don't do it alone

Don’t Do It Alone: How I Healed My Anxiety And Disordered Eating

Aw, the scents and sensations of fall. The changing and falling leaves, brisk winds, and scents and flavors of the season.

This time of year, always draws me in to reflect and rejoice.

October touches my heart and mind in a variety of warm, loving, and grateful ways. This is the month 27 years ago that I discovered that I was pregnant for the first time.

It was also the same month that my relationship with a decade-long anxiety-driven eating disorder changed forever.

Having binged and purged myself almost to death since seventeen, the day I found out that I was pregnant, was the day my vicious, self-torturing cycle took a turn toward healing and recovery.

My frightened, egocentric brain suddenly had something more important to focus its survival instincts on than how much I weighed, what I looked like, and attracting the perfect man.

The Perfect Storm

I can remember clearly the day I went to war with food and eating. I was 17, my parents were divorced, I was living with my mom and grandmother, and for the most part, life was going okay.

One day, as I strolled through the kitchen on my way to school, sporting my favorite Levi’s, Nike’s, and T-shirt, my grandmother chirped, “Kelli, those jeans gettin’ a little tight?”

“What?” My adolescent brain soaked up every drop of her words. I’d never really thought much about my body or how it looked or the conflict I was about to endure until that moment.

See, when my grandmother cooked, you didn’t leave the table without stuffing down seconds, or even thirds. If you didn’t eat more, you were chastised. If you did, you were teased and called names like “Big Bowl.” Either way, I was screwed, and now had to figure out how to eat by the rules and loosen up my jeans.

That same week, I overheard a girlfriend chattering about how you could eat all you wanted and throw it up afterward.

“What?” Again, my young, absorbent teenage brain soaked up the thought and I began plotting and planning. 

I spent the next decade filling up and throwing up. When, where, and how I ate became my compulsion and science. I perfected my rituals, food choices, and could toss my cookies anywhere, any time quickly, cleanly, and without anyone knowing.

With precision, I could scan meals for food options that would satisfy my emotional hunger and come up easily later. I excelled at timing and knowing instinctually when to make my exit.

The bathroom became my sanctuary and living hell. At times, I felt cleansed, pure, and powerful. Other times, I felt disgusting, dirty, and weak.

Lying on a cold bathroom floor, faint and gasping for air, I sometimes wondered if I would die with the toilet as my only witness.

My self-imposed torture ceased the day I found out I was pregnant. I had an acceptable reason to eat that met societal and family standards.

I had finally done something right and proven my worth. The child I was carrying was worthy of being nourished and cared for well, even if I wasn’t. I felt relief believing that I had won the war.

However, I was wrong. Over the next two decades the battle continued, only with new weapons and artillery. I had stopped binging and purging with food, only to design and master new patterns of destruction and deprivation.

Meals were torture. I hated feeling full. I hated feeling hungry. No matter how wonderful the meal, I hated the feeling of food in my stomach, yet I was starving.

I existed in a perpetual state of starvation, lack, and scarcity. I cut corners, shopped only discounts and sales, and starved myself of anything joyful. 

I wasn’t worthy of anything more than as little as possible. When overcome with deprivation, I’d binge with credit cards. Same shit, different toilet.

“That’s how you can tell that you’re filling yourself with the wrong things. You use a lot of energy, and in the end, you feel emptier and less comfortable than ever.”

The Courage To Surrender

Eventually, I ran out of willpower, energy, and the strength to keep fighting. My mind, heart, body, and spirit ached.

Crawling across the cold floor of life I was living, I threw up one last time, yet it wasn’t food; it was the white flag of surrender. I gave up the fight and bravely embarked on the most courageous journey of my life.

Putting down my weapons and armor was difficult and scary. I had to be wiling to release the fear, anxiety, judgment, suspicion, resentment, pity, and anger that had guide me for so long.

I had to be willing to trust courage, curiosity, compassion, forgiveness, uncertainty, acceptance, patience, impermanence, and love instead.

