I would like to share with you a very inspiring article that one of my coachees kindly wrote about her experiences with body image and recovery.
Despite suffering very bad bloating throughout her recovery, Lena managed to push this all to one side. She instead focused on her meal plans and was committed to making sure she was getting enough variety of foods and nutrition each day.
Recovery does take stepping outside your comfort zone a little, it’s so challenging I know, but it really does pay off when you then find yourself completely free from binging and purging and able to eat intuitively. It’s the best thing you will ever do.
Thank you Lena for sharing your great insight about how to make this challenging part of recovery possible.
Here is her story below:
I became bulimic at the age of thirteen. It all started when I went on a diet, trying to loose weight (looking back I have no idea why I thought I needed to). Additionally I was also hoping to get attention from others by literally “disappearing”.
My goal was to loose as much weight as possible, I purposely planned to become under-weight to an unhealthy extreme. I thought this would enable me to demonstrate others how “strong” and “resilient” I could be by not eating.
Well, this didn’t turn out as planned and left me with a fifteen and a half years long battle with bulimia.
Over this period, I indeed was “thin enough” and I hoped I would be living happily in a body that I thought I should live in. However, it turned out differently. Those fifteen years came with a lot of sadness, loneliness, fear, depression, and anxiety. Additionally of course, the battle with food and being owned by bulimia and by those extremely strong urges to binge that come with this “package”.
Bulimia cost me so much; it cost me my teenage years and early to mid twenties when I should have had fun with friends (rather than spending most of my time alone binging and purging), my teeth, my health (I got diagnosed with severe osteoporosis by the age of nineteen, my digestive systems doesn’t work as it should and I may never be able to have children) and so much more.
Accepting and “liking” myself has always been hard for me. I remember that, even when I was a little girl, I always used to compare myself to others. I always thought that others were nicer, prettier, skinnier, smarter, better, more fun or whatever it may be than myself.
I have always found it very hard to accept and love myself, I have always put so much pressure on myself with the aim of being excellent as “normal” was just not good enough. Reflecting back now, I believe that at a very young age I had interpreted and taught myself that being excellent and a high-achiever was “the way” for me to feel loved or even to feel love worthy.
In all those years I didn’t live, I only lived to struggle for a body I had told myself for so long I should have.
About a year and a half ago, I realised that this can’t be it. I started to understand that the only way of becoming free from bulimia is to like myself, including my body. I tried once more to battle bulimia, but without success.
However the result was that within a short amount of time I put on the weight that I must have needed. This of course was initially too hard to accept and very overwhelming, which meant that I continued to restrict food over the course of the day with the hope of loosing this weight again. Ultimately this resulted in the continuation of those urges to binge.
About three months ago I started with the Bulimia Health Method. Initially I was not too optimistic, as over the past fifteen years I had tried so many strategies to end my bulimia but nothing helped. (I was hospitalised several times for multiple months, I did counselling for numerous years, I saw different dieticians, I participated in support groups, I tried hypnotherapy and other alternative treatments etc.) In fact I almost had accepted that being bulimic is who I was.
Over the past three months following the Bulimia Help Method I didn’t put on any extra weight on (I guess, I must have reached my natural set point), but I started to accept my body for what it is and what it needs to be. I stopped trying to control my weight and rather focused on my wish to be healthy and free from bulimia.
For seven weeks I have now been binge and purge free I still can’t believe that this is true (but I do realise that I am still in very early stages of recovery). I never even considered that this would be possible for me, especially after having lived with bulimia for so many years.
I can’t describe how amazing the past weeks have been. I have never felt so free and happy. I am no longer a slave to incredibly strong urges to binge. I have been living life over the past weeks.
Yes, I live!
I am now more active, I enjoy going to yoga or a run, I come home from work and do something nice, something that I like, I meet friends, I read books, and I sometimes even take the time to look at the sky and sunset and there are so many more things I am free to do. I enjoy these days. I also found pleasure in eating and cooking for others and myself. I chew and taste different flavours of different foods.
Given such long battle with food I would have never even imagined that I could ever be capable of doing so. I am no longer terrified of having to eat with others; I even eat foods that I didn’t “allow” myself to eat for so long.
I now sit down with my husband for dinner and we share a meal together. I am now able to do all of this, rather than binging every evening, hiding and hoping that my husband wouldn’t find out about it. I have found freedom.
I now look in the mirror and I see this extra weight, which I have started to accept and I am even beginning to like. I started to accept me for who I am, including my body and my weight, which is defined by my genetics.
I always was extremely fearful of reaching a certain weight. However having faced this fear, I realised that absolutely nothing happened. I am still myself, just happier and no longer controlled by bulimia.
I learned that it is not worth “messing around with weight” as ultimately I cannot change it. I look at myself now and see a healthy (still young) woman, who is happy and who lives life.
Of course, I won’t pretend. I still have many moments when I wish I were skinnier. I’m still very critical about the area especially around my belly, which is exacerbated by the fact that I’m still constantly bloated – something I struggle with a lot. I also guess to some extent every woman (and man) has (have) those moments; I cannot think of one friend of mine who doesn’t have those thoughts (which most likely is a result of the society we live in, where skinny is perfect and beautiful).
I also think that I most likely will always have those moments and thoughts. However, I just don’t let them influence and dominate me as much anymore. I overpower those thoughts and moments by emphasising on the amazing changes I recently experienced which makes me realise how much happier I am now.
I learned how happiness, contentment and health are so much more valuable than a few kilos here or there. I focus on these positive things, when looking in the mirror again. I rather choose life and quality of living over fighting my body.
I have learned this the hard way (and continue to learn) that I cannot win this fight. I have learned and strongly believe, that in the end, how much we weigh is completely irrelevant and it is so much more important to be able to live for who we are and loving the way we are meant to be.
Lena (Melbourne and Vienna)
Thank you for sharing your story with us Lena. You are an inspiration!