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

11 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your information. Being able to learn from you had helped me so much. It is hard to put it all out there……. I too have much to learn. I love you!

  2. Thank so much for sharing your journey and inviting others to walk along. This is a path I too need to take.

    • roadtorecovered2015

      Thank you so much, Rebecca! I am so proud of you! So many of us struggle with these issues in silence. My hope is that the more we talk and share with each other, the more we can help shed light on the epidemic of eating disorders, realize we are not alone and help each other heal.

  3. Wow, thank you for being so transparent about your struggles, that’s not an easy thing to do. What I have learneed through recovery is the more you talk and reach out the more you find others struggling in some area of life. It helps to not feel alone. Keep up the hard work, you are worth it!

    • Thank you so much Raeane! I completely agree. Reaching out and sharing our stories is empowering and so helpful in recovery. I use to feel so much shame because I thought I was the only one who couldn’t shake these issues. Now I realize that I was never alone. Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment!

  4. Thank you Ali for sharing your truth. I read thinking about my 9 year old daughter in fourth grade wondering if she hears discouraging words about weight and eating amongst her peers always trying to avoid using words like “fat”, “skinny”, and “diet”. Your sharing your story, I know, will help so many, young and old. I’ve been aware of the need to change the words we use and the way we talk about our body image around younger girls, but not everyone recognizes that need. Your story helps in that goal. It does start early, so very early. While a 9 year old should be playing and daydreaming and not fretting over her weight and what she’s eating, your story helps people understand how early it does start! Thank you Ali for having the strength to share this with us. Sharing this is a huge step in your success in Recovery. I’ll be thinking of you and following you along your journey. Love to you and your family!

    • Thank you so much Caren! Everything you said is so very important and a big reason why I started this blog. My hope is to help change the conversation and empower women to focus on who they are rather than what they look like. We are so much more than an number on a scale or the number inside a piece of clothing. Thank you so much for joining the conversation and working to make a difference for you and your family. You are such an amazing Mom and person. You and your story have been such an inspiration for me. You have given people the greatest gift imaginable…a family. I feel lucky to call you a friend (and lil’Sis) 🙂

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