Anorexic to Athlete
By: Mindi Anderson, Chicago Volunteer Chapter Leader, Weston A. Price Foundation
I glimpsed myself in the mirror with a sense of despondency at the reflection. Ribs poking through taut skin emphasized the onset of starvation. Distorted self-image overshadowed all sensibility. Mumbling to myself, “If I could just get that eating under control!”
Nominated as the beauty queen of my senior class, who would suspect that I silently struggled with a mild eating disorder? Late onset of menses was a clue to my parents that some underlying issue was taunting their prepubescent-looking daughter at age seventeen. A mere 88 pounds at 5’3” clued them into my obsession with the stashed magazines of rail-thin models beneath my bed. Literally posing before every mirror to ensure one invisible roll of fat did not show through my blouse, I fell prey to symptoms of anorexia nervosa.
College dawned upon me bringing along the freshman fifteen, lovingly depositing themselves around my middle, hips, and bulky thighs. This uninvited lipid presence exacerbated my fixation with body image. Losing weight blotted all other thoughts, and my grades took a tumble from A+ to A-. Scavenging the shelves at the local library, a favorite enclave for my introverted tendencies, I came across the diet book, Body for Life. Outlined in beginner’s detail, the program promised stellar results in only twelve weeks. Peppered with before-and-after pictures of dowdy housewives turned tanned trainers, my imagination soared with hope.
Embracing the calories-in-calories-out approach of the book, my diet radically shifted from uninformed eating to strict caloric restriction. The goal was to decrease my total calories progressively each week. To make the cut, obscene mounds of pre-packaged rabbit food comprised my dormitory-sized fridge space. Vinegars replaced favored high-fat dressings, and salt transformed into the demon of dimpled thighs.
Body for Life opened my eyes to female muscle. With trepidation, I rose at 4:30 a.m. for my secret sessions with the pink dumbbells in my makeshift home gym. Cardio sessions of HIIT for twenty minutes comprised my lifting off-days. That dusty stationary bike, doubling as a tie-rack-holder, put my legs through three grueling sessions weekly. Referring to that book till I exhausted my library renewal allowances, I trained with vigilance, never missing one day. Assured that I would look just like the sinewy women in the “after” pictures, I expected my best body to magically transform in twelve weeks.
Combining cumulative training with starvation low-fat dieting, my health plummeted to that of a concentration camper. My skin changed from a healthy pink flush to a yellowish pallid hue on my palms and foot bottoms. Food dreams plagued my nights as visions of buttered popcorn danced through my glycogen-starved brain. Hypoglycemic symptoms wreaked havoc during the hours between meals. This self-abuse continued for several months, during which time I also attempted bulimic purging. Fortunately, I could not bring myself to puke what little substance clung to my belly.
An epiphany struck one night, as my blood sugar dropped drastically while driving home. Visions assaulted my imagination, as I pictured the newspaper’s bold-faced headlines stating, “Anorexic Girl Blacks Out Causing Car Accident.” I barely stumbled into my kitchen in time to eat before fainting. That decisive moment compelled me to seek help from both parents and a health care practitioner.
Recovery was slow, but methodical. After staying clear of any diets or training for about one year, I felt mentally ready for regular exercise. Experimenting with methods of Pilates, running, plyometrics, yoga, and relaxation stretching, I felt a hollow dissatisfaction from the practices. Dumbbells beckoned me, and I sought the solace of the cold steel bars within my grip, as a weight lifter.
After maxing out with my weights and repetitions in my home gym, I joined the local Gold’s Gym. For the first time, I observed bodybuilders in stretched muscle tanks with veins popping beneath the surface like a maze of undeterred moles on a manicured lawn. My gaping stares left me slack-jawed after workouts. Affectionately dubbed “the girl with the clipboard” at Gold’s, I was known for my meticulous record-keeping of training sessions. Three months passed, and hints of muscle peered through my vibrant skin. Newfound confidence revealed itself as I donned flouncing skorts that emphasized shapely glutes. I transformed from the flabby newbie into the Bikini Babe of the club.
Healthful approaches to exercise and eating traditional foods (WAPF diet) gave me the confidence I had been sorely lacking throughout my younger years. About three years after my bout of anorexic behavior, I glimpsed myself in the mirror and stopped short at my reflection. Looking back at me was the strong, lithe body of a physique athlete. Gone was the yellowed skin, gaunt expression of a woman self-saboteur. In its place stood a woman of confidence in her body, a transformed self-image. Anorexia Nervosa, the defeated, its bond severed forever.
I promise that freedom is possible for all those victimized by eating disorders.
My story is proof.
Mindi Anderson, BS, CPT with ACSM, ACE, and ISSA has experience as a Fitness Director combined with personal training and wellness coaching through her business, Fit Mystique. Mindi is a nationally-qualified Figure Competitor with the NPC, who moonlights as an online journalist for several newsletters, blogs, websites, and publications. Mindi’s enthusiasm for wellness is exhibited through both her leadership as the Chicago WAPF volunteer chapter leader and her personal health consultations.