Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles An Interview

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Karen Carpenter (1950-1983)

Can we all just enjoy the holiday season without self-loathing about our size, our overeating, our potential holiday weight gain?

As Lucille Ball was famous for saying, can we simply LOVE ourselves and allow everything else to fall into line? With November now behind us, I’ve been reflecting on some articles posted by some of my young women friends, right around Thanksgiving, who have struggled with E.D. (Eating Disorders, such as Bulimia or Anorexia) The posted articles are  Seven Ways To Host A Thanksgiving Dinner That Supports E.D. Recovery by, Allison Epstein, and Recovering From Anorexia: How And Why Not To Stop Halfway by, Emily T. Troscianko.

Most will agree that the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Day are nothing short of a food fest, and I’ve been wondering what it might be like for those who have an E.D., with all of the fun, festive occasions potentially bringing on depression, anxiety, and even shame.

Knowing that I have no less than three young adult friends who struggle with this very thing, and then reading these articles posted by some of them, compelled me to write about Eating Disorders and Self-Love.

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Karen Carpenter had the most beautiful voice!

The other day, as I was strolling through the grocery story, the song, “I’ll be home for Christmas” came on over the loud-speaker. A favorite of mine, I sang the words softly as I scanned the cereal aisle for our breakfast food. The lyrics always remind me of not only those who have gone on ahead of us, but also our beloved service men and women. This song also always reminds me of Karen Carpenter, and at that moment, in the grocery aisle, that was all the confirmation I needed, that I was, in fact, supposed to write about Eating Disorders. That’s just how I roll, when my heart says, “Move!”, I move.

Did you know that Karen Carpenter, sister of Richard Carpenter who wrote the famous song in 1970, “I’ll be home for Christmas”, passed away at the age of 32 of heart failure caused by complications of her disease, Anorexia Neurosa. Every time I think of that fact, I want to weep! Karen Carpenter’s talent was incredibly special and to think that an eating disorder interrupted the beauty of such a gifted soul is no doubt a tragedy.

I’ve known my young friend, Jenna, since she was in elementary school and a carpool buddy with Leah and Walker. I’m not sure if I ever told her, but she was always one of my favorites, as she kept me smiling with her humorous antics. I asked Jenna if she’d be willing to share with me and with you about her personal journey with E.D. and she graciously agreed. (I got Mom’s “OK” as well.)

Jenna shared from her heart transparently, and I so appreciate her courage and especially her hopes to help others with the sharing of her message. Many could benefit from this post, so please share so that chances increase that this message will land before those who may need it the most.

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I’ve loved watching Jenna grow into the young woman she is today! (photo by Lauren Swanson)

Tell us a little about your story.   I started experiencing symptoms of anorexia when I was in middle school, but I would say it wasn’t a “diagnosable condition” until I was around 14 or 15 years old. I went undiagnosed and my eating disorder flew under the radar until I was about 19. Because I had always been a thin person, it wasn’t as noticeable as eating disorders can sometimes be because my weight loss wasn’t dramatic. I was officially diagnosed with anorexia nervosa when I was 21 years old.

Wow, what happened after this diagnosis was finally made? I sought treatment in Atlanta at first, and when that wasn’t quite enough, my parents and I made the decision that would ultimately change the course of my life which was to go into residential treatment at Oliver-Pyatt Centers in South Miami, FL. Since then, it hasn’t been easy, and I’ve faced going back into residential treatment since then. I think the biggest thing with eating disorders is they don’t discriminate. Although many girls (and guys) with eating disorders experience weight loss if they struggle with anorexia or bulimia, most people with eating disorders are a normal weight and appear to be healthy and normal. The same goes for the opposite. Just because someone is thin does not mean they have an eating disorder, and just because someone has an eating disorder doesn’t mean the person is thin.

This is my biggest thing. I want people who are struggling with an eating disorder to know that just because they aren’t “rail thin” doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling. Their struggle is just as real whether you weigh 90 or 200 pounds. I want people to know that there is hope, and they don’t have to live like this. Jenna

What are some things you want others to know about living with an E.D.? There is so much depression, anxiety, and shame with eating disorders. The food aspect is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a coping mechanism for what’s really going on inside. I think I can speak on behalf of many people I know with eating disorders when I say that it’s not all about a drive to be thin. It’s more about control and trying to control some aspect of life when everything else feels out of control.
Do you have hope for full recovery from your E.D.? Eating disorders don’t have to be chronic like those of us who suffer sometimes feel like they are. Recovery is actually possible. While personally I am still on my way in the journey of recovery, I still have hope it’s possible. Nothing is actually impossible when it comes to this. All eating disorders do is destroy people. Something that is essential to recovery is being able to set aside your “eating disorder voice” from your “healthy voice”. You have to recognize that the eating disorder voice is a distortion of reality. IMG_7848

What would you say to someone who is dealing with an E.D.? If you are struggling, the most important thing I can tell you is that you are WORTH IT. You are worth fighting for. You were made to be more than what a number on a scale says.

A scale can only measure your relationship with gravity. It cannot measure strength, beauty, life force, or ability to love. You are more than a number and you are beautiful. A favorite quote of Jenna's that she learned in treatment

 All a scale tells you is your body’s relationship with gravity. And that’s it. That’s all that number is. It does’t define your worth as a person. And while yes, it is important to be at a healthy weight for health reasons, you don’t have to literally kill and starve yourself for it. Your body is amazing. You can’t treat is as anything less than a beautiful creation that is yours to take care of. You were created to be more than a number. Your size does not define you.

Do you have any other thoughts for us? Lastly all I can say is if you are struggling with an eating disorder or know someone who might be, encourage treatment. It makes a world of difference. It is so difficult to go through treatment, but sometimes you have to be refined through fire to get to where you want to be. Treatment changed my life and gave me hope that I don’t have to do this alone, and that one day, I won’t be consumed by eating disorder thoughts. I have come a long way since beginning treatment. I am a different and much happier person. Recovery is a journey, not a destination. Although the journey is rocky, long, and difficult, the view at the end is worth the work.

There is so much life to be lived, so don’t let an eating disorder get

in the way of living the life you were meant to live.

Bravo for Jenna’s bravery and willingness to share

so candidly with us about her E.D.

Thank You, Jenna!!!

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Photo by Lauren Swanson

A few more thoughts are at these links:

Lauren Swanson Photography

Inspiration for E.D. Recovery

E.D. Recovery on Pinterest

Healing for E.D.

What is it like having an E.D.?

Oliver-Pyatt Centers in South Miami, Florida

A video from Oliver-Pyatt Centers

National E.D. Assistance Hotline 1-800-931-2237

2 thoughts on “Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles”

    1. Hi Lauren! Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. I have given you credit under both photos and I also gave a link to your website along with the other links offered at the end. Great work! I enjoyed looking through your website.

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