“I hate my life,” she said. “I know it would be different if I could be skinny, younger, and more beautiful.”
“What do you hate about your body?” Byron Katie asked in a serene voice.
“It’s too fat, too old, and it sags. If I could be younger and have a hard body, my life would be different. My husband left me for a twenty-six-year-old woman. She’s skinny and beautiful. She can have any man she wants. Life is different for women like that…”
It was the last day of the seminar, and although I’d masterfully managed to avoid the share-and-tell sessions, I jumped to my feet, almost against my will. It was as if a voice that wasn’t mine began to speak.
“I hate my body because it is not thin enough,” I read from my journal. “It is not perfect enough. It got cancer. It betrays me. And it is getting old.”
“I hate the scars I have from cancer treatment and from my C-section. I hate the lines around my eyes. I hate that no matter how hard I work out, I always have a little loose skin on my abdomen from having a baby. I wake up every morning and kick my own butt in the gym regardless of how tired or sick I am, and then I stand in front of the mirror picking myself apart, looking for flaws. It’s never good enough.”
I paused for a moment then looked directly at the woman who had spoken before me, and asked “You think your life would be better if you could be a perfect size 4 and be ‘more beautiful’? It wouldn’t. You would just have different problems. It’s never perfect enough.”
This excerpt from my recently released memoir, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child, describes one of the interactions I had with another participant at a seminar that Byron Katie was leading.
I had struggled with an eating disorder from the time I was a teenager, but kept it hidden—or so I thought. I had given up purging many years earlier and mostly controlled it with exercise… obsessive exercise. You’ve heard me talk before about the masks I wore for much of my life. Having what looked like a perfect body was one of them. I had (sadly) defined my value by how attractive I was, especially to men.
But at this healing seminar, I learned that there were so many women—regardless of age or size—who were equally obsessed about their appearance, and that we all suffered from the same kind of negative thoughts about our bodies and our battles with food.
Does this ring a bell for you?
There are many reasons people succumb to eating disorders. Speaking from my own experience, I can tell you there were multiple factors at play. For one, it was a way for me to feel in control of my life while so much of it felt out of control. In addition, my obsession with looking “perfect” was a cover-up for how unlovable I felt inside because of the trauma I experienced growing up.
In many cases of anorexia, the severe restrictions with food reflect a type of self-control gone awry. This may stem from things like family dysfunction, peer pressure, or stressful experiences. Binge eating, on the other hand, is often associated with drowning out feelings or an attempt to soothe emotional distress. It’s not unusual for those with an eating disorder to also have another mental health condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, anxiety, depression, or a history of trauma.
Brain imaging at Amen Clinics reveals that eating disorders are also associated with abnormal brain activity, indicating an underlying biological component in addition to the emotional causes.
Unlike giving up addictive behaviors that require complete abstinence, food is necessary to keep us alive. Since eating is not an optional activity, learning how to eat healthfully is a skill that is needed to help your mind and body heal.
Even with the current challenges of the pandemic, here are 5 steps you can take to begin your recovery from an eating disorder.
I know the idea of facing your eating disorder might feel overwhelming at first. But trust me, I can tell you from personal experience, it will change your life for the better when food no longer controls you, and you can appreciate your body for the miracle it is.
To learn more about how I overcame trauma and an eating disorder, order my new memoir, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 844-818-0616 or visit our contact page here.
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