eating disorder recovery hope: the four minute mile

My mentor once told me a story about how for years and years nobody was able to run a mile in under 4 minutes. And then suddenly, with a lot of training and work, somebody did it! And once one person did it, many others did too, because the belief that it was impossible was shattered and the belief that it was possible was created. If I can fully recover, believe that you can too.

I started to first show signs of having an eating disorder as early as age 12. It reappeared in high school, and then became really serious in college. In 2007 I took my first medical leave of absence from college and was admitted to The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia, a residential rehabilitation center for women with eating disorders. After three months in treatment, and three months of fighting with my insurance company, I was released from The Renfrew Center and did one year of intensive outpatient and day treatment with both The Renfrew Center in Ridgewood NJ and The Koch Center in Ho-ho-kus NJ.

Upon returning to college in the Spring of 2008 I relapsed and was re-admitted to The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia for another 2 months. During this second time in rehab I noticed a huge shift in myself; I realized that I really wanted to get better. I also realized that the eating disorder was no longer gripping to me, but that I was gripping to it. When I left The Renfrew Center for the second time I continued with outpatient therapy and nutrition, but the fire was already lit inside of me to recover. 

That being said, life after The Renfrew Center was still very difficult. Having lost my hobbies, values, interests, job, happiness, and friends, I was starting my life over. I felt empty but not lost and hopeless. I searched to fill the void that was left by the absence of eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. I tried dance lessons, writing classes, community volleyball, art classes, and local social groups, among other things, to just find something that I could grab onto instead of my eating disorder. It was during this search that I came back to the yoga practice that I had started in college.

My eating disorder slowly started to get replaced by yoga. Yoga allowed me to appreciate what my body could do, rather than what it looked like. I felt strong, rather than "fat". I also started to realize that yoga and my eating disorder were mutually exclusive; they could not exist together. In order to practice yoga the way that I wanted to, I needed to be feeding and treating my body well. It was also at this point that I found a yoga studio and community that I knew would not socialize with me if I was still sick; they would not tolerate my eating disorder. I wanted to be a part of this community more than I wanted my eating disorder to be a part of me.

I worked hard at building a new life for myself and it was so worth it.  While I don’t think that yoga will help everyone in recovery the way that it helped me, I do believe that there is something(s) out there for people that will be fulfilling enough to replace their eating disorder. Right now my life is amazing and so fulfilling. I am passionate about yoga, cats, friends, food, the sun, and photography. I value freedom, integrity, reliability, thoughtfulness, community, and courage. I love my job and I know there is so much waiting for me in my future.

There is so much waiting for you too. I can't wait to help you on your journey <3

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