Love Helped Conquer Her Eating Disorder

When I was married in July 1996, I weighed 95 pounds. At 5 feet 6 inches, I was more than thin; I was extremely skinny. I lacked muscle tone and definition, not to mention any attractive curves. My only "shape" was sharp, bony angles. Of course, I did have a very flat stomach, but I also had a set of prominent pelvic bones jutting out just below my waist.

For the past nine years, I had suffered from anorexia nervosa. At my lowest point, I weighed 83 pounds when fully clothed. After my wedding, I found a great deal of happiness in beginning married life and creating a home with my husband. My consuming anxieties about food and weight did not disappear, but they did diminish as I settled into my new life. Sharing almost every meal with my husband encouraged me to adopt healthier eating habits. I began to eat greater quantities of food, as well as indulge in foods I had previously considered forbidden. I never stopped exercising, but I did cut back from my exhausting and monotonous twice-a-day aerobic workouts. As a result of these changes, I was able to gain weight. The weight gain did not happen overnight, but eventually my weight-gain fears began to creep back. I panicked and became depressed about my new body. While I was not overweight and was within the normal range on medical weight charts, I could not accept my new shape.

My husband has always been encouraging and supportive. He says he loves my new figure and healthier appearance, and he has helped me to change my distorted belief that healthy equals overweight. With his help, I began weight training. I now use free weights and weight machines. I feel my best if I engage in aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes each day. Activities include walking, biking, roller-blading, using a treadmill or stationary bike at the gym, or even mowing our large front lawn. My husband is frequently my workout buddy, which is a great motivational factor. Due to his support, combined with a lot of dedication on my part, I have toned my body and developed muscles that I am proud of.

While my overall nutrition is not the best that it could be, I strive to maintain a good balance. Fortunately, I love a lot of foods that are healthy, such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, and poultry and fish. Other staples of my diet include low-fat cheese and cottage cheese, popcorn and rice cakes. My favorite dessert is nonfat frozen yogurt. I still have a list of foods that I avoid, and I do not always feel comfortable at social functions that seem to revolve around food. I acknowledge these fears and work on trying to keep them in perspective. Here, as with exercise, my husband's support is a key element in the successes that I have achieved.

Today, I am happier due to my healthier approach to eating, exercise and my concept of a fit body. I love working out and take pride in the results; I indulge in and enjoy a greater variety of foods; and I attend more social occasions where I am able to enjoy the company of others. I will probably always have some anxieties that seem unreasonable to people. However, I feel confident that I can prevent these things from dominating my life as they once did.

Vital Statistics

Name: Mary A. Nyeholt

Age: 30

Occupation: Elementary school assistant librarian

Old Weight: 95 pounds

New Weight: 115 pounds

Time to Get There: One year

Height: 5 feet 6 inches

Want to Share Your Success Story?

Losing weight is as individual as gaining weight. Do you have a story on how you got in shape and stayed there? If so, we'd like to hear from you with a 500-word essay listing what worked in terms of diet, exercise and encouragement / support as well as your emotional and physical changes.

We'd also like you to send us full-body color photos of you, before and after.

Send essay and photos to "How I Did It," Health, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, and include daytime and evening phone numbers. No phone calls, please. Submissions cannot be returned.

In addition to publication, winners will receive a Los Angeles Times gym bag.

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