How Eating Disorders Got in the Way of My Aspirations

Image credit: Gareth Holmes

by Kris Tina Carlston

I have always had a complicated relationship with food–times when it has been my friend and times when I have seen it as my enemy.  It’s been this way for so long that at this point in my life I don’t know what my relationship is.

I’ve been thinking about this “relationship” a lot since I saw an advertisement last week asking for women who had suffered from eating disorders to serve as mentors for those currently struggling.  As someone who has been both anorexic and bulimic at different times in my life, I looked at that advertisement and realized that I would never be comfortable saying I am “healed.”  These diseases have left their mark on me, and while I am confident in myself and grateful for these experiences for making me who I am, I would never wish them on anyone.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.”   I am no different than many.  For me, it started early; I remember shopping for some pants in kindergarten (kindergarten!) and feeling overweight.  I remember in eighth grade sitting with a therapist and telling her that I just wish I could “eat like everyone else.”  I defined this “normal eating” as eating only when hungry and then simply stopping when full, you know, like all my friends did.  This disease was a disease that was isolating and made me feel as if I was different than everyone else.  My own “secret” that prevented me, at times, from participating in activities or events that I longed to do because of the interference that it would have with my relationship with food.

The older I have gotten, and the more comfortable I have been disclosing this struggle, has made me realize that I was not and am not alone.  I love the work of Lindsay and Lexie Kite and their Beauty Redefined website.  I don’t know if their work would have helped me when I was younger struggling with my own body image, but I am hopeful that it will help my sweet nieces and those girls currently facing adolescence with a lot more strength to understand what it means to be comfortable in their own skin.

As for me, I made the drastic decision a little over two years ago to cut out sugar and flour products in my life. Part of this decision was based on the idea that I wanted to “reboot” my relationship with food in an attempt to not pass down my own issues to my son.  When I told one of my friends, a licensed psychologist, of my plan, she couldn’t help but offer her professional opinion and, in essence, told me I was setting myself up for failure.  She told me that when she works with those suffering from eating disorders the counsel is to have “moderation in all things.”  While I love the idea of this counsel, it doesn’t work for me.  There is much in my life where I simply don’t live “moderately.”  While in school I wasn’t a “moderate” studier (go big or go home!), I am not “moderately” loyal to my friends and family, and I can’t approach a plate of cinnamon rolls “moderately.”  It is just not how I am wired.

achilles

We all have our Achilles’ heel (or heels). I am certainly not suggesting that what has been my solution to a lifelong struggle is the answer for anyone beside myself. But I also know that had I listened to my friend and decided that this change was too hard I would still be facing the same issues I was struggling with two years ago.  Sometimes it is up to us to courageously make a change that only we believe in.

As aspiring Mormon women, I know that all of us have glimpses or ideas of who or what we can and want to become. But it’s so easy to allow the world’s viewpoint to appear as the only solution or path to these dreams. I think many of us fail to even admit that we want to change. However,  I strongly believe that if we can become comfortable enough to admit that we all fall short of the perfection we strive for spiritually and see portrayed in the media, we’ll be able to unite together, supporting each other as we seek the best solutions for the changes we want or need to make–unafraid of being seen as less than who we are and instead valued as what we are and what we are striving to become.

11 Comments on “How Eating Disorders Got in the Way of My Aspirations

  1. One of the best parts of this web site is that, as this essay so ably illustrates, it is reality based with real people living real lives with real triumphs and real defeats. I’ve yet to read anything where Molly comes prancing in with a tablecloth and vase of flowers to lecture her story. I suspect that why it resonates so well with so many.

    Much of it doesn’t pertain directly to me and, as my daughters will testify, much of it never will but I keep coming back and learning something new, useful or inspiring.

    Thank you. Again.

  2. I read this post today not knowing Beauty Redefined would be mentioned, but was so happy to see it! Thanks so much to Kris for bravely sharing her experience and for the great shout-out to our nonprofit. I love this website and so appreciate the work of many great woman all over the world united in doing good and being good.

  3. I am right there with you about no white flour & no white sugar at all. Seems those Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day treats were too tempting this year. I became addicted all over again. Oddly, I tried to convince my self that all my previous experience avoiding white flour & sugar must have been a flawed concept & surely it was something else that made me sick for 6+ years. I can’t exactly blame the holidays. Yet I can blame one little bite of this or that without pain that kept me nibbling on the goodies. By mid January… pain, sickness & tired had returned to take me all over again.