Slowly, I found stillness in meditation to calm the clutter of judgmental thoughts in my head. A practice that I resisted for years, in time became one of my most devoted routines, and still is.

I forgave myself and my body on my purple yoga mat. With breath as our guide and anchor, we found our way back to each other, and still do today.

I excavated my berating beliefs and all the shitty, false stories I had told myself for years inside my journal. I grew to appreciate my feelings, and honor and feel them, instead of eat them, and still do.

Today, forty years since I first binged and purged, my relationship with food and eating is nurturing and nourishing, with only a pinch of anxiety. I eat when I’m hungry. I don’t eat when I’m not. 

I eat whole, full-fat, tasty, yummy food, and choose organic, non-GMO, and grass-fed when possible and convenient. I have fun cooking, creating, and enjoying truly satisfying meals, including decadent desserts.

I rarely shop sales or shop at all. I no longer over-work myself or push my body too hard. I fill myself up with good food, servings of love and joy, and helpings of gratitude. 

When my adolescent ego gets anxious and needs attention, I listen, honor her feelings, and respond with compassion, patience, forgiveness, and love.

I remind my young, frightened, anxious teenage self: “You are enough. You have enough. You do enough.”

Don’t Do It Alone

I want you to know that my long, painful, agonizing journey to healing and recovery did not involve a diagnosis, therapy, or treatment; although I knew I had an eating disorder. 

My fear and inability to trust was so great that I never shared my eating disorder with anyone, not a counselor or doctor. I was too afraid and ashamed.

Whereas, I was able to heal on my own with the “indirect” help from practitioners, counselors, and coaches, I do not recommend my approach or path.

What took me over thirty years to heal, could have been addressed directly and in less time had I reached out for specific, expert help and trusted.

So if you or someone you know is trapped in a battle with disorder ordered eating, please reach out for help and support. As scary as it feels, the relief, freedom, abundance, and joy waiting on the other side is so worth it.

I’d be honored and grateful to listen, help you sort through what’s going on, and together we’ll figure out how to connect you with the best professional help possible. 

It’s time to be brave, throw up the white flag, click the button below, and start healing today.

Comments

  1. Kari

    Beautiful and touching. I have a very destructive relationship with food and my body. Thank you for revealing your personal journey as it connected me to you on yet another level. You give me hope there is a way out, though I am still shaky and unsure of how exactly I take the first step.

    Love always,
    Kari

    1. Kelli

      Hi Kari…I am grateful for your reply. The more I share, the more shame I shed, the more space I open up in my mind, body, and spirit for gratitude, joy, and wholehearted living. The post came pouring out of me as if something bigger than me knew it was time. I was a bit anxious when I hit “publish,” yet again felt held by a greater support. My journey has been long and grueling…and I do feel on the other side of the torture. I’m here for you…and will support you, always with love. ~Kelli

  2. Brian

    I have inherently known scarcity is the wrong approach most of my life. I have encountered it everywhere, from the culture we grew up in to the business world today. I have had my own struggles with it in response to stress. Thanks for spreading the word and reminding us that we do not live in a sum-zero world!

    1. Kelli

      Thank you, Brian. It seems that when we face challenges, stress, fears, and vulnerable encounters, the auto-response is scarcity, to withdraw, retreat, run, armor-up, even starve. I grew up in this culture too. I did what I knew…until it simply didn’t work for me any more. I wanted to live differently for my children, mostly for me. Aw, the judgment that comes when we break norms. Yet, finding and connecting with like-minded people has served as refuge and an inspiration…and confirmed that I’m not out of my mind…and well, if I am, I no longer feel alone! So grateful to you for reading my post! ~Kelli

  3. Such a moving post. I had been skinny without trying until I turned 40. Now I’m dealing with learning to love food the right way. Thanks for the intriguing post.

    1. Kelli

      Thanks, Jamie…I am grateful for your comment. “Learning to love” resonates. I loved food as a child and a teen…until the “comment” that sent me spiraling and into a negative relationship with food. Today, like you, I am continuing to practice a loving relationship with food from a place of nourishment. My body thanks me! 🙂

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