We are all on some crazy journey, right? Today I am going to share a bit more of mine. You see, this is a part of me that until just recently, I have kept very silent on. Lately, I have done a lot of reflecting on how this time period has shaped me and shapes my perspective with the work that I do with nutrtition. It was a difficult period in my life, but I am grateful for the lessons it gave me, and how the experience shaped who I am today.
I was anorexic.
About a month before my college graduation I found myself in my dorm room, in my very tiny closet, shoving dry cereal down my throat as fast as I possibly could. I had no idea how I got there. For years I had so carefully controlled my food intake and had everything under ‘lock and key’ but now my body was desperately trying to survive using a very out-of-control method. It scared me to the bone. At that moment I had a brief moment of clarity and a peek into my future life, and I knew this lifestyle had to change.
But, I wasn’t ready yet.
With any sort of behavior that moves to the extremes, there is typically one common thread in there. We use it to numb. It is easy to fall into that habit and can start so innocently. For me it was just eating healthier at 13 by removing sugar and just taking a few more dance classes. But the power that I felt with those changes became addictive. I felt in control. I really liked that. I may not have been good at x, y, and z, but I was good at this. When I had this moment of clarity and knew this lifestyle was not sustainable it scared me. To remove this piece of me, this very large piece of me meant finding out what was under this behavior. Who was I without this disease? What would I eat? How would I act? What would I do with my time? These were all very real, and daunting questions for me. Yes, I knew logically that moving past this had to be better than being chained to this life, but I didn’t yet know what this new me would look like, act like or be like. Would I like her? Would anyone else?
I had to take some time.
In this journey, the 6 months right before I started working with professional support, were just as valuable as those months with professional support. To the outside person, it may have looked like nothing was happening, but inside three very profound shifts were happening:
1) I grieved the loss of the ‘old me’.
This may sound strange and it took me many years to understand this. But, that person that counted calories, wrote every item of food down, got up early to do calesthenics and so much more was who I was. I had no idea what I would be like without this big coat of armor. I knew it was time to shed the armor, but I needed time to grieve this change.
This was an incredibly emotional component. Parts of me really thought I was doing the right things, but I also knew these behaviors were incredibly destructive. I had done the nutrition research! I was praised for my size in ballet! But, I felt horrible. I had to come to terms with my conflicting emotions and start to listen to what my body needed.
3) I had to be open.
Whenever we are facing a change, we have to come to a place of openness. We don’t know what the other side will look like, but we have to take that flying leap of faith that it will be good. We have all been through some major life changes: a change in job, a new baby, a marriage, a move, etc. There are a lot of emotions involved when going through those major transitions and a lot of work. The same is true when working through your diet and your behavior around your food. When you are open to the process, it makes the transition smoother, more sustainable and far more rewarding.
Whenever we are facing a change and hoping for something better, we all would love to have that instant, quick fix. But, those changes that really have an impact on us, aren’t quick and aren’t easy. What my experience with anorexia taught me, is that taking time to slow down and process the change and prepare myself for what could be, was just as important as the transition itself.