As my friend and I walked down the school hallway together in between classes, he turned and said…
“You know you’re killing yourself, right?”
I kind of laughed it off.
I thought he was being a bit over dramatic.
The truth was, I had lost about eight pounds over the course of 10 days.
I wasn’t overweight at the time to begin with – as I was only about 120 pounds at 5’6″.
I had lost some weight due to the depression I had felt over a break up a year earlier, which was why I was so slim at the time.
Before that, while I hadn’t been overweight for a few years (since getting tall enough to outgrow my chubby/gawky phase)…and had played softball and tennis here and there – I didn’t exactly live a life that focused on well-being.
“Diet and exercise” still felt like things that I had to be conscious of because I hated my body.
I felt awkward next to my slim and shapely friends.
Compared to them, I felt as though I looked like a boy – even with my long brown hair and the colorful girly tops I used to wear.
I had carried this negative self-image around with me for years – and I was only 16.
People used to tell me how pretty I was…but the only thing I knew was that I sure didn’t feel that way.
And there wouldn’t have been anything anyone could have said to me that would have made any difference…because I believed what I believed about myself.
And that, folks, goes to show you just how powerful the mind is when it comes to how we perceive ourselves – regardless of the good opinions of others.
How I Became Sick
As you can see from the photos above, during the time period that I am referring to, I wasn’t fat.
In fact, I was pretty thin.
And I wanted to make damn sure I stayed this way – regardless of how I went about it.
In addition to my belief that one had to be thin and beautiful in order to be considered worthy of love and admiration…I also carried around a level of anger toward myself (and sometimes others) that was pretty tough to cover up.
One day, the pain became unbearable to the point where I felt I had to take action.
This is what happens when we don’t acknowledge our shadows. They end up owning our minds. In this state of being, anything – at any time can push your buttons and cause you to take action in whatever way feels like a release of pent-up pressure.
I needed to express it in a way that I hadn’t before.
I needed to be in control.
I had remembered watching a made for tv movie about a woman with bulimia.
She made it look so easy, but to be honest, the idea of throwing up wasn’t exactly appealing to me.
So instead, I simply decided not to eat.
This lasted for about three days – until I couldn’t take it anymore.
I would drink water, nap and convince myself that beauty had a price.
But none the less…I had to eat.
It was then that I decided to see what it would be like to eat – and just not keep it in.
Without getting into any other details (it really isn’t necessary anyway) – I became bulimic…and stayed this way on and off over the next 10 years.
So to not drag this out, I’ll simply mention a few pivotal experiences I had during this whole ordeal.
- It isn’t as easy as it looks on television or in movies.
- It’s an inconvenient way to live. Like in real estate…it’s location, location, location. You can’t practice this unless there’s a bathroom around – and enough privacy to do what you’re about to do.
- It’s all encompassing. This disease completely consumes you in every way imaginable.
- It destroys every part of the body – and serves to make you fat in the long run because it slows down the metabolism and disrupts the digestive system.
I was caught several times by different people – including friends, family members, and others.
It didn’t matter.
I stopped temporarily here and there…but I would always start again.
I saw counselors, tried meds, etc.
The disorder had me. It owned my mind – and therefore, my body.
And if this wasn’t bad enough…I eventually became an overeater.
It was my way of surrendering to it all – regardless of the consequences of becoming fat.
And fat I became too.
My little 120-pound frame packed on an additional 90 pounds over the next several years.
The scale eventually told me I was 205 pounds. I told it to go f*ck itself.
Just to retaliate, it crawled up an additional five pounds soon after.
At that point, it almost didn’t matter anymore.
I was a mess… and I knew it.
Something had to give.
I needed help.
Thankfully, I found it (or it found me).
How I Overcame My Eating Disorders
The reason I felt compelled to delve a little further into the topic about my eating disorders though is because while it’s no secret that there are many individuals out there who want to lose weight, when there are issues going on in your mind that involve sickness, then regardless of your desire to be well, it won’t happen until you tackle those inner demons first.
In order for me to overcome my eating disorders, I had to make self-awareness my first priority.
I had to gain an understanding of how I thought about myself.
What was my impression of me? How did I relate to the world around me? And how did I view food, exercise and overall well-being?
What did I experience in life that lent credibility to the idea that I wasn’t worthy of love and acceptance – not just from others, but from myself?
