How Surviving Anorexia Taught Me Self-Love

Written by Lara Hudson

When I was young, my mother loved to cook. There was little processed food in our house and mom made it a point to create wholesome, nourishing meals for my family.

I began gymnastics when I was six, and with my mom’s healthy cooking and countless hours practicing a sport I loved, I was a wiry spitfire, too lanky to be a great gymnast but disciplined and dedicated. Then when I was 10, my parents’ marriage fell apart. A cloud of tension moved into my home and my brother responded with defiant, emotional explosions my father tried to squelch and my mother tried to manage. I witnessed these messy altercations silently, the girl in the corner, losing control.

In an effort to control my devolving family dynamic, I tried to become the "perfect child." In my mind, straight A's and athletic excellence, I could bring the love back into our house.

My father moved out a year later.

I spent the next few years playing my role of over-achieving auto-child. But with dad gone and mom back at work, no one took notice of my interests or achievements. I began to care less and less about the things I once loved, and instead turned to the company of processed food every afternoon, bingeing on daily doses of sugar and solitude.

At 13, I left gymnastics. Without the level of activity to which I was accustomed, I gained 20 pounds, my once-athletic body now foreign and fat. I appealed to my mother for help, but she was stressed, harried, a working single mother just trying to get by. So I took matters into my own hands. I stopped eating.

Thus began my struggle with anorexia nervosa, an insidious disease that began as a desperate exertion at control but soon transformed into a full-fledged, full-time affliction. Each day, I measured my self-worth by my success at self-control. I felt powerful when I could so exactingly choose what I put into my mouth. At my thinnest, my 5’5” frame carried 85 pounds.

After two years, my mother helped me dig my way out of my illness. Believing I was strong enough to understand that my morbid experiment in self-hatred had to stop, she encouraged me to find a better way to heal. I turned again to my love of fitness and began the long journey toward regaining my health.

I still struggle with my relationship to food, and often use it to procrastinate and avoid. When I fall back into self-sabotaging behavior, I use three healing exercises to help refocus my energies, reaffirm my self-worth and nurture a deeper level of self-love.

1. Grieve

When that “girl in the corner” emerges, I see the world through the eyes of a victim. It's then that I write a eulogy for the child I once was, documenting the events that shaped her, the challenges she faced, and the immense fortitude and resilience she possessed through it all.

This process helps dissociate who I am today with who I once was, and encourages me to let that girl go. I honor her, grieve for her, then lay her down to free myself from the past and forge another step toward self-realization.

2. Forgive

When I feel hurt, I regress back to my child self, spending my energy replaying those seminal moments of pain, blaming all my woes on those I feel have wronged me.

It's then that I try to look through the eyes of my perceived wrongdoer, writing a list of emotions and circumstances that may have influenced their own actions. This helps me understand the motivations of those wrestling with their own scars, whose deep-seated pain may have been the catalyst for sending their hurt outward.

Through this exercise in compassion, I learn to forgive not only others, but myself for giving these people and events so much power over me for so long. I reclaim my own power and move forward with greater clarity and self-possession.

3. Take responsibility.

The most miraculous (and terrifying) ability we possess is choice. It’s scary to lay down the crutches of the past, but those crutches are almost always more a burden than a bolster. Although I may fall more than once, taking hold of my destiny engenders the self-trust necessary to get back up on my own terms. The more ownership I take over my life, the more motivated I am to treat myself with kindness, respect and love.

I invite you to take account of the stories that have brought you to this moment and commit to making a new story, one where the choices are all yours. Harness the potential of your one and only precious life, forgive and love yourself. Choose you.

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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