My Story With ED...
Updated: Nov 11, 2019
And the Truth About Body Shame.
Not everyone living with shame around their bodies has an eating disorder, nonetheless, it can be just as damaging.
Severe disorders such as bulimia, anorexia and binge eating are pervasive in today's Western culture. At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. Every 62 minutes someone dies due to complications caused by an eating disorder (References 1, 2 & 3). Yet, those statistics don't capture the full reality of the problem.
Throughout my years of practice, I could count on one hand the number of women I've met who have been pleased with their bodies. Most of them have been ashamed of, if not downright disgusted with, their bodies. There are no statistics that capture their heartache, though it is just as real as any eating disorder.
A Long, Winding Journey With ED
I began my journey with body shame and eating disorders at 13 years old. Anorexia was the starting point, yet, over the many years I struggled, it took various shapes. My battle transitioned from anorexia to bulimia to binge eating back to bulimia and continued transforming, yet never fully letting go. Body shame was a constant... it was always there.
At 25 years old I found myself in a residential treatment community for eating disorders in Florida. Bulimia had completely taken over my life. I couldn't work, couldn't socialize, couldn't feel... couldn't function. I stayed in treatment for 90 days and, while it did save my life, I was far from okay.
Years passed, bulimia and anorexia were at bay, yet my struggles were now more internal than external. While I wasn't doing obvious eating disordered things, I was actively hating every inch of my body and my being.
I continued to go through many phases as I warred against myself; periods of excessive exercise; periods of dieting; periods of inactivity, binging and body shame... and repeat.
Through all those years I searched for hope, healing and answers
to my suffering.
From joining various faiths and churches, attending Bible studies, going to intensive seminars, practicing Yoga and meditation, reading the books of spiritual teachers, daily journaling... on and on, year after year... I searched.
One thing I did discover was that I was called to help others even if I was suffering myself. At 28 I began a career in social services and later completed a master's program in psychotherapy. Amazing things happened along the way; I married my husband, fell in love with my two step children, enjoyed beautiful friendships, worked with incredibly brave people, and gave birth to my own little girl.
Yet, the truth is, disgust with my body never left my side. During graduate school I ran road races and a marathon, running myself right into adrenal fatigue. On my perfect fall wedding day, I wished my belly was smaller, my shoulders slimmer, my legs longer. After giving birth my focus became fitting back into my "pre-baby-bump" jeans within three months.
In those later years living with body shame became more and more painful.
I could see clearly how it robbed me of presence and joy, but I couldn't stop the obsession. Most painful of all was that I loved helping other people, yet, my own struggle caused me to feel inadequate... how could I help others if I couldn't even help myself?
It was when my daughter was one year old that I found myself, once again, in the grips of bulimia. The most profound pain, however, was not the eating disorder at all... it was the fear that I might teach my daughter to feel ashamed of her own body. With every ounce of assertion, I knew I could not do that to her.
I knew I had to change.
What occurred after this was nothing short of a spiritual awakening. I had resumed my search for answers, reading a book, "MindWorks: A Practical Guide for Changing Thoughts, Beliefs and Emotional Reactions" by Gary van Warmerdam. After studying his writing on damaging underlying beliefs and how to shift them, one morning in meditation I suddenly realized that all of my beliefs around body expectations and beauty standards were not only misguided, but totally false. I suddenly understood that I was capable of letting it all go and living freely. It was a life changing moment.
From there, my awakening continued to expand as I experienced more confidence and self-love sprinkled with moments of absolute joy. Eating became easy and enjoyable, exercise became fun and sustainable, life became increasingly balanced...
I see my purpose clearly; to help other people find freedom from what holds them back, allowing them to actualize who they truly are. Body shame is one of those walls that keeps us barred away from our dreams. You deserve so much more.
While I work with people on many issues that keep them stuck, eating disorders and/or body shame are a pervasive road block in the lives of women. In order to access confidence, self-esteem and a clear vision for healing and success, body shame must be addressed. How can we reach for our dreams if we are ashamed of the one thing that everyone sees, the one thing that, quite literally, carries us through our lives?
Releasing body shame and living in recovery from disordered eating can open doors to confidence, joy, motivation and hope. Not only will your body perspective change... your entire world can transform.
It's never too early or too late to start rewriting your relationship with your body. The only time to start is now.
Sarah is a psychotherapist and life coach in Middleboro, Massachusetts, she offers in person and video chat (telehealth) sessions. Sarah specializes in anxiety, eating disorders & body image, postpartum & women's issues. If you'd like to schedule a free consultation with Sarah you can contact her at email@example.com
1. Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348–358.
2. Le Grange, D., Swanson, S. A., Crow, S. J., & Merikangas, K. R. (2012). Eating disorder not otherwise specified presentation in the US population. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45(5), 711-718.
3. Eating Disorders Coalition. (2016). Facts About Eating Disorders: What The Research Shows.http://eatingdisorderscoalition.org.s208556.gridserver.com/couch/uploads/file/fact-sheet_2016.pdf