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Meghan Pearson

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Bulimia: My Worst Roommate

Posted: 10/28/2012 9:35 am

I have lived with ED for many years. Since I was about 14 years old. ED is a terrible roommate, taking up much valuable space and precious time, and is an active force in dissolving delicate self-love.

As much as I have fought with ED, ED has also been a source of comfort and release, and has been very hard to let go of. I borrow use of the name ED from a dear friend, who also referred to the unwelcome sidekick in her life in the same way. ED is what I am choosing to call my Eating Disorder. I have suffered from bulimia and bouts of anorexia since my early teens. ED tormented me the worst in high school, and the result made for a fragile young girl sometimes of skin and bones, with not only a terrible relationship with food, but also very ungracious and raw interactions with my family, friends, and with my very own spirit.

Bulimia. That is a word that I used to be so ashamed of saying out loud. But now I use it with ease as it is a part of who I am, was, and will become. It has been a part of my life for so long, and it has taken me up until this point to realize that it is nothing to apologize for. It just is.

I remember back when I was first "diagnosed" with my bulimia, it was a word that left waves of uncomfortable silence in its wake. At that time, my mother was desperate to find educational support and medical assistance, but resources were next to nil and for the most part people just didn't talk about eating disorders. There was such a massive stigma associated with not only the word, but everything that came along with it. Eating disorders, especially bulimia, were considered gross, silly, shallow, and easy to cure. Not so. It can take a real personal bottoming out to ignite that catalyst for change.

January 25 2011
ED had been with me for about 16 years on and off by this point, but only really surfaced to knock on my door at the worst of times. I had gotten pretty good and locking the door, latching the deadbolt, and ignoring his pleads for entry. But in January of that year, I was unable to keep him at bay...

I was having a really rough time moving on from my breakup with my ex-fiancé; my relationship issues had a strangle hold over me, and I was feeling not good enough, not smart enough, and just plain blue. I had just recently been discharged from my nine month bankruptcy, but was financially strapped and panicking. My father was not well, recently diagnosed with both Frontotemporal dementia and ALS, and my family was frantic. I was starting my life over from scratch, and felt terribly alone and completely out of control.

So ED showed up and kicked my ass. I relapsed. Bad. I ended up at the emergency room of St. Joe's hospital in Toronto, on a morphine IV drip, with a seven-inch long spatula lodged in my esophagus. The pain was excruciating. I was in and out of consciousness. I was there for 24 hours, and after the procedure to remove the blockage, my heart rate was drastically low.

My body was in trauma the nurses told me. I was stoned up, and felt like I was living a bad nightmare. The good doctors then pumped me full of electrolytes, fluids, and more pain relievers, and waited for me to rebuild my strength. After hours plugged into the heart rate monitors, a couple of ECGs (electrocardiograms), and some gentle words from my discharging ER doc, I was released. I was 30 years old.

This was the turning point. I could not, would not, ever, let ED take me down like that again. In all my previous years battling the disease, I had never gone so far as needing real medical intervention. Even when I hovered at my lowest weights, even as I ruined my tooth enamel through constant vomiting in high school, as my bones were grasping for all the nutrients they could sponge up from the little food I was keeping inside of me, I had never let it get this bad.

And it will never happen again. Ever.

I turn 32 in less than a week, and do not consider myself fully recovered. But I am carefully living a recovered life. My disordered eating has been a part of my world for so long, that it was really hard to figure out what it is like to have a one hundred percent healthy relationship with food.

Yes, I have spent many years learning all I can about nutrition, have major passion for my time spent in the kitchen, and pride myself in the ability to choose the best fuel for my active body. I am very, and acutely aware of what I consume, and how it makes me feel both physically and mentally.

Since adopting a fully plant-based diet, I have developed an even healthier relationship with food, more confidence in my consumption, and have a spring in my step that has been missing for years. My commitment to eating this way is totally personal, and I do so for my pleasure, vitality, overall health, and the impact that it can make on our earth.

