*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and do not claim to be, the views expressed on this blog are entirely my own and what I have learned from research and my own experiences. They aren't designed to diagnose or treat any illness.
The Turning Point
The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there is only one direction to go from there and that direction is up.
I remember a moment when I was secretly exercising and I collapsed on the floor of our exercise room exhausted from forcing myself to exercise. I had a bloody nose and broke out into tears. This is one time of many moments when I realized how much control the eating disorder had of me and that this was not how I wanted to live my life. Like many more times to follow, I prayed a prayer to God to lead me to where He wants me to be. Unfortunately there were many mirrored times I didn't trust him and thought that I wouldn't be happy at the weight He wanted me at. The weight I gained quickly following motivational talks from my parents disappeared as distrust and dissatisfaction combined with poor body image allowed the eating disorder to take control again. Over the course of the next several years (through a Junior in college) I would gain weight quickly because I was driven to get to my goal weight as fast as I could (gaining or losing 10-25 pounds or so fluctuating between 115 and 135 pounds) and then lose it all because I had gained it so quickly and I didn't have time to adjust my mental thinking with how my body looked.
Gaining weight so quickly combined with the drive to do so led to binge eating (trail mix was my weakness...the sweet and salty combination became my Achilles heal). I craved high sugar, high carbohydrate, high salt, and fatty foods. I lost control and couldn't stop myself from eating once I started even when I became very full. The weight gain happened too fast (I could literally feel it coming onto my body) and I would freak out about the weight I had just gained. I know the next bit is going back in time, but through the spring of my senior year in high school I continued to go to counseling and I had gotten to the point where my counselor had given me all the tools I needed. There was nothing more she could do for me and it was up to me to put those tools into practice. I was at the point where I had to choose to get better for myself, not because my parents or family or friends wanted me to; but because I wanted to heal and get better.
As my Mom and I were leaving from my last counseling session before heading off to college, my counselor turned to my mom and said "Beth will be okay, I know she will". Somehow those words stuck with me that day and I believed them deep in my heart. Since then I have gotten my priorities straightened out. I have come to several realizations that turned my life 180 degrees in the opposite direction and have changed my whole outlook of myself, my dreams, desires, and goals. It was a little rocky along the path to healing, but I made it to my goal and I am never going back. Through it all I never lost so much weight where I turned into skin and bones, but just an unhealthy weight for my body type. Ironically I have stayed mostly within the BMI range for a 5 foot 3 inch tall woman. I have my parents to thank for that, because of how early they caught what was going on and the action they took to help me heal.
How I Healed & Made Peace With My Body
At the start of the eating disorder, my Dad said to me "This is going to be one of the hardest things you will have to do in your life. If you can beat this thing, then you can do anything . . . Kick its ass." Turns out, he was right.
I now realize now how selfish I was. I starved, malnourished, exercised, poked, prodded, measured, compared, name called, and forced my body into how I wanted it to look not how it was meant or created to be; not thinking about how my decisions would have an impact on those I love the most. I acted out of disgust and was not showing my self the proper respect, self love, or dignity I deserved or was created with. I was not treating myself as a sacred space, a temple of God, or a house for the Holy Spirit. These are the reasons that turned my thinking around (in no particular order).
I was sick and tired of the way I was living my life.
I want to become the-best-version-of-myself that God created me to be.
I was not "healthy" weight range agreement with my parents I thought I should be at.
Threat of being pulled from college and being put in a hospital for in-patient care.
Restriction plus rapid weight gain and loss was destroying and damaging my body in so many ways.
I want my Dad to walk me down the aisle someday to marry the love of my life.
I want to be healthy for my future husband and family.
I want to be a mom and have kids someday (I want to be healthy for them).
I want to be a grandma and spoil my grandchildren.
I didn't want my brothers to live without their sister or my parents without their daughter.
I realized how beautiful and wonderfully made I am in the image of God.
I realized how much God loves me and each person on this planet.
I realized how I am to respect my body and show it self love.
I realized I am more than a number on a scale.
I realized the scale cannot measure the amazing qualities that are uniquely my own (which are quite a few).
I realized that in order to love myself I first had to accept myself where ever I am at. (this had a tremendous impact)/
After I accepted my body I learned to love my self and my body.
I realized how worried my family and friends were and the concern they expressed.
I realized that I was stronger than I thought I was and had all I needed within me.
I realized all I had to do was choose the-next-right-thing for that moment.
I realized slow and steady weight gain is the way to go.
I realized I nutrient density is more important that the number of calories in food.
I realized my body is extremely complex and completely capable of keeping my body weight steady when I listen to hunger ques.
I learned to trust my body.
