I regularly feature Q&As with individuals who’ve recovered from eating disorders, binge eating, negative body image and 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].
It’s been a while since I’ve published a personal story about eating disorder recovery. So I’m so pleased to present Nina’s story of recovery. Nina writes on the website helpforeatingdisorder.com.
After struggling with various eating disorders for close to 10 years, Nina is now recovered.
Below, she shares her story and discusses the importance of comprehensive treatment and finding what works for you.
Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I am a 30-year-old woman who has been recovered from all eating disorders for several years after battling with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating for almost a decade.
Q: How and when did your eating disorder start? What do you think contributed to it?
A: My eating disorder first started in 2000 when I went on the Atkins diet. I saw a popular singer lose weight using this diet and so I researched everything about it, cut out all carbohydrates from my diet and managed to lose a considerable amount of weight. However I found it extremely difficult to maintain the weight loss and it also severely impacted my work, life, relationships and sanity.
I became completely obsessed with dieting and weight loss. I refused to go out as I was terrified of food and did not want anyone to find out about my secret obsession. My sole focus in life became controlling my food intake and losing weight.
I believe that the dieting mentality greatly contributed to the development of my eating disorder. My body was starved and deprived and over time I was no longer able to tune into my body’s natural hunger or satiation signals.
Q: What motivated you to seek treatment?
A: After years of dieting and getting diminishing returns, I ended up depressed, alone, frustrated and suicidal. Every attempt to go on a new diet failed and I ended up losing a job that I loved, my fiancé as well as my close relationships. I was fighting a losing battle and knew that I could not have a life and the eating disorder at the same time.
I became open to treatment after I had entered 12-step program for other addictions and witnessed miraculous changes in my life. The ability to connect with others who had similar experiences and were on the path to recovery was transformative. I started to get a glimpse of eating disorder recovery. I knew that if I could recover from other life-threatening addictions, then I could possibly also recover from my eating disorder.
Q: Eating disorders are tremendously treatable but the key is to find the right treatment. How did you go about seeking services?
A: I was extremely determined to find help and treatment for my eating disorder. I viewed it as a life or death situation. I knew that I could not live while I had this illness. It impacted every area of my life and the only chance that I had to survive was by getting help and recovering.
I researched every possible eating disorder treatment. I went to a therapist to deal with my emotional and childhood issues, I sought recovery in a 12-step program to curb my overeating and to connect with others who were going through the same issues. I learned to meditate, to journal and to express my emotions.
Each one of the treatments that I sought brought me to the next level of recovery. I am a firm believer that recovery is a process. For me it is not something that happened overnight and I cannot pinpoint one particular treatment as being the sole source of my recovery. It was a long path, with many relapses and detours along the way.
Q: What led to your recovery?
A: Each one of the therapies and recovery paths contributed in their own way to my recovery. Each one taught me a new set of tools, greater insight into myself and shattered the denial of the eating disorder.
The more I shed light on the disorder and my behavior, the closer I got to recovery. The process was not an overnight one, but looking back, I started “recovery” long before I actually got to the other side and experienced freedom.
I was dedicated and determined to recover and was willing to do whatever was required. Nothing was too expensive or difficult. I traveled to New York from Australia in order to seek out treatment from a 12-step group. I found therapists who specialized in eating disorders and I looked to those who had recovered for inspiration.
These were all small deposits in my recovery bank. Each one helped to strengthen my recovery, shed light on the disorder and give me the courage and hope that is was possible to recover.
Q: What have been the toughest parts of seeking recovery and how did you get through them?
A: The toughest part of seeking recovery was finding what worked FOR ME. The whole process taught me to trust my body, my soul and learning to identify what was right for me – nobody else.
Too often I would try to do what worked for someone else even though it did not sit well with me, but I had so little faith and trust in myself that I was not able to let it go. I felt like a failure if I could not recover the way that someone else did. I felt like I was doing it “wrong” if I couldn’t follow a sugar abstinence plan that someone else had followed.
But now I can see that the best way to learn is to make mistakes and still have the courage to keep going.
I began to realize that there was no “right” way to recover and just like the Buddhists say that there are 84.000 paths to enlightenment, so it is with recovery. There are a multitude of paths to recovery; the challenge is finding what works for you and having the courage to make mistakes, re-route and carry on.
Another struggle for me was isolation. The eating disorder was my big secret and it kept me isolated from the world. The more I isolated, the sicker I got and the more shame I carried out in the world. The biggest challenge I faced was breaking through this isolation, connecting with people, finding my own voice and having the courage to share with others about what was going on for me.
It continues to be the area of the greatest struggle for me, but also the one place where I get most reward. The more I open up to the world, the more freedom I feel.
Thanks so much, Nina, for sharing your story! Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of our interview.
You can view more stories of eating disorder recovery here.