I don’t believe in diets. In fact, I think that diets are temporary fixes that lead to short–term results, but long–term failures. I believe in lifestyle changes that make you happy and keep you healthy.
That said, I do want to address a craze that is making the rounds in Barbados: a diet that restricts the participant to 500-800 calories per day, plus or minus “vitamin” or hormone injections or homeopathic preparations. There are persons who present themselves as medical and health professionals who are promoting this extreme calorie restricted diet… and I am horrified.
Participants are asked to starve themselves and get a shot —which reportedly costs hundreds of dollars— or drink a glass of water. Of course, anyone who only takes in less than 1000 calories per day for months is going to lose weight. I know; I’ve done it. I did not do it as part of some fad diet; I did it because I have suffered from an eating disorder for years. I have had my “eating issues”. I have fainted due to a misguided notion that if I starved myself I’d be prettier… sexier… more worthy of love. I’ve had heart palpitations and nearly died, according to my doctor— who understood what was going on, because SCIENTISTS know that a few hundred calories was not enough to sustain my body. To hear of alleged medical practitioners advocating something that I’ve fought as a serious disease for decades as a valid weight loss option, makes me want to smash things and rage at the world.
I was 116 lbs then and clearly underweight for my muscular build. Due to some genetic fluke I seem to have muscle tone despite only having set foot in a gym that one time last year when I went to Puerto Rico with my friend Ria.
I was starving, I was sick, I was tired just walking from my car to the venue. This is what less than 1000 calories a day looks like. I am ten pounds heavier in the next image and just starting to recover. Yes I know, it looks great right? Not so great when you are falling over and constantly sleepy or can’t breathe from the heart palpitations and anxiety. I had halitosis that was near incurable because I wasn’t eating and I was unable to do much more than pose for pretty pictures.
Everyone around me told me how great I looked. The doctor on the other hand told me to eat or I would die. I had my son and I knew that I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to be unable to do stuff with him and I didn’t want him to grow up thinking that starvation was normal. So I ate, it was one of the most difficult things that I have had to do. After years of only eating when I had an audience I had to learn that eating wasn’t performance art. That my body wasn’t a show piece for clothing and admiring glances it was a housing for Risée, a person, a human who was worthy at whatever weight was healthy for her.
I used to hear “Oh I wish I looked like you, so toned and trim” and all I could think was “No, you don’t wish this” then I’d feel like a million dollars because I was being told I was the ideal and who doesn’t like to hear that but then I’d sleep until noon the next day because I was lethargic from a lack of nutrition and my mother never knew why. I think she thought I was just avoiding chores.
Two and a half decades later I can now admit that what I suffer from — yes I use the present tense because disordered eating is like alcoholism— is what used to be called an EDNOS, Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified http://www.nedc.com.au/ednos *it is now classified as an OSFED. “Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. This refers to situations where a person has clinically significant feeding and eating disorder symptoms but does not meet the full criteria for another diagnostic category.”
Oh you thought only white American girls got eating disorders or that one couldn’t look like a gym bunny while being sick, well no.
but even with my pseudo gym-bunny body I too am the face of an eating disorder, I am the ideal that so many are told to strive for. My body type is what people will consume 500 calories per day to achieve in a short space of time. That persons in medicine would promote a mental illness that has taken me years to overcome as a viable way to achieve weight loss goals makes me sick to my stomach.
Yes, I said mental illness because that is what eating disorders are and I have one and I am not ashamed.
*Edited to add updated information regarding the categorisation of eating disorders.