I hope you all had a lovely weekend. I am starting to compile my most frequently asked questions! These are the questions that I get every week. Today, I will start with one of my most popular questions.
I could honestly write a book on this topic, but I will try to keep it succinct.
1. How did you stop obsessing and beat your eating disorder?
I struggled with disordered eating since the age of 11. I was sick and tired of being unhappy, hungry, and dissatisfied when I looked in the mirror. Even though I was thin for much of this time, I hated my body. My weight went up and down due to teetering along the extremes of both starvation and over-eating. In my first year of university I gained over 25 pounds and my obsession with my weight only got worse. After my first semester in university, I hit rock bottom. I knew I had to change. I was sick of struggling day in and day out with calorie counting, weighing myself, restricting how much I could eat, etc. It was a battle I was never going to win and I knew if I didn’t do something about it, I would never be happy.
I began seeing a school counsellor. She was a huge factor in my recovery. I still remember the kind words she told me and I think of her words whenever I am feeling down. One thing she told me was that I had such a soothing voice and I had a very easy-going nature about me. She would always tell me how easy it was to talk with me. After hearing these kind words, I started to realize that I was so much more than my weight and how skinny I was. I got so caught up in the disorder that I really needed to hear it from an outsider to make everything click. She made such a huge impact on my life when I least expected it. I was very skeptical about seeing a counsellor (fear mostly), but it was the best thing I ever did. I only saw her about 6 times and to think that she helped me so much is really amazing.
In addition to this, I also took a few nutrition courses in university. These courses were pivotal in the change that started to occur in my mind. I finally learned how my body worked…and I was amazed. I poured myself into my nutrition books and I had marks at the top of my class. I enjoyed every minute of it. I wanted to major in nutrition and become a registered dietitian, but I didn’t have a couple of the science pre-reqs and I decided to pursue psychology because I didn’t want to be a year behind (oh how I wish I would have followed my heart!). As I learned more about nutrition, I started to appreciate my body for what it did for me everyday. I had been abusing it for so long and it was just doing the best it could to stay balanced. It never occurred to me why I had the urge to binge until I learned that bingeing is an evolutionary adaptation! It is natural for the body to respond with over-eating when it has been deprived and it feels that it is in danger of survival. I was blaming my body for everything, but it was doing nothing wrong!
I decided to stop weighing myself. For some, the scale is a useful tool but for me no number was ever good enough. If it was up, I would starve. If it was down, I would starve too. I had to put the scale away. I knew that I needed to stop focusing on numbers so much and start focusing on my overall health. It was extremely hard to not weigh myself, but I just went cold turkey.
Going cold turkey was also my approach to calorie counting, but it didn’t work. Because I had been counting calories for over 10 years it was ingrained in me. I couldn’t stop! It sort of freaked me out and I thought for a while that I may never be able to break the habit. I realized that I had to start small. I started with not counting one part of my meal. So if I had cereal and milk for breakfast, I would not measure my cereal portion and not add-up those calories.
Gradually, over time I was able to build up to a full meal…and then eventually a full day of not counting. This process took months and I had many relapses. I gained a bit of weight during this time (I could tell by how my clothes fit) and that scared me and made me want to go back to my old ways. Sometimes I would get to the end of the day and not know how many calories I had eaten and this would cause me to binge due to the anxiety. I wasn’t used to not having control over every morsel that went into my mouth. I tried to focus on my hunger cues instead of how many calories I was ‘allowed’ to have. I realized during this process, that I had absolutely no clue how to listen to my body! I hadn’t done it for so long that I could barely tell when I was full or hungry. It was scary to experience this. It only solidified the fact that I was doing the right thing by trying to beat it.
When I stopped starving myself, it all became clear to me. My binges stopped. It took a few months but they did. My body no longer felt at risk for survival or desperate for food. I started to feel more calm around food and I started to appreciate food instead of fear it. The whole process took about 2-3 years before I felt confident that I would not go back to the disordered eating.
One crucial factor in my recovery was learning how to channel the negative energy about myself into something positive. I decided to channel this energy into learning about nutrition. Instead of looking at food for how many calories it had, I started to look at food in terms of its’ overall nutrition and how it made me feel when I ate it. I started to eat for energy instead of lack of calories or fat. When I was restricting my intake, all I ate was processed diet foods (aka crap!)…popcorn, iceburg lettuce, sugar-free popsicles, Crystal Light, chewing gum, you name it. I decided to start eating unprocessed foods and I ate more whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. I also started cooking more instead of going out to eat. I started to eat FAT which was absolutely ground-breaking for me. I used to restrict my fat so much and everything was fat-free. It was no wonder that my skin and hair were dull as rocks. I learned that healthy fats were good- bring em on! I ate nuts and healthy oils. My hair, skin, and nails started to glow.
I had many relapses along the way, but now, several years later, it was hands down the best (and hardest) thing I ever did. Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy…
For anyone who is struggling, I strongly suggest seeking out professional help. I am not sure I would have been able to do it without my counsellor’s professional guidance.
Have you ever had an aha moment about yourself or how you viewed food?
"Throw back the shoulders, let the heart sing, let the eyes flash, let the mind be lifted up, look upward and say to yourself… Nothing is impossible!"
~ Norman Vincent Peale