This is Annika’s Story.
There are a lot of stories here about people who lost a whole bunch of weight (and I admire everyone of them!), but I would like to address people with the same problem that I have: The annoying feeling you get when someone asks you if you have an eating disorder, while you are trying to gain at least 1 kg because you are underweight and feel weak. So here is my story from weakness to strength.
The problem kicked off early in my childhood. When I was two years old I was diagnosed with acetonaemic vomiting; a condition that makes children throw up up to 50 times a day. Usually it disappears with growing older and luckily that happened to me. But this is where the curse started.
When it came to food I was quite picky. I loved pasta and pancakes, but meat was a problem. If I saw the thinnest piece of fat on it, I did not eat it. And I hated any kind of stew or lots of gravy served with the meat; basically everything that made it impossible for me to inspect my meal thoroughly for fatty pieces.
I gave my parents a hard time with that behaviour and, together with the health problems, it made me grow to a bony teenager.
Despite that, I faced the whole palette of diets. My mother tried every approach that was considered “the perfect diet”. I think it started with “eat the half”, then there was this food combining thing – only carbs with protein or fat, but no meal with all of these. I also remember that GI approach, and I think Weight Watchers was around for a while. Today I think she gives herself hard times with that behaviour, though she never was a fat or even chubby person. While the rest of the family was having a “normal” meal, she had something else or less – it seems like self-punishment to me. This gave me the basic idea that diet is about hunger, suffering and counting calories.
While I could eat what I wanted without gaining a single gram, sickness was an on and off thing. While other children struggled with frequently having a cold, dizziness, nausea and vomiting was my thing. The rule of thumb was: I was sick at least once in 2 weeks.
At the age of 17 I made it to 58 kg at 1,74 m. I used to faint sometimes, especially on hot summer days. One of these occasions was quite funny – I visited my later university for an open house presentation and the change between 30 °C on the outside to the air conditioned film studio made me faint right in front of a lecturer, who was considered to be a little lady killer. Luckily he did not remember that when I enrolled two years later 😉
A couple of months later, with my first serious boyfriend being a food lover, I made it to 62 kg – lucky times! No dizziness, no sudden fainting… but there was the diet monster again. HE used to be a little bit chubby and my mum and friends bothered me with questions like: “Do you seriously wonder why you both gained 2 kg? While drinking cappuccino with sugar every day?” Someone also said that I looked better at 60 kg – I was annoyed, because that basically meant I looked better feeling weaker.
Over the years my weight went up and down, as my life consisted of moving five times, travelling, learning and heaps of work. Under stress I sometimes dropped to 55 kg, then back up to 58, sometimes 60… I never made it to 62 again.
Fast forward to the age of 24, living in Munich with my husband – I finally hit rock bottom. I was down to 56 kg, felt sick every morning on my way to work and had a incredible stomach ache. My general practioner put me on tranquilizer because she thought it might be a psychic problem. It was like a joke – the problem remained the same, but it didn’t matter to me that much. After having some serious fights with my GP and running a whole lot of tests I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, which caused all the health problems and a chronic gastritis. Though that meant a drastic change to my lifestyle, I was so thankful to finally know what the problem was.
It was the first turning point towards gaining weight and keeping it. I went to diet counseling and gathered all the information I could find. It was hard to work around all these problems – How to replace the carbs I usually got from cereals? How to keep a high protein, but low-fat diet to heal the gastritis? And hell, why does gluten free bread taste like cardboard? As we moved again I went to another general practioner and that was as good as gold. He led me to a step-by-step programme containing diet and sometimes medication to manage ups and downs on my own. To gain weight I used simple, but effective tricks like having a hot chocolate with cream every afternoon, combined with nutrition supplements (and to everyone who ever tried this and wondered why this is so expensive – I feel with you. We are a minority, there’s no possibility of making busloads of money with us.) I was still a “hard gainer”, but on the right track.
To this point my story reads like a whole story of sickness. But let me tell you, it is not! For a long time a managed to accept the health problems as a part of me, work my life around it and still have lots of fun. I have a strong will (some people would rather call me stubborn 😉 ) that literally made me go around the world twice. What made it hard for me were people chased by the diet monster. “Gosh, I wish I was thin like you!” “May I ask you something? Do you have a eating disorder? Or how do you manage to be that skinny?” – all these questions, while I just wished to gain 2 kg to feel at least okay. When I got my third molars removed and had to stick to fluid food for one week, I lost 4 kg and all my colleague had to say was: “You look like a model now! That’s fantastic!” I didn’t feel fantastic. All I wanted to do was EAT. This “Look-good-even-if-you-starve”-approach – I’m fed up with it.
Fast forward again. I am almost *cough* 30 now and consistent at 60 kg for almost two years now. The last turning point kicked off with another health problem – migraine. I’m not talking about headache. I’m talking about pain from hell, nauseau and blurred vision. And forget about Aspirin. That doesn’t help. I was lucky enough to consult the right neurologist, who told me, that sometimes antihypertensives are an option, but that he’d rather see me exercise the sh*t out of me – and that’s what I do now. (A big thank you to Marianne here, as her workouts are an essential part of my health programme) The migraine is not completely gone, but I was able to reduce the effect on my everyday life. But the surprise is – I did not lose a single pound! I even dared to change my breakfast from cardboard… ehm gluten free rolls to veggie/fruit smoothies. I feel stronger than I ever did before!
And no-one has ever asked my again if I suffer from an eating disorder. Men just tend to have a problem now, because I do not need them to carry my shopping bags, lift heavy stuff or open jars for me… Lucky me, I am blessed with a husband who just thinks: She can do it on her own? Perfect, less work for me! 😉
So to everyone who has the same problem with GAINING weight: Bother your doctors to check for possible health problems. Don’t let others get you down by saying you look like a model while you feel sick. Try and add some extra calories to your food with cheese, cream, nuts etc. and consider taking a supplement. How about fast food? Your gut is not a waste bin and rubbish will not help your body to put the calories where they are supposed to go. And do not be afraid to exercise!