Overcoming an Eating Disorder: A Journey to Health, Healing, and Happiness

Overcoming an Eating Disorder

While it?s hard to open up and talk about moments in my life I am not proud of, the effect this post had on social media?over 3 million reached and almost 900 comments at last count!?and the lives it seemed to touch, was incredibly worth it. I can?t help but post it here on my blog as well, in hopes of it reaching and helping even more in need, especially since one of our dear friends and contestants on Extreme Weight Loss season 5?Pearls?also suffered for years from an eating disorder.

Moment of truth: In the depths of my own severe eating disorder, I never thought in a millions years that I would be happy with my body. ?Weight, scales, body image, exercise, food, dieting, restricting, binging, purging, fear? were just a handful of awful words that would literally plague my mind daily for nearly a decade as I battled with the strongest opponent ever: MYSELF. I fought my own demons each and every day. Each day attempting to release myself from the hell I was living. Each day striving for a healthier life. Day after day, month after month, and year after year, I failed. Each failed attempt was proof to me that I?d always suffer, and that I would never live a ?normal? life. There were times I felt my body wouldn?t be able to handle the stress I was putting it through, and I worried I wouldn?t make it to the next day.

The picture on the left is me at 17 in the place I mentioned above. This wasn?t even the worst of it?fast forward 6 years?I was married with a baby on the way and still didn?t have my crap together. Luckily, that was about when things changed and healing began. Becoming a mother and learning to be selfless was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and it truly helped set me on a better path.

Two kids, one divorce, a new husband, and two more kids later, I am healthier than ever before. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. While it truly has been a slow journey, the fact that I am eating upwards of 2600 calories a day to build muscle will never be anything short of a miracle to me, because the thought of increasing size was always something that absolutely terrified me. At 33 years old and 20 lbs. heavier than I?ve been the majority of my adult life, I feel sexier, stronger, more beautiful and confident than ever before. Yeah, I might have a little more cellulite and wear a couple of sizes larger, but I can lift heavy weights and carry someone on my back without feeling like I’m gonna? break. 😉 I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I saw this pic Chris snapped of me the other during my workout and couldn?t help but cry a few happy tears for how far I?ve come. I thank GOD every single day that I?m not suffering now like I did for so many years.

For ANYONE out there struggling with feeling like you will never get out of the vicious eating disorder cycle, use me as PROOF that it is possible! GET HELP! Seeking help may seem like a sign of weakness, but it is truly a sign of strength. Weak people do not reach out for help. Only strong and courageous people do!

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, here are some amazing organizations that can help:

Shades of Hope
National Eating Disorders Association

And please check out this blog post for some additional information about eating disorders and some tools that have helped me work through my own eating disorder.

Xoxo,

Heidi

Related reading:

Fighting Through My Struggle with Body Dysmorphia and an Eating Disorder
Eating Disorders: The Ugly Truth of the Skinny Fixation

61 Responses

  1. Question. I have the book Choose More, Lose More and I understand keeping each portion size of protein, carbs and fats at 100 calories on their specific days. The part Im a little confused on was the beverages. How do we add those in? For instance, having my protein shake with almond milk instead of water. Where does the almond milk fit in? Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Marci: Beverages don’t really fit into a macro category – just keep track of those calories in your daily calorie count. 🙂

  2. I love that Heidi shared this! I struggle so much with my weight and how I view my body. But it’s not quite in the same way as so many with an eating disorder. I know Heidi is so busy but I would give anything to get tips on how to eat to bulk and put weight on. I am 26 and have always been underweight – weighting 88 lbs pre-pregnancy, my daughter is 4 and now maintaining 93-95 lbs post pregnancy and I am 5’2. When I was pregnant I loved my “curvy body” but I just cannot keep that weight on. And I get so frustrated. I do not purposely withhold food from myself but I do struggle with my appetite staying up, it’s easy to skip meals and not realize it. I do eat fairly healthy and a yummy lunch might consist of veggies and dip – as healthy as they maybe I know the calorie content just isn’t enough to help me gain that 10-15 lbs my body (and mind) really needs me to gain!

    Where do I start?
    I need this mentally and to be healthier physically!

    1. Hi Secily: Many of the same tools Chris and Heidi use apply to both adding muscle mass and losing weight. You can utilize some of their weight loss tools to help you develop a healthier lifestyle, and here’s a post about the nutrition basics of their program: https://heidipowell.net/2713. Here’s one helpful hint: When adding muscle mass, you’ll want to consume more healthy lean protein. Get a list of approved foods on their plan – lean proteins, smart carbs, veggies, and healthy fats – in their book (“Choose More, Lose More for Life”), as well as lots of healthy and quick recipes! And here’s another post that might help too: https://heidipowell.net/5366/all-about-calories/. If you are serious about building muscle mass, your best option would be to find a certified personal trainer who can work with you on a one-on-one basis and better assist you in achieving your goals. You can do this!

