I stumbled across an old photo of myself yesterday.
It was from my senior prom, circa 2007. And right at the height — or rather, depths — of my battle with anorexia.
It took my breath away.
I was looking at an unrecognizable shell of myself. A gaunt, 78-pound girl, who was concealing her fear, her misery, her cries for help…behind a taut smile, and an isolated existence.
And it was just a few weeks later that I would go on to be admitted to an inpatient treatment facility in Arizona.
Inpatient is not something I talk about a lot – frankly because, it’s uncomfortable. It’s like asking a drug addict to describe how the detox process was. Words seem inadequate, insufficient and just incapable of grasping the reality of the situation.
Sure, I could talk to you about how they removed all the mirrors from my make up compacts. (This was two-fold: a) because there were no mirrors whatsoever in the facility. And b) so that girls couldn’t use them as razor blades to hurt themselves.)
Or I could talk to you about how I had to sleep in a cot at the nurses station for the first 3 weeks, because they were afraid my heart would stop in the middle of the night.
I could talk about how they flushed the toilets for you. Or how some girls would hide rocks in their underwear to “game the system” to make their weigh ins heavier than they actually were. Or how there were grown women using coloring books like children to pass the time.
Like I said — words are inadequate.
And typically with my eating-disorder-themed blog posts, I like to keep them palatable. I’ll flirt with the line of discomfort…but I try to stay within the realm of “safe” for all readers.
And so tonight, I’m going to do just that. And I’d like to thank Reason Health for partnering with me on this post to tell my story.
I think for most people, when they think of recovering from anorexia…there’s almost a tinge of lust. Like…it must be nice to have to gain weight. Poor you, having to eat all the ice cream, pizza, and fettuccini alfredo you can muster.
They imagine something like a month-long binge of junk food with no working out, and lot of Netflix.
And while, sure…maybe it’s alluring to imagine the “luxury” of indulging in a surplus of calories, the truth of the matter is that, in eating disorder recovery, you’re actually relearning how to eat, and reestablishing a positive relationship with food, when…real talk: you’re terrified of it.
Allow me to break it down for you. They serve you the Standard American Diet. Every day, you have a choice of two menus…each meeting the nutrition requirement for an average adult. Three meals. Two snacks. And dessert.
So food wise, everyone is eating the same thing: teaching you that food is not to be feared. And your body is getting used to proper portion sizes, how to feel okay with fullness, recognizing hunger cues, and frankly, tackling “fear foods.”
The weight gain – comes in the form of supplements. They don’t want you to associate a “normal” meal plan with gaining weight. That comes from supplementary drinks.
And here’s where things break off into two different tracks.
You could choose to receive these supplements through a feeding tube you had to wear (aka — it goes down your nose and into your stomach) for the three months you were there. Or, you could choose to drink the supplements.
I chose the latter.
If I was going to gain weight — damn it, I was going to be the one to put the dang calories in my own dang pie hole. It was my way of saying “F-you” to the eating disorder.
And so I did. We drank these medicinal-tasting weight gaining drinks called Ensure Plus.
Many of the women would gripe about this drink — not merely because of the unpleasant taste, but because of the ingredients. The first four ingredients were corn maltodextrin, sugar, corn/canola oil and water. Food fears aside, we didn’t want to be rebuilding our bodies with the #1 genetically modified food – corn!
Because to consume enough calories to gain weight and rebuild my organs and muscles — I was consuming three Ensures a day.
This is where my partner in tonight’s post comes in.
I was contacted by Reason Health earlier this month, because they have created a high calorie Nutrition Beverage that honestly, I wish would have been around when I was restoring my body back in 2007.
It was developed by Dr. Dhagash Joshi to help cancer patients gain weight, and people with anorexia restore their bodies through healthy, easily absorbable nutrition.
I actually got to talk to him on the phone this last week, and learning about his product, I knew I had to share it on the blog. As you know, I very rarely endorse products. But this is something I know I would have genuinely benefitted from during my weight gaining journey.
