Ending the Restrict-Binge Cycle by Accepting My Body as It Is: Julie's Recovery Story
This article was written exclusively for EatingDisordersOnline.com by Julie Sweeney, a counselor who specializes in disordered eating, self-esteem and body image issues, anxiety disorders and addiction. She shares her own battle with an eating disorder and what motivated her to make a change and help others overcome their body image struggles.
My story opens on a sad day at 12 years old when I thought taking my life was better than being the "fat girl." I was prepared to die to be thin. I didn't feel good enough. I didn't feel pretty enough. I didn't feel like I was enough. I was just fat. Nothing else. The fat on my 12-year-old body overshadowed everything positive that did or could happen.
I believe that I was stopped that day before I went any further because God knew more than I did about my future and what I had to offer. The suffering did not stop there. I went on years praying for relief from the "fat." I prayed, "Just let me wake up skinny." It never happened.
Fluctuating Weight: From Restricting to Binging
I was a dieter. I restricted, but then felt so sick I couldn't continue, so I would binge. I would eat and eat and eat. I would eat secretly so no one knew the extent of my sickness. When I moved away from home I was able to eat anything I wanted anytime I wanted. And I did. I gained a lot of weight when I first left home. Then I started working out with a trainer and got my weight somewhat under control. Then I gained weight again and went to a diet center and lost the weight again.
After that, I got pregnant and binged my way through my pregnancy because I felt "entitled" to not being on a diet for the first time in 13 years. I gained a lot of weight when I was pregnant. Since then (my daughter is now 9), I've never been back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I suffered from postpartum depression and have been up and down on the scale and lost and gained hundreds of pounds over and over and over.
My husband went to Afghanistan, and while he was there I "ate my way through the deployment." I did not have support, so I supported myself with food – a lot of food.
Trying to Make a Lasting Change
In January of 2010, a couple of months after my husband returned from his tour, I decided it was time to make a positive change. I could barely move my knees because they hurt so much. I joined another gym, worked with a trainer and started losing weight in a healthy way. I wrote down what I ate and had it evaluated, and I worked out a lot. I did lose weight. I felt better, stronger and healthier.
Then my body started feeling terrible. I felt like I was breaking down. My back and knees were extremely sore. Yes, I was lighter, but I'd worked so hard, when I finally took a break my body was in pain all the time. I felt like I had failed yet again.
I had been "failing" at dieting and losing weight for more than 20 years at this point. There have been a few more intense bursts of working out, which have left my body worse for wear as well as a few more restrict and binge cycles, and I've gained half the weight back that I lost that time.
Learning to Accept My Body and Love Myself as I Am
But since November of 2012 I've been working on loving my body as it is. I have focused on accepting who I am and my limitations. I've joined the body image movement and become a professional counselor and now work to help those with eating disorders, anxiety and addiction.
Now I look at my body as a body – not as this "thing" that has let me down. I don't see myself as a failure. I don't weigh myself on a scale any longer. I engage in life differently. There is no diet talk in my house. I eat a healthy, balanced diet. I move as much as I can, doing active things that make me happy, not because I should workout a certain number of times per week for a certain length of time.
I don't look any different than I did when I felt like a failure, but I see myself differently. I see myself as a woman who can help other women understand their beauty. That was worth surviving 22 years of the restrict-binge cycle.
To check out Julie's website, click here.