We are our own worst critics. Especially as women, we’ve been conditioned to fit a certain standard to be deemed athletic, attractive, or just deserving of worth. This can lead to destructive patterns and obsessive behaviors like binge eating and purging.
Mimi shared her own personal story and struggle with bulimia and how she used meditation and affirmations to fight negative thoughts and feelings and overcome her bulimia. Learn more about Mimi’s story here:
I was and – still am – a very perfectionistic person. I always give 100%. No matter whether it’s school, sports, or my appearance. Everything has to be perfect and flawless – ALWAYS! The fact that this way of thinking is utopian was never an option for me in the past. Actually, it was even more disappointing when my performance didn’t meet my expectations. This only puts more pressure on me, which in turn put a total psychological strain on me. A vicious circle. As a result, my performance at school dropped. More and more often the thought “you are such a failure” appeared in my mind until at some point I was completely caught in this negative thought cycle.
The self-hatred began. Since I could no longer enjoy the attention I was used to due to a lack of “excellence performance” in school, I thought that “not eating anymore” was a good option. Since I was unhappy with myself and my body anyway (like any girl going through puberty) I thought this was the best solution. It must be said, however, that I was never overweight. I was a very athletic, rather skinny girl, which would not have had to go on a diet at all. In the beginning, I was very transparent about the fact that I didn’t eat at school. I was talking a lot about how I need to lose weight and that I am fat. This plus not eating anymore at school led to the fact that I got the attention again, which I craved so much.
At this point, I can already predict: The attention of my classmates and friends has disappeared over time; the eating disorder has developed and has remained until today.
When did you first start experiencing bulimia?
It all started with eating less to reduce my weight. But since I love to eat, it was extremely difficult for me to maintain this restrictive eating behavior. I didn’t eat at school but I had to eat normal portions at home to avoid arguments with my parents. After eating the whole portion, I developed a feeling of guilt very soon. I felt terrible and was scared that I would gain weight. I once saw in a TV series that a girl threw up after eating. ‘That’s the solution’ I thought to myself. The first time I threw up was horrible. It took forever and afterward, everything just hurt. Nevertheless, I felt psychologically ‘relieved’ afterward. At some point it became routine. I didn’t even have to stick my finger down my throat anymore, I could just throw up.
Through restrictive eating and excessive exercise, the first time I experienced food cravings was not long waiting. I binged on all the food that I have forbidden myself for so long and devoured it in a time that can only make an outsider sick. When I moved out of my parents’ house, these food cravings evolved. I know exactly how I felt when I went food shopping for my binge for the very first time. It is really scary to see how quickly an addiction like bulimia becomes a habit. By the time you’re really aware of what bulimia is doing to your body, it’s not that easy to break out of your eating disordered habits. What were the biggest challenges you had to face during your healing journey? One of the biggest challenges of my healing journey was definitely dealing with setbacks. As I mentioned before, I am very perfectionistic. I had strong black and white thinking. For me, there was only the ‘perfect healing’.
I always counted the days on which I managed not to binge/purge. The longer I managed without it, the happier I was. During your recovery, it is totally normal that not every single day is the same. Of course, there were days when I binged and purged. But this made me sad and I thought that I needed to start my journey all over again. At this time the fact that you can actually learn from your relapse didn’t cross my mind. Another big challenge for me was that my body has changed. I had to learn to accept it and that I am much more than how I look. Along with body acceptance, the feeling of being full after eating a meal and not throwing up was pretty tough. I had to learn to endure the feeling of fullness. Hell yes, this was (and still is on some days) pretty hard for me.
When did you decide to seek help?
The first time I was seeing a therapist was not entirely by choice. After my suicide attempt (I also suffer from depression), my parents more or less forced me to do outpatient therapy. That was the condition that they get me out of the psychiatric ward. To be honest, at the beginning I didn’t feel like sharing my feelings and thoughts with a stranger. That’s why therapy was very silent and not helpful at first. Looking back, I am very annoyed that I did not accept this great offer of help. I always wonder if the eating disorder would have developed differently if I had taken therapy seriously from the beginning. I was able to get the depression under control with therapeutic help.
