Why I Can Now Thank My Battle With an Eating Disorder

Why I Can Now Thank My Battle With an Eating Disorder

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. – Marcus Aurelius

I still remember the day I forced myself to throw up for the first time.

I was sitting at home on the couch watching my favourite TV show at the time ‘Home and Away’. I was 13 and there was a young girl on the screen not much older than me who was anxious about her weight. It had just been someone’s birthday on the show and there was a giant chocolate cake in the fridge which she took to her room and engulfed. Ashamed, she quickly ran to the bathroom, stuck her fingers down her throat and forced every last bit back up again.

As ridiculous as it seems now, it’s like a light bulb went off in my mind that day. I thought to myself, ‘If she can eat delicious sweets and still stay thin by forcing herself to throw up then, that’s what I will do too.’ And so I did.

That day lead to me to an extremely lonely 10 year battle with bulimia. I spent my days pretending I was happy, healthy and confident yet, at night and on the weekends, I would waste hours binging on any junk food I could get my hands on – chips, packets of biscuits, cake and giant bowls of granola smothered in all of my favorite toppings.

I thought I was so clever and I got away with it, so it happened over and over and over.

Post binge, I’d wake up feeling disgusted with myself. ‘How could I have possibly let it happen again.’ I’d start each day by vowing to myself that I was going to consume no more than 1200 calories that day (because to me, 1200 was the magic number). Yet, by 3 O’clock in the afternoon, I was already planning my next binge. Dreaming of all of the delicious foods I was going to pig out on as soon as I go home from work.

It was like there were 2 different people living inside of me. The rational, smart, I have my life together character and then this monster who would snatch away any last scrap of self control I had, leaving me a broken down, helpless little girl.

There were times when I thought the relentless cycle would never end. It’s hard to imagine a life any different when you’re gripped by a disease so tight that it consumes your every waking thought.

Overtime, I began to realize how damaging my behavior was. The years of pounding headaches, dizziness, mood swings and stomach cramps were a constant reminder.

And, what about when I wanted to have kids, what kind of an example was I setting for them?

I knew that peace with myself had to come from within. No one else could help me if I didn’t want to help myself first. So, with that in mind, I slowly began to take the steps I needed to heal.

How I changed my life

Due to the complex nature of eating disorders, there is no one size fits all cure so, I had to figure out what worked for me.

I started by working on the relationship I had with myself and the relationship I had with food. Finally, I began to see that food was not the enemy. It was there to nourish and support me, not to act as the source of endless misery.

I read books, I journaled and I went to see a hypnotherapist who worked to re-train my subconscious mind. I started doing things from a place of love instead of fear. I stopped forcing myself to exercise for hours to make up for all of the bad food choices I’d made. I adopted a diet full of real, whole foods and I started exercising because I enjoyed it and it made me feel good.

Through the healing process I became more mindful and grew to be more compassionate toward myself and toward others. Louise Hay’s affirmation ‘I love and accept myself’ became my mantra and I would repeat it in my mind whenever negative thoughts tried to take over.

Today, I can see that my struggles of the past were a gift. Through my recovery I learned more about myself than I ever knew possible and if I didn’t experience what I did, I wouldn’t have grown into the happy, healthy person that I am today.

How you can change

1. Stop letting your negative thoughts and beliefs hold you back.

Your inner critic will try to convince you not to change. It will try to convince you that it’s easier to stay where you are and you will stay miserable. Only you have the power to shut that voice out.

2. Think about the life you truly want.

Where do you want to be 5 or 10 years from now? Picture yourself there – are your current behaviours guiding you in that direction?

3. Choose one small thing you can take action on today

What is one thing you can do that will bring you one step closer to where you actually want to be? Start now. Small actionable steps are what it will take. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it, it will SO be worth it.

Have you or someone you know had an eating disorder? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Photo by daniellehelm

Tegan Westra

Tegan Westra is a writer, holistic health coach and whole food fanatic. She gets a kick out of teaching women how to fall in love with themselves through nourishing their bodies from the inside out . When she’s not whipping up nutritious snacks in the kitchen or guzzling a green juice, you’ll find her chatting about her most recent health and wellness discovery with anyone who will stop by long enough to listen. You can download her Free E-Guide ’12 steps to Your Happy Healthy Dream Life’ HERE or connect on Facebook with her HERE.

