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.
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