Here’s part two of my interview with Jenn Lawlor, who talks more about her recovery from an eating disorder. She also shares the lessons she’s learned from her struggles with and recovery from anorexia along with her wise advice for families — and much more.
Check out part one of our interview here.
Also, if you’d like to share your story of recovery, please email me at mtartakovsky at gmail dot com.
Q: What have been the toughest parts of seeking recovery? How did you get through them?
A: Ughh… there were so many tough parts to my recovery, but I think the toughest part was letting go of my belief that without my eating disorder I would spiral out of control and become obese. I seriously thought that! I was able to change this belief by talking through my fears with [my husband] Zach.
Having someone like Zach, who is balanced emotionally and has a healthy relationship with his body and food, was calming and provided a role model I never had growing up in a home with parents and friends who thought that restricting, overeating, and an over-emphasis on personal appearance was normal.
Q: Do you still struggle with eating disordered thoughts and behaviors? If so, how do you overcome them?
A: No, I do not struggle with any eating disordered thoughts or behaviors at all anymore. One thing I realized about myself was that a part of my anorexia came from one of my character traits that could be either a positive thing or not. Let me explain.
I’m a very driven person. When I set my mind to something, I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve my goal. I’m naturally very focused. This characteristic gave me a lot of success when I was really young in school—I was driven to be the best. But being the “best anorexic” obviously didn’t treat me well. It almost killed me.
Somewhere along the line in my recovery I realized that I was using one of my greatest strengths against myself. So when I turned that around, I was incredibly motivated to heal.
I see something similar with many of the women going through anorexia. Amazing, strong women who unfortunately are using their power against themselves.
Q: What insights have you taken away from your struggles and recovery?
A: Hmmm… good question. My struggles and recovery have taught me how powerful I really am. I think I was dealing with generations of accumulated pain and because I am who I am, rather than hanging on to low-level pain for the rest of my life, I cleansed myself spiritually and did the painful work of many.
Although my eating disorder was EXTREMELY painful, I do feel grateful for what it has given me now. I am thankful that it pushed me to find out who I really am and taught me how I don’t want to live my life.
Anorexia, more than anything, taught me that acceptance is more powerful and courageous than control.
Q: What can family members do to support a loved one who’s struggling with an ED?
A: If you’re a family member, you need to have courage to face the illness head on, with love. Be brave and set boundaries for yourself and your loved one. Keep shining a bright light on the eating disorder so it has nowhere to hide. And most importantly, believe that YOU can help—not just a doctor or therapist.
Q: What resources do you recommend for individuals struggling with an eating disorder?
A: I think the stories here on this blog are a wonderful place for people struggling to recover. Anything that keeps you focused on recovery is important. If you are really committed to recovering, it’s important for you to commit to removing all triggers from your life.
You’ll know the ones—weighing yourself, looking in the mirror, looking at models’ bodies, pinching fat, measuring your body in any way, and on and on. The key is making a commitment to eliminating the obstacles from your life.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
A: Above all else, know that full recovery is possible. Believe it and own if for yourself. Again, surround yourself with stories of full recovery. I think this is so important (and something that was missing during my own illness), that I’ve dedicated an online show to it.
bbeTV is a show where I share stories of women, men, and families that have made it through an eating disorder to full recovery. You can find inspiration for your own recovery by tuning into the show here: http://thebestbodyever.com.
Thanks so much, Jenn, for sharing your story!
Don’t forget that today is the last day to enter to win a copy of Julie Parker’s new book on eating disorder recovery. Check out this post for all the details!