My last blog post on my eating disorder was read over 1100 times! I was totally freaked out and extremely grateful all at the same time. Oddly enough, it took me two days to post the damn thing. I had so much fear around posting it, but I knew sharing my story was the next logical step in my recovery. For me that fear came from not wanting to be judged. What if people think I’m a walking train wreck? (Trust me, I still have my days.) What will my daughters’ teachers think? What about family members who didn’t know? Will I embarrass my mom and dad? I realized it was none of my business what other people thought of me. I sat as far back in my chair as possible, closed one eye, held my breath and hit the “Post to Facebook” button.
That was the scariest and most freeing thing I have done in a long time.
The response was nothing short of overwhelming. I remember laying in bed that night crying tears of gratitude. Some of the women who inspire me most reposted it to their own Facebook pages. When Nisha Moodley reposted it, I almost peed my pants. At first I chalked it up to the fact that people love a good underdog story, but the more I thought about it, there was depth attached to the number of reads that blog post received.
Maybe the support I received was more than just the fact that people love a good underdog story. Maybe the love I received was acknowledgment that we have all struggled with life on some level. I believe sharing our shortcomings, deep-rooted issues and human frailties with one another is what connects us and makes us feel less afraid. In our attempts to be better parents, children, lovers, and friends, it helps to know we’re not alone in our fears and imperfections. Perhaps acknowledging our darkness can awaken light in others and sharing our most humbling stories is how we heal collectively. This can be tricky, and letting people see our authenticity is one of the hardest obstacles we will face in this world. It’s also the most freeing.
I know this well because I’ve spent my whole life disowning anything and everything that made me uncomfortable. While others in this life may be missing a sensitivity chip, I seem to have gotten an extra one at birth. For me, the world was scary and something to be feared. I spent much of my life feeling exposed, judged and alone. Because of this fact, there was always this odd distance between me and the rest of the world. I was certain I would be eaten alive without proper protection, so I shut down. Instead of learning how to use my sensitivity and empathy as a gift, I used my obsession with food and weight to keep myself numb to life’s obvious hardships. These vices kept everyone at a distance and prevented me from shining my light on the world. They also almost killed me. Today, I’ve managed to get a pretty solid grip on my sensitive nature. It no longer controls me.
The key to self-love is learning to embrace our perceived shortcomings.
Once we embrace and face these disowned parts of ourselves, we make room for self-compassion, growth and empathy. The qualities that cause us so much pain can actually be gifts that allow for wholeness and healing. These disowned qualities can be anything; sensitivity, impatience, deceptiveness, jealousy, control, guilt, selfishness, addiction, anger or judgment. I challenge you to find yours and sit with them; without judgment.
Once you acknowledge that these traits are part of you, your world will begin to shift. I promise you. Take some time and write down some traits that you’ve disowned. If you’re stumped, here’s a hint. What traits do you try hardest to show the world? Now, take the opposite of those traits and you have your disowned parts. For example, if you are constantly trying to show the world you are successful and have money, where does this stem from? Was it looked down upon to be poor in your family or did you come from poverty? Another hint would be to take the qualities that trigger a response in you. For example, if someone were to call me selfish many years ago, shit would have hit the fan. I was in a very selfish state of mind at the time, however, I didn’t want to acknowledge that.
Dig deep. Your freedom awaits you.
For me, tapping into my wholeness was terribly uncomfortable. I had to sit with qualities of anger, judgment, jealousy, deceptiveness, control, sensitivity, guilt and addiction. I still have to sit with these traits at times. Knowing these things about myself has allowed me to slowly, but not always gracefully, navigate my way through life’s trying moments. Besides, these traits are all keys to my totality and I’d rather be whole than “good” by society’s standards. Way less pressure.
The best way to acknowledge these qualities is to surround them with love and thank them for being brought to your awareness. I know from experience that ignoring them is like trying to hold a beach ball under water. What we resist, persists. I also know the parts we are most ashamed of bear the most gifts. My sensitivity is by far my greatest asset these days and I’m using it to make the world a better place. No matter how negative it may seem, every quality has worth and value.
