Lately, I’ve been receiving a lot of emails and messages from people that want to thank me for helping them through an eating disorder or body dysmorphia. I can’t even express to you how much that makes me fill up with gratitude, joy and relief. Since I was about 14 years old until I was about 25, I suffered from many forms of eating disorders and it wasn’t until the last two or three years that I have accepted my body for all the amazing things it is and can be.
It’s hard for me to put into words what it was like for me growing up. For one thing, having your spine completely fused from top to bottom creates a certain mindfulness that not a lot of people can identify with. At the tender age of 13, my spine was curved and twisted and ultimately ended up being fused just before my 14th birthday. Because my scoliosis curve was so dangerously severe (80 degrees using the Cobb method), they could not, at that time, correct it to a perfectly straight back (nor do they most of the time anyway). That being said, I was left with some pretty heavy things to deal with. I would not reach the height at which I should have grown to (most likely around 5’10″ or more, I am currently 5’5″), I would never be able to flex at the spine again (no stretching, leaning back, twisting to the side or bending side to side as much as most people can) and I would be left with a slightly bent over appearance. You can kind of get the idea in the picture set below…especially the middle one.
The other big event that occurred after this major surgery was weight gain. After being out of commission from junior high for six weeks in recovery, I didn’t want to do anything physical. I got an exemption from Phys. Ed. class for the remainder of my public school years, which I was pretty stoked about at the time. I had already been slightly overweight, but after this surgery, and for the next five years, I did nothing but eat, gain weight and eat some more. Cheese sandwiches made with wedges of cheddar cut from a 4″ x 4″ block. Two egg sandwiches with toast spread with mountains of butter or margarine. Crackers spread with margarine and hidden from anyone seeing me eat them. I hoarded food in my basement room, away from my parents prying eyes. I ate junk food out of the vending machines at lunch in high school, or meandered up the block to the gas station for mojos (wedge fries that are battered and deep fried). In my last year of high school, I actually drove to school, back home for lunch, and then there and back again…I lived about 4 1/2 blocks from school. I would make myself a garlic coil sandwich or a big old bowl of Campbell’s ready made “Hearty” soups..especially the creamy ones.
Then, when I turned 19, I suddenly found fitness. I began slowly with some help from my then boyfriend’s mother, who helped me use Weight Watcher’s Point system to control my portions. I then began rollerblading and walking everywhere. By the time I was 20, I had dropped an astounding 65 pounds and was down to a fit and healthy 120lbs, but that wasn’t enough for me. I became obsessed with every calorie I put in my body and I tried working out any which way I could, but mostly cardio and a half assed effort at the gym where I had no idea what I was doing. I never touched a barbell at all because I avoided the weight room and it’s jacked up patrons like the plague. By the time I was 22 I was full blown anorexic. I would have coffee in the morning, then continue all day long through my shifts as a line cook fueled by little more than caffeine and cream. I would eat a salad with seafood or chicken for dinner. If I was forced to taste test something in the kitchen, I would spit it out when no one was looking. I couldn’t handle all the food at times, but I just made it my mission to avoid it at all costs. I even took to abusing herbal laxatives for about a year to make sure none of the food would stay inside me.
This continued for several years, I just could not achieve what I thought was a great looking body. I hated my body, the way my midsection was all bunched up, how I couldn’t do most abdominal work because of my back, how I felt when I ate. My horrible habits had left me with terrible digestion issues. I thought for the longest time that I had intolerances to everything, but in reality it was just symptoms of an eating disorder.
My first trip to Vegas, where I still ate like a bird. I remember going to a steakhouse where my mom and sister ordered huge steaks…I’m pretty sure I just had a salad.
The first time in my adult life, where I felt like I could eat anything without guilt, was when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. I knew then and there that I couldn’t avoid food. This tiny living thing inside me needed nourishment, and I was the only one who could give it to him. I ate EVERYTHING. I gained about 35lbs in my first pregnancy and then lost most of that weight by undereating again in the following two years, even though at that time I was writing this blog. I then found out I was pregnant again and the second time around, I was determined to change things. I ate well, I ate organic, I ate local food. When I was four months postpartum, I made my biggest change. I made a commitment to fitness, I could even go so far as to say that I became addicted to it, but not in a way that was unhealthy. I just did everything in my power to get that high, that adrenaline rush, that feeling of soreness and those results. I lost all my baby weight, and then I was determined to get even fitter! The last two years have been a serious journey in accepting my body the way that is, the way that it always has been. This is my body, my vessel, the only thing grounding me to this earth, the thing that will carry my children, that will caress my love and the only thing that I have complete control over (for now). I can nourish it, love it, care for it in the way I do my children.
Food is our friend, our fuel and our nourishment. Taking that away from your body means that you do not respect it’s natural processes or that you simply misunderstand how it works. A body needs fuel, and without that fuel, it will slowly seize up and wither away. When I accepted that food could be fuel and nourishment and fun, I had hit the most mind blowing piece of information in my whole life. You can have a doughnut or a piece of cake and you can also have that green smoothie or that kale salad, but there must be balance.
A body needs fat, protein and carbohydrates to survive and once you figure out the amounts needed to fuel your goals and nourish your body and soul, there is nothing more empowering to someone who has suffered an eating disorder. My biggest influence in accepting my body came about mostly because of my spine, but also because of you. The people that read this blog, that follow me on Instagram, that comment on my Facebook Page, you are the ones that I keep going for. Also, my husband tells me I’m hot a lot, so that helps too. Another huge factor? My kids. There is nothing more legitimate a reason to do something than when a tiny, innocent child is watching your every move. You are their everything. You must show them how to accept themselves, how to eat, how to live how to tie their shoes. Everything you do, they do. And with that, I knew I had to be healthy, to be a strong role model for them and for anyone else watching me.