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17 Comments

  1. Hi Tegan:

    Thank you for sharing from the heart and the courage you demonstrated in overcoming this insidious disease.

    I taught Community Mental Health in Nanaimo and one of my students struggled with this disease as well as did my stepdaughter. Like you, once they got to the root (s) of what was causing them to self-medicate like this, they were able to get free of the bondage from this disease.

    We operate a seasonal Take-Out (Lloyd’s Family Take-Out) on Cortes Island by the Whaletown ferry so if you are ever this way between May and September, stop by and introduce yourself. Love to meet you.

    You are a true warrior and overcomer!!

    Diane Lloyd

    Reply
    • Hi Diane,
      Cortes Island looks like a little corner of paradise. I lived in Fernie BC for a couple of months a few years ago and fell in love with the mountains. A beautiful country I’d love to come back to :)

      Reply
  2. Thanks Tegan for great story..I have one dream inside of me which will change of my life..I hope using yours advises will help me to achieve them..thanks a lot..))

    Reply
    • Hi Elchin,
      Sometimes our dreams can seem so far away but keep working towards it and you’ll get there. Good luck.

      Reply
  3. Very nice… it’s so inspiring to read how you took the responsibility to change your mindset from that of a victim to one of empowerment by changing your perspective and looking within for the lesson and answers.

    Reply
    • Hi Lorna,
      Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate it :)

      Reply
  4. Tegan, thank you for sharing your story. I am so happy that you were able to change your life and thinking. I think your advice is helpful for anyone trying to make a change. We all have fears, but we can’t make decisions based on them. Oh, I have, believe me! Now that I have steadily and persistently moved away from my fears, I am happy and healthy. Daily exercise has really helped.

    Reply
    • Hi Tammy,
      Moving away from the grip our fears so often hold over us can be one of the toughest things we have to do but wow it feels good when we finally can!
      Wishing you the very best in your journey xx

      Reply
  5. Tegan, how many sessions of hypnosis did it take to change up your subconscious mind?

    Reply
    • Hi Angel, I did 8 sessions all up. 3 and then another 5 about 12 months later. Your welcome to email me at tegan@teganwestra.com if you’d like to know any more :)

      Reply
  6. I too have battled on and off for the past 20 years!when I say that it makes me so sad to think of all the time I wasted not loving the skin I’m in , when really ,life is such a gift. I feel like lately I’ve finally curbed that insatiable hunger that I’ve had burning inside that could never be satisfied. The book “women,food and god” by geneen Roth is amazing,I can’t recommend it enough to anyone struggling with a food or any obsession.

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah, I haven;t heard of that book but i’m off to look it up now. Really appreciate the recommendation. Thank you :)

      Reply
  7. It’s absolutely how much power sugar and carbs use to have over my life!

    I felt such little control over everything else in my life and needed some sort of excitement besides drugs and spirits. When you get to the place where the food controls your feelings you almost feel like you are at a rock bottom! Then you get in a cycle where you anxious when you don’t have that calorie kick each day!

    To be free from food and using it as fuel rather than control has been incredibly empowering!

    Thank you for the great post! @GrowthGuided

    Reply
  8. I can’t even imagine how challenging it must be to work through an eating disorder. Your advice about change is great. I think the negative self thoughts must be stopped in order to improve and grow.

    Reply
  9. Hi Kael,
    I love how you said ‘To be free from food and using it as fuel rather than control has been incredibly empowering!’
    I Agree 100%
    So liberating isn’t it?
    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment :)

    Reply
  10. As someone recovering from an eating disorder that I have had for over 10 years, your post was inspiring and I identified with much of it, and I know that having had this illness and finally coming through the other side has made me more empathetic, more sensitive, appreciative and resilient, but unfortunately I could never go as far as saying ‘thank you’ to the thing that robbed me of fully experiencing what were supposed to be the best years of my life, hurting myself and all those around me and ruining my health, perhaps irreparably. I was stuck in hell for ten years, and I cannot fathom ever being able to be remotely thankful for that.

    Reply

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