Froot Loops with Marshmallows

Back in the summer of 2014 several families in my neighborhood had a yard sale. I will never forget walking outside to help out with a 1.5 quart mixing bowl filled with Froot Loops with Marshmallows and eating the entire thing. It was pure bliss.

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Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash


When I graduated from high school (2000) I weighed about 135 pounds. In 20I4 I weighed the exact same. My body had a set point that maintained no matter what I ate, how much I ate, or how active I was (though I have always been pretty active).

In 2015 life became stressful, and I had several maladaptive ways of dealing with it. One of those maladaptive coping mechanisms went as follows: 1. Get up in the morning and immediately work out for around 1.5 to 2 hours, skipping breakfast. This included an intensive abdominal workout, leg workout, and cardio exercises as well as a weightlifting routine. 2. Around noon I would go outside and work on building rock walls (lifting heavy rocks) for 2 to 3 hours at a time. 3. I would sit down outside with a couple stalks of celery and some peanut butter. 4. Before dinner (or sometimes after dinner) I would run 3 to 5 miles. 5. I would eat a normal dinner to try to convince everyone that I was in fact eating.

At this point I weighed around 110 pounds. I loved how I looked.

Fast forward to 2017. I was in the hospital for suicidal ideation, and unknown to me the staff recorded how much I was eating to submit to the dietician. My doctor informed me that I was eating approximately 400 calories a day, and he said he was transferring me to Brandywine (a hospital for eating disorders). I did not believe I had a problem, and no one ever told me I had a problem. They just wanted to educate me on how to eat enough food to be healthy. I believed I was just uneducated and/or dealing with stress and depression the best way I could. While I was in the hospital I took in all of the information and followed the rules surrounding eating. I was discharged about a month later and sent to a residential facility in Chicago that also put me on a meal plan and monitored my food intake as well as prohibited exercise (since that was also a problem). I managed to argue my way into several exercise programs by stating that telling me I cannot exercise is as detrimental as exercising too much. I told them they should be teaching me what a healthy, balanced approach looks like. They reluctantly agreed to let me join a few programs (yoga and dance). I was discharged about 6 weeks later, if I remember correctly. I kept it a secret from most people that the hospital and residential facility I was at were for eating disorder patients.

At this point I weighed around 140 pounds and was devastated that they made me gain weight. How is “weight restoring” that quickly considered healthy for the body and psyche?! Keep in mind I only weighed 5 pounds over what was considered my norm for 14+ years.

In April of 2018 I started on medications that for the first time in years helped stabilize the depression, anxiety and impulsivity I was experiencing. I was placed on the medications just prior to a hospitalization and transfer to Washington D.C. to a trauma institute. While there I stabilized fairly quickly.

By the time I was discharged I had been taken off of a medication that I felt was helping with weight loss, or at least maintenance. I quickly began gaining weight. It did not matter whether I was eating or not, exercising or not, I was gaining weight. I was probably gaining weight at a slower rate because of the effort I was putting in, but regardless it was rapid. I complained many times to my doctor who seemed to be unconcerned and told me that the medication does not cause weight gain. In March of 2019 I begged the doctor to weigh me and compare it to the last weight they had for me.

I weighed 196 pounds. That was tough. She immediately reduced my dose with the intention to get me off of the medication as soon as possible.

Stepping into the gym in October of 2018 was a little intimidating. In fact, it took me until two weeks before my doctor’s appointment in March to finally suck it up and join. I have lost a little over 20 pounds by now, I would imagine. Knowing my weight was as high as it was and wanting to lose the weight and go back to my original set point was not without consequences. I chose to work out with a personal trainer to keep me from excessive exercise and committed to running no more than 3 days per week, but that did not cover the eating aspect of things.

Over the past several months I have gone from eating 900 calories per day to being okay with eating up to 1800. Sometimes I eat as much as 2600, but that is extremely difficult to mentally and emotionally accept. When I was eating around 900 calories, my therapist recommended I see a nutritionist to help me with eating to maintain the energy level I desired. That seemed like a good idea…until the nutritionist told me I needed to eat.

Divulging to someone my food rituals, food preferences, exercise habits, and eating habits related to exercise became difficult because she stated, “you realize you meet the criteria for an eating disorder, right?”

How did I not realize this was true? I know myself better than anyone else, and I am a very intelligent person. I know the criteria for eating disorders and know my own actions. Why had this not occurred to me? I was in denial. I could eat if I wanted to. Except I couldn’t. I loathe the fact that I have to eat as much as I eat on a daily basis.

Do you know what it is like to know you meet the criteria for an eating disorder? I have not personally taken the time to identify what this means to me or feels like. Instead, I am just trying to do what I am told. I am trying to eat as much and as often as I can, until I am satisfied rather than when I become fearful that it is too much. I am trying to drink around 100 ounces of water per day because cognitively I know that water weight is not the body weight I am actually afraid of. I am trying to be okay with following hunger cues (when I get them, if I get them).

It is incredibly challenging to do the homework involved each week to approach a more healthy relationship with food. I have to write down the negative thoughts I have and refute them with scientific facts. I have to write down the foods I actually enjoy (is that even possible?) rather than just the foods I am willing to eat. At some point, I have to record everything I eat in a day on a piece of paper where I cannot calculate the calories. A few weeks ago I went through my clothes and donated all of my “sick clothes” as the nutritionist calls them. As much as I would like to be a size 2 or 4 again I am trying to recognize that there was nothing healthy about what I was doing at that point in my life. NOT ONE THING.

In light of this journey and the attempts I am making toward a more well-rounded concept of health and body image, my goal is to someday be okay with eating a bowl of Froot Loops with Marshamallows again. I love them. I want to eat them without feeling shame or guilt. And if I want to eat an entire mixing bowl full of them, maybe I will. That seems pretty far away for now though.

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