Hello, My name is Ali and I am thirty-nine years old. I have had an unhealthy relationship with food and negative body image issues for over thirty years. While nine years old seems young for someone to have eating and body image issues, I can assure you that these types of issues can start a lot younger than age nine.

When people think of eating disorders, they tend to think of the two “big ticket” disorders, anorexia and bulimia. However, disordered eating typically starts with much more subtle behaviors like emotional eating, counting calories, over exercising, comparing yourself to others, distorted body image, fat talk (“I feel fat today”), body checking and measuring, cleanses, detox diets, etc.

That is how it started for me. As early as fourth grade, I started overeating to sooth hurt and painful feelings of not belonging and feeling dumb and out-of-place.  I went through puberty (much) earlier than my peers and had trouble focusing at school, which magnified my feelings of awkwardness and being out-of-place. Food was my comfort and escape.  As I got older, I moved to over-exercising as a way to compensate for the overeating. When I wasn’t overeating (binging) or exercising, I was obsessing about some new diet that was going to “fix” everything.  That was me, Ali, age nine through thirteen. (To be fair, the “new diet” obsession and how it would “fix” everything was my mantra until 6 months ago).

Then when I was fourteen I discovered one of the two big-ticket eating disorders, bulimia. And for the next twenty-five years I never went more than a month without bingeing and purging. Over the years, I made several half-hearted and a couple full-hearted attempts towards being Recovered (I capitalize “Recovered” as a sign of respect). I ebbed and flowed through varying stages of recovery but was never able to get to Recovered. This disorder has had a crippling effect on my life for my whole life and earlier this year I decided it was time to face it.  Head on.

So seven months ago I made, what I hope is, my final attempt towards being Recovered.  The last time I binged and purged was on May 7, 2015.  It is the longest I have ever gone without it. I have done quite a bit of work over the last seven months.  Specifically, I decided to commit to recovery. I also discovered 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb and started reading the book and working through some of the exercises.  Shortly thereafter, I joined a support group that worked through the book and, along with individual therapy, I took some giant leaps through my recovery.

While I have read 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder in its entirety, I have not worked through all of the exercises.  My plan is to reread the keys and complete all of the writing exercises and post them here on the blog.  I want to show the work it takes to get to Recovered. I have already come pretty far so I thought I would open up about the rest of my journey.

My goal in doing this project is to foster a safe space to talk about recovery and model what recovery can look like (ie “show my work”).  If I am completely honest, my goal is to also use this project to get me to Recovered.  I have worked extremely hard to get to where I am in recovery.  None of it came easy which is why it has taken me so long to recover.  I am 39 years old and I have lived with an eating disorder for over thirty years. It is hard for me to admit that, but it is my truth.  Through this project, I am going to “go there” and be open and as honest about where I have been and where I want to go. This will be painful but, my hope is that it will bring change.   I hope you’ll join me.

UP NEXT:  Key 1: Motivation, Patience, and Hope