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"You never forget that you know how to purge"

Monday, August 12, 2013

I watch ABC's "Extreme Weight Loss" show every week. If you're not familiar with it, each episode follows a single person (or in one case, a married couple) as they spend a year losing weight under the direction of a trainer named Chris Powell who apparently specializes in helping the extremely obese lose weight. He and his staff teach the person how to eat healthfully, how to work out, and he frequently provides a sympathetic shoulder for them to cry on, because these people are almost always emotionally scarred in some way. The people end up losing tons of weight over the year - generally 100+ pounds - because they typically start at very high weights, and occasionally I worry that he's pushing them too much. BUT I feel like they've mostly done a good job this season with respectfully handling people's various physical/emotional obstacles and not pushing them to do anything TOO insane too soon. (Okay, so there was a girl who was assigned an unofficial marathon through Paris with just a few months' warning and therefore training, and I thought that was way too much too soon! But mostly, people's tasks have been pretty reasonable.)

So ANYWAYS -what I've really enjoyed seeing are the episodes focused on individuals who embrace the challenge of losing weight so strongly that they begin to develop eating disorders as a way to keep the scale moving. That sounds terrible! I don't mean that I like seeing the people develop eating disorders...but I like seeing it portrayed on TV because that's not something that people who have never struggled with their weight can quite understand - that it's really easy to say "eat less and move more" but it can also be really easy for some of us to take that advice too far and get sick because of it. There were at least two people this season who started restricting calories too much. Chris Powell realized it was happening to one of the clients (who actually asked if it was normal that his hair was falling out!!) and made him start eating more and working out less. The guy was eating way too little and yet working out super intensely. (Hey, that sounds familiar....) The other person was a girl who restricted her calories severely for a couple weeks, then couldn't take the hunger and binged...and then felt so bad about it that she purged. And she came clean about it on her own, but she wanted to talk to Chris Powell's wife (also a trainer, I believe, and a woman who apparently battled bulimia for 8 years) about it, and the woman said something to the effect of what I used for the blog heading above - that it's a dark place to be, and once you learn how to purge, you will never forget that you know how to do it.

That really struck a chord with me. I attempted to be bulimic for several weeks in college, quit due to shame because I thought my dentist was on to me (he made some comment at a check-up about how there was a patient down the hall with bulimia and you could see the effect on her teeth and I have always wondered if that was just a story to get me to rethink what *I* was doing), and have fought the urge to purge many times since then. Any time I felt REALLY guilty for overeating or eating something I thought I shouldn't, I have been tempted to purge and get rid of it, because I know how to do it and it's so easy. Even while being pregnant, I have had days where I thought "I'd feel better about myself if I threw this junk back up." I guess as Heidi Powell said, I will never forget that it is always within my power to vomit back up anything I want, and I guess it will always be a temptation lurking in the back of my mind when I feel like I've screwed up, eating-wise. And I never even got *truly* bulimic - I only did it for a few weeks and was fairly easily shamed out of it. There are people who've done it for years and years. I can only imagine how much more of a struggle it is for them.

Don't ever start down that road! It scares me that sometimes I still kind of want to purge as a way of making up for some eating "mistake" I've made, even now that there are two little lives inside me, depending on what I eat for their food. I absolutely won't do it now because of them, but it still scares me that I'm even slightly tempted.

Also, Extreme Weight Loss can be a really powerful show. :) Even my husband is kind of addicted!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • CHEETARA79
    I enjoy watching that show but I don't think it promotes much of anything that's truly healthy. I don't think it's good for anyone to lose weight that rapidly. But it especially bothers me that they push hugely obese people into intense exercise right off the bat. It takes time for your muscles, joints, ligaments, etc to adjust to any kind of exercise when you're a big ole couch potato.

    I saw the episode you're talking about and it was really sad that the girl developed bulimia. Out of the frying pan and into the fire! Going from one eating disorder (overeating) to another is certainly not healthy but it was good that the show aired. I like seeing that kind of story because often these weight-loss shows gloss over the negative effects that extreme dieting can have on people.
    1797 days ago
  • DUXGRL1
    I'm glad that you brought up this episode. I got around to watching it last night and I have been thinking about it all day. I have never binged and purged, and never intend to, but there are some things in that episode that really made me think about my own current weight loss journey. I have been struggling this year...as soon as I got to 10 lbs above my goal, and some of it (but not all) has to do with feeling a lot of pressure to get to my goal by a certain time all of the sudden. (I also have a class reunion in October) When Chris told the woman to just focus on 6 days at 1500 calories, and not to worry about the scale. I know that there are times when I have eaten too little, and then ate too much to make up for it. I don't know, it just made me think, When I started this journey, I didn't have a deadline in mind and I did not let the scale dictate how I felt. After the show, I am wondering if I should stop weighing myself for a while and just focus on doing the process well. Part of me is scared to do that. I like to weigh myself once a month. But part of me wonders if it is too much pressure right now.
    1798 days ago
  • BRANDYLDUGGAN
    I love that show. I missed it (stupid power was out!). When I was in high school I struggled with eating disorders. My parents but me in the hospital and i got the help i needed... but like you said, the desire to will always be there. Super dark time in my life. Proud of you for ignoring the temptation! Those babies need you! I gained way too much weight while pregnant and it was very hard on me.
    1798 days ago
  • BLUEANGELLK
    I have watched that show too. I am always concerned that they push them too far too fast, but I sometimes think that is about truly making changes rather than just change for now.

    I am glad that you never really got to full fledged bulimia. I had a roommate in college who was and it was terrible. She was so tiny to begin with, about 5 feet tall and a size 2, but she was a binge and purge-er. After every meal or snack or night out she would disappear for a while and we all knew what she did. It was so sad.

    Glad to see you didn't choose that road permanently.
    1798 days ago
  • SPARKLISE
    emoticon glad you are taking the sane and healthy road to health! emoticon
    1798 days ago
  • BNALSHAWY24
    emoticon
    1799 days ago
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