Eating Disorder Recovery Story

I’m Really Impressed by The Blond Vegan

Courtesy of www.theblondevegan.com

Courtesy of www.theblondevegan.com

If you’ve been following eating disorder news or blogosphere foodies at all, you know the story about the blond vegan. If you don’t, I’ll give you a quick recap. A young woman, Jordan Younger, who has been a prolific instagrammer and blogger had spent a year photographing her beautiful vegan meals, her exercise feats, and her shopping trips.  Her photographs and eating became an obsession. Not just for her, but for her 70,000 instagram followers. Ms. Younger then began to get ill. She lost her period, became fatigued and her skin dried up. She then came to the conclusion that she had an eating disorder and despite the fact that she had close to 100k followers, decided to work on letting go on her obsessions and let go of Veganism. Holy fuck that’s brave.

 

The symptoms that are described are very typical of of anorexia.  Ms. Younger discusses having orthorexia, which is basically the obsession with healthy eating.

Her story is very close to my heart. As I describe in my book, I too was a vegan– for many, many years. My mother and I were both vegetarian from the time that I was 10 years old and then we became vegan when I was 20. My mom remained mostly vegan until she passed away when I was 28. It was then that I chose to begin  integrating new foods.  Were we orthorexic?  Mom was, I was more about trying to reject a whole bunch of foods in order to control my eating. I mean, I was smoking and drinking diet coke like it was going out of style. So, I probably wasn’t vegan for health or environmentally responsible reasons. But, having been a vegetarian/vegan for almost my whole life, 18 years, it was very difficult for me to change. It was my identity- both to myself and to others. I was pained about what I believed was contributing to the suffering of animals, I was depressed about wondering who I was.  But you know what, I wasn’t what my eating dictated I was. That wasn’t my identity. And that’s the problem with eating disorders, isn’t it? They become your identity to you. If you are anorexic this is who you believe you are. And everyone knows you as “tiny,” and you want to be that. You don’t want to change who you are to people. If you are bulimic- you have this secret identity, this huge secret that is so hard to let go of because what would you have when you were alone without your binges/purges?    It’s interesting how we allow the way we eat to give us identity and shape the way people see us. I mean, look at Gwenyth Paltrow and her whole Goop cult.  People become obsessed with the way they eat and then other people become obsessed with the way they eat.

Your identity isn’t what you eat or how you eat and it’s none of anyone else’s business.  Which is why I’m so impressed by Ms. Younger’s bravery.  She not only had to make a decision to change her eating to save her health (which is rough) she had to do it to a hundred thousand followers- people watching her and looking to her for guidance on how to be healthy. She did a great thing by admitting to all those people that she was not balanced. I think she will help many, many people who think that they have to be perfect. She made it alright to let go of an eating disorder.

Jordan, if you read this, I want you to know that I think you are so awesome. You have totally gotten the word out there that recovery is okay and possible. You sent an amazing message. You have done a great thing for the eating disorder recovery community. I’m so impressed! And I know that recovery is difficult, and changing and letting go of obsessions is extremely difficult. I hope that you have a great supportive community to support you through this transition.

A Recovery Story

This wonderful recovery story was sent in to me this week.

 

Hi everyone, I am a community-based therapist in the Bay Area.  I have struggled with binge eating since I was an adolescent.  I have come a long way from the person I was at seventeen, and feel much healthier in my mind and body.  I still struggle sometimes, but have created a primarily healthy adult life.  The most valuable thing I’ve learned over the years is how to take care of myself.  My hope is to offer a perspective and some support that stems from a combination of my professional and personal experiences. 

When I was in my late teens, a very wise person told me “you just need to change the tapes in your head.”  Part of me wanted to run to the snack drawer in my family’s kitchen and inhale the homemade scones or cookies that I’d abstained from all week.  “Just change those tapes” I thought, “that’s it,” I muttered under my breath in a huff.  I was angry and sad and anxious, and in that moment at seventeen that advice felt like an insurmountable chore.  I had to lose weight first.  I had to go for a run.  Would I ever look like I did when I was sixteen?  I had to do get thin again.  My gaining weight was probably why the boy I thought I loved broke up with me.  It was clear that these were the exact tapes I was being told I needed change, but I didn’t see them as tapes.  These were true, and if I started thinking – a walk would feel good or my boyfriend and I weren’t right for each other or I was wonderful just the way I was – then I was only covering up the truth; lying to myself so I would feel better.

I’ve come a long way since seventeen.  Recovering from an eating disorder is absolutely a process that often involves several different kinds of support and levels of self-discovery.  However, just as this blog talks about the power of language – fat talk, thinking you have to do this or that – an important piece of recovery is changing those tapes, and it may be a good place to start.  Over the years, it has also become apparent to me that we too often privilege negative over positive thought.  This privileging can be attributed to the fear that focusing on positive thought means you are giving up or lying to yourself.  I have certainly been scared that focusing on the positives will mean the truth will come back and hurt.  But when we think about it, negative and positive thoughts are created in the same place, so why would we not give them equal voice?  And to take that step further, consider how negative thoughts impact your life…if I think, “I can’t have a good day unless I run” it doesn’t serve me at all, but instead I feel trapped and unable to gain consistent contentment in my life.  If I then think, “I will have a good day because I am strong and capable” that is no less true, and I feel empowered and competent.     