The thing about Reason Beverages that I was so intrigued by was their ingredient list. Instead of corn syrup and corn oil, it uses wholesome, all-natural (and non-GMO) macronutients — namely: coconut oil.
Here’s the amazing thing: the Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil are not only super easily absorbed, but they also trigger in your body a response that increases your appetite. This is obviously terrific for anorexia patients, but also cancer patients who often lack the desire to eat.
Everything about this drink intrigued me. The fact that it uses the best source of milk in the world: cows from Holland. There’s no corn-syrup in sight. It’s high protein. No artificial sweeteners. A bountiful 450 calories. And it tastes great.
My gentleman friend was over for dinner the other night, and he tried both the strawberry and vanilla flavors, and gave it two thumbs up!
So I wanted to just pass that information about Reason Health along to you. They’re available online at reasonhealth.com. Nutrition supplement drinks were how I put on over 35 pounds. And I truly wish this would have been an option for me at that time. I know it would have greatly benefitted my recovery journey.
To bring this story full circle, I wanted to just take a moment to reflect on what such substantial weight gain has meant for me.
Because let’s be honest: to go from 78 pounds to a healthy weight range — where I am menstruating, and active, and living a full, abundant life — I am a completely different person, both physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc.
I not only gained nearly half of my body weight, but a profound perspective that I am incredibly grateful for.
When I was so severely sick and malnourish, weighing myself every. single. morning, my life was dictated by the tenth of a pound shift I would see. It was an obsession. My entire existence was ruled by the numbers on the scale. And the lower it plummeted, the lower my self-worth tanked, and I became increasingly incapable of being in sound mind and judgement.
Through my eating disorder, I was restricting myself from living. I was thwarting myself from thriving. From loving. From growing in faith. From my future. From blossoming into the woman God made me to be.
Healing my mind and nourishing my body in recovery has allowed me to truly bloom.
There is beauty in weight gain. I want to say that loud and clear to all my readers who are terrified of that thought, but who so — like myself at that time — desperately need.
When I was in such a malnourished state, I was missing out on life. I was exhausted all the time. I lacked the energy and motivation to do anything other than sleep or lust over food. I withdrew from my relationships, in avoidance of situations involving food. I was infertile and not menstruating. Cold all the time. I was truly frightful: gaunt, skeletal, dull and gray skin, with no life behind my eyes. All of my hair fell out. I was obsessed with food. Truly. I had no personality anymore, because being fun takes energy, and energy comes from calories. I mean, I didn’t genuinely smile or laugh for nearly two years.
I was lifeless, in every sense of the word.
To think that I was unwilling to let go of that hellish existence for fear of gaining weight….it breaks my heart.
If only I would have known the life that was waiting for me, in a properly nourished body.
A life of friends. Fun. Health. Joy from social interactions, and cooking, and shared experiences. A life where I enjoy filling out clothes, and having the strength to run, and ride bikes around the city. Where I’m goofy, and funny and have that zest for life and sparkle in my eye. Where I can love the woman God made me to be — and the beautiful, healthy body that reflects He who made me. I can be fully Caralyn.
That’s living. That’s the beauty of weight gain.
That’s the beauty of recovery.
And that’s what I’m grateful for today, and every day.
And thank you again to Reason Health for partnering with me, and for offering a healthy way to get back to a normal weight with their Reason Nutrition Beverage.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
A huge shoutout to Reason Nutrition Beverage! Their all-natural, high calorie drink is not only delicious, but it has no “garbage” in it! Utilizing the wholesome goodness of coconut oil, it’s a phenomenal option for those needing to gain weight in recovery, or for those simply looking to supplement their diet with convenient and fast nutrition. Check them out!
A big thank you to my foundational sponsor, BetterHelp Online Therapy. I cannot begin to express how beneficial therapy was for my recovery from anorexia. Speak with an online therapist. Or check out content about eating disorders from BetterHelp.
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