A Pathetic Peanut Butter Sandwich (Disordered Eating Chat)

Today’s post will discuss disordered eating, amenorrhea and things like that. If this is not a topic for you to be reading right now, I will see you tomorrow for What I Ate Wednesday. 🙂

In Sunday’s post, I mentioned that I recalled eating a peanut butter sandwich with an apple on September 11, 2001 as I watched the news coverage of the horrific day unfold.

I have been thinking about that peanut butter sandwich a lot lately.

I am sure you don’t remember but I dealt with amenorrhea during the year of my engagement leading up to my wedding in 2001. I had just gotten my period back a couple of months prior to September 11.

My metabolism was all screwed up from months of not eating enough. I really didn’t know back then that there was a thing called not eating enough. I thought it was either you don’t eat at all (anorexia) or you eat too much. Anything in between would be healthy and correct but I slowly learned that wasn’t the case.

To be honest, it started to feel like no matter what I ate, I was going to gain weight from my slowed metabolism. Was that in my head or was it reality? I think a little bit of both.

My wedding was approaching and I lived in fear of my dress not zipping up on my wedding day.

Looking back, I don’t even understand why I felt the dress wouldn’t zip. It’s not like I ever gain weight in my middle and the dress was a princess ball gown – why wouldn’t the zipper zip up my back? Of course it would.

But I didn’t see that then.

All I saw was that my period came back and I was gaining weight.

My body was sort of freaking out, adding hormones and shape to areas that didn’t have shape for a few years. This wasn’t a bad thing! I was healthy and growing back curves — curves are a good thing!

Although, as great as having shape is, no one wants to feel their body growing or behaving in a way that they can’t control.

And that peanut butter sandwich? It was made completely with a fake, poor excuse for peanut butter.

One of those low-calorie, low taste peanut butters that comes in a jar claiming to be better than peanut butter but isn’t even close to as good as peanut butter. I ate this peanut butter sandwich in my attempt to still eat less without feeling like I was eating less even though eating less didn’t work.

I am pretty sure, now that I sit here and think about it, that peanut butter sandwich was also made on low-calorie bread. You know, that low-calorie bread where the slices are so thin that two slices are really like one slice? Do they still make that type of bread?

The Towers were crumbling yet I was eating this fake pathetic peanut butter sandwich thinking I was on track with a perfect day of eating.

Like any other day during that time period, I attempted the same perfect eating until the after dinner hours would roll around and I devoured every box of cereal in the pantry.

You think you can eat less than you need and get by with the low-calorie nonsense and maybe you can but it only lasts for so long. At some point your metabolism shuts down and your appetite increases to make up for the dumb things your brain tries to allow you to do. It’s such a terrible cycle that I hope to never get caught up in again.

15 years later and my period still arrives like clockwork.

I run longer now and faster now than I ever could have imagined back when I was 23 years old. I haven’t weighed myself in years but if I had to guess, my size is in line with where I was at when I was considered unhealthy but now I am healthier and stronger.

Isn’t it funny how that works? We think our bodies need US to keep things under control when the reality is, we need to stop trying to control things and just let our insides do their thing. They are going to anyway.

If we don’t eat enough, our system will slow things down to conserve energy rather than let us get too sickly thin. If we stop focusing so much on trying to control every morsel that goes into our mouths, we will find a balance that works for both the brain and the rest of our body too.

I have a fancy dress to zip up in a few weeks (for my son’s Bar Mitzvah) and I am not afraid that it won’t zip.

I eat real peanut butter and never allow myself to go hungry. As a runner, I don’t even know if it’s possible to run and not eat when hungry. How do people do that? How does one ignore the runner’s appetite?

By the way, this is my new favorite peanut butter. Why didn’t you tell me to try the 365 brand of peanut butter?

365 peanut butter

This is not to say that I don’t struggle sometimes in the evening with the food in the pantry because that would be a lie. Sometimes, even after I have eaten plenty of calories and fat all day long, I am still looking for snacks (specifically chocolate chips these days) and I have finally come to realize that this is just part of my life.