I have been faced with many questions regarding my decision to move towards this "radical" or "extreme" way of eating, as many assume that it is not a healthy choice for those with an eating disordered history. However, I am quick to defend that, yes, a vegan "diet" is very specific, and yes, there is a lot to think about when getting my nutrition in this way, but I love knowing that every single morsel of food I put into my body is brimming with nutrients and goodness, full stop.

I adore my time in the kitchen creating complex and nutritious meals for myself and my loved ones. I love educating others about the merits of adding veg-heavy recipes to their meal plans, and teaching clients that raw food can be simple and delicious. I love that now, when I have that satisfied feeling of fullness after dining, that my body recognizes that I am full of fuel, not just food. Right now, this is what is right for me, and I do not make myself crazy. Eating this way feels the most natural and healthy, and that is all that matters, to me.

While my ultimate goal is to someday soon be able to say that I have fully kicked ED to the curb, I am at the same time very grateful to have finally banished most of my self-blame, self-pity, and embarrassment about my bulimia. I would be lying if I said I that I never have ED-inspired thoughts at times when my anxiety peaks, my stress levels soar, or when my heart is aching.

But, what is real and true, is that I also have quite a few tricks up my sleeve to combat those ideas, and have developed a slew of brilliant ways to cope, and blot out those false perceptions before they can cause me any harm. I may not yet have sorted out all the root emotional causes for my ED, but the one thing I do know is that being vegan has changed my life in positive ways that I could never have imagined, and it will continue to be a solid tool in my life of recovery.


Originally written and published as part of the Green Recovery series via Choosing Raw.

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  • Demi Lovato

    Demi Lovato has been very open about her struggles with bulimia and the extensive treatment she went through. "I was compulsively overeating when I was eight years old. So I guess for the past 10 years, I've had a really unhealthy relationship with food," she told ABC's "20/20" in 2010. Lovato has credited her younger sister and her fans with motivating her to seek treatment.

  • Amanda Bynes

    Amanda Bynes has a rocky relationship with the press, but she still hasn't shied away from tweeting about her struggles with food. "I have an eating disorder so I have a hard time staying thin," she tweeted in April 2013. In response to unflattering photos that had been published of her and a friend, Bynes later added: "We look awful, I look fat in that photo you chose, which doesn't help my eating disorder."

  • Lady Gaga

    Gaga first spoke of her experiences with bulimia in February 2012 in an interview with Maria Shriver at a Los Angeles conference, saying "I used to throw up all the time in high school. So I’m not that confident. I wanted to be a skinny little ballerina but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl," the <em>New York Post</em> reported at the time. After a number of media outlets scrutinized her weight during a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/19/lady-gaga-meat-corset_n_1897240.html">2012 European tour</a> she took to her website, <a href="http://littlemonsters.com/">LittleMonsters.com</a>, to reveal she <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/25/lady-gaga-weight-singer-bulimic-teenager_n_1913701.html">still struggles with bulimia and anorexia</a>. She announced the launch of an online forum she's calling the "Body Revolution" to help herself and others "triumph over insecurities," she wrote.

  • Jessica Alba

    In 2005, actress Jessica Alba told <em>Glamour</em>, "A lot of girls have eating disorders, and I did too. I got obsessed with it. When I went from a girl's body to a woman's body with natural fat in places, I freaked out. It makes you feel weird, like you're not ready for that body."

  • Victoria Beckham

    In her 2005 memoir, "Learning To Fly," Beckham revealed that she suffered from an eating disorder during her early "Spice Girls" years. Pressure from the group's management led the singer to struggle with extreme dieting and binging. "In the gym, instead of checking my posture or position, I was checking the size of my bottom, or to see if my double chin was getting any smaller," she wrote.

  • Lindsay Lohan

    In 2006 after the public watched her shrink before their eyes, actress Lindsay Lohan confessed to <em>Vanity Fair</em> that she was "making herself sick," which many took as a reference to bulimia. She told the magazine that Tina Fed and SNL producer Lorne Michaels staged an intervention telling her she needed to take care of herself.

  • Mary Kate Olsen

    Actress and former child star Mary Kate Olsen famously went to rehab in 2003 for anorexia, but rarely spoke about it. In 2008 she confessed that the disease nearly killed her. "There have definitely been times in my life when I just turned to people and said, 'I'm done -- this is too much for me. This is too over-whelming," she said.

