Every week, I will feature an inspiring person who has struggled with anorexia at one point in his or her life and has recovered. I am all about spreading the message of hope because this is something we so often lack.
When we’re in such a deep relationship with our eating disorder and these sick thoughts and behaviors take up most of our time and shape our days, it is hard to remember that there is a way out.
I am hoping to inspire and motivate you with these interviews and that you too will see that you can get your life back.
The beautiful and geniurs Jen from Ms. Morphosis will kickstart this series with a lot of insights, motivation and advice.
1. Tell us something about you. Who are you? What do you do in life?
I’m a full-time blogger, writer, vlogger, consultant and entrepreneur living in Denver, Colorado. I have a wonderful boyfriend named Chase and a pomeranian named Bella. I went to NYU and CU Boulder, where I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology (after moving through 6 different majors!). Today I spend my time working on my websites, doing blog consulting, and creating courses online that help women create happy, balanced, phenomenal lives for themselves.
When I’m not working I also love to paint, read, drink wine, see friends, be with my family, sleep, eat great food, do yoga, spend time with Chase and Bella, and laugh.
2. When and why did your eating disorder start?
I developed anorexia pretty soon after hitting puberty. In middle school I was side-swept by this sudden change from a rail-thin little girl to a hungry woman that was gaining weight very quickly. After a lifetime of never paying attention to food or how my clothes fit, my body was changing rapidly and it was making me very, very self-conscious. I didn’t know what to make of this new-found appetite, and it quickly became a source of shame.
I later learned in my psychology courses that adolescents go through what’s known as the “spotlight effect,” where they feel as though everyone is watching them all the time. It makes them extremely self-conscious and eager to fit in. At the same time that my mind was hyper-focused on other’s perception of me, my body was going through these changes and I moved to a very large high school where I had no friends and was eager to fit in. In many ways, it was the perfect storm.
Quickly, I began to put all of my nervous social anxiety and anger at my body into eating less and less. The pounds whittled off, and I felt invincible from my peers (and the inevitable “Mean Girl” experiences of high school). My eating disorder gradually became my identity – how I looked, how I behaved, and who I spent time with (usually shallow relationships with people that didn’t care how I treated myself, or other girls in the same boat)
The deeper I went in, the harder it was to find a way out. It was a very scary and very lonely period of my life.
3. What was your biggest fear? Why did you starve yourself?
In the beginning of this puberty experience, I tried to take control of the sudden weight gain in a healthy way: diet and exercise. Today, I’m a firm believer that diets don’t work. The moment I start focusing on food, my appetite becomes insatiable and I end up bingeing and gaining weight rather than losing it. This is exactly the cycle I got into when I started trying to diet at around 13 – the harder I tried to “control” my appetite, the more it seemed to control me.
I eventually lost all trust in my body and myself. Since it felt like my body and appetite were against me, I was going to fight back. Rather than learning my appetites, I shut them off.
That, to me, is the point most people miss when they talk about eating disorders – you don’t just lose a connection with your appetite for food, you shut off your appetite for life. It’s a really powerful, really painful, very controlling road to go down.
4. When did your healing process start and do you know what made you decide why you wanted to change your life?
The biggest wake-up call for me finally came my freshman year of college. I had my first real boyfriend, and after about 6 months I found out that he had been cheating on me for most of our relationship. I hate to say it, but in retrospect I can see why he did. I was a pretty girl, but my control over my body led to what must have been a very unsatisfying relationship for him. I had zero capacity for intimacy, no ability to really let go and let someone else in.
When I found out he had been cheating on me I was devastated. I felt like I’d been “duped.” I spent all my time trying to look and be “perfect,” yet I was disposable. At this point I was at the height of my anorexia and hadn’t had a taste of sugar or dairy in months. I was in the dorms and it was right before Thanksgiving break, so the RAs were walking through the halls handing out pumpkin pie. I don’t know what came over me, but I took a piece and ate it.
