I first became acutely aware of the shape of my body in middle school when I went through an intensive surgery to straighten out my crooked spine.
Comments streamed in from family and friends immediately. Some were horrified at my “Auschwitz looking” body. Neighbors remarked on my slender frame, and some even told me I could be a model.
Prior to the surgery, I had little regard for food. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I ate anything from countless Oreos with peanut butter to bags of M&M’s before track practice. I am not claiming this was the healthiest way of eating. My point is my attitude toward food and its affect on my shape was never a focus for me.
Following a long summer of recovery, I entered high school more confident than ever before, with a straight spine and “model like” frame. I summoned the courage to speak in front of a class of 400 (quite the feat for a young introvert) to be elected student council treasurer. During the campaign, protective friends had informed me of gossip going around that the skinny girl running had an eating disorder. I would even get prank phone calls from people calling me “the anorexic girl.”
This was around the time my habits actually spiraled into a disorder, one that would follow me through adolescence and into adulthood. As a 13-year-old girl, this was the most attention I’d gotten from anyone before, and at that time, any attention was better than no attention.
While doctors, family, and friends encouraged me to gain a few pounds, I developed an overarching fear of gaining weight and getting fat. I never wanted to look like I did before: a self-conscious “Quasimodo.” From this point forward, almost every calorie I ingested and expended was mentally calculated. Food, for me, became my focus.
It’s been over 13 years since my surgery, which means I have been struggling with body image and food for half of my life. As I’ve grown older, I’ve developed an increasing desire to put all the focus on food and weight aside so I can free up brain space to concentrate on things that would actually be of benefit to myself and to the world. In this process, speaking and connecting with others has been so helpful in aiding my healing process.
Breaking the silence first requires acknowledging a problem or a destructive habit within yourself. It means being fully honest about where you are at, and where you would ideally like to be.
Initially, you are probably a big bundle of fragile vulnerability. Eating disorders or addictive patterns have been serving as a way to bypass feeling things that are too difficult to feel. Discovering safe ways to peel back the “stuff” you’ve been storing, such as therapy, journaling, yoga, meditation, or energy healing, is great way to lean into the process of releasing that which does not serve you in the long term.
Speaking your truth does not necessarily mean sharing your struggles with the whole world through social media or big announcements. This might actually come across as “dumping” your stuff onto other people if you are not already in the process of overcoming the issues.
Instead, it is better to start at the beginning, which means staring directly at your life and discovering your inner truth. When this is consistent and clear, it might feel safe to share with other trusted people in your life such as close friends, relatives, or mentors.
Sharing your truth allows the opportunity to be heard and mirrored by another person. When we feel heard and seen, we feel safe and supported.
Here are six reasons why breaking your silence and sharing your truth can aid in the recovery from an eating disorder:
1. Relieves sense of shame:
Eating disorders can entail a heavy sense of shame that comes with habits of restricting, controlling, or purging. When we share the truth of our experience, it opens us up to been seen completely. It allows us discover that we are still loved and supported by the people who actually matter. This can help alleviate the feelings of shame that only perpetuate the negative patterns.
2. Sense of solidarity:
Being vulnerable and sharing your story opens the opportunity to connect with others who have similar experiences. Knowing you are not alone can be powerful and give you strength to recover.
3. Opens you up for support:
Speaking up about your struggles with food invites the support from others to share things that have helped them in similar situations, or be there with you as you create new networks in the brain with healthier habits.
4. Removes secrecy:
Eating disorders thrive in secrecy. When we stop hiding from ourselves and from the world, we can start to heal.
When we are transparent about the habits that no longer serve us, we are more apt to hold ourselves accountable. And we are able to let others check in and help hold us accountable.
Sharing your own story can be powerful to help others who resonate with similar experiences. It can inspire and invite people to open up and heal as well.
Author: Kristen Buchan
Image: Zak Cannon/ Flickr
Editor: Deb Jarrett