I used to have this friend. Well, it was an app friend. Maybe I should call it a buddy or pal. I was letting myself fall out of shape and decided I needed a change. I needed to work on my fitness. I had heard about this app that would be my best friend, but it turned into a complicated break-up.

My original goal was to lose 20 lbs (once I became addicted it was 30 lbs) and to get faster. At first, it was great. I made better choices, stopped mindless snacking, and learned a lot about what portions really looked like. I have been a good eater for my whole life. I’ve always loved veggies and fruit, and I don’t like most sugary candy. The first 10 lbs went well and I felt amazing while running. If only I could have stopped there.

The visual of it all was what I lived for at the end of the day. Goal calories - food + exercise = green. Green meant you were good. Look at all the calories you had left! Red meant you had gone over your calories. Red meant you were a failure. I lived for green. And the higher the green number the better it was. I would make sure I walked everywhere and did every workout with my phone attached to me so every calorie was counted. I walked every flight of stairs I came across. I would read every label and make sure I bought the lowest calories of everything. I gave up real peanut butter for the powdered version (worst decision ever).

I lost about 30 lbs in 4 months and continued to try losing for another 4 months... Until I snapped. I came home from a Monday night race and my mom offered to make me dinner. I was so tired so I agreed. As I sat down to take my shoes off, I saw her put a piece of REAL butter in the pan for my eggs. I went nuts. I yelled and actually cried. I have never yelled at my mom before as an adult. Later in the week I was driving home from work and actually fell asleep at the wheel. It was not super late and only a half hour drive but my body literally didn’t have the energy to go home. About 2 weeks later I was drying my hair for a party and realized all the hair in the back of my head was gone. I didn’t know, it but my body didn’t have enough energy to make hair, it was just trying to survive.

After seeing my regular doctor for my physical and voicing some concerns, she suggested I reevaluate my relationship with my friend to see how I felt. So I decided to give myself a week off. I pretty much ate everything in sight. I couldn’t control myself. I was craving things I didn’t even like before because my body was so desperate for energy.

For months after that I would have a wild week, then try to get back with my buddy (who would starve me for a week) and the cycle would repeat. It turned out to be the worse time for me physically. My pacing got slow very quickly, I continued to lose my hair, my thyroid blood work was a mess, I was having a lot of hormonal changes and some series GI issues. I NEVER would have done any of this if I had known. It has taken me about 2 years and many doctor’s appointments to get my body right.

So here is what I learned
1. You are burning calories just by breathing. When you sit, when you think, brush your teeth, even when you nap you are burning calories. You burn about 300 calories by sleeping! My fitness friend certainly wasn’t accounting for that.

2. Your body needs calories for your normal systems to function. Your endocrine system, your hair, and your brain all need calories in order to function! Research shows a deficit of as little as 30 calories a day can cause a dysfunction in an organ system!

Chances are you have a story like mine, are in the middle of your diet breakup, or are considering a diet change like this. So please, do your research and ALWAYS listen to YOUR body before you listen to everyone else’s Instagram posts!

If you are struggling with disordered eating, please reach out for help. Resources like the National Eating Disorders Association (www.nationaleatingdisorders.org) are here to help you in your recovery.

 

Dr. Kathleen Leninger, DPT