    A long time ago I asked myself, ” why pray if I’m going to ignore the promptings to back away from temptation?” I’m sure my Heavenly Father was pretty fed up with my whining, complaining & non-acceptance of His help. I greatly appreciate the time & His patience in this, yet another, learning curve. ‘Line upon line, precept upon precept,’ I was able to rebuild my desire for greater faith, patience & developed a stronger gratitude for what I can do instead of feeling sorry for myself. My consumption of white flour & sugary products only made it worse. The cycle of addiction is painful. Like an addict, the things I was drawn to when I hurt are the very things that hurt me. That’s the way I’m built. That’s the demon I fight with the Lord’s help.

    I recall a reoccurring prompt about options & choices. As I listened I remembered I had control over my choices. I can’t believe that I had actually tried to tell myself that I was cured & it must have been something else causing ulcers & severe pain. Ulcers can heal, but that isn’t necessarily a cure. I’ve now spoken with a doctor, nutritionist, read books & studied the addictive potential of the 2 killer ingredients. White flour & sugar caused my ulcers & other gut pain.

    Oh, there are blessing for accepting Heavenly Father’s guidance & promptings…40 lbs have disappeared. Although 10 lbs came back with the re-addictive holiday battle, they’re falling off again. Yes, moderation in all things. Wisdom is following the blessed promptings as we follow our own individual path.

    Thank you for your essay about your journey. I hope it helps others avoid the ‘pain’ as well. I will watch for more essays from you.
    Dianne

  4. Oopsie…should have edited more carefully & cut the length. Time rushes on…sorry.

  5. Dianne – I loved reading your comment. It’s so great to hear other stories like this. It’s so easy to be tricked into thinking that everyone has a completely “normal” relationship with food and that I’m the only one that struggles with it. And yes, absolutely, there are huge physical benefits that come with getting rid of white flour and sugar – weight loss being one (I don’t cringe when I see pictures of myself). When starting out with this I was unprepared for the emotional benefit of just feeling “free” from this temptation. It’s funny – by not allowing myself to have it all – it’s made it something that I don’t really miss or think about. That being said – I still do think about cinnamon rolls. Ha!

    • Fun to read you comments…about those cinnamon buns… I tell myself I’ve had enough white flour & sweets to last me the rest of my life. It’s a great freedom to tell myself no. Kind of like living the Gospel. People ask if I feel restricted being LDS. I say no, it’s freeing. Funny how that works…

  6. When I turned to Kris Tina’s essay from a Facebook comment, I never knew it would resonate so true to me and my eating disorders. Thank you Kris Tina! When I began to read comments that were left, I was again surprised to see one of my friends from California Dianne Teichrieb. The aspiration for all of us is the same, to live a healthier life as daughters of Our Heavenly Father. Thanks to both of you

  7. Yep. Same. For me it’s like giving a cocaine addict just a moderate amount and expecting her to NOT to take any more. Food is an addiction for some of us. Especially sugary foods and yet I get to see it on TV, billboards, every store, restaurant, vending machine, church activity etc. Imagine if an alcoholic faced that each day?
    I gave up grains and refined sugar 16 months ago. I slip up here and there or purposely plan a treat but I always feel crappy afterwards – it’s not guilt – my knees ache, constipated, I have heart burn and I always I fight my sugar demon that wants more and more for the next few days. Not worth it.
    Good for you for pressing forward and for being so truthful about your relationship with food.

  8. As someone who is completely recovered from an eating disorder, I appreciated your honesty in sharing your experience. I can acutely relate to the inability to approach a plate of cinnamon rolls with moderation! Although for me the weakness was Oreos. However, what you attribute to a personality characteristic, and I did too, turned out to be more a psychological consequence of all my food rules. I was disheartened that you dismissed the prompting from a friend to continue to challenge your relationship with food and instead settled on some extreme rules that make your life manageable but not recovered. I was also upset that you linked the advice you got from a professional and friend with “worldly” advice. I don’t think that was your intent but that is how I read it. This upset me because that same advice I got from a professional is what helped me truly move toward recovery. I now have no food rules and find that I intuitively eat in moderation. I can even eat an Oreo or two without wanting to consume the whole bag. This is very liberating. I share this because I want you and other readers to know that full recovery is possible! I am healthy, happy, and love myself and my body. I hope one day you will be able to experience intuitive eating too and feel fully healed. Recovery has broken down barriers to true contentment and success in my life!

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