I am old enough and wise enough now to know that there’s no such thing as a perfect day of eating and at the age of 38, I have also learned that there’s no such thing as me not wanting to eat extra snacks sometimes in the evening even if I am not hungry.

And that’s okay. It’s me.

I don’t need to analyze my issues, determine if I am supposed to cut sugar (that’s insanity) or question why or what I am doing wrong that I like extra chocolate at night on a random Tuesday.

I think that this pathetic peanut butter sandwich that I ate while innocent people were dying and battling for their lives on September 11 serves as a reminder that 15 years ago, I was way too focused on what I ate.

I don’t want to live my life like that.

I don’t want to look back over the years and remember focusing on food. It just seems like a terrible way to live.

Posts of Interest:

Achieving a Balanced Attitude Towards Your Weight  – My key points for keeping yourself in check

Body Image Chat – Realizing that clothing doesn’t need to be a struggle.

Finding Balance Between Our Diets & Workouts – How many calories should you be eating?

Between Our Diets & Workouts Part 2 – Follow up to part one of this great series



Which peanut butter is your favorite?

Do you think that sometimes you think too much about food? Or, did you have a time in your life when you did?

Do you find yourself eating snacks at night even though you probably aren’t hungry?



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  1. says

    Such a well written post! I ate low cal peanut butter and bread during my college years – so gross to think about the fact food crap I put into my body. I wasn’t necessarily restricting, but I thought that lower calorie meant healthier. Then I start making my own bread and nut butters during senior year and realized what eating healthy actually meant.
    My wedding dress ended up being too big on me. I wasn’t watching what I eat but I was training for my first half and didn’t realize how many calories long distance running would burn. I kept asking my bridesmaids to tighten the corset!
    I started making my own peanut butter recently again and it is so creamy and tasty.
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…What to Wear for Fall RunningMy Profile

  2. says

    YES yes yes. You know I love this. I definitely went through my low calorie everything phase and ended up eating everything in sight at night which made me feel worse. Our bodies are smart and we’re healthier and happier when we eat a little more sugar than doctors say we should.
    Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…Workouts 9/5-9/11My Profile

  3. says

    WOW… Honestly I needed this today… I’ve been “recovered” as in mental and physical weight gain, actually overboard a little bit, for over a year but I still find silly things like restricting myself to diet foods during the day and then like you sais, eating every cereal in the cupboard at night..

    Thank you!
    Alexa recently posted…Learning to Go with the FlowMy Profile

  4. says

    What you said about caring way too much about food when there were truly horrible things going on around you is so true. I definitely went through a time where I put an insane amount of focus on food, and thats not something I ever want to go back to. I might have been a size or two smaller, but I also had basically no muscle, no energy, and no happiness. Bah. No way. And I definitely remember those sad attempts at ABJ sandwiches. I would scrape such a tiny amount of AB on my bread that I could barely even taste it 😆
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…link love 9/11My Profile

  5. Amanda says

    Thank you for this post! Your healthy relationship with food, exercise, and your body is one of the many reasons I read your blog daily. I still struggle with disordered eating from a long battle with anorexia, and I still have amenorrhea as a result…ugh!!! But reading blogs like yours helps to remind me what it means to be healthy so thank you 🙂 Oh and YES to sugar….all day everyday!

  6. says

    Love this post. So well written!
    I was and still do make peanut butter and almond butter which are both fabulous. However after reading all your posts I started buying the Trader Joe’s flax and chia. Loaded up on that for fear of them running out. Then switched to the other brand u like (the name escapes me and I can’t look in pantry at moment). Still love the crunchy of that one and eat it by the spoonfuls!!
    I am always snacky after dinner even knowing I had sufficient food. Perfect example…we are traveling now and ordered Hula Pie last night (google it to see the pure deliciousness). Anyway, got back to our room quite full yet still broke out the local dark chocolate bar we bought because it’s yummy. I am pretty reasonable during the day. Nighttime hits and forget it! Lol
    Lauren recently posted…Friday Favorites–But on a Monday!My Profile