I had to find my "why" or motivation in order to begin my journey.
I stopped comparing myself to others and now look at each person through the eyes of God with love.
I realized I will always be a little self conscious about my tummy, but there are clothes for that so it is okay.
I have learned to live a little and YOLO a bit.
Binging was a just a mental habit that I needed to break, the more times I resisted the easier it became.
I drank enough water for my body throughout the day.
If I was hungry right after I had eaten a good size portion I would drink water. If I was still hungry 15 minutes later I would drink more water.
I do not have to worry about what I will eat and when...God will take care of that and make sure I have enough to.
Food is fuel and at the end of the day food is just food.
Out of sight out of mind really works for foods that are binging triggers. I put my most tempting foods on the top shelf of the cupboard to make it really hard to get to.
Hips and curves look good on every girl I've seen, so why not me.
135 pounds looks dang good on me compared to 115...I am beautiful both inside and out.
I found inspiration from a You Tuber; Cambria Joy, who had gone through a similar experience and made some related videos that really sunk deep into my heart. Link here to her channel.
I learned to be thankful for all my body can do like running, jumping, walking, loving, doing so many different activities I enjoy.
I learned my body is the platform from which I am able to experience the world.
Strong and healthy with curves is the new skinny.
I learned that I will take steps backwards but then I learned how to take twice as many steps forward.
I learned relapses happen and I have to accept that fact and move on with not dwelling on my failure.
I transformed from being a healthy kick ass beautiful woman to an even more kick ass beautiful woman.
I have the power to change and transform my health and my life.
I refused to believe the lies of the eating disorder.
I am not in this alone and I am loved by so many people.
How I Stopped Binging and Healed with Paleo/Primal Eating
This is how I stopped binging and healed my body from the eating disorders:
I realized that binging is simply a habit that I needed to break.
Each time I said no binging and resisted, the next time it became easier.
I found a gum analogy. Stopping binge eating is like stretching a piece of gum. Eventually the gum is stretched to the point where it falls apart or breaks. Each time the gum is stretched represents each time one says "No" to binging.
I also sat on a mental beach in my mind letting the waves of the urge to binge wash over me, but not giving in and instead letting them come until they subsided.
I didn't categorize the binging foods as off limits. Instead I told myself I could have as much as I want, but I choose not too.
I made a "beat binging challenge" where each day I was successful in not binging I would mark off the day on a calendar.
I put all my trigger foods on the top shelf of the cupboard to make them really hard to get to.
I also threw away most of my trigger foods.
I didn't buy my trigger foods at the grocery store.
I asked for the help of the St. Michael the Archangel to help me beat the evil in my life. (I could imagine him fighting for me).
I started focusing on nutrient density and not the number of calories in a food item.
I focused on eating real whole foods and not processed high sugar foods.
My parents said I could do whatever kind of eating I wanted to as long as I gained weight.
I started Primal eating by cutting out grains including gluten, processed sugar, limited dairy and some foods I was sensitive to like dates and nuts. I did eat legumes, white rice, soy, and alcohol which are not Paleo. I also focused eating vegetables, fruits, fats, eggs, and meat.
I would transition into Paleo and AIP (autoimmune protocol) eating later down the road for other health reasons.
Paleo: Avoid grains, dairy, legumes, soy, processed sugar, food additives alcohol. Focuses on grass-fed/pasture-raised meats, fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, fats, seafood and nutrients density.
AIP: same as the paleo diet but eliminates inflammatory Paleo foods such as nightshades (peppers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, egg plant, white potato), seeds, nuts, eggs, ghee (dairy allowed on paleo), and stevia to name a few.
Primal eating cut back on much of the anxiety I experienced when I would have around food, because now those foods were off limits.
After changing my eating I noticed I was not tired all the time like I was before, I had no blood sugar crashes, and my energy levels were steady.
I put on weight slowly by listening to my body and did not force myself to eat.
I used measured out portion sizes with measuring cups and spoons until I no longer needed them.
I had to become reacquainted with and listen to hunger ques again.
I stopped eating when I was full.
I never purged what I ate after a binge, if I relapsed. (Even before healing I never purged)
I was kind to myself by forgiving myself if I binged. I also blamed it on my natural survival instinct.
I pampered myself with hot bubble baths, a soft and warm robe, and painting my nails.
I took up other hobbies to distract myself and spent time with friends.
I got out of my apartment and went somewhere else where food wasn't available.