My belief is that we’re all wounded healers at our core. Whether it’s addictions, death, abuse or abandonment, we can grow from our pain and use that growth to help others. The problem is that many people don’t feel worthy of sharing their unique gifts with the world. They’re too busy holding their beach balls under water to forgive themselves and move on with life. The key is accepting ourselves as we are in this moment; without self-deception or the illusion of how we want things to be. When we choose to love ourselves completely, the good and the bad, real healing begins to take place; even in the midst of fear.
"When light pushes away the darkness, eventually another darkness shall come.
When the darkness itself is transformed into light, it is a light that no darkness can oppose." Unkown
Hey everyone! I'm Rachel. Born and raised in beautiful Billings, Montana, I called Boise, Idaho home for several years. As of June 2012, I've officially gone back to my roots and living in Billings once again. I'm married with two beautiful daughters. I often tell people if it were not for my them, I would be somewhere in India with my head shaved, looking for a higher purpose. Funny how our purpose in life is usually right in front of us, waiting to be unveiled.
Looking back, I grew up in a textbook breeding ground for an eating disorder. In fact, my childhood plays out like a bad after-school special. Today, I’m super grateful for this fact and wouldn’t change a thing. Really. As cliche’ as it sounds, it’s made me who I am today. I trust my journey.
As if a traumatic childhood wasn’t enough, I had other cards stacked against me. While others in this life may be missing a sensitivity chip, I seem to have gotten an extra one at birth. For me, the world was scary and something to be feared. I spent much of my life feeling exposed, judged and alone. I was always a very reflective, analytical and aware child. Because of this fact, there was always this odd distance between me and the rest of the world. I was certain I would be eaten alive without proper protection.
Enter eating disorder.
For more than ten years, I used food, pills and alcohol to numb myself. I turned off my emotions and strived for perfection; a vicious illusion that kept me sick. I led a double life to the fullest extent. My world revolved around scales, calories, laxatives, diet pills and binges. When that wasn’t enough, I turned to alcohol to numb. Depression was my norm. In 2007, when my oldest daughter was almost two-years-old, I broke down crying and told my husband what had been going on. He knew I had been to treatment at age 15, but didn’t realize things had gotten so out of control again. He said that was the day the clouds parted and all my erratic behavior made sense. So, I took a final crack at treatment. Doctors told me I shouldn’t be alive. Although at the time, I thought this was a vicious plot by the treatment staff to keep me there, I now know I had angels watching over me. I really shouldn't be alive.
At my core, I knew total healing was possible. There had to be a better way. Although treatment got me back on track, I still felt lacking and was not impressed with the notion of being on anti-depressants for the rest of my life. Then, in 2010, my journey towards healing led me to The Institute For Integrative Nutrition. While I set out to learn more about holistic health and nutrition in hopes of guiding other women towards wholeness, I ended up discovering myself and the missing links in my own recovery. Contrary to what I was taught, all calories were not created equal and my body needed more than processed food to thrive and heal. This was the final piece of my puzzle.
For the first time in my life, I don’t feel broken. My sensitive nature has become my greatest gift. Tapping into my own wholeness has allowed me to let go of any shame about my past and embrace the woman I am today. It’s also given me the courage to share my story of healing and hope with the world.
Although, my goal is to help others who struggle with the same issues I did, this website is also for my own healing. The more I write, the more I realize they are one in the same. When we heal ourselves, we find outlets to heal others. It’s just how the world works. It’s why we’re here on earth. The simplicity of that fact is overwhelming to me.
My hope is that this website will shine light on the missing element in recovery; whole, nutritious foods that honor and nourish the mind, body and spirit. While I am aware that recovery is about much more than adding kale to your breakfast smoothie, I will never underestimate the importance that learning to eat intuitively and mindfully played in my healing process.
With all that being said, thank you for being a part of my journey. I hope by sharing my truth, you can discover your own, and in return, shine your unique light on the world.
