This is one person's story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.
by Sara Stein, a former Emily Program client. Sara is a therapist and musician from Cleveland, OH.
How It Began
The word “diet” had infiltrated my being at a pre-teen age. For whatever reason, THIS was my Achilles heel in life – this was the thing that was going to reel me in again and again and unfurl all sorts of chaos, havoc and heartache.
To keep it short and simple, I spent years and decades trying to manage and control my food intake and construct my body to look and be a certain way. There was always this gnawing, annoying thing in the back of my head telling me I wasn’t enough, that I ate the wrong thing, that something bad was going to happen, and that I needed to work harder and do better.
Besides disordered eating, which included binging and restricting, my obsession also included intense exercise regimes, weird supplements, living in health food stores and fads...and relentlessly comparing myself to other women.
The key word was relentless–I didn’t tire nor give up. There was always more to do, more to let go of or be aware of or change. Support groups helped along the way. But what happened was it crossed some serious line somewhere and took on a whole beastly life of its own.
The Beginning of The End (And a New Beginning)
At a certain point, there was no “sweetness” or “pleasure” or “enjoyment” in my food intake or to be honest…in my LIFE. I felt undeserving, like if I enjoyed something, it definitely needed to be on this DO NOT TOUCH list.
Then, one day, I thought I heard God tell me, “No more fruit! It’s too much for you!” and something deep and dark turned inside of me. I realized that my eating patterns were a problem. It was this realization and the gentle, concerned words of a friend which began my liberation process.
It was very scary to let it all go. I had been hardwired this way for years and I didn’t (yet) have the support that would carry me successfully through to this new chapter. I kept the torch burning somehow, mostly solo, for several more months. I didn’t even realize how much pain and anguish I was in nor that I was deserving of and could find appropriate help…until I did.
Nourishment is Freedom
Finally, I reached out for some professional help. And then there it was: Help. It divinely found me and was truly a Godsend. It opened up a whole new world of realizations and deep healing; it added color and zest to my life, restored my peace of mind, heart and JOY. It unlocked freedom unlike I’d never known before.
See before, I thought I had to maintain a certain body weight when in actuality my appropriate, healthy range is somewhere completely different. And YES, it is a range versus a small window that you have to nail perfectly. I arrived to my “help” in such denial and exhaustion that I was really shocked to discover that I had a condition of low heart rate and was still struggling to believe my food behaviors were the actual culprit of the longtime loss of my menstrual cycle.
My assigned nutritionist (another Godsend) in the beginning asked me things that blew my mind, such as if I chewed a lot of gum. Apparently this is a form of an “appetite suppressant.” I never heard of it like that before but when she said it, I knew it was true for me. It brought me so much relief to now know this. No, I wasn’t weak or weak-willed or “bad.” I was hungry. I was malnourished. And I was human and deserving. I had been misinformed of what was right for me and my body...And it had slowly been killing me.
What happened was I started to heal, not just emotionally but also physically. My body was completely restored and it had nothing to do with superfoods nor a squeaky clean diet. I learned about why and how things such as “fats,” “sugars,” “grains,” “proteins” all worked together to keep my brain alert and lively, my heart healthy and strong and my body active and happy. I learned proper portion sizes and amounts of food that my body needed to stay fueled and well (and it was waaayyyy more food than I ever thought I was allowed to eat). I learned how to ask myself different questions when choosing a meal such as, “What do I have a taste for?” and “Is this a normalized, non-restrictive meal?” Most of all, I learned to relax, enjoy, and allow pleasure and nourishment. I let myself be human – a beautiful human.