From the Perspective of Faith & God . . . The Prayer That Changed My Life
I grew up catholic and found a love for God in the Eucharist (real presence of Christ) that can only be found in Catholicism. During my middle school years I was an active member of the local youth group at my church and went on numerous retreats (leaving with a retreat high) both of which set me on fire for God. After the sacrament of confirmation (receiving of the Holy Spirit) I decided to make it a goal of mine to pray daily. After a while I started going through the motions of prayer. I wasn't having a conversation with God, rather I would say prayers without thinking and I saw them as something "I had to complete". So I said them as fast as could. My prayer time didn't leave my soul nourish, but rather depleted, exhausted, and tired. I was in rut that I wanted to get out of so I prayed one simple prayer that changed my life forever.
I prayed; "God bring me to you in a new way." That was it, and that prayer would later have a profound impact as I was diagnosed with an eating disorder only 8 months later and became anorexic 3 months later. Throughout those 8 months my prayer time stopped I ended up shutting God out my personal life. There was an occasional return to God, but it was short lived and never lasted for the long run. He wasn't completely shut out as I was later involved in church functions, volunteered, and joined Newman center on my college campus. Deep down, God was still alive in my heart.
When I was Freshman in college felt something missing in my heart. There was a hole that couldn't be filled by anything else but God. As mentioned before, I was a member and involved in the campus Newman center where fellowship was a good start, but was no replacement for a personal intimate relationship with God. I surrounded myself with Christ with bible studies, weekly dinner/discussions, weekday masses, and being on the leadership team. It was only when I opened myself up to God, built that relationship with Him and saw myself from God's eyes that I really started to heal. I slowly but surely filled the hole in my soul. I would go a long periods without praying and then would start praying again for a while and then would stop. I would find an excuse that turned one day of missing prayer into a few months.
It is quite interesting to look back on the times when I made God a part of my life and when I didn't. Each time I stopped my communication with God and cut off my life from Him I would relapse and be sent headfirst back into the eating disorder (with drastic weight loss and negative body image). Each time I put God back at the center or my life and live how He would want me to live I would start to get back to a healthy place.
My story from the perspective of God and faith demonstrates how God can take you a mile when given an inch. My story also shows how you never know what God has in store for your life. I thought I would never develop an eating disorder, but yet I did. I gave God an inch and He took me on a journey several miles long. All the while He never left my side and was there every step of the way. He was there to wipe away the tears, pick me up when I fell, listened when I needed to talk, and there to rejoice with me in the victories no matter how small. He walked in front of me to guide me, walked beside me to guide me, and moved mountains when they needed moving.
Why I Share My Story & Would I Go Through the Eating Disorder Again?
The truth is that healing from an eating disorder can freeze you with fear and is a hard thing to accomplish. Anything worth it in life is going to difficult. I sure think my life and your life are worth it. I share my story, because I want to help someone who is in the battle of their life. It may be an eating disorder or something else entirely. I want to show that healing and recovery is possible. God has a purpose for all that has happened, and if my story only helps one person my struggle would be worth it. I hope someone reading this might heal the same way I did and live their life with no regrets being all that can be.
If I could go back in time before the eating disorder and relive my life knowing what would happen, would I go through it all again? Absolutely without a doubt "yes". My past has shaped me into the person I am now. I wouldn't be the same person if I had not gone through what I did and I may not be able to help the one person who really needs it the most. There are lessons I could only learn the way I did through my experience.
Going through anorexia and binge eating led me to decide on obtaining a bachelors degree in food science at the University of Wisconsin Stout, it led me to the creation of this blog, photography, the love of food, cooking, being hooked on yoga, seek yoga teacher certification, a passion for health, healing my autoimmune disease through food, amazing fellowship and friends through the Newman center on campus, meeting my best friends and the love of my life. There are so many experiences I had and have that have made each struggle and tear worth it.
How to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that are not to be taken lightly since they are a matter of life or death. If you know someone who is struggling with an eating disorder or may be developing one don't be afraid to reach out to their close loved ones about your concern and don't be afraid to seek professional help. Professionals are there for a reason please use them as they are more equipped to deal with the issue. Below you will find resources to help you learn more about eating disorders, how to offer support, and where to find help if needed.
To My Parents
Looking back on the whole situation, I have realized how strong and brave my parents were; and how hard it was to see their daughter struggle or go through something that they had no power or control over. They could give the whole world for me and it would be fruitless, because I had to decide for myself to get better in order for true healing to take place. They stood beside me and loved me every moment. patiently waiting for me to make that decision.They are my heroes. Without them I wouldn't be here today.
Thank you Mom and Dad for being brave, for being stern, strong willed, stubborn, faithful, unconditional in love, challenging, and being amazing parents. Thank you for having the strength to stand up to the eating disorder when I couldn't. Thank you for helping me fight a courageous battle and to win against the odds to beat a illness that has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Without you, all that I am is not possible.