But I’m on a weight loss journey now with a far better relationship with food. It’s no longer my enemy. I need to eat to stay healthy and do all the things I want to do like horse riding on the beech and doing zip wires!
I hope this gives some context about my journey but feel free to ask questions.
Hope you have a great weekend and I’ll be back on Monday with my week 8 weigh-in!
Love Erika xx