“After 6 months of going SANE, I still had a lot of healing to do, but I was the healthiest I’d been in 10 years”
My obsession with my weight began as I entered my teenage years. One day I woke up and heard a voice inside my head that I had never heard before. The first thing that voice said to me was, “you are fat”. I felt ashamed. From that point on I became obsessed. I didn’t question the voice. I believed it. As my high school years passed the voice grew louder and more incessant and I felt more and more ashamed. The voice would say things like, “Nobody likes you because you are fat and disgusting. You are unlovable. You do not deserve to take up space in this world.”
My goal in life for the next 10 years was to do everything in my power to please that voice. That meant doing everything I could to lose weight. What began simply as “eat less and exercise more” quickly spun out of control. Every day my food rituals become more complex, my self-punishment more severe. I was obsessed with the number on the scale and would spend at least thirty minutes a day stepping on and off. I forced myself to exercise at least 1 hour every day, and at least another 1-2 hours secretly when the rest of my family had gone to bed. By the end of high school, I had daily headaches, stress fractured shin bones, bursitis in both hips, a back injury, a pinched nerve in my neck, sciatica, amenorrhea, low blood pressure, insomnia, and anemia. I felt awful! I also still felt fat. By the time I was 18 years old I was showing all the classic symptoms of an eating disorder.
My identical twin sister and I (whoops did I forget to mention that detail?) were diagnosed with eating disorders when were 19 years old. We were both forced to take a break from college and were each admitted to a hospital for treatment. After 6 months in the hospital, we were fully discharged. My sister relapsed quickly. Within 4 months of discharge, she succumbed to the disease. She passed away New Year’s day, 2008.
After her death I also relapsed. Recovery seemed light years away.
After years of unsuccessful medical interventions, and hospitalizations I had no hope. I was tired of fighting my body, fighting with food, fighting my mind, fighting the disease…I was convinced that I would never regain control over my health. When I wasn’t in the hospital I was on bed rest and seeing at least 3 doctors a week. I was on a cocktail of medications. Nothing was working. I couldn’t even hold down a job because of the severity of my disease. My doctors told me that I might never achieve a full recovery, and the best I could hope is to “manage it” for the rest of my life.
I reached a very, very low place. My husband was being deployed overseas, and I would have to live by myself. By this point, I had no idea how to take care of myself. I knew right then if something didn’t change, I would die. I had just started calling hospitals looking for a bed when a friend introduced me to SANE. She said, “I’m not saying this will be helpful, but take what you will and leave the rest.”
As soon as I began diving into the research and concepts of SANE I knew I had found the missing piece. Up until that point, I had believed every word the eating disorder told me. SANE literally proved through science that the eating disorder was lying to me. This was a breakthrough. I finally felt HOPE! My life didn’t have to be controlled by feelings of guilt/shame about my body or food. For the first time that I could remember, I gave myself permission to trust my body. Permission to allow my body the healing it needed. Permission to eat. And permission to ignore that voice inside my head.
I am not saying that SANE was a cure all. Nor did I suddenly become recovered overnight. With the support of my medical team, I began implementing SANE into my life while at the same time challenging the eating disordered thoughts. The process was extremely messy and imperfect. I focused on whole SANE meals comprised of “safe foods”, and tackled one food ritual and behavior at a time. New foods were only introduced in low-stress situations with highly structured support. It was a very slow and gradual process with lots of mistakes, tears, hope, and a feeling of empowerment and self-worth I had never experienced before.
After 6 months of going SANE, I still had a lot of healing to do, but I was the healthiest I had been in 10 years. My behaviors were fading away, my mood was stabilizing, I had tons of energy, I gained muscle, I was no longer anemic, my period came back, my panic attacks almost vanished, my joint pain decreased, and best of all I was HAPPY. And this is all just through eating!
I have been SANE for almost 5 years now and my health, mood, and body image have never been better! There have been many ups and downs, many medications, and big life changes. But I loved myself through it all. I literally loved myself healthy through the SANE program. I am still dealing with some lasting effects of my disease, and a few “quirks” that I might always have, but I have a completely new lease on life. I am now fully committed and passionate about helping others transform their own lives and to break free of dieting prison. Besides working every day to help others Go SANE, I also give public talks for the Jackie Bristow Memorial Foundation about eating disorder and body image awareness.
***Wednesday’s dedication to her SANE Journey is truly an inspiration to be SANE4Life***