She is four months into her own recovery, and an inspiration to others fighting DE/ED/ED-NOS. I was flattered and honored to answer her questions; her blog’s motto is “I’m Still Fighting!” and I admire her strength.
You can read my interview and her and post-interview commentary here.
Thanks for the opportunity, Angel!!
After the jump is a transcript of my interview (for my own records)
1) Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Melissa. Originally from N.J., I went to college and grad school in Washington, D.C. My husband’s job is the reason we relocated to Michigan, and we’re enjoying the slower pace of life here in the midwest. I’m almost 30, have been married to the love of my life for the past three years, and I am a PR manager for a large interactive agency. I am also a recovering disordered eater.
For me, my disordered eating habits began after I had success with Weight Watchers and became obsessed with body image, over-exercising and Point counting. Later, as I struggled to maintain my newly-svelte (but not too-svelte!) figure, I struggled with chewing and spitting. Though I never engaged in anorexia or bulimia, I knew chewing and spitting was an unhealthy, unbecoming, secretive habit that just had to stop. And the thoughts that pervaded my mind were often the result of intense anxiety.
2. Tell us a little about your blog.
I started my blog, Tales of a (Recovering) Disordered Eater in June 2008 as a two-part process to recover from disordered eating. I’d read an article in SELF magazine about how 6 in 10 women are disordered eaters, and it clicked with me that I did, indeed, have a problem.
Between blogotherapy and traditional therapy (I worked with a behavior modification therapist), I hoped to overcome both disordered eating and thinking, and to raise awaress of the ugly side no one talks about once someone chubby her whole life slims down – the pressures we put on ourselves to stay that way, and the obsession with staying thin that can plague us.
An avid journaler since the sixth grade, I took naturally to blogging because I know so many women out there suffer from disordered eating or disordered thinking. I wanted to help myself, and see if I could help others along the way. I wanted to build a community, and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do. When someone emails me that I’m an inspiration to them, you have no idea how amazing it makes me feel. I’m not perfect, but I’m a work in progress. I try to make each day better than the day before.
I hope my blog inspires others to be the best they can be. I hope they visit my blog and realize they’re not alone. I also wanted to make sure I offered resources to others who need help or might need help fo someone they love. If I can serve as an advocate, I feel I’ve done my job.
3. What are some of the things you do to help you get your mind off your eating disorder?
Sometimes I wonder myself if blogging only perpetuates my ED thinking … so sometimes I choose not to blog. I’ve hammered this out in several posts along the way. I try to maintain the attitude that I AM IN CONTROL, and I want to choose pride over guilt every time. That keeps me from chewing and spitting when the urge strikes. I still struggle with emotional eating — as do many women — but I’m learning to deal with it in more productive ways. Instead of beating myself up with a double workout for overeating, I’ll read a book, blog, journal, talk to a friend or family member.
4. What’s your favorite quote, proverb, or song? Is there a reason?
I love the quote, “The real voyage of discovery is not about seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” by Marcel Proust. It really hits home in terms of recovery. Once I realized “I am in control” suddenly, everything seemed/felt different.
My other favorite quote is about my love of travel: “Life is like a book. He who stays home reads only one page.”
5. What’s your favorite memory? Why?
My favorite memory? Wow, that’s a tough question. I documented one of my favorite memories here on my blog — when I climbed to the top of Huayana Picchu (the peak opposite Machu Picchu) during my semester abroad. It was the most amazing experience. I’d say my other favorite memory (besides my wedding day, which was just amazing!) was my engagement in Florence, Italy. My husband had just come back from deployment in Iraq, and we had been planning a trip to Italy the whole time he was gone. We were in Florence, at the top of the Boboli Gardens overlooking Tuscany, when he propose to me. I was completely startled and caught off-guard. He’d been carrying the ring for the whole trip, waiting fo the right moment. It was amazing!!
6. What’s your favorite color? Why?
I love, love, love cerulean. The color’s name is just so descriptive, and it makes me think of the sea, which I love. I also have blue eyes that are probably my favorite feature (my whole family — mom, dad, bro and sis and I all have the exact same color).
7. Your blog stretches over a wide span of helpful topics and you mention “blog therapy” in several of your posts. What exactly is blog therapy, and do you think it works?
I can’t say I coined the expression “blogotherapy” — not sure even where I read the term– but it really has helped me explore my feelings. I like being reaffirmed by my readers, but I also like listening to dissenting views, too. That’s why it’s “blogotherapy” — a therapeutic form of writing for an audience, most importantly oneself.
Sometimes it’s good to hear the other side, to get a second view on the same subject. So I think writing about my thoughts/feelings has been a huge help in terms of getting to the root of my anxieties and understanding myself. And if I can help others along the way, all the better…
8. You have guest-blogged on occasion, and you have an abundant list of links on your blog. Are there any blogs you recommend?
I read different blogs for different reasons, and I love each of the blogs on my blogroll. I read a lot of healthy living blogs and get lots of food ideas from them (Chobani Greek yogurt; Barney Butter to name a few), but sometimes I wonder if they are a bit excessive — taking photos of every bite they eat seems a little much to me, especially if the person admittedly suffers from an ED or DE. Seeing that stuff — or the level of “perfection” some eat at –can be triggering for some people. I think of all the healthy living blogs I read, Kath Eats Real Food is probably my favorite because it’s the most real to me — Kath seems to have balance down to a science. Tied with her is Jenna at Eat, Live, Run who eats very clean, too, but also enjoys life in moderatio. So those are two I’d recommend from a healthy living standpoint.