And once I got some answers, what was I going to do about this?
Connecting the Dots
Once I had received the answers to these questions, I had an idea of what was responsible for how my internal environment was built.
I realized that I didn’t value myself. I understood that I had shadow aspects that lived within me – and controlled my mind.
These shadow aspects were the unacknowledged, unexpressed and rejected parts of me that I judged and cast to the side. They took up residence in my mind and came to the surface anytime something ruffled my feathers.
I had decided that I needed to get to the root cause of my eating disorders, which involved:
- Claiming who I was
- Bringing these parts of me to the surface to face, accept and question.
- And then, challenging them (as far as their authenticity in my belief systems)
Once I did this, things started to fall into place.
I realized that well-being could not develop in a sick mind, so I had to heal my thoughts before I could heal my body.
I knew that I couldn’t simply replace one thought with another – because in order for that to happen successfully, I would have to actually believe the new thought.
So it was only when I questioned how I viewed myself, and the world in general that I figured out that everything I had believed to be true was in fact…
With a clear(er) sense of reality, and a knowing that wellness was the overall goal, I had finally made room for an alternate perspective to be born – and therefore, acted upon.
That perspective was this –
I wanted to be an individual who liked, trusted and respected herself. The only way to do this was to face my own sickness and deal with it by getting to know who I was – thoughts, emotions and actions.
I then had to question these things and see if they were based in truth, or erroneous belief systems I had picked up along the way in life – and took on as my own.
I decided they weren’t based in absolute truth, and I realized that the secret to not being sick – was to decide to be well.
I didn’t heal my eating disorders. I eradicated them by eradicating the issues that had caused them to begin with.
And then I replaced them with inspired, truthful and insightful ideas and revelations about wellness…because I had brought my shadows to the light – and incorporated them as a part of me.
I didn’t disown any part of myself any longer…I just welcomed who I was into my life and challenged what I thought I knew.
The truth is, had it not been for the pain of not being well, I wouldn’t have figured out what true well-being actually meant.
And I wouldn’t be where I am today – sharing this with you in my awesome, fabulous and nifty blog about the beautiful human imagination and how it works.
As a result, I became a conductor in my life, rather than a performer.
As time went on, I encountered some epiphanies in regard to food and fitness which has made a huge difference in my life, including my weight management.
However, the only reason they had any ability to make their way into my awareness was because I had opened up my mind to the concept of wellness and gained a much better understanding of what this meant – and how to attain it.
This is when the practical applications of eating right and exercising started to make sense. Once the shift had happened internally, it was much easier to make changes in my behavior – and stick with them because they felt natural.
Eating disorders stem from an inner-war that takes place in the consciousness of the individual. Well-being, on the other hand, is the effect of self-love.
In order to become what we want, we have to acknowledge who we are.
We face ourselves, and then…if we have the courage to do so, we allow who we are to teach us about who we’d like to be…and through being kind to ourselves and questioning our own erroneous concepts about things, we can forgive who we’ve been and make room to allow what we appreciate about ourselves to expand.
I did, and if I can do this, anyone can. It takes a willingness to face your own stuff – and feel the pain.
There is hope.
These days, I inspire people through writing and coaching to find their most authentic selves – and make healthy living a natural part of their lives.
I have even received an award for writing a book that educates people about how to stay safe in an exercise program – given by a man who doesn’t praise just any fitness professional.
I look back on my days of being so sick – and feel such gratitude for what I have learned along the way.
The gifts have been enormous – and continue to light up my life. Some pretty cool things have happened since then, and continue to happen to this day.
What to Do if You Have an Eating Disorder
If you are someone who struggles with eating disorders, know you aren’t alone.
The situation isn’t helpless…and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Know that you can turn this into a blessing – and become someone you value, respect and love.
You can also be in a position to help others…if you’re willing to do the work to help yourself.
You may want to consider getting some professional help as well. Please don;t take anything I have said here as a means to forgo medical treatment if you need it.
However, just know this –
Regardless of where you are, what kind of eating disorder you have or what your life has looked like up until now, there are options.
And of course, I am more than willing to lend an ear if you have any questions – so please don’t hesitate to ask.
Over to you…
Do you relate to anything I have shared in this post? Do you know of anyone who has suffered from eating disorders?
* Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net