So, that wise person was onto something.  It took me a long time, and the forming of my frontal lobe, to recognize the power in what we say to ourselves.  I am certainly not immune to negative thinking, but I am better at stopping those thoughts or at least questioning why I am giving them power.  I encourage you to do the same.  If you have negative thoughts, pause, ask yourself where they stem from, learn from them, and then flip them upside-down.

Thanks for reading.

If you have a recovery story that you’d like to share here, please submit it to bingeeatingtherapy  (at) gmail (dot) com.

A recovery story- Finally choosing to let go of Ed

This amazing and intense recovery story was submitted by April via email.

My name is April and when I was 8 I started having serious body issues. I started my period and didn’t really know why or what it was. My mother was not a very nurturing mother always competing with me about weight and clothes and she would take over my friends so they liked her better. I hated my body. I remember praying to die at 8. I always felt awkward in my skin never comfortable.  I got the message early on that being fat like my aunt Kathy was unacceptable.  I was told fat people were not worthy of love and were failures in not so many words.  I started my first diet at 8 eating just an apple and orange every day for a week and lost weight. I saw the pride in my parents faces when I dropped weight.  The next few years were a blur until I hit junior high. I had friends and I felt like I belonged but my body was an issue.  I hated my body. I hated being in it. I would throw up but it was getting out of hand. Just when I felt stressed. I just sort of hated my body and then it was time for high school.  All my friends went to one school I went to another. I was shell shocked. I had no idea how to make new friends. I hated my body and myself and was in awe of all the pretty girls.  I turned inward. I was sad my old friends left no room for me in their life.  My home life was a little scary as my dad and brother constantly fought.  I would live in my room never coming out unless I had to. I also ate the same thing every day for over a year.  Then that summer I turned 15 and the binging and purging took over. I became a full-fledged bulimic. I lost weight I was like 95lbs and I loved being thin and I was 5’2” and usually 113 to 110. My parents put me in a hospital for kids with behavior issues. This only pissed me off because all they said was get to 100 and you can go home. I got to 100 in two weeks they never put me in with the eating disorder unit they just stuck me with gang members and drug addicts. I was so angry at my parents. I had no control and I felt so alone.  When I got out of high school I started exercising and running. I think started on anorexia. I would eat very little like an apple and glass of milk and then throw it up.  From the age of 19 to 33 I was severely anorexic and bulimic and exercise crazed. I had no life, no friends, and just was waiting to die. My life was sad and lonely.  I did manage to get a college degree, a paralegal certificate cause my dad wanted me to and then a master’s in business management. I quit any job if my weight came in question. I floated between 69lbs and 84lbs for that period of time.  I thought I would die and I wanted to. I somehow married and had two kids.  My kids are healthy but I was starving and binging and purging all through my pregnancies. I lost one but I blame myself cause I purged and was exercising two hours a day. Therapy after therapy couldn’t help me. I was married to a man that ignored me and treated me like servant. I realize now I picked that man because I could continue practicing my behavior because it went unnoticed. I started for some reason reaching out to people through FB. I don’t know why I did it but something in me changed. I saw my daughter being left out by my parents who treated my son like the number one grandchild and I just snapped. I thought I had to get better. I read the book by Portia De Rossi and one night I believe I heard the voice of God tell me to stop. I stopped. I stopped the crazy behavior and I stopped allowing a man to dominate and ignore me. I have had to cut out my parents because they are very sick and controlling and will never get help. I have had to get better for myself for my kids. The sad part is I had to recover alone with the help of God and the support of some friends.  I am getting divorced but it is the right thing to do.  Even if I end up alone forever, I have my health and my mind back. I am sad I wasted all those years and all that time stuck in an eating disorder without knowing how to lift the fog. I have no idea what the future holds for me but I know I am a good mother and I love my children and nurture them and will see they group up with love and self-esteem.  I had to come to terms too with the fact just cause I got sober doesn’t mean I can get everything I ever wanted. It doesn’t mean I can turn back the clock and recover lost time with people. That is probably the hardest part. Letting go of the pain and the hurt that I caused myself is really hard to do but I am trying to and it feels so good not being consumed with starving and exercising or purging. Life is hard enough and surviving an eating disorder for 22 years was hard but I did it, so I think I can pretty much do anything.  I lost so much time.  22 years wasted, and I don’t want to waste another minute, another day, another hour.

If you have a recovery story that you would like to be published, please send it to bingeeatingtherapy (at) gmail.com