I’ve already had the great opportunity to speak with several women about their recovery from eating disorders and emotional eating (you can find the interviews here). I hope to regularly feature Q&As with individuals who’ve recovered from eating disorders, binge eating, negative body image or any kind of disordered eating. If you’d like to share your story of recovery, I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at [email protected]
Here is part two of my interview with naturopathic doctor Christina Bjorndal about her struggles with an eating disorder. Below, she talks more about the resources that helped her recovery, how family members can help and much more.
If you didn’t get a chance to read part one, check it out here.
8. What are some misconceptions about eating disorders, particularly how they’re portrayed in the media?
Ah, the media – best to avoid them all together!! I am not a big media fan as I believe that many magazines, in their advertising efforts, actually PROMOTE eating disorders. Recent campaigns by Dove have been helpful at bringing reality back; however, many businesses have a LONG way to go in changing the marketing and advertising messages they have used for decades. I actually quit my job as Head of Marketing in two organizations as I felt that marketing was a creative way to “play with people’s minds.” I didn’t feel good about doing that, despite the fact that I was selling financial freedom in one company and health in another.
Interestingly enough, as I am answering these questions, there was a snippet on the radio that said “a new study shows that curvaceous figures are in favor (i.e. Beyonce or Kate Winslet ) versus the thin, wafer look (i.e. Kate Moss).”
9. Many people don’t realize the physical consequences of eating disorders, including electrolyte imbalances, irregular heartbeat, osteoporosis, severe tooth decay and digestive problems. Did you experience any health problems as a result of your eating disorder?
I experienced electrolyte imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, headaches, amenorrhea and irregular menstrual cycles and digestive problems.
10. Individuals with eating disorders are reluctant to seek out treatment. What can family members do to help a loved one start treatment and how can they help during treatment?
Eating disorders are multi-factorial. They can start “innocently” as mine did and then serve a greater function in a person’s life, thereby becoming a symptom of a bigger problem. The challenge is always to determine what the “root” cause is for each individual. Each case is as unique as there are people on the planet. My recommendations for family members are to:
- Realize that your loved one may be resistant to your help – do NOT take this personally and continue to try to support them and get them the help that they need. Recognize that many people with eating disorders refuse help or refuse to accept the diagnosis (yet you still have to live with the symptoms).
- One of the keys is keeping life simple, reducing stress and taking baby steps to get back to the basics of life. Remember, you may experience resistance; be persistent in a kind and loving way.
- If you suspect someone who has not been diagnosed, try to go to a support group meeting in your area first to talk to others. If you are a healthcare professional, then you may be trained to recognize the symptoms; however, if you aren’t, I would recommend you talk to a professional regarding your loved one. The next step would then be to ask your loved one to go with you for an assessment. Again, expect to encounter resistance in this area, but be persistent. It is scary at first for someone to acknowledge that they have a problem, and it is equally rewarding to accept help.
- You can take care of yourself by recognizing that you cannot control your loved one and your job as a support person in their life is just that. Sometimes you need to give more and sometimes you need to give less, depending on how your loved one is managing their illness. Remember to be kind to yourself and do something for yourself that refuels you on a daily basis (i.e. yoga, going for a walk, preparing a healthy meal for yourself, having a warm bath, getting a massage, etc.)
11. Any resources (books, websites) you recommend for individuals struggling with eating disorders?
- Geneen Roth – all her books, courses, and website: http://www.geneenroth.com/
- Overeaters Anonymous for bulimia, binge eating and over-exercising
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy books and therapists. In my clinical practice, I use Mind over Mood by Christine Padesky.
- Naturopathic doctors – to find a practitioner in Canada visit www.cand.ca or in the USA visit www.naturopathic.org
- Gestalt therapy
- Hatha yoga
- Christianne Northrop’s books: Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and Mother Daughter Wisdom, in particular.
Lastly, I recommend you research Orthomolecular Medicine (www.orthomed.org) and find a practitioner who is willing to work with you, such as myself.
12. For women who struggle with disordered eating or negative body image, what would you like them to know?
That I have been there, I understand and you will get better. The first step on a new path is always the hardest to take. Make it a small one, and you will be surprised that, in time, you will be running down the road of recovery. We all have addictions, issues, things to get over, things to learn, things to adjust to – life is about how we navigate the waves of our lives. It really is about the journey, not the destination. For most of my life, I lived for the destination while ignoring the journey. Now, I am learning to enjoy the journey as much as I appreciate the destination.
13. Anything else you’d like readers to know about eating disorders?
The road to recovery is long and slow at times; however, you will get there. Trust in the healing process and be patient. There is not a quick-fix solution to multi-factorial conditions. Everyone needs to find their own balance point in everything – in their weight, with stress and in life. Don’t compare yourself to others. Trust in your own intuitive self and the inherent healing powers you have at your own fingertips while at the same time work with experienced healthcare professionals. Here’s to your optimal health!
Thanks so much, Christina, for your candor and insight!
Next Tuesday and Wednesday, stay tuned for another wonderful interview!