When I was in treatment for my eating disorder, my daughter Presley was almost two-years old. In fact, I spent part of her second birthday sitting around a cold cafeteria table picking at a stale ham sandwich that I refused to eat. My first born, she was the only reason I wanted to “recover” at the time. She deserved a mommy who could get out of bed in the morning without popping a cocktail of prescription diet pills. She deserved a mommy who actually ate a meal without vomiting or taking laxatives. She deserved a mommy who didn’t define her worth by numbers-- weight, calories and binges. She deserved a mommy who was present, healthy and whole. I was none of these things.
My treatment room was plastered with her pictures; my wide-eyed, innocent breastfed creation. Her smile was all that kept me going some days. At night, I slept clutching her tattered and well-loved pink Winnie-The-Pooh blanket; usually crying myself to sleep. Although I only got one five-minute phone call a day to her, it was all the fuel my soul needed. I know it sounds super corny, but her energy poured through the phone and filled my heart.
I’d be lying if I told you I jumped whole-heartedly into recovery. Quite the opposite is true. I wanted to get better but didn’t want to do the work. I hated people telling me what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. I hated being supervised in the bathroom and told to make my bed. I hated having a bedtime. I was a grown-ass woman for God’s sake.
Then one day during group, we were given the assignment of drawing a self-portrait. I watched as the women around me drew mutilated and distorted versions of themselves; fat, heartless, broken and ugly. I stared at my blank piece of paper. “I suck at drawing” repeated over and over in my head. Frustrated, I grabbed my binder for something to draw on. There on the cover was a picture of my baby girl smiling intently back at me. Tears welled up in my eyes. She was an exact replica of me as a child. We had the same chubby cheeks, curly blonde hair and pale blue eyes that disappeared when we smiled. The same innocence. The same body.
I began to sob uncontrollably. For the first time ever I felt my wholeness. You see, I had spent my entire life living as pieces of my body; never the whole. I did not have “a body”. I had a fat ass, oily skin, chubby legs and stretch marks. Yet, in that moment, all these negative thoughts melted away and I was left with what I can only describe as pure awareness and bliss. I was beautiful. My body, and all it encompassed, was a perfect creation that brought Presley into the world and harbored her safely for nine months. How could I mistreat something so sacred?
That was my a-ha moment. Everything shifted. The thought of my daughter experiencing the pain of an eating disorder was too much for me to bear. If I didn’t choose recovery, I would ruin her for sure if I hadn’t already. I internalized how my body- which I had abused for years- was my only vehicle for mothering this beautiful and helpless child. I could raise a strong, fierce and self-compassionate woman or I could succumb to my own fears yet again. At that moment, my life became an urgent choice.
What happened that day in treatment is that I chose to completely let go in the same crazy world where I held on for dear life. I made a choice to stop struggling with the past and its trivial details. For the first time in my life I was no longer that scared little ten-year old girl picking up pieces of a broken heart. I was strong and full of purpose. I realized that everything in my life had happened FOR me, not TO me. My opportunity for growth was endless. I knew my purpose in this life was bigger than me. Recovery was this leap of great faith, where my clarity and love for life become so great that I finally believed throughout my whole body I was strong enough to take life head on- without an eating disorder in my back pocket.
What happened is that I realized my body, with all of its society-assumed and self-made imperfections, was my greatest tool for raising a daughter in today’s world. In a society that values thinness, beauty and perfection above all else, the greatest protection I could offer my daughter was to genuinely and openly love my own body; stretch marks and all. My body was not faulty. Society was.
These days, I have two daughters and it’s been almost five years since I was in treatment. Each day I choose to be imperfect and let my daughters see me comfortable with those imperfections. They never see me criticize my body or step on a scale to determine my worth. I tell them openly that I love my body and when I share my gratitude for them being in this world, I always remember to include my body in that experience.
Recovery is a journey. For me, more than anything, it’s about living with integrity. I’m still learning how to do that fully. Thank goodness life is a really long time. While eating clean and intuitively, practicing yoga, and sharing my story with the world through my website Whole Figured has taught me to accept my body, my daughters have taught me to fully love and embrace it. My goal as their mother is to give them that very same gift.