I must admit, some of the recovery blogs I read, I’ve needed to take a break from as I’ve gotten better. When you’re doing well and making progress, it’s a bit hard to read about other’s struggles. But sometimes, I try to go to their sites to encourage them recovery IS possible — if you want it bad enough. I really believe that. I know what was standing in the way between my best self and my DE self was … myself! My attitude. I kept playing the victim … and once I “owned” it — suddenly, everything changed.
9. Any books you recommend?
I really loved Courtney Martin’s Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters. You can read my review here. It’s one of those books that I couldn’t put down.
10. What keeps/kept you fighting against your ED?
To be honest, what keeps me fighting is my future, and the children I want to have. I’m trying to prepare my body for pregnancy right now, as my husband and I would like to start trying for a baby this fall. So I want to be at my optimal health — which means mentally and physically, as well as emotionally — before we try. That doesn’t mean getting back to my ideal weight (which is about 10 lbs. lower than I am now) but rather being as fit and healthy as I can be. I would not want to bring a child into this world with my brain operating how it was a year ago.
11. To you, what does it mean to recover?
I don’t know that there will ever be a day where I don’t think about what I eat, where I don’t journal, or don’t exercise a little … those habits are ingrained in me, part of my Type-A, organized persona … and they can be very healthy habits, my therapist confirmed, so long as I don’t abuse them (as I did in the past). So to recover, to me, means many things. It means being able to enjoy life in moderation. It means not chewing and spitting delicious food. It means not punishing myself with double workouts at the gym to “compensate” for a night out. It means to be content with myself in the here and now, not looking ahead 10 lbs. To not freak if I enjoy an unplanned dessert or drink out. To not freak if I miss a couple days at the gym, or if I choose cuddling with my hubby instead of exercise. When I am ok with all those things — and inherently ok with myself — then I will consider myself “recovered.” Right now, I’d say I’m 80% of the way there. It’s not my nature to be “flexible” but I am learning, and I’m really trying. I want to be more easy-going, less obsessed, less anxiety-ridden. And every day, I think I am getting one step closer to my truest self.
12.What’s the best part of recovery?
I think just learning about how my brain works in therapy was one of the best parts about recovery. My therapist didn’t think I had an eating disorder, but rather had an anxiety issue. Learning how my hardware personally “works” really helped me understand myself. I’m who I am because of how I’m wired — I’m naturally anxious, and can use it to my advantage. In school, it meant I strived for straight As, and usually got them. At work, it makes me a diligent, organized employee who makes deadlines a day in advance. In my personal life, it means I’m a very detail-oriented spouse and friend. And when it comes to weight loss or maintenance, I’m great at journaling and living within parameters and not feeling suffocated by them. I think understanding that huge part of my personality was the best part about recovery. It made me realize I don’t need to apologize for who I am, but rather, I can capitalize on it.
13. After all that you’ve been through so far (even though it’s not over yet), who do you want to thank most? Who helped you the most?
You’re 100 percent right that my journey isn’t over yet. My entire family — my husband, parents, siblings, and friends have been incredible to me during this time. When you experience something like this, you’re very vulnerable … you’re putting your problems out there for the world to see, and you never know who will back away or who will step up to the plate.I’ve been surprised on both sides of the coin, but for the most part, I’ve felt only support. That said, I know my disclosure — my “coming out via blog” — was shocking to many people. But I didn’t know how else to share, and writing truly is my best form of communication.
In terms of who has helped me the most … I first thank my husband, because it was he who really confronted me about my problem three years ago, after he noticed more and more obsessions with my weight, body, food, exercise and he wanted his wife to be the girl he met and married: fun-loving, carefree, who didn’t fret about things like that. He was always trying to tell me that I AM in control and I can choose not to chew/spit, or restrict, or over-exercise. I didn’t want to believe him back then; I still felt I was the victim and rebelled against his words of empowerment, even though he tried so hard to get me to see that I was, indeed, in control of my actions.
It took a conversation with my brother about a year later (this past March) that really made everything come full-circle; it’s almost like he reframed what my husband had been saying, and it suddenly clicked. He was basically voicing identical concerns about my progress (or lack thereof since I was still chewing/spitting). I blogged about the exchange here, but the long and short of it is, he asked me how I feel after I chew and spit…and I said most of the time, guilty. Through our conversation, he made me see that I and I alone had the power to choose pride over guilt every time I chose not to engage in DE behaviors.
My parents have been amazing through all of this … they really have just been incredible, and I’m blessed to have such supportive, loving parents. I know some people hide their ED from their families, but I just couldn’t keep up the act any longer; I needed to come clean. They knew I’d become obsessed with food and exercise and my body size, but they really had no idea about the chewing and spitting, or the over-exercising.
All in all, I know I’m one incredibly lucky girl to have the network of support I have in real life and in the blogosphere.
14. If you could pick one sentence to say to your Fellow Fighters out there, what would it be?I think if I had to pick one sentence to say to Fellow Fighters it would be this (ok, it’s three sentences.
“You, and only you, *are* in control of your destiny. Every day you is an opportunity for you to make a choice — you or your ED. Choose YOU — you’re worth it.”
15. Anything else you’d like us to know?
I have found the blogging community to be an amazing source of information and inspiration. In a world where there’s so much focus on flawless figures and crazy diets … it’s nice to find blogs where positive body image is expressed, where women are actively cheering on one another, where the notion of “community” is epitomized. Thank you to all my readers, new and old, and thank you to Egg Beaten Angel for this opportunity. Best wishes for health and happiness to you all.