For almost all my adult life, I struggled with full-blown bulimia.
I began a destructive relationship with my own body at an early age and quickly fell into a vicious pattern of eating disorders. As I got older, my issues grew with me, becoming more and more serious.
I spent years bingeing and purging every single day, sometimes several times per day, and at age 27, I hit rock bottom. My teeth started to break, I lost my hair, I was anemic, I had amenorrhea, I lacked electrolytes and my heartbeats were irregular.
At that point, I knew that I had to find solutions to get out of this dark hole of food addiction and self-destruction.
After more than a year in recovery and several years of freedom, I am now able to look back and be grateful for having gone through this extreme life experience. I am now able to see how bulimia has made me a kinder person and how this illness has been a real gift.
Here are the most important things I’ve learned:
1. It’s so important to tune in to our bodies.
If we want to create a peaceful relationship with food, our body needs to be our best ally. And for that, we have to learn to listen to it. That means noticing if we’re tired, and making a priority to get more sleep. It’s sensing when we need a relaxing workout instead of a vigorous one. Realizing when we’ve had so much coffee that it’s difficult to focus and making a different choice the next day. Noticing which foods make us feel good and nourished, and which foods make us feel sluggish.
Starting to live with our body’s flow instead of fighting against it is a huge step in making peace with food and our bodies.
2. Being more present helps in all areas of our lives.
Living with bulimia (or any type of eating issue) is a mentally exhausting way to live. All I could focus on was my fears about food, weight and others’ judgments. It was like losing my life by not being able to enjoy it.
Today I am more present than I’ve ever been and when my monkey mind reappears, I catch it quickly and do what I need to get back to the present moment. This could include spending more time alone, practicing yoga, meditating, or spending more time in nature.
3. Negative self-talk serves no purpose and should be eliminated from one’s life.
Eating issues are accompanied by very strong negative self-talk. To recover, I had to change my mindset. I had to rewire the way my brain was processing information and erase this negative self-talk once and for all.
Today, I am also able to teach others to eliminate negative self-talk. This is probably the most empowering thing anyone can do to start living a better and happier life without spending a dime—catching negative thought patterns when they arise, discarding them and moving on with all the goodness life has to offer.
4. I respect my body.
I had to abuse my body quite a lot before I was able to respect it. But at least I became super aware and loving of the most wonderful gift I’ll ever get. So often, we don’t realize that our body is the best thing we’ll ever have in life. It’s our vehicle to experiencing the best time on earth and feeling awesome. Respecting it, investing in it and loving it is like investing in your own life and happiness.
5. I need healthy boundaries to be my best self.
This is key! I don’t think anyone can be at their best if they don’t respect their own healthy boundaries. Being able to say no and leave enough room for what nourishes and recharges you is essential if you want to be able to deal with everyday’s life.
6. I know a lot about health and nutrition.
By trying to understand how my body worked, I’ve gleaned incredible knowledge in health and nutrition. I now have all the keys I need to stay healthy, whatever happens. This actually changed my life so much that it allowed me to change careers and help others do the same, which is definitely one of the best gifts bulimia has brought into my life.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Jeremy Keith/Flickr