What is my dieting/eating disorder history?

Exploring your eating disorder/dieting history can give you a better insight into where you are in your journey and what you may still need to do.

Exploring your eating disorder/dieting history can give you a better insight into where you are in your journey and what you may still need to do.

The first time I clearly remember manipulating my food was in the 8th grade. I would restrict (not eat) all day at school. Sometimes I would drink milk if I really needed it. Then I would go home and stand in my pantry and binge on everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.

I imagine this wasn't actually my first time manipulating food because one doesn't typically start with such drastic behaviors without first touching their toe in the water of dieting. I had been getting the message in one way or another for many years by then that my body wasn't right. I hated how tall I was, how curvy I was, how early I'd developed. Pick something on my body and I hated it. There was a truth that rang in my head over and over, my personal mantra: if I was thinner then I would be okay. I now understand that what okay meant was loved/worthy/valued. I now understand where my value and worth come from. I now know I am worthy of love just by being me. I wish I'd known these things then.

In high school my weight fluctuated drastically due to my heavy restricting/binging pattern. It was my freshman year in college that all hell broke loose. Something in me clicked and suddenly all I did was restrict. After my senior year in high school I never had a diagnosable binge again, but when I could eat and feel after control after I started resorting to purging (getting rid of the food through vomiting, laxatives, or exercise).

At first everyone was so proud of me, of how good I looked, of how much weight I had lost. They had no idea how much they fueled my eating disorder. There was this guy in my life who only ever dated models and one day I asked him if he liked my new shirt. He said, "I like your new body!" Oh boy, my eating disorder loved that. If he thought I looked good then I must look good. Only, my eating disorder never thought I looked good enough. I still wasn't "okay".  

Eventually everyone started getting worried and then at some point they got scared. I'm not going to go into specifics about what I ate, how much I weighed, or how I maintained restricting for so long. These things don't matter and may either be triggering or it could give your eating disorder some pointers. I have no desire to do either. What you need to know is that it was 3-4 years before I went to treatment. I almost died. I hated myself. I was never thin enough.

Recovery took me many years and many relapses. I've been in recovery for over a decade and a half but it is only recently (since 2013) that I learned about Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size (HAES) and found what I consider a full recovery. 

I no longer count calories or categorize foods as good or bad, I eat when I want and I stop when I want and I don't experience shame around food. Food has become something that I typically enjoy, as opposed to tolerate. 

Every once in a while I think to myself, "I shouldn't have that because,,," or "Maybe instead I should choose something 'healthier'". Luckily, I am mindful enough to recognize these thoughts when I have them and I take a minute to check in with myself:

  • What do I really want?
  • What is going on that I feel like I "shouldn't" have it?
  • What is the best decision for me going forward?

My present day food rule is to not let the food rule. 

So that's it, in a very tiny nutshell, that's my dieting/eating disorder history. 

Does my story sound familiar to you? Are you caught up in a cycle of diet cycling, restricting, binging or purging? Are you ready to experience real freedom from, and enjoyment of, food? 

If you are in the Vancouver, WA or Portland, OR areas and you'd like some help, please call me at 360-284-7008 or click the button below to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation. I'd like to help you. 

This writing assignment is a 3 part assignment related to a course I am taking about Promoting Body Trust in Clinical Practice through Be Nourished in Portland, OR. Part 2 (The body I live in) and 3 (Finding joyful movement) will be coming soon.

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Tamara Duarte

Tamara Duarte is a counselor, author, speaker, and activist. Her private practice, Get Centered Counseling in Vancouver WA, helps women with food and body issues learn to love themselves, their body, their life, and their relationships. Her life’s work is steeped in personal experience, having fifteen years in recovery for anorexia, in addition to being a breast cancer survivor. An up and coming force in the counseling community, Tamara has been published in a textbook called Treatment Strategies for Substance and Process Addictions, and has sat on a panel at the American Counseling Association Conference, where she spoke to her peers on strategies and tools to use with clients struggling with eating disorders. Having a deep, personal understanding of what it takes to recover from this condition, she seeks to be an example to those she treats, to let them know that recovery is possible. Currently developing a podcast which addresses the cultural issues that promote body shame, self-esteem issues and eating disorders, Tamara lives in Vancouver, Washington, with her husband and best friend, Adam, enjoying life to the fullest with their two beautiful children, Jacob and Chloe.