Last week I sat down to write a post about easy ways to “plantify” Thanksgiving staples and instead, something else poured out. Despite my fears of being vulnerable, I decided to go with it. If you have checked out my about page, you already know that I struggled with a life-threatening eating disorder as a young adult. Today, I pay it forward by sharing my story at Chicagoland high schools, wellness centers and middle schools. I am also on the Jr. Board of ANAD, a national non-for-profit that spreads awareness on eating disorders and positive self-esteem.
Until now, I haven’t dedicate a lot of my pieces to spreading awareness on eating disorders on my site. Since the holidays are so focused around eating I felt it was no better time to start than now. The holidays were very rough when I struggled with my eating and body image. I had a lot of anxiety surrounding the holiday meal and would often binge on dessert. Sweets were always tough for me to eat normally.
If you know someone who may have similar struggles, please share this with them. You never know, you just might save a life. My contact information is listed below and I am happy to connect in confidence. I am also available to speak at any of your upcoming events.
What The Holidays were Like with an Eating Disorder
When I think of the holidays, I think of food, family, fun and stretch pants. I love to eat. Not only do I love to eat, but I love to indulge during this time of year (rightfully so). Let’s talk a little more about the food. I laugh about it with my family and friends, but food is and always has been a big deal for me.
By looking at me, you would never know that I had an eating disorder.
As a kid, it was a given that I wanted to help in the kitchen. I also looked forward to devouring my share of every dish on the holiday menu. During those years I did so without guilt. However, as I entered adolescence things changed. Food became the enemy and the holidays were filled with anxiety, shame and secrecy. No longer was I able to enjoy the sweet, fluffy texture of my mom’s homemade pumpkin pie or my grandma’s baked mashed potatoes. Nor was I able to enjoy the company. I was locked up in a secret world inside my head. A world that told me pumpkin pie was bad and so were mashed potatoes.
I had an eating disorder.
I can recall an instance at a family Christmas party where I binged on Frango mints. You know those tasty little buggards that your grandma used to pick up from Marshall Fields? After having a few helpings of pie, I proceeded to eat a small bite out of, say, five to six Frango mints, had an anxiety attack and locked myself in the bathroom to purge. Those six to seven years suffering with my eating and body image were pure hell.
The holidays just highlighted the fact that something was wrong with me. I had an eating disorder and couldn’t shake it on my own. Food is not meant to be the enemy. It is meant to be celebrated.
Today, I feel much different. I am not only capable of being present at the holiday dinner table, but I feel freedom and peace surrounding food. I am not ashamed to pitch in with the meal and I definitely have no qualms with indulging this joyous time of year.
So what changed?
Sure, my intensive five year recovery process from Anorexia and Bulimia helped, but something else did too. I am finally listening to my body. I don’t overeat to the point of suffocation and I don’t eat foods that cause me discomfort or anxiety. I am lactose intolerant and couldn’t shake dairy for many years. I tried Lactaid milk, lactose pills and sometimes I would just suck it up to not inconvenience anyone. I finally stopped. I am worth more than that. Words alone cannot explain how much better I feel now that I finally surrendered to the fact that dairy + Ashley = pain and discomfort.
Now, I eat plant-based. The mashed potatoes are whipped with almond milk and healthy margarine. Coconut milk is used in the pumpkin pie in place of evaporated milk and I bring a field roast in place of turkey. When I informed my parents of my decision to eat plant-based they were a little suspicious. Rightfully so. Given my history, they suspected another form of “controlled eating” when I announced that I no longer eat dairy nor do I eat meat. But I know what my motives are, living well, eating well and paying it forward.
It’s not about me anymore.
Here’s to a healthy body, happy thoughts and a joyous holiday season with loved ones! For more information on eating disorder awareness please check out some of the articles below and feel free to send me a private message. I am fully recovered and act as a confidential resource for those who struggle with body image, poor self-esteem and eating issues.
The holidays are tough. They can be very stressful and they are focused heavily around food.
For tips on how to survive the holidays while recovering from an eating disorder or how to enjoy the holidays with a loved one in recovery click here. And as always, please share your thoughts below in the comment section!