  • Kelly Clarkson

    In 2007, singer Kelly Clarkson told <em>CosmoGirl</em> that she was bulimic in high school. "The lesson I took from that was purely superficial, but that's what I grew up thinking for a long time. It wasn't smart, and I headed straight into an eating disorder and became bulimic for the next six months," she said.

  • Katie Couric

    Katie Couric discussed <a href="http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/couric_admits_bulimia_battle_EpU1k3fLULVMYxC0WK306H">her own history with bulimia</a> on an episode of her new daytime talk show "Katie" while interviewing Demi Lovato, the <em>New York Post</em> reported. "I <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20632657,00.html">wrestled with bulimia</a> all through college and for two years after that," Couric said while interviewing an expert in eating disorders, according to People.com.

  • Katharine McPhee

    In 2006, singer Katharine McPhee talked to "Good Morning America" about her five-year battle with bulimia that nearly destroyed her vocal cords. At her worst point, McPhee binged and purged as many as seven times a day, she said just a few weeks ago. She said that appearing on "American Idol" saved her life by forcing her to confront her problem.

  • Jamie-Lynn Sigler

    "Sopranos" star Jamie-Lynn Sigler told "The Early Show" she had exercise bulimia: "I ended up starting at a routine which was, you know, 20 minutes in the morning and cutting back a little on my calories. And it snowballed into six or seven hours a day of exercise," said Sigler.

  • Candace Cameron Bure

    In 2010, former "Full House" star Candace Cameron Bure revealed her battle with bulimia when she released her book titled, "Reshaping It All." She told <em>People</em> that she began binging and purging after "Full House" ended its run in 1995 and she was adjusting to life in Canada with her new husband, Russian-born NHL player Valeri Bure.

  • Kate Beckinsale

    In 2005 actress Kate Beckinsale opened up about her anorexic past. The star once weighed only 70 pounds and attended five therapy sessions a week for four years to fight the disease.

  • Ashlee Simpson

    In 2005 singer and actress Ashlee Simpson told <em>Cosmopolitan</em> that as a young ballerina she struggled with anorexia. "I was around a lot of girls with eating disorders, and I actually had a minor one myself," says Simpson, who at one point stood 5'2" but only weighed 70 pounds. Simpson said her parents stepped in and made her eat, adding that family support really helped her.

  • Crystal Renn

    After breaking into the modeling industry at 16 years old, Renn battled anorexia before getting healthy and switching over to the world of plus-size modeling two years later. In her memoir "Hungry," the Vogue cover girl chronicles her struggle to take control of her body -- and her career -- to become the size she feels most comfortable with. Renn continues to speak out about underweight models in the fashion world, championing larger sample sizes to encourage diversity in the media and healthy habits.

  • Portia de Rossi

    The actress has spoken out about her struggles with the "starving and binging and purging" that plagued her since she was 12. According to her memoir, "Unbearable Lightness," once she was cast in "Ally McBeal" in 1998, she began cutting down her food intake until she reached 82 pounds and collapsed on set. After hitting rock bottom, de Rossi gained and lost weight, eventually settling into a healthy lifestyle. "I thank God for Ellen every day -– she has enabled me to be exactly who I am. We first met in 2001 when I weighed 168 pounds, but she says she never saw me as heavy –- she only saw the person inside," de Rossi wrote. "It’s ironic, really, that I tried so hard to present myself as something I wasn’t when all I ever wanted was to be loved for my true self."

  • Demi Lovato Talks Eating Disorder After Fan Throws Barbie Doll On Stage

    Demi Lovato made a heartfelt speech about eating disorders and bullying, after a fan threw a Barbie on stage. She talked about bulling and said, "I know how you guys feel and I want to show you guys that you can get through it because I’m living proof right here." The she proceeded to pick up the Barbie and said, " I spent my whole life trying to be this and trying to look like this. And guess what? I’m not this. And it means the world to me that you guys still love me no matter what."

 

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