And giving up dieting was the safest.

Arielle Calderon
November 13, 2019
Arielle Calderon

For as long as I can remember, I've been on the diet train. When I was in middle school, I did Jenny Craig and Curves. When I was in high school, I ate Lean Pockets, Slim Fast and Diet Coke to try and shed the pounds. When I was in college, I graduated to only eating six strawberries for breakfast and a "salad" for lunch (which consisted of romaine lettuce and grilled chicken). I ate roughly 400 calories per day and burned 1,000+ calories on the elliptical every afternoon. I would weigh myself every morning, and if I didn't lose a pound, I would work out twice as long. When I lost over 50 pounds in the span of three months, do you know what people said to me?

"Wow, you look great!"

"How'd you do it?"

"Damn girl, you look 🔥"

"Teach me your ways!"

Not ONE person thought my weight loss was alarming—and neither did I. When you're fat and you go on your "personal journey" to lose weight, rarely anyone cares how you got there and at what cost. They only see this as a success because "skinny" equals "positive." Every comment I have ever received after weight loss has made me feel valued and worthy of attention. And yet, I was starving myself to get there.

Related: 10 Things That Can Happen When You Give Up Dieting for Good

After my 50-pound drop in 2008, I eventually couldn't sustain eating the calorie equivalent of just a Frappuccino every day for days on end. And so, I returned to my old eating habits and gained back the 50 pounds...plus another 40.

I could only shop in stores like Lane Bryant. I never went on a date or even entertained the idea of finding a partner. Sex was nonexistent, and something I never planned on having. I focused on my school work, and later my career—pushing aside life experiences because of the embarrassment of myself. I only took photos with purses on my lap, or hiding half my body behind someone else, or in big oversized sweaters to hide what was underneath. I couldn't seem to win, and even though I knew what I had done to myself in college, I still had a strong desire to lose weight. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be attractive. I wanted people to pay attention to me again.

In 2015, I decided enough was enough. I missed going to a clothing store and being able to pull anything off the rack and fit into it. I craved validity from people who didn't even know me. I didn't want to hate myself anymore.

And so I signed up for Weight Watchers. I tracked anything and everything. I competed with myself by always trying to create recipes with less than five points. I prided myself on working out six days a week at 6 a.m. sharp, even though I felt drained and exhausted. I ate all the substitute foods—pasta for zoodles, rice for cauliflower and peanut butter for powdered peanut butter. And you know what? I lost 85 pounds in eight months. I felt like a rockstar.

Related: When "Healthy Eating" Isn't Healthy: How One Dietitian Overcame Her Unhealthy Obsession and Disordered Eating

And here's where I really went wrong. I decided to share my journey—VERY publicly—by writing about it on BuzzFeed. Overnight, I gained 1 million page views and 30,000 Instagram followers. Can you guess what all the comments were?

"Wow, you look great!"

"How'd you do it?"

"Damn girl, you look 🔥"

"Teach me your ways!"

It was clear that what I had done was a HUGE accomplishment that many people envied. My value as a human skyrocketed. I finally achieved what I had been chasing for so many years: worth.

I was featured on Good Morning America. I became a Weight Watchers Ambassador. I wrote several more articles about my journey and meal plans. I got more followers on Instagram. I received attention—a LOT of attention. The more public my weight loss became, the more obsessed I found myself with a healthy lifestyle.

I restricted so many types of food that I binged often, and then blamed myself for it. I quit drinking alcohol altogether, along with social outings. I thought about food at all hours of the day, creating low-calorie recipes in my head. I labeled food as "good" and "bad," completely ruining my relationship with food. I worked out so much, I injured my foot. I sucked in my stomach every time I saw a mirror, and then picked out the areas that needed improvement. I binged more. I cried a lot. I frequently called myself a piece of shit. But I always worked to stay skinny. The comments kept on rolling.

"Wow, you look great!"

"How'd you do it?"

"Damn girl, you look 🔥"

"Teach me your ways!"

How would you feel if I told you "my ways" led to an eating disorder that made me believe bringing my own meat to an Applebee's was totally normal? That skipping social events in order to avoid chips and dip was acceptable? That spewing hate at myself in the mirror every morning was fine because I believed I deserved it? The problem is, so many people assume losing weight is healthy, unless you physically look stereotypically anorexic. But guess what—fat people can be anorexic too. This was a mind-blowing realization to me, because I have been conditioned to believe that fat equals unhealthy and skinny equals healthy. And that too skinny equals anorexic and too fat equals My 600lb Life.

I couldn't sustain these lifestyle changes anymore. Once I started to binge consistently and gain weight back, I had suicidal thoughts. I didn't want to see people, or even walk outside my apartment. I was ashamed of what I had done to myself. It took a trifecta of support to shift my mindset and stop demonizing food: therapy, a 12-step program and an intuitive eating dietitian.

My dietitian is the person who really saved me. We spent an entire session once talking about peanut butter and bagels. I told her I would weigh my peanut butter and never go over 2 tablespoons in fear of eating too many Weight Watchers points. "Ok, but if you spread peanut butter normally on a piece of toast, how much peanut butter do you really think you're putting on there?" I stared blankly and bewildered. "I mean, I guess 1 or 2 tablespoons." That week she made me eat peanut butter every day without weighing it. And she made me quit Weight Watchers. That's when my recovery started.

Today I am happy, I am curvy and I am loved. I don't think about food every waking moment. I don't weigh or measure any of my food. I don't ask for salad without dressing. I don't look up menus and panic about what I'll be able to eat at restaurants. I don't pick apart my body in the mirror. I don't restrict any kind of food. And I don't count points or calories.

I count the moments that make life enjoyable. I'm in two very healthy relationships—one with my boyfriend, and one with myself. My mental health became the priority of my wellbeing, and for that I am grateful.

"You have enough."

"You do enough."

"You are enough."

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