Without Self-Love, I Have Nothing.

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In 2003, after about 2 and 1/2 years of dating, Eric and I broke up. We told our shocked friends and family that it was a mutual break up, but in reality, I never felt that it was. I knew that I gradually pushed Eric away and I built a wall around myself so high that he felt like he couldn’t get through.

This ‘wall’ represented my insecurities, eating disorder, and everything that came with it. It wasn’t just the surface things- the obsessiveness, calorie counting, or over-exercising- it was the absence of self-love and my lack of ability to be loved fully in return.

Our breakup wasn’t mutual at all though. I pushed Eric so far away that he had no choice but to slowly raise a red flag and surrender. (He claims, to this day, that it was just as much his fault as it was mine, but I didn’t see it that way). It is hell living with an eating disorder, but it is probably even more difficult loving someone who has an eating disorder. Any experience that we go through that affects our self-esteem changes who we are, how we act and react, the things we say, how we carry ourselves, the fights we have, and how much we let our loved ones in. Eric got bits and pieces of the ‘fun, authentic, happy-go-lucky Ange’ and other times he got ‘Ange with no self-esteem or confidence’.

On the day we broke up, we lay in bed, crying and embracing each other knowing that as soon as we let each other go it would all be over. I told him that I would change and I would get help once and for all, but he was firm that we needed time apart to grow as individuals. He never said or made me feel that our problems were my fault or that I was the cause of the troubles. He took more blame than he probably even deserved, but I guess it does take two to tango. We talked and cried for hours and hours that day before he finally had the courage to leave. I really didn’t think he could do it. We were soul mates after all, high school sweethearts who had big plans for our lives.

I closed the door and collapsed in a heap on the ground, sobbing, but with no sound or tears coming out. I was now officially empty, but not in the way that I had wanted to be. Suddenly, my goal of being ‘x’ weight didn’t matter to me anymore. Nor did it matter how many calories I ate for lunch. I felt like a selfish a-hole. How ironic that I believed being thin would solve all of my problems, when in fact, the pursuit of thinness ended up causing so many more problems than I ever dreamed of.

I sat there expecting Eric to come back knocking on the door.

He didn’t, though I knew he wanted to.

Eric wanted to stay in touch, but I severed all communication after I saw him at my birthday party the next week. No calls, no emails, no msn chats, no seeing each other. I had a stiff upper lip through it all, but it was the only way I could move on.

Our break-up had a silver lining that I couldn’t see at the time; during our time apart I was able to reflect on things that I needed to change in myself. After the partying (and pretending like I didn’t care) got old, I started to work on me for the first time in years.

As it turned out, we ended up getting back together later on that year. By coincidence we ended up in the same Calculus class at our university and after an awkward Long Time No See and small talk, I figured that would be the end of it. For weeks, Eric asked me to catch up over coffee, but I politely declined. My broken heart had never mended itself and I was on guard, but ultimately, I couldn’t deny the love that I felt for him. I avoided him like the plague because I knew what we had was still so strong. I decided I was willing to take the risk.

I’m not going to say that it was easy when we got back together because for a long time I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. If the insecurities were bad before the break-up, they were twice as bad the months following getting back together. I thought he was going to run away whenever there was a problem, but he certainly proved me wrong. I also proved myself wrong by learning to love myself and to give myself entirely to someone else. We both grew up a lot and we learned how to communicate more than ever.

To me, Valentine’s Day isn’t about $75 wilted roses, boxes of chocolates, or mushy Hallmark cards. It’s not about cramming into an over-packed restaurant and selecting off a special Valentine’s Day menu. It’s certainly not about the gifts, although I guess any of the above can be fun if you make it. Love isn’t always a fairy tale. Relationships are complex and ever-evolving with ups and downs, but I love them just the same.

Most of all, Valentine’s Day reminds me that without Self-Love I have nothing.

Without Self-Love I can’t give to others in my life. I can’t be a good friend, daughter, sister, or wife. Whether you like this holiday or not, you can use it as a time to reflect on the love you give to yourself. If you are anything like me, this is an area that needs constant attention and daily care. My challenge to you is to start a new tradition on Valentine’s Day- write yourself a love letter and read it over often!

