Every week, I 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.
1. Tell us something about you. Who are you? What do you do in life?
My name is Arielle Lee Bair and I wear many hats. I’m an Eating Disorder Recovery blogger, ANAD eating disorder support group leader, MSW graduate student, and wife. I’m also a Caseworker for a non-profit agency in my county and a Graduate Intern Counselor at Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley, an agency which helps victims/survivors of domestic violence.
I’m 27 years old with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and in Women’s Studies. I am currently finishing my Masters in Social Work.I am a recovered individual myself and my number one goal is to show others that recovery is possible. Hope is my favorite personal value. I have 2 cats and a lot of energy.
2. When and why did your eating disorder start?
My eating disorder began when I was 11 years old. I was bullied during middle school and began coping unhealthily from that point onward. I cannot guess as to a “why” and certainly do not blame the girls who bullied me for “causing” my eating disorder. An eating disorder is a mental illness and I feel strongly as a woman and as a professional that eating disorders are related to both biological factors and environmental factors. I was not officially diagnosed with anorexia until age 18 and began recovery soon after.
3. What was your biggest fear? Why did you starve yourself?
My biggest fear was losing my identity of the “thin” girl or the “thinnest” girl. At the same time, I starved myself for a number of reasons, including: I was coping with emotions unhealthily, I was punishing myself, I was trying to make myself smaller or uglier because so much emphasis had always been put on my (positive) appearance rather than my worth or intelligence, I sought to control something in the face of external things I could not control.
4. When did your healing process start and do you know what made you decide why you wanted to change your life?
My healing process began just after my official eating disorder diagnosis. I was 18 years old. I knew what I was feeling, thinking, and doing was not good or healthy and I wanted recovery as soon as I recognized that.
5. Can you tell us more about your healing process?
I gathered as much support as I could. I went to therapy and a nutritionist and support groups. I looked within myself. My degree in Women’s Studies helped me to focus on myself as a woman and all the greatness that could mean. My writing also helped me a great deal. It was a healthy way of coping with bad things and it allowed me to process through the things that hurt. I had to work both on gaining weight and on strengthening the health of my mind. The two go hand in hand.
6. Do you still have a “black list” of items that you won’t eat? Or can you now say, you eat everything you want?
I eat anything I want. I am fully recovered in body and mind and have been for several years. I am not afraid of food, or of certain foods. I am not afraid of meal times or my own body or of numbers on a scale, clothing sizes, or fat. I am me and I am happy with that. I eat to fuel my body because it is the only body I will ever get in this life. I enjoy food. It’s a huge difference from the way my life used to be years ago, but I enjoy food very much.
7. Do you consider yourself healthy now? Dou you feel comfortable in your skin?
Yes, I consider myself healthy, but more than that – it is a fact. I AM healthy. I feel comfortable in my skin, in front of the mirror, when I wake up, when I go to sleep. Before, when I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I didn’t like myself. That fueled the eating disorder. It fueled my unhealthy behaviors and thoughts. Now, I like myself. I love myself. So the logical and happy choice is to take care of myself and treat myself with kindness.
8. Do you think that there could be done more in order to prevent eating disorders?
Yes, I think more could be done to educate the world at large. I also think that warning signs could be better noticed. In terms of prevention, I think that if eating disorders are noticed early on because people are made more aware of them, then recovery is more likely to be possible and help can happen more quickly. I don’t think as a whole eating disorders can be prevented, due to the fact that they are a mental illness with certain predispositions in place – but there is no reason the environmental factors that contribute to eating disorders could not be reduced.
9. Is there any advice you could give our readers?
You can be your own worst enemy… but you can also be your own best cheerleader. Don’t forget that. Don’t give away your power to things like trauma, food, weight, fear, etc. Take your power back. Recovery is possible!