Maria Rainier has written this wonderful article for us today, and I’m so glad she has shared her story. Here’s what Maria has to say about her own struggle with an eating disorder…
As a renowned public speaker on disordered eating and gender rights, Geneen Roth has spent the last thirty years sending the message that the most common trigger of disordered eating is dieting.
The transition from one to another tends to be unconscious.
My Eating Disorder
The path to anorexia began for me, innocently enough, in my sophomore year in college, with Special K protein meal bars to save myself time between classes.
Even while meticulously counting calories consumed and burned on an online calorie calculator, I never doubted my physical and mental health.
What few calories I consumed, were burned off well into the night, as I madly worked out on a mini-Stairmaster, while readingShakespeare assignments. Never mind the daily miles-long runs, and yoga that had long ceased to be meditative.
I ate organic vegetables and whole wheats, and not much else. If I grew hungry at night, I ate vitamins with salt to “make sure” that I was still getting nutrition while losing weight.
I won’t go into the psychology of disordered eaters, but to say the least, the obvious (that our habits are insane) become in-obvious, even to brilliant, success-oriented types, who are statistically more likely to become disordered eaters than average students and workers.
The more I denied myself comfort foods, the more I wanted.
At last, I began binging on Sundays alone in my dorm room, before purging into a trash can, with music blasting from my laptop computer to mask the sound.
Never once did it occur to me that I had become another statistic in my “Health and Wellness” textbook, which lamented the growing number of disordered eaters, and whom I pitied and scorned, even as I pushed a forefinger down my throat.
My personal relationships and scholastic grades suffered, I dreaded leaving the safety of my own room, and, weighing under 90 pounds, at 5’4”, I finally ceased menstruating.
I blamed it on academic stress for months, never doubting my vanishing body’s perfect condition.
How I Stopped “Dieting”
After over two years of active anorexia and bulimia, I listened to Geneen’s message: stop dieting.
Tell a kid to keep out of the cookie jar, and what is he or she going to do? Take a cookie (or three, or thirteen). It’s simple psychology.
I’m sure there are other ways to emerge from an eating disorder, but my method was Geneen’s — to eat what I wanted when I wanted it.
At first, I only wanted everything I’d denied myself for two years.
It’s no surprise that I gained twenty pounds in six months—it didn’t help that I was in Italy for the first time in my life—before my eating habits and weight resumed some shadow of normality.
The key was to listen to my body.
I already knew everything about nutrition—broccoli has fibre; bananas have potassium; spinach has vitamin A, vitamin K, and magnesium.
All I had to do was listen to my body for what it wanted, rather than what my starved eyes craved.
Keeping a food journal allowed me to reflect on my food choices and realize that I was getting as good a nutritional intake as I’d ever had in my life.
My Eating Now
I’m back to my natural, slender weight, and have never been healthier—this time, for real.
It is the body image that heals last. And, nearly four years later, most days, I’m okay. Others, I still need someone tell me that I need to eat.
I sadly don’t do yoga anymore because it reminds me of my old self-hate. I eat sweets every once in a while, but never when I’m unhappy, lest it remind me of old habits.
I’ve taken up meat again, generally only lean meats from local farmers, and I enjoy fruits for their juiciness, and as indicators of changing seasons, not for vitamin this or that.
I eat what I want, when I want, and it surprises me to this day that my body knows what it needs.
All I’ve done is learn to listen to it.
Do any of Maria’s comments sound familiar to you?
If they do, please speak to someone in your family, a trusted friend, or a health professional. Saying you need help is difficult, but there is a way out.
Maria is proof of this.
This can be your story too.