Did you know this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week?
Taking a step back today here on Wind Down Wednesday to reflect on a pivotal point in my life, the moment I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I call that a defining moment of my life; a moment that has helped shaped me into the woman, wife, sister, daughter, friend and Registered Dietitian I am today.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m letting you in on my past today. I am what is considered a “recovered anorexic”. When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that for me focused on an extreme restriction of foods alongside an obsessive drive to exercise. There are many different types of eating disorders (i.e. bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and eating disorder not otherwise specified) and each is equally as life-threatening as the next. Although each disorder involves a variety of different behaviors, one underline theme is consistent, which is the need for control.
To make a long story short, when I was 12 I had to switch schools due to circumstances beyond my control. Despite the loving support I received from my family and friends, I still longed for something I could not have. As a result, I turned to the only thing that I could control at 12 years old… my food intakes. Day after day, I would spend countless hours obsessing over every little thing I put into my mouth. I had my “forbidden foods”, my “rules for exercising” and my “minimum” requirements I had to hit. In reality, it was a list of “no-no’s” I had limited myself to. What a way to live, right?!
Sure enough, I was miserable and depressed. I had no energy and had removed myself from all social interactions because that required enthusiasm I just didn’t have. Thankfully, my friends and family caught on that “Liz was not Liz” anymore. That’s when I met Gwen.
Gwen was the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist I saw shortly after the doc diagnosed me with anorexia nervosa. As I reflect now, Gwen really was my Gift. She was the woman who inspired me to become the professional I am today. Through meeting with her and understanding the importance of nutrition, I recognized that food truly was the fuel I needed to keep my engine running. Yes, it’s about balance and moderation, but food was not the enemy I had made it out to be.
I am not going to say it was an easy battle, but over the course of a year I learned quite a bit from her and knew that becoming a Registered Dietitian was what I was meant to do with my life. Sixteen years later I am sitting here writing this post as Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, with a Certificate of Graduate Study in Eating Disorders & Obesity.
As I look back each year during this week, I still can honestly say I would not take back those years for I know it has made me the person I am today. Yes, having anorexia nervosa was terrible; I was in pain and I put my loved ones through hell. That I truly feel remorse for.
But, I recovered. I am recovered. Recovery is possible. That’s the message I want you to take away if nothing else. That you don’t have to live with these disorders for life.
You can, you should, you deserve to be helped.
I’m not alone in this. Many of my colleagues I’ve come to know through this blogging world too have recovered from disordered eating and since devoted their lives to helping others develop a positive relationship with food. Never, ever, ever, believe recovery is not possible!
If you or someone you know is suffering from disorder eating behaviors, be supportive. There’s a fine line you have to walk sometimes, but finding the right support system is key in recovery. Here are a few excellent resources to check out.
If you or someone you know struggles from disordered eating, please please please seek help. You are not alone!
Sending you lots of love today! Thanks for reading!