There’s a lot of pressure as a woman to be thin. According to NIMH, eating disorders are prevalent among 3.8% of females. With the pressure from society, these numbers aren’t surprising. It’s a true epidemic among women nowadays.
But recovery is possible and a happy, fulfilled, healthy life is just beyond the horizon if you are willing to do the work. Lea is an eating disorder survivor who has found true self-love by doing the inner work. You can learn more about her story here:
I’ve been struggling with my weight and body image since I started to go through puberty and unfortunately, the process began early, around age 10. Even before that, I was always labeled as the “chubby girl” compared to the other girls who were always seen as thinner than me, which deeply impacted the way I perceived myself. It was only when I was 12 that I started to act on the disordered thoughts and began to really have dangerous habits concerning food.
In the beginning, I think it was being forced to eat and be put into recovery against my own will. With time, I realize the hardest part is to fight the thoughts of never being “sick enough”. Choosing to fight and to recover despite feeling like I could keep going a little further to satisfy the eating disorder and reach a certain level of sickness is incredibly difficult. Fighting the “one last time” pattern is hard as hell.
How, why, and when she sought help:
After years of struggling in secret, after years of ups and downs, I relapsed so deeply I could not bear it on my own anymore. I went to a free therapist in a public mental health service because I was still underage and I had no means to pay at that time. I was so depressed and my body could not handle it anymore, it’s like I had a stroke of conscience and thought “please help me”. It was the first time I opened up about my problems to someone who could actually help.
I’m lucky to have a support team and a full treatment that helps me a lot in my recovery journey. I know I can rely on them whenever I need it. More than that, I know my family is very involved in the recovery process and did anything they could to get me out of this dark place, even if it meant forcing me.
I think it was realizing that I missed so many events, parties, and opportunities. I saw my friends growing, laughing, and creating moments together while I was literally frozen in time, stuck in my eating disorders. I was so angry at the disorder for making me avoid these moments and seeing the pictures of my friends without me drove me insane! But I realized that I could still have other moments like that, I can still create new memories. And for that, I needed food and a functioning body to fully enjoy the new souvenirs I’d have the power to create. Realizing that food is fuel, not only to be able to move, but to be able to LIVE and be myself was my main realization.
Her main source of healing:
It was to dissociate my thoughts from the disorder and to always do the opposite. When I recognized the ED thoughts, I had to go against it, no matter what. I didn’t have to think or hesitate, if the disorder tells me to take the lower calories option, I’d take the other food, no matter how much more caloric and stressful it was. With these opposite actions came healthier coping mechanisms and distractions and it was very nice actually because I had to try out new things or rediscover hobbies I had given up because of the disorder.
I still face many challenges today, but I still have a way to recover. It depends on the challenge, but most of the time, speaking about it out loud helps me to realize that it is not normal to feel anxious about food or to have xyzzy thoughts or behavior about xyzzy things. Also, saying how I feel out loud can help me to accept and rationalize my thoughts and feelings. I usually face a challenge with someone I trust, so I know I can feel supported and listened if it gets too hard. The same goes when I feel an urge coming up, I try not to stay alone and to be distracted enough until the urge eases down. The most important thing is to say things, this way you have the help and support you need.
Lea’s advice to someone who may be skeptical:
I would tell them that I understand that their mind is too foggy to rationalize these thoughts. It’s normal with eating disorders to struggle with this dizziness and numbness, but it is the process of the disorder to stop you from recovering. I think I would remind them to kind of imagine the eating disorder as a person or to really imagine it as something in your head that manipulates you. I would tell them to mourn their eating disorder, to thank it for the positive things it gave you (yes there are) but more importantly, to acknowledge that you don’t need it anymore to cope and that you can find healthier coping mechanisms. Also, You are allowed to enjoy your new hobbies, your foods, and your life in general! No matter what your mind tells you or makes you feel guilty for, you are allowed to be happy <3
This is the most beneficial thing actually. To communicate your feelings. To have someone who I could talk to about everything without the fear of being judged or misunderstood was really helpful. For me, it was my therapist. But It can also be a friend, a sibling, or a parent, as long as it is someone you trust, open up about it. Tell your feelings, and your fears, and communicate your needs!
The fear of opening up can be hard to overcome, but if you don’t change your behaviors, nothing will change. The change has to come from you, nothing outside of yourself will heal you. You can be forced, to see the best doctors in the world, if you don’t want to heal, you won’t heal. And change starts by opening up and seeking help.
Resources Lea recommends:
- Rupi Kaur’s poetry books have a beautiful approach of self-perception, self-trust, and the pressure a one’s body can go through
- A lot of Instagram accounts such as @journeyofmaria.98, @impowering, @healing.constanza, @imdionysia, @living_ed_free, @whatmiadidnext
- YouTube videos of Rebecca Jane, Ro Mitchell, Helena rose, Megsy Recovery
- French resources: my better self, devibration
There are so many, I can’t even quote them all, but thanks to all the recovery warriors for sharing their fights and for showing that a full recovery is possible!
Seeking help when you believe your eating patterns are out of control does not mean you are weak – it makes you so much more stronger than you could imagine. Recovery isn’t an easy road, but it’s always a rewarding one.
Connect with Lea by checking out her Instagram here:
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