Navigating Weight Loss with an Eating Disorder: How Carissa Lost 100 Pounds and Finally Got Healthy

A past of disordered eating and a present of obesity didn't stop Carissa from building a future of health.

There are layers to every weight loss story; every pound seems to have its own narrative. And while nobody’s tale is any more or less delicate and involved than the next persons, DietBet player Carissa’s comes with unique complications.

The Early Years

Thirty-one year-old Carissa remembers a childhood tainted with dieting and the negativity associated with being overweight. “When I was in the third grade, they weighed us in school. I weighed 102 pounds,” she says. “Some little boy must have seen them write down my weight, because it got out. I was devastated. Everyone knew how much I weighed.”

“I had no self-confidence,” she remembers. “I felt unworthy. Like I wasn’t a good person. I was sad and felt bad all the time. It really was awful.”

These feelings led Carissa to begin dieting extremely early—at a mere eight years old—setting her down a path that led to a very unexpected place. “I was always aware of my size and the fact that I was overweight and I was forever trying to not be overweight,” she says. “When I was eleven, I lost a significant amount of weight. It went so well, and I felt so good, that I took it too far.”

By the age of 12, Carissa had developed anorexia.

It is estimated nearly thirty million Americans struggle from some sort of eating disorder, with studies show that young girls are the most susceptible to being influenced by the media around them. According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), 81% of ten-year-old girls are afraid of becoming overweight and 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.

Carissa fit right in with these statistics, and halfway through her high school years, she developed another eating disorder: Binging.

“At the end of my tenth grade year, I started binge eating,” explains Carissa. “So from tenth grade until 2013, I gained 150 pounds. It was all downhill from there.”

Present Day

Carissa’s complex history with her weight raised some serious questions. How does someone lose weight when they have an eating disorder? How do you learn to achieve healthy weight loss when your past has been defined by unhealthy behaviors?

“I just got to the point where I wanted to feel better,” says Carissa. “That’s what a healthy lifestyle is about. Sure, there’s a lot of focus on the physical, but it’s also how you feel inside. It’s about having more energy. It’s not about appearances. It’s about physical and mental health. Losing weight now, this time, has been different for me. I think I have this now or never attitude.”

Another difference between Carissa’s new approach and her old ones, is that this time she included exercise.

“I started with biking,” Carissa explains. “I enjoyed that a lot. As I lost more weight and my body got stronger, I transitioned into running. It’s not easy to run when you’re heavier. People can do it, but it can be harder. Now, running is my favorite activity. But I also did a lot of classes at the gym to keep things different. People don’t realize how great classes can be! You just show up! You don’t have to plan anything, you don’t have to worry about working too hard or not exerting yourself enough. That’s what the instructors are there for.”

The other thing Carissa added was what she calls “Streaks.” A Streak is when you do something every day without fail, no matter what. “Right now I’m on a run Streak,” Carissa says. “Every day, I run at least one mile. So now when people ask me what I’m doing, I tell them to start a Streak with something in their life. It’s different for everyone, but the goal is to have one thing you do every day to improve your health. I read my bible every day for my mental health and I run at least one mile each day for my physical health. On days that I feel sick or down or maybe I’ve struggled with binging, I still make myself get out there and run. I’m on day 147 (as of this interview). Last year, I was able to do a half marathon. I’m actually doing another in a few weeks. That’s a huge deal for me!”

While exercise has been a big player in Carissa’s game plan, she knows food can be even more important when it comes to getting the number on the scale to go down. “I focus on the value of the foods I’m eating,” she says. “In the past when I was trying to lose weight, I’d eat granola bars and pudding—I was eating food that didn’t have any significant nutritional value. It may have been low in calories, but it wasn’t doing me any good. Now, I’ve broken it down and eat more natural and healthy foods.”

Carissa concentrates on foods that fill her body and give her more energy, like healthy proteins and fruits and vegetables. She’s ditched the granola bars and low-cal treats for foods rich in vitamins and minerals.

Tomorrow

Our individual perspectives are based on the realities we’ve found ourselves in. For Carissa, her perspective has been shaped by the reality of her eating disorders. And while this perspective comes with its own unique challenges, Carissa has learned to be kind with herself as she works through them.

“I’m working with my own temptations,” she says. “I’ve learned I can’t fault myself for being less than perfect. I need to recognize my own growth and give myself credit for living better and being healthier. At one time, I’d crave something sweet and eat five thousand calories in one sitting. Today, I can have two cookies and walk away. That’s a real victory for me. But my perspective is a little different from the average person.”

Losing weight has left Carissa feeling empowered. “I feel more capable now, and it’s strange, but I feel like people relate to me differently now too. I feel more respected than I felt before—whether or not I am is a different story, but I feel like people place more value on what I have to say,” she says. “People come to me with questions about their health now and that makes me feel amazing!”

Carissa’s story underscores a truth that takes many people years to understand—if they ever do. It’s the notion that regardless of our shape or size, if we’re not healthy inside, we won’t be healthy outside, and vice versa. Only when Carissa decided to lose weight as an act of self-care, and not self-hate, was she able to get healthy; and only when her body was healthy did she feel truly empowered in her own skin. The mental and physical can’t be separated.

“It’s an emotional journey,” Carissa says with a contagious enthusiasm. “Your weight, energy level, self-confidence… all those things go together! They rise and fall together! If you’re living healthy physically, you’re going to feel healthier emotionally and spiritually. This lifestyle is about making good choices in every area. For me, I can’t make good choices in just one area. If I’m making bad choices with my physical health then I’m going to struggle with managing my emotions. I guess it’s a package deal for me. But I can tell you this: I’ll never go back to how I was before!”

Individual results may vary from Success Stories.

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