Many of you that have been following me on Instagram for a while know that I spent years– many years–obsessing about my body, and trying to manipulate it into shapes and sizes that weren’t healthy for me. That life got exhausting, and so I set out to do something about it once and for all. Of course this is such a condensed version of my journey, and if you are interested in learning more, you can learn more in detail over on the Kweencast podcast and on the 4 Things with Amy Brown podcast, both of which are FANTASTIC and a great use of your time if this topic interests you.
Here are the things that I did to stop binge eating and heal my relationship with food.
I stopped pretending I didn’t have a problem. Our brains are very powerful, and I’ve learned that you can pretty much convince yourself of anything, including the fact that you don’t have a problem, when in fact you might really have one. I came to terms with the reality that I had a problem, and that while I can tackle many problems in life alone, this was not one of them. So for me, the first step was admission, kind of like an alcoholic at a meeting, saying out loud, “My name is _______ and I am an alcoholic,” only it was “My name is Nicole, and I have an eating disorder.” When I heard myself admit it out loud, I was finally ready to embark on a journey of recovery.
I stopped making excuses that I couldn’t find a therapist. I dreaded finding a therapist because it’s actually really hard to find one. There are several reasons for this. If you have insurance, you are given a list of providers, and then you have to blindly call them and schedule appointments; test them out and decide if the person is a good fit. And if not, then you repeat the process all over again. Additionally, most therapists don’t have beautiful websites or other places on the internet where you can read background information about them or read reviews or dig into their specialties. So if you are feeling overwhelmed by the whole process, I get it, it is overwhelming, BUT you can do it. Because your healing is worth it. You can also ask people in your network for referrals, you never know who might know someone fabulous!Another obstacle you might have to overcome is cost. If you don’t have insurance, then it is always a good idea to ask the therapist if he/she will work with you on a sliding scale, meaning that you pay what you can afford. And you might need to stop purchasing fancy lattes every week to afford one, but you do what you have to do. The takeaway? Where there is a will, there is a way.In my case, after months of procrastination and three in-person consultations with different therapists, I finally found a fantastic psychiatrist in San Francisco – YAY!
I went to therapy twice a week. At the beginning of my journey, I started going to therapy twice each week, and if I could have afforded to go a third time, I would have. But I was also balancing a full time job as an attorney, and it was hard enough escaping my office for the one-hour sessions. After about 4-5 months, as I was healing and digging deep to understand the root of my food issues, I was able to cut down to one weekly session. Although now I see a different therapist because I moved, weekly therapy is still a part of my life, even years into my healing. These days the conversations aren’t so focused around food anymore, we work on other issues in my life (because remember, human beings are complex and I ain’t perfect!).
I read Brain over Binge: Why I was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn’t Work, and How I Recovered For Good…about 10 times, and I still keep it on my nightstand to refer back to every so often! Now note, for the author, conventional therapy did not help her heal. For me, therapy was an essential part of my healing process, but it wasn’t the only one. The other thing that helped me heal was this book! In this book, Kathryn Hansen explains how she came to understand her bulimia in a new way: as a function of her brain (not emotional and psychological issues), and then addresses how she used the power of her brain to recover permanently. The book also touches on body image, dieting, and self-esteem issues! Get yourself a copy and dive in!
I enrolled in a yoga teacher training. I enrolled in a yoga teacher training while I was still practicing law as my full time job, so it was an after work and weekend experience that lasted several months. I didn’t enroll in the training because I wanted to be a yoga instructor. I wanted to dive into spiritual philosophy, meditate, and immerse myself in movement. By doing this, I stopped focusing on food all the time and turned that interest for food into interest in self-improvement. I don’t recommend running out and doing a yoga teacher training if yoga isn’t your jam, but I would suggest finding something you might like to do as a hobby, to help you disconnect from an obsession with food and channel it somewhere else. I found it to be super helpful!
I started tuning to my cravings and honoring them. Over time, I realized that the reason for my binging and purging was restriction; that because I did not allow myself to enjoy treats, I wanted them so bad, that I ended up binging on them. Part of my healing process was learning how to rewire my brain. I stopped telling myself that I couldn’t have something. I told myself that all foods are on limits; and then I practiced giving in to cravings as they happened instead of depriving myself. And what ended up happening was true food freedom – I am now able to grab a sweet treat when I want one. And I stop eating it once I am satisfied. Why? Because all foods are on limits and I can have anything, any time I want. There’s no need to binge and there’s no need to purge. And note: I understand that this step in the process is really, REALLY hard. So give yourself some grace and do your best. Over time, the new changes become healthy habits!.
I came clean and started telling people. I’m not sure why I am placing this one last, because it’s probably the second most important thing in my healing process, after acknowledging that I had a problem. For years, I suffered in hiding and no one knew about my eating disorder. Once I came out of the closet and told my family and closest friends, I automatically started healing. How? Because once something like this was out in the open, the shame around the eating disorder went away. And note, it was scary and uncomfortable when I first started talking about it, but over time, it’s just a regular conversation. And ironically, once I started sharing my story with others, I found others that also suffered in silence, and I was able to help them along their recovery journeys! Life works in mysterious ways.
I hope this helps you on your journey, but what I want to leave you with, is that recovery is a journey. It isn’t linear and it definitely looks different for everyone. So don’t compare yourself to what I did, or what Sally or Joe did. Instead, focus on yourself and the individual things you need to heal. And while there are still some societal stigmas around eating disorders, remember that the only way to break free from those stigmas and change public perception of ED’s is to normalize the conversations about them. Eating disorders are illnesses and they are nothing to be ashamed of!