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When Dieting Almost Killed Me

Sally has been my client since late 2022. I only agreed to coach her because if it wasn’t me I knew she would have no one else. I say that since I am not qualified to coach anyone with an eating disorder unless they are also seeing a therapist and/or medical physician. However, I am grateful she asked for help, and I’m happy I coached her because being able to talk to someone who understands makes a huge difference. So if you suspect that you or a loved one has an eating disorder don’t delay asking for help. 

Since Sally didn’t see a health professional other than myself she was not officially diagnosed with what type of eating disorder she had, and that is why the details of a diagnosis are not mentioned in her story. No matter the diagnosis, whether it is anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or a variation that isn’t as well known, I urge you to please seek help NOW. 

I am able to coach you if you are willing to also see a therapist and dietitian/doctor. You can also check Middle East Eating Disorder Association for help. 

My name is Sally, and this is my eating disorder story.

I am now 18 years old, and I grew up having a normal and perhaps good relationship with food and body, as do many girls within an “acceptable” weight range at that young age. And then came puberty…a time when many eating disorders begin.

Around 13 years old, I started to gain weight, which is very normal as my teenage body prepared for this important physical stage of a girl’s life. It is also this time that many parents, including mine, start pressuring their kids to “watch what they eat” or “avoid certain fattening foods”. And here is where it all began to go downhill.

I started to follow one diet after another in an effort to please my parents and avoid becoming fat. It didn’t help that I was constantly compared to my “skinny” cousins. At the same time, I wanted and needed to eat to feed my growing body! Deep down I did not want to restrict and I hated it. So like any rebellious teenager, I started eating without my parents’ knowledge. I didn’t understand that restriction and dieting would lead to an immense desire to eat and an obsession with food. I felt confused but also disgusted with myself and my body. My thoughts about food were out of control. I would think about food all day long. I kept gaining weight and hating myself.

Then came Covid. It was late 2019 and I was 15 years old. I saw it as my golden opportunity to finally take control of my weight. I didn’t have school and could focus on myself. It felt like in a flash my life was turned upside down. I started to restrict my eating and exercise intensely. My complete focus was on achieving my weight loss goal. I became obsessed. The weight loss I experienced made me restrict and exercise even more. Feeling tired, hungry, and in pain from all the physical activity was a “sign” that it was working. If I took a break, it would mean walking rather than more strenuous activity. I wouldn’t even sit down to study or eat…if I ever did eat. I continued that way for more than 18 months. My weight dropped to a dangerously low level. I started to experience hair loss, fatigue, and feeling extremely cold all the time. I would literally cry while taking a shower during the colder months. My family started to worry, and I could tell that this wasn’t normal, but I kept undermining the seriousness of the situation and felt it was “worth it” because I was finally skinny like my cousins…in fact, I felt better than them for being even “skinnier”.

With time I started to realize that my weight loss was too extreme, I was worried about my health and decided to have a little more food. Just enough to put on some weight but not too much. I started by allowing myself two cucumbers instead of one for lunch. Shortly after, I added a little fruit. Not too long after that, my life turned upside down once again. Little did I know my eating disorder had taken on a new form. I began to binge eat. I woke up the sleeping hunger monster and no amount of food seemed enough. I feared weight gain, so after each binge episode I would fast and exercise for hours to compensate, only to find myself binging again and the cycle of binge and restrict continued for several months. I felt miserable and depressed. I could not function mentally or physically. I was desperate for help. That’s when I reached out to Arwa. Although, at the time, Arwa was an Intuitive Eating coach and not specialized in eating disorders specifically, her anti-diet message led me to her. Thankfully she was willing to help me. And that’s when I began my recovery.

It’s been 10 months. The most difficult ten months of my life. Both my physical and mental health have improved by the grace of God. I have started to eat intuitively and listen to my body. Arwa reminds me always that what I went through makes me strong and even if I can’t see it now, it will work in my favor in the future. InshAllah.

I urge you to please learn from Sally’s story…

  • Don’t diet. Even if you don’t develop an eating disorder like Sara, it still may lead to a cycle that will be difficult to get out of and may very likely harm your health both physically and mentally.
  • If you are a parent, don’t let your kids diet or restrict, even if they are in a larger body. Love them and accept them as they are. And don’t ever compare them to anyone else.
  • If you think you might suffer from an eating disorder or disordered eating, don’t wait to ask for help. Eating disorders are deadly and some of the health complications are irreversible. 

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