(Oh and I lied, it is definitely about the chocolate today. I recommend eating it with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)

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Rose February 17, 2016

I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now and love all your recipes (can’t wait for the second cookbook to come out!). I stumbled upon this article browsing your website and it’s got me in tears. What a beautiful inspiring story. I’m in exactly the same place you were a few weeks after the breakup. Everything about your story is similar to mine. You’ve inspired me to start working on my self-love, you’re truly an inspiration and role model to me Angela. I hope you know how inspiring you are to people. Thank you.

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Jayne D. September 9, 2012

What a beautiful and meaningful post. Thank you for being brave and sharing with us. Thank you for the reminder that you do have to love YOU before you can give 100% in any relationship, wife, daughter, mother….

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glidingcalm March 8, 2011

you are amazing. thank your for your honesty.

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Gena February 19, 2011

Very inspiring. Thank you so much, I really needed this.

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SpiritedLady February 17, 2011

What a beautiful story and it’s wonderful that you are willing to share your recovery and struggles.

Thank you!

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AC February 16, 2011

Angela,

You and your blog are amazing! Truly inspirational. This sounds pretty similar to my ex and I, so you give me hope.

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Miriam February 16, 2011

Angela, I really love your blog and this post is just as wonderful as all the others. I seldom come across blogs that are as inspiring as yours! I myself have struggled with my weight for a long time but I haven’t been able to lose weight and that really depressed me. But your stories about food, sports and accepting yourself have taught me that there IS so much more to me than just my appearance! Reading your blog makes me happy and makes me want to start running again and make all of your amazing recipes! :) I just wanted to thank you for helping me realize that I shouldn’t obsess about food all the time and that food and exercise can and should be fun!

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Rorey February 16, 2011

Thank you for your heartfelt honesty and thoughtful words. I appreciate your blog and love that your voice comes through on each and every one of your posts. Happy Valentines Day!

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Anna Crouch February 16, 2011

I think what I tend to do, when I’m feeling insecure and not loving myself, I subconsciously put the blame on my husband, and unknowingly/not purposefully point out his flaws, so I can feel better about myself. I noticed this awhile back and when I became conscious of what I was doing, I was horrified. After my husband got very upset at me because of one of my nit-picky, blaming episodes, I broke down and told him I believed I did that as a coping mechanism for my own insecurities. It’s something I’ve really been working on. Recognizing it is half the battle!!! Luckily, my husband is an extremely loving, gracious man, who loves me so much, all he did was embrace me and let me cry it out. I think everyone who has ever had an eating disorder or self-esteem issues can relate to pushing people away and putting up walls in their relationships. But man! We are lucky women, to have such loving men in our lives! I’m thankful for my hubby!!

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Nicole February 15, 2011

This post is awesome! Thanks for putting yourself out there – I think this topic is something that resonates with every single person.

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Nessy February 15, 2011

This is absolutely one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. You are so amazing. Reading your blog continues to give me hope and lets me see the light at the end of the tunnel through all my current struggles. Although I don’t know you personally, through your blog you have been a miraculous friend. Your posts give me the strength and encouragement I need to keep fighting when I am overcome with despair. I thank you more than words could ever explain.

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Mallory February 15, 2011

thank you so much :)
i’m finally at a spot where i know i need to work on loving myself, but i honestly don’t know how to do that… where to start?
do you have any ideas on how to go about that?

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kaila @ healthy helper! February 15, 2011

wow how beautiful and inspirational!

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Ashley February 15, 2011

than you so much angie!! I am a 21 yr. old junior at Sam Houston State University (Texas) studying nutrition and struggling with disordered eating. It has affected my life and relationships significantly. The desire to be perfect has pushed me to starve myself for long periods of time, and then occasionally eat to the point of being sick. I’m only 112 lbs at 5’6, but I know that I’m not healthily at a natural weight. I look sick all the time, my energy levels dip and I don’t feel like being social. When I read this post tears rolled down my cheeks, because it’s true what you said about pushing people away and letting low self esteem take over. I too lost the one who is most precious to me because of this behavior. He has done all he can and at this point feels he has to let me go. I miss him very much but know that I have to get well and love myself first, and this post has given me some peace and hope for the future. Thank you for opening up to us like this, we (your readers) love you!!

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Lynne February 15, 2011

Amazing post, Angela. Thank you for sharing this.

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Danielle@college_dieting February 15, 2011

You are amazing! I get so excited to wake up and see what new recipe you have posted. I have a similar story as yours but I am recovered as well. I am a junior college pursuing a business marketing major and health science minor and interning at a nutrition and fitness place called tone it up. I love your story and how you balance your life so well. You are such an inspiration to me and so many others! I just wanted to let you know how much you have inspired my in my recovery.