What remained was the eating disorder. But that may also be because I was not completely honest and did not want to let my bulimia go. Over time, the eating disorder took over my life so much that I wasn’t even able to cope with my everyday life. I was literally binging and purging 24/7. I realized that I wasn’t able to get out of this cycle on my own. So, I decided to go inpatient.
Did you reach out to anyone to aid you in your healing journey?
I talked to my best friend about my eating disorder. It was such a good feeling to talk to someone. My friend then talked to my class teacher. However, I didn’t really get any kind of professional help. It was more that she felt sorry for me and didn’t really know what to do. I carried my ‘secret’ for a very long time.
Even my parents thought that after I started therapy all my problems would be solved and I wouldn’t even throw up anymore. They were really shocked when I went to them after years and said that I was going inpatient due to my bulimia. Furthermore, I talked to my boyfriend. This was really the best thing I could have ever done. He is so supportive and I am so proud to have him by my side. He helps me a lot.
What is your favorite modality for healing, and why?
In the clinic, I came into contact with meditation for the very first time. I was positively surprised by how well it can reduce stress and help you concentrate on yourself. It helps me to get in touch with my feelings and thoughts. In addition, affirmations have helped me a lot in terms of positive thinking and a positive attitude towards myself. Here it is very important to mention that you can turn positive affirmations into positive beliefs, which are then anchored in the subconscious mind. This in mind can support you to fight against your negative thoughts and feelings.
What would you say to someone who is skeptical of that modality and its effectiveness? How do you approach that?
I am the best example for someone, who was really skeptical of that modality and its effectiveness. Out of desperation and the urge to finally experience healing, I was willing to try it out. With the passage of time, I have learned that this can help you a lot when it comes to getting in touch with your soul. It was totally worth the try! When it comes to someone who is really skeptical I would recommend this person to try it at least one time. If it still doesn’t feel right to you after trying, it’s totally fine. Every person is individual and there are so many different modalities to try out. If another approach seems more suitable, go for it.
You can heal from your eating disorder in many different ways. Just because meditation works for me, doesn’t mean that it fits for you. And that’s ok.
Do you face any challenges now, and if so, how do you handle them?
Unfortunately, I still suffer from binging and purging. Sure, compared to the time before the clinic, this has improved, but I am still not completely healed from bulimia. Furthermore, it is very difficult for me to accept that my body is changing. However, I work every day to make sure that it develops in the right direction.
What have you found to be the most beneficial in your healing journey?
Short answer: Be kind to yourself! In the past, after a binge and purging, I punished myself additionally with starvation, sports, and self-hatred. Now I can accept such an incident and check it off. It was also very helpful to tell myself that a relapse is not directly a relapse. For me, relapse is an incident that doesn’t make my recovery journey start from zero again. You can think of the healing journey as a rocky road. You always have your goal in mind. But some days you run a loop or trip over a rock. That is quite normal.
The most important thing is just to keep getting back on track. What also always helps me is that I stick to a meal plan. Even if I had a binge and threw up, I never skip the three main meals. It helps to break the binge/purge cycle.
How do you advise people on overcoming that challenge?
Don’t blame yourself. It doesn’t help to make accusations about something that has happened. Check off and learn from what happened. If your thoughts are all about food and eating, try to distract yourself as best as you can. Call your friend, listen to a podcast, watch Netflix, etc. And most importantly, learn to forgive yourself! As I mentioned before: Schedule your three meals every day. Even if bulimia has been raging a lot that day, eating regularly can prevent cravings. And talk. Talk to confidants about how you’re doing or write your thoughts in your journal. It feels so good to get this burden off your chest.
Why have you chosen a more holistic path in healing?
Personally, it’s very important to me that you don’t just focus on the symptoms of an eating disorder. There is so much more behind it. It is important to me that not only the body heals but also the soul.
What resources would you recommend?
I can recommend the book ‘brain over binge‘ by Kathryn Hansen. This helps me a lot to understand where the urge to binge comes from. The podcast ‘RecoveryTalk‘ by Amalia Lee is also very informative and helpful.
A negative self-image can lead to more negative thoughts and feelings about yourself. These negative thoughts can spiral into destructive behaviors like binging and purging, but you have the power within yourself to overcome the urges to self-destruct.
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