The following story is very personal and comes from my own experiences as best as I remember them. I appreciate kind, respectful comments.
I grew up in Connecticut, the best place on Earth, in my opinion. The beautiful trees and stick-to-your-skin humidity gave me the constant awareness that I was alive, breathing in nature in its purest form. I have many happy memories there, with family, friends, and special places in the town where I grew up. Perhaps, I might share some of those memories down the road. I grew up an overweight child, but I don’t really remember being fully conscious of it until around eighth grade. I remember very clearly being in a dressing room trying on clothes for the new school year and not being able to fit in any sizes that my mother or I picked from the rack. I remember crying right there in the dressing room, thinking that I would always be fat.
It was suggested that maybe I might try exercising to loose some weight. Two years later, by my junior year of high school, I had lost 40 pounds through consistent exercise. I felt healthy, alive, and best of all, I fit in with the other kids at school. Each time I received compliments on my new and improved body, I swelled with pride and confidence.
Three weeks before my senior year of high school was due to begin, my family moved to Colorado. In my eyes, it was moving from paradise to barren wasteland. There was no green, no humidity, just dead grass, tumbleweeds, and endless dry heat. All the friends I grew up with remained in CT, everyone I had dreamed of graduating with didn’t come with me. My mother stayed behind in CT for four months to finish up her Master’s Program, so my oldest sister came to act as a mother to my three younger siblings and I.
MY RESPONSE/EATING DISORDER
Very rapidly, it became apparent that my previously tried and tested coping skills were not enough to deal with all of these transitions. So, I turned to one of the things that had recently given me the most control, pride, and sense of accomplishment—loosing weight. I restricted my eating—ate little for breakfast, threw away my lunch at school and ate little for dinner. I would take a long time to eat dinner so that everyone left the table before I ate much and then throw most of it away. I dropped pounds like trees drop leaves in autumn. My period stopped, I was always cold, and I tried to hide behind baggy clothes. I fainted several times during school, especially during marching band practice. When I got home, I spent a lot of time exercising. Pretty soon, I was a shadow of my former self—all to gain control over what was happening in my life, and numb the pain I was feeling.
Long story short, by the time I left for college I had returned to a healthy weight, but had failed to deal with any of the inner problems that had turned me to cope with food. Also, I had new baggage, baggage that ran deep within my veins like poison—I was worthless and my body was disgusting. I didn’t feel this way 24/7. In fact, many days, I was happy because nothing happened that would trigger those feelings. But, in reality that happiness was simply burying my feelings of worthlessness and self-disgust deeper and deeper. Some days, I thought they had disappeared entirely. On other days—days when I was lonely, afraid, overwhelmed, or angry—those feelings of worthlessness and disgust would return with a vengeance, reminding me that I had never really dealt with them.
When things were difficult at college, I would often cope by restricting my eating. I never returned to such an unhealthy weight as those months in my senior year—in fact, I gained some weight—but I became the champion of restricting and binging. Over the next several years (marrying, graduating from college, having children, etc.), I tried several attempts at therapy—both individual and group—depression medication, spiritual help, and dozens of new diets to try and cope with the way I felt about my body and my relationship with food.
I am 24 years-old now and gave birth to my second child 6 months ago. This second experience with childbirth has changed my body in significant (and, to me, dramatic) ways. When I looked at how my body was not returning to its pre-pregnancy shape and size, I began to want to return to old habits of dieting—a road that had only ever led to restricting/bingeing. But, this time, I was ready to explore new options, options that would leave me happy with my body no matter its size. Enter, Intuitive Eating.