“I cannot stop throwing up after eating, I cannot control it anymore, rehab didn’t work. I am giving up…”
These words paralyzed every inch of my heart. My best friend was giving up, she was letting herself die from her eating disorder, she had never felt more Hopeless and I have never felt more useless.
2015 was not an easy year, I call it the “Overcoming hell year” and the minute it ended I felt the Universe took away the heaviest load of my shoulders, but just as life happens, evolve and change, so as feelings, emotions, and people.
My head cannot conceive how someone so tiny -My friend is 5.1- can hold so much sadness, anxiety, overwhelm of living, but as a self-proclaimed Foodie, my mind cannot understand how could someone have so much fear of eating. For most of us, eating is one of the biggest pleasures in life. The process itself is sacred, and every bite becomes a delightful experience that brings us closer to heaven. But not for her, my best friend Lena, my soulmate, my sister from another mother. For her, eating was the total opposite, it was a living hell she had to go through in order to survive.
It was her second time out of rehab and the doctors told her parents she was getting so much better, and she certainly was, until one day she stopped getting better, and started getting worst.
Her legs were so thin, every time she walked I fear she would break, her skin was so pale I swear I could see through it, she was a living dead body and her soul was in pain, Bulimia was eating her and she was the main feast.
Witnessing Lena´s experience, lead me to research alternative ways of healing, and as the good Millennial I am -of course-, I started my journey in the Akashic Records of the world wide web, Google.
Just an example of my searches:
-“How to overcome an eating disorder”
-“Tips for getting through Bulimia”
-“How to love food again”
-“Rehab for Eating Disorders”
-“Alternative solutions for eating disorders”
Of course, there was a ton of information, but I was worried, desperate and my desire of comforting her was bigger than my laziness of spending hours digging in front of my laptop.
So there I was, searching non-stop online trying to figure out how to somehow help, but at the same time, I had no idea she was five steps ahead of me.
Two days after spending several hours of my day in the almost “deep web research” she called me, surprisingly she sounded happy, the energy in her voice was completely different and she had great news.
“I choose life,” She said.
My heart melted, I was breathing again and my eyes tore into a sea of happiness. Still while writing this sentence, my eyes are tearing by just remembering how one of my favorite human beings had chosen life among the dead, light among darkness, but most important, LOVE above fear. She did not know at the time, but with her willingness to heal, opened the door to a field of infinite possibilities, and the breakthrough began
Considering other alternatives rather than just the rehab path, she scheduled a session with a Holistic Nutritionist, with a Reiki Master, Enrolled herself in Yoga classes, and stopped having Xanax and Prozac as her daily dietary ritual.
I was astonished, her change was radical. And I thought how powerful a breakthrough can be when the person has a real and conscious desire to change, evolve, grow and most of all learn through their painful experience rather than settling in the victim role. I was so proud of her, and could not be more happy for her lifestyle change.
“Change the way you look at things and things will change”
– Wayne Dyer
It was about her to change the way she looked at food. So for that, she made the conscious decision of start loving food by honoring the process.
Her firsts Steps:
1-Growing her own food and cooking for others
As her Holistic Nutritionist told recommended her stop eating meat. She decided It would be a fun a therapeutic idea to start growing her own vegetables home, so that is what she did.
She started with Cherry Tomatoes -The fruit of happiness- Until she had this beautiful strawberry small plant -Best in antioxidants- and Chile Jalapeño-improve one’s nervous system-.
Growing some of your own food can have a restorative effect on mental health, also as being part of the natural world, sowing, watering, weeding, pruning, harvesting and eating the plants helps re-establishing one’s individual connection with our planet and it is enough light exercise to boost endorphin levels. Since one of the primary causes of eating disorders and depression is the loss of control, been Out in the garden, far from the madding crowd, Lena was is in control making decisions without interference from others. She basically became in a relationship with Mother Nature and her healing life force.
Cooking for herself and others was very effective in the path of Lena´s recovery. This activity encouraged her creative side and made her feel good about herself because she was nurturing others with something she enjoyed doing. Cooking has also a sense of instant gratification. these days health-care clinics use cooking or baking as therapy tools for people suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
A study Published in Nutrition Journal in 2010, compared mental health and mood of meat eaters and vegans, this study found that vegetarians and vegans study participants had a healthier mood profiles and were less likely to report depression, than meat eaters. The study suggested the reason of the mood improvements was to do with the total elimination a fat Acid called Arachidonic, which is present in meat and associated with depressive symptoms.
This can also be pointed as when it comes to mental health, one issue that often crops up in relation to dietary concerns of eating disorders, and how a vegan or vegetarian diet impacts on people who are affected by anorexia or bulimia. Some people suggest that becoming vegan or vegetarian is only another way to restrict the diet, but for many people suffering from eating disorders, embracing a vegetarian/vegan diet helps moving forward with the recovery, because veganism is not about restricting diet or making food a negative focus, it is about giving their food choices a personal, political and ethical significance. And having the choice of making a decision like this, was a healing catalyst in Lena´s recovery path.
3- Support groups and Meditation
The power of a supporting community was the most exciting part in Lenas´s recovery. Even tho she used to share her personal experiences in recovery groups inside The Rehab-clinic, the solely act of having the power of choosing rather to attend a meeting or not, the time and place of this one instead of feeling forced to go every day to the same support group, with people she was not feeling comfortable, she felt in control of her thoughts again, she felt like a woman with the capacity to make the right choices and lead her to make new friends going through the same recovery path.
The cool side of all these is she finally found her tribe and made new real friends she is still able to rely on when anxiety knocks the door. Therefore, meditation was an amazing tool she started practicing with her new friends from the support groups. You see, practicing meditation during eating disorder recovery can calm individual’s mind by eliciting a relaxation response. The capability to remain relaxed in environments that trigger destructive eating behaviors can help people make more sound decisions that will benefit their health.
Dr.Kristin Neff, The author of a series of Self-compassion books, explains that developing self-compassion is recognizing that you are suffering and by this knowledge, you learn how to be more kind and understanding towards yourself. The practice of meditation helps the person create awareness of the present moment and self-acceptance despite the circumstances, but most important, it creates love in moments of difficulty or struggle.
Recovering from an eating disorder is different for everyone. In my personal opinion, we cannot expect the same treatment, recovery group or Rehab Clinic be the general solution that will take patients out of their pain. There are tons of options, we all are different, we all have a very different reaction to life. Yes, the disease is the same, but as human beings, we are already designed to be different, is in our DNA, and expecting treatment “X, Y or Z” work the same for everyone overcoming an addictive and destructive pattern is like trying to fit the same size shoe to all feet.
Having a wider scale of options, I feel, was what saved my friend´s life. Having the support of her family to explore further more than Rehab and therapies -I´m not diminishing this treatment of course- Helped her build what she needed at the moment. A solid base of personal choice which empowered her security that any activity of her she picked would be beneficial for her recovery.
Today, Lena travels the world teaching Yoga and started a Yoga Clothing Line with her own drawings made during recovery. Her “relationship status” with food is no longer a chain to stop her from trying exotic recipes people from all the countries she visits offer. She is a strong, healthy and happy woman in love with life. And as Dalai Lamas says “Happiness is the highest form of health”.