  7. says

    This is so powerful, and just a good reminder that when you’re struggling with body issues, there’s a lot of big stuff happening in the world. I haven’t struggled with intentional restrictive eating really, but I’ve definitely had times when I actively followed serving sizes and thought that conventional health advice had to apply to me (which it doesn’t – my metabolism is ridiculous and I need a lot of food). It resulted periods of under-fueling for my activity level that came with crazy nighttime hunger. I know what it’s like to polish off cereal, etc. late at night for sure. Even now, when I’m careful to eat enough, I’m still pretty munch-y at night. I love what you said about just accepting it. It doesn’t hurt me at all, and there’s no need to question it, but I do (kind of a lot). I’m going to accept it now. I like to eat at night. I’m active and pretty healthy, and if I want snacks, I eat them. No explanation necessary. 🙂
    Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday recently posted…End of Summer SignalsMy Profile

  8. says

    I definitely focused too much on food when I was in my 20s. I was all about low calorie/low fat/sugar free foods from when I was like 21-25. I remember craving snacks at nighttime which should have been a clear sign that I wasn’t eating enough during the day, but the health and fitness world said we should eat x amount of calories so thats what I thought I was supposed to do. I think in general I have finally learned to stop worrying about that stuff over the last few years- both with eating and working out. When I was away for the past week I skipped a bunch of workouts and sometimes went days without eating a vegetable, but for the first time I didn’t really care because I knew I would get home and get back to normal. But there was a time when I would need to keep on my usual routine and its nice to be able to let go of that once in awhile.
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…Balancing Training and Life {Repost}My Profile

  9. says

    This is such a wonderful post. THANK YOU for sharing this! I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for the past 10+ years. I’m in a lot better state than what I was 5 years ago but I’m nowhere near healed. I think about food and my weight and body constantly and … It’s exhausting.

    How did you get over this?

    P.S – LOVE the Whole Foods 365 peanut butter. Very underrated.
    Arthi recently posted…Happy Birthday, Usha & Eve!My Profile

    • says

      you are very welcome. it’s hard to really say how I got over caring too much – it’s a process. I definitely recommend reading the other posts I linked in this post or checking out my amnenorrhea page (at the top) for all of the links to the posts I have written on this subject. that should help explain my mindset. i know i addressed some of the things i continue to think about on a daily basis in the posts i linked to in this post. i hope it helps!

  10. says

    Thanks for sharing your story! It is so powerful how we were in the midst of the biggest tragedy in US history, and all you could think about was a low-calorie sandwich. This shows us the power that semi-starvation can have on our brains and how much emphasis is placed in our culture on having a certain unrealistic body type.
    Congrats on your son’s Bar Mitzvah! Have so much fun!
    Joyce @ The Hungry Caterpillar recently posted…Vegan Blueberry Banana Breakfast Bake (low-FODMAP)My Profile

  11. AmandaM says

    So I’m catching up on your blog 🙂 This post is amazing. That better than peanut butter?? Oh yes, I tried that. Once. Awful. I would always get the “light wheat bread” – all air. Ripped apart when you attempted to spread ANYTHING on it. … In regards to: “As a runner, I don’t even know if it’s possible to run and not eat when hungry. How do people do that? How does one ignore the runner’s appetite?”… in my experience I can’t run and be weak. I don’t know how people do it. Unfortunately I went into a stressful period recently and I control this by paring down my eating. I don’t drink or do anything else crazy. My way of dealing with tough spots is to be very controlled. And as a result, running feels AWFUL. It has come to the point where I can’t run. I still work out – elliptical, spin etc. But running is a whole different ballgame (for me anyway). The universe is telling me that if I want to run like I normally LOVE to do, then I’ve got to get my sh*t together. I’m also 38 and wish I had it figure out as well as you do! I know that I could actually be faster now than in my earlier years if I can get some energy back. Right now I run about 2 mins per slower than I did just a year ago – all due to loss of weight. Anyway, You’ve inspired me. Especially your comment about being faster 🙂 What better motivation? Ha. Thanks.