    2. Hi Carla: The first place to start is to recognize that you have an eating disorder, which you’ve done. This is huge! The next step is to seek out those professionals who can help you, and there are some links in this post that might give you some guidance. Have you talked with your healthcare team about this? They would be a great resource too. We truly wish you the best!

  3. Anorexia Nervosa has spoiled and taken many lives across the planet. The patients with eating disorders can also switch between periods of overeating and fasting. Social pressure and stress are the underlying factors that may trigger such illnesses. Find a therapist to treat your eating disorders and start living a normal life. You can try http://www.therapytribe.com, which is a great resource for finding qualified therapists.

  4. Hi Heidi/Team Powell,

    I am sure Heidi doesn’t have time to read many of these due to how busy she is. But I am wondering if someone from the website can ask her is she would be willing to blog further about how she protects/educates her children about eating disorders?

    As a mom who struggles with Anorexia and EDNOS I worry about unconsciously passing along bad and dangerous habits to my baby. This was all too real when my son’s pediatrician told me to start him on a regular solid-food eating schedule at 9 months. She simply said “Just have him eat when you eat. Have him eat what you eat.” I don’t even know what this means. We are making things work (he is almost 13 months)…but I became terrified that I would inadvertently harm him.

    I know that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any disorder, and because I have struggled with symptom use since I was 10 years old (I am now almost 33) I feel like I will have it forever. This is by no means what I want for my life and in my darkest times I truly understand why people decide to end their lives when symptom use is at its strongest. But I have to protect my son, and if I am ever lucky enough to have any other children I want to protect them too. I’ve done nearly every type of treatment program there is and nothing has seemed to really stick. I want recovery, but I don’t know how to achieve it.

    Anyway, as Heidi has 4 kids I am curious how she has dealt with this (especially when her job focuses a lot on weight loss)?

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Sara: I will definitely pass this idea on to Heidi. As for how she’s teaching her kids, one of the things she and Chris have taught them is that food is fuel for their bodies. Like fuel for a car, if you don’t have enough fuel or the right kind of fuel for your body, it won’t function properly, and you won’t be able to do the things you like to do. I hope that helps, and we truly wish you the best!

  5. I don’t do this. I don’t write to people or talk about this stuff. It’s because of shame. It’s because of guilt. And writing this knowing that Heidi probably won’t even see this makes me question myself and I wonder if this is even worth it. But I hate being silent. I hate having so much to say and not being able to say anything.

    Thank you for being so open and transparent about your struggles. You have obviously touched a lot of people’s lives, and that is seriously awesome. And I’m pretty insignificant, but you have had an extreme impact on me and my life. More than you will ever know, which I feel awkward saying considering that I have never met you. I’ve always admired you and what you and your husband do, but when you opened up about your past and your battles with food, I gained even more respect for you. No one ever talked to me about what I was going through. No one ever cared. Food was, and is, my best friend, as well as my worst enemy. My struggles are messy. And they are rooted in a past filled with unresolved traumatic events. No one knows the extent of any of this. And unfortunately, I don’t think anyone will. It’s easy to type into this little box to someone I don’t know. But being honest with the people closest to me scares me. I’m 27 years old, and my life is dictated by food. The emotional baggage behind that is what causes this. I know that. I’m fully cognizant about that. But I can’t let that baggage go. And that makes me hate myself. And that baggage is way too personal for this.

    This is why I tweeted you a couple of nights ago that I wish I had the chance to talk to you about the emotional part of it. It would be cool to have someone like you to tell things to. Someone who wouldn’t judge me, and who would maybe just accept me and love me for who I am. I never had an older sister. I never had a good role model to look up to.

    I know that there are links to programs, and I know that no new clients are being taken. I just wanted to say this stuff and throw it out there and wishfully think that Heidi would see it.

    1. Hi Ashley: Thank you so much for your post and for sharing your story. I know it was a difficult thing to do. Heidi is so grateful that her story has helped so many who are struggling with similar issues, and that is why she finally chose to do so. It was a very hard thing for her to do. And please know that I’m keeping her updated on how her story has helped so many. And please also know that she wishes she could talk personally to everyone who needs her help, she truly does. She and Chris are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place – they would love to help every person personally, but there are just too many people who need their help. I can tell you, they struggle with this every single day – how to help the most people in the best way. I hope you can understand, and that you can find the resources to help you in your own road to recovery. Like Heidi said in this post, reaching out for help is a sure sign of strength. We truly wish you the best!

