I was 29 years old. My marriage had been falling apart for a while. To cope, I began eating. I would go to the corner store, buy a box of a dozen donuts and eat them all. Or the German bakery – every tasty pastry I could find. And I would gobble them down. And I wouldn’t eat them slowly, savouring every bite – I would cram them into my face.
In very short order I went from 118 pound to about 130. I went up a couple of clothes sizes – and I hated the way I looked and felt. But I couldn’t seem to stop myself.
Then I left him, piling all my possessions into my brother’s station wagon and driving to a snazzy apartment in downtown Toronto. The first thing I did was take charge of my life – and taking charge meant mostly my body. First there was the food – more importantly – exercise. I created a set of rules that I followed religiously: no sugar of any kind; no junk food; no snacks; carefully measured portions of lean food. And then the running – I worked up to about 8 – 10K every day, getting up at 4 a.m. and doing my runs through the deserted city streets. It didn’t matter what the weather was – I ran. And believe me, in Toronto, it can get pretty damn cold. Then there were my daily aerobics classes – sometimes twice daily. And on weekends I walked through the park system 8 – 10 hours. n the summer, I flew to Switzerland and hiked.
The pounds melted off me. I got down to 85. Looking back at photos I have of me back then, I look skeletal. At the time, I didn’t see it. I would look at myself in the mirror and see a fat person.
I stopped ovulating – I didn’t care. If someone told me I was skinny, I was proud – took it as a compliment.
My anorexia isolated me as well – I spent a lot of time alone.
And then, at age 38, I had a gradual awakening. I can’t say that I had single “aha” moment – but I began to slowly see – perhaps this wasn’t good. Or normal. Did a doctor tell me? Did I begin to listen to friends and family? I honestly can’t say.
But one day I decided maybe I should do something. But what? It could have been that very day or a couple of days later when I was shopping in a health food store that I glanced at the bulletin board. There was an ad with those tear-off phone numbers – Reiki treatment. What the hell was Reiki? I think I may have heard about it briefly at some point and connected it to healing touch but not actually touch – hands just hovered over your body.
I tore off a phone number, came home and called. I had an appointment almost immediately.
And so I went to this lovely woman’s house. Everything about her studio was serene, peaceful – safe, warm. I lay down on the table, fully clothed and closed my eyes, listening to the very soft new-age music in the background. The practitioner didn’t say a word. I could feel the heat from her hands, starting at my head and slowly working her way down my body. It was a slow, gentle, peaceful process.
Then her hands hovered above my uterus – and I started to cry – not silent tears – I burst into full-blown body-wracking sobs. I was howling. The Reiki practitioner, I think, said “It’s okay” – and I cried even harder.
And then the session was over. I left and walked one block to the main street, found a diner, and ate a huge cheeseburger with fries.
It wasn’t easy to do that – but it also wasn’t hard. Whatever had shifted – something had happened.
I think I went back for one more session but that first one altered my trajectory.
And so now, what I know is that like many disorders/addictions – it never disappears completely. I still have rules for eating. I still refuse to snack unless it’s chocolate in the afternoon. I still pride myself on being pretty tiny. Today, I weighed myself for the first time in months and realized I’d lost some weight with being sick with the cold/flu – and I felt good about that. There’s a warning flag. I still feel the need to exercise but at least now, it’s doing what I love – hiking and scrambling. But that too comes with a caveat: I won’t be going out tomorrow and I feel bad about that – “Oh no! I will lose all my muscle tone and be in terrible shape!”
I still have voices. The good thing is that I recognize them. I know them. They can’t beat me or send me into a funk.
I don’t have the answer to anyone else’s exercise/eating/body image disorder. I can only say what worked for me. And, as is so often the case, step one is acknowledgement.