Quickly my body filled with panic and I went into an anxiety attack. I wanted to throw up, but I’ve never been good at that. So I locked my dorm room door, stooped over our little trashcan, and got a plastic spoon out from our little kitchen area. I was trying to use the spoon to stimulate my gag reflex, but it ended up slipping from my fingers. Long story short, the spoon got stuck down my throat. I was choking. I started blacking out and blood was everywhere.
I don’t know how I survived, but at one point I got a final piece of energy, punched my stomach with one hand, reached down into my throat, and pulled the spoon out. I was throwing up blood for days, and was sick for a long time after that. I later found out that if that spoon had turned at all I would have asphyxiated and would be a vegetable or brain-dead today. Suddenly I had this enormous epiphany – that to me my life was only worth the 300 calories in a piece of pumpkin pie. I wish it hadn’t taken such an awful experience to learn, but for the first time I saw through the lies I had been telling myself that allowed the anorexia to thrive. For the first time I saw it for what it was – an enemy that was destroying me – rather than the ally I had been telling myself it was.
5. Can you tell us more about your healing process?
Once I truly accepted that I had to change things got better very quickly. It was a battle, but I had my mind on my side and I knew I had nothing left to lose. At first putting on weight was a struggle, but after a little bit of time those pounds started to drastically impact how I looked and how I felt. For the first time in years I was laughing. My hair was growing. My energy was amazing. I felt happy.
My body really positively reinforced the changes, and suddenly getting healthier was much easier. The better I treated myself, the better my body felt. For the first time since I was 13 I had the energy for friends, projects, and school. For the first time in my life I had a sex drive. Allowing all of my appetites to come alive was an exhilarating experience, and made it much easier to set my vanity and fears aside.
6. Do you still have a “black list” of items that you won’t it? Or can you now say, you eat everything you want?
I don’t black list any foods except for diet drinks and artificial sweeteners. My appetite changes depending on things like how much I’m exercising or if I’m getting close to my period, but I try and just listen to my hunger rather than my mind. When I’m working out a lot I eat more, and really crave lots of salmon and healthy carbs. When my period is coming, I sometimes just need a night out to eat some mexican food or a rich Italian dinner
I mainly gauge what to eat by how it will make me feel for the rest of the day. If I eat a heavy lunch, I’m toast for the rest of the day, so I tend to keep breakfast and lunch very lean – eggwhites, salads, toast, a small sandwich, etc.
I do make an effort to drink lots of Kombucha (with the chia seeds!), green tea, and water, and make sure I’m getting lots of lean protein and fiber. If I’m doing that and exercising regularly I have plenty of lee-way to listen to my body and eat what I want for dinner and on the weekends with my friends and boyfriend. Oh – and sleep! Sleep is the single best thing you can do to look good and feel good. Sleep needs to come first. Sleep sleep sleep.
7. Do you consider yourself healthy now? Do you feel comfortable in your skin?
I believe that some of my personality traits that led to the anorexia still have the power to get out of hand – I’m high anxiety, high achieving, etc – but I try and manage those things now through exercise, rest, and cultivating a loving relationship with myself, my work, my partner, my peers, etc. I find that the more gentle I am with myself, the more gentle I am with others. Perfectionism is the enemy of ever actually creating anything meaningful, so I work constantly to create high-quality products and gain strength within myself, but to simultaneously see through and let go of the illusion of perfection.
8. Do you think that there could be done more in order to prevent eating disorders?
I think we need to stop worrying so much about being politically correct and start teaching girls from a younger age about what it really means to grow up as a woman today. We need to be open about sex, the desire to belong, and what it really feels like in a woman’s heart and mind. There are a lot of contradicting demands, and I think the only way young women can overcome that is through knowledge. The more we empower young women (and men) to know themselves and be fearless in creating rich lives for themselves the happier and stronger I think they’ll be.
9. Is there any advice you could give our readers?
The main advice is that it all begins in your head. You have to make the decision to be healthy, and accept that it’s a new, unknown territory. In my new course Love, Sex, and Blogging
I talk a lot about finding things you’re passionate about and how to use those passions to be the best version of yourself. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the best way to look and feel amazing is to have a life that keeps you so busy and excited that you don’t have time to overeat or under-eat, you just want to stay fueled for the next big adventure.
Thank you so much, Jen!
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