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jenny February 15, 2011

your post brought tears to my eyes — b/c i’ve been where you were — and continue to work to stay out of the self-destruction madness. thank you for sharing a huge piece of yourself with all of us.

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Lauren February 15, 2011

Awesome…like always! You articulated exactly why I don’t feel pressure to rush into a relationship. I need to work on MYSELF first and love myself before I will allow anyone to love me and for me to fully love anyone else. Thank you!!! :) <3

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Emily February 15, 2011

I read this yesterday and it’s been on my mind since then. I’ve been in Eric’s position- my ex-boyfriend had a pretty serious eating disorder (yes, it’s more common than you think) with the full set of body image and confidence problems that come with that. I knew that he felt like you did, and tried my best to get him to see a therapist and get better. He went to a therapist for a little while, but really didn’t WANT to get better at that point, and ended up breaking up with me and moving out of our apartment to “work on himself by himself.” Unfortunately, our story did not have a happy ending; he tried to get back together with me twice that year, claiming he had changed, and it immediately became apparent that he had not and actually did not have the strength or desire to change.

Sorry for the sad story! But I wanted to tell you that congratulations (is that the right word?) for having the strength and the perseverance to work through your troubles and be a better partner for Eric. He’s lucky to have you.

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Gretchen @ Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen! February 15, 2011

Angela, this was a wonderful post — so touching. I’ve struggled with disordered eating of all kinds for a long time, and only recently (6 months ago) decided to really turn things around and start loving myself like I should have all along! Yesterday, for Valentine’s Day, I celebrated getting to under 200 pounds for the first time since I was still in high school (over 45 pounds lost!), a result of my new healthy lifestyle. If that’s not a declaration of self-love, I’m not sure what is!

I just wanted to say thank you for you being so honest with us all here. I recently came to terms on my blog with my eating struggles as well, and I know I wouldn’t have been able to talk about it so openly if I hadn’t read your honest posts about your own struggles in the past. You are amazing.

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Sarah February 15, 2011

I am having trouble with self-love right now and it is affecting my relationship with my spouse and that is the LAST thing I want … I was wondering if there is any books you have read that you would recommend?

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Nicole in Madagascar February 15, 2011

it is insane that you post this post on this particular day – a day after fighting with my love – over a comment he made that i interpreted in some obscure way to him calling me fat.

we talked about this post together and i realized that things need to change. not just for us, but for my well being – physically and emotionally.

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Maddie (Healthy Maddie) February 15, 2011

Great post, Angela! I love your blog!

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Amy February 15, 2011

Love your blog. Later, after reading yesterday’s post, I came upon this quote: “The deep love you seek starts and ends with the love you have for YOU!”
-Christine Arylo

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Simply Pure Vegan + Baby February 15, 2011

Absolutely beautiful ‘truer’ words have never been spoken!

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Norwegianette February 15, 2011

This is absolutely beautiful; I can tell it’s a subject you care about because it’s so well written! (Different less upbeat style than your usual, but it really works for you!) I loved getting a small peak into the more personal side of things, love that even though you have now found your glow you’re not afraid to talk about when things weren’t that great and love that Eric seems like such a wonderful guy (You guys really deserve each other – I hope you’ll grow ridiculously old together and when you’re 120 still get to sit in rocking chairs holding hands and adoringly shoot each other wrinkly smiles. Disclaimer: I may have been influenced by watching Up yesterday).

Please know that you really touched someone with this entry. And have a ridiculously wonderful Wedensday :)

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Thin Lizzy February 14, 2011

This is such a beautiful and honest entry. Thank you for sharing Angela.

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Reka February 14, 2011

SO happy that the two of you are together. Time and maturity solves many things :)

Happy Valentine’s Day Angela!

Reka

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Casey Thomas February 14, 2011

This is such a beautiful and honest post. Thank you for sharing. I can definitely relate from my past too where I have pushed partners away due to my own obsessive issues with my body and food. Thank goodness that is all in the past but I agree it is something you need to put constant attention on (like most things in life to remain balanced and healthy!).

I am running an Emotional Eating program right now and funnily enough, the weekly exercises are called “Self-Love Sheets”. I thought it was fitting and your post just confirms it for me. Thanks Angela :)

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AdiFey February 14, 2011

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