  6. Love this show…I am 2 years “clean” from bulimia and have never been heavier… clean eating, no meds and being active has NOT paid off and i am freaking out..would love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Hi Nikki: Congratulations on your 2 “clean” years! That’s awesome! You might want to check out Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program (the same program they use on EWL), and see if it would work for you. You can learn about the carb cycling basics here: https://heidipowell.net/9060. And please discuss this program with your healthcare team first, and then follow their recommendations. You can do this!

  7. I have watched the episode of Pearl that night. I have posted a tweet to your wall about 3 days ago and I have seen is others trolling on my page just because I started to follow you and your husband Chris. I think it’s amazing how you change lives. I have had 2 trainers in the past that had given up on me, and lot of other people that have given up on me. I compulsively eat and I want to give up on me cause I don’t know how to stop. I tried to apply for the next season, and the cast call is gone. I’m starting to wonder if you read any of these post or tweets? I get you have many followers. So, if you do read this, I’m asking for help, please.
    -Lora-

    1. Hi Lora: Thank you so much for posting! I’m so sorry you’re having a difficult time, and I can’t imagine how hard this all is for you. Yes, casting for EWL is currently closed. However, you can begin your transformation journey today with the same program Chris and Heidi use on the show. Learn about the basics of their carb cycling program here: https://heidipowell.net/9060. And here’s another post that goes into eating disorders and offers some resources, and hopefully it might help also: https://heidipowell.net/5771/eating-disorders-the-ugly-truth-of-the-skinny-fixation/. We wish you the best – you can do this!

  8. thank you for this post. I’ve struggled with my weight and an eating disorder for years. I am a food addict and I binge eat. I thought that I had it under control finally. I am in week 17 of a work out program and I felt I was finally strong and on my way to a healthy life. My goal is to be at 20% body fat and fit. Then I want to sculpt and lift more. Last Saturday was weigh in day. I had dropped another 2% body fat last week and am now at 24.4% body fat. I was proud and excited. I was the next day a new form of my eating disorder reared its ugly head. Instead of fighting the urge to binge, I have to fight to put food in my mouth. I am terrified that anything I eat will make my body fat go back up. It’s not logical I know. Even my best friend doesn’t know I have been fighting an eating disorder for years. Yet yesterday I passed out at the gym. My trainer kept asking if I felt well and I said yes and assured him and kept lifting. Then I passed out, and had to air my dirty little secret. I hadn’t eaten since the weigh in Saturday. Another head has grown on the dragon that is my eating disorder. Though my trainer has been supportive through the months of fighting binging, i feel very ashamed of this new turn. I know I need to fuel my body yet logic and my new fear of food are at war. I didn’t know where to begin to fight this. I ran across your blog, saw the links for help and I have hope again. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Hi Chris, and Heidi!

    Thank you so much for being an inspiration to myself and so many others! I like many of your EWL participants suffer from binge eating disorder. It’s hard for me to recall exactly when it started, but being 24 and almost 400 pounds I know without a doubt it has been the majority of my life. I suffer from a chronic illness that has caused me to have 8 brain surgeries, and I have also had 3 major infections. I seem to fight through and be able to make it through the worst things I have been through, but can’t seem to kick the binge eating and loose weight! I’d love if I were able to get your help! There is so much more I could write here, but it seems like a long shot. I am ready for a change, and know I need this change if I do not want to be my parents. (Both are deceased) so again if you would be willing to help I’d appreciate it!

    1. Hi Stephanie: Thank you so much for your post. Heidi would love to help you personally, but she’s not taking on clients right now due to everything she’s got going on and her young family. I hope you understand. However, she and Chris have put all the tools they use on EWL in their book, “Choose More, Lose More for Life,” and here’s a post on this blog that outlines all the basics of carb cycling: https://heidipowell.net/9060. I’d also suggest you discuss this program with your healthcare team first, and then follow their recommendations. You can do this!

  10. Loved the “Cheese Puff Baby” idea! Though I’ve never been overweight, hovering around 100 lbs. since a teenager (I’m now 70) & physically fit (have been a runner for 40 years), I DO have an absolute obsession with potato chips and other salty snacks, which, due to my corn allergy, cause really nasty symptoms (severe headaches and worse). Doesn’t do any good to throw them out — I just jump in my car and buy more! So……I have now constructed my own personal “Potato Chip Baby” to carry around (it IS empty, though!). Am hopeful this stratagem will work.

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