My Story: Eating Disorders

Woman sitting on the floor crying with her face in her hands

Hello and welcome. Thanks for being here. I have been talking a lot about myself lately and it has forced me to do a ton of reflecting. It is raw and hard to face these truths but I feel like I need to share them. This will be the last of the My story series for now until I need to share more of my stories in the future. I am excited to really start teaching coaching tools, intuitive eating principles, and gospel lessons after this. But in the meantime, stories really do hold a lot of weight and I feel like I have some things to teach you from just my own experience with my eating disorders.

Like I said last time, Life is Layered. I had been struggling with depression for so long and finally got help. But I had to face the truth. I had to combat these disorders. And actually call them “disorders”. They were serious. Not just me having a hard time with food. They were affecting my quality of life, feeding my depression and all my relationships in my life. And as Dan Siegel says, you have to name it to tame it. So here I am, trying to start from the beginning and take this journey of healing. I am Laura and I suffer from Orthorexia, Binge Eating Disorder, and Body Dysmorphia. This is a good start, right?!

Let me give you some background from my life of where these things began. The first time I felt uncomfortable in my body was when I was 12 years old. I was on the bus after school and a boy I liked, called me flat-chested. I was so hurt and I started to question if I was good enough for people. I was young and didn’t know how to cope well but I did have a testimony. I tried to tell myself that it didn’t matter and that I am a child of God.

I started dieting when I was 15. My family and I were going to go on a cruise and I wanted to look good and be ready to eat all that junk food later. So I went off sugar for a month. Looking back on it, it wasn’t so difficult. Life was simple and I still had some self-confidence. I was growing up and I felt pretty. I had a boyfriend and I was a happy teenager.

But I still definitely had some room to improve in my self-confidence. I would be shy to say things sometimes and not open up. Part of this is because of how I was raised. My parents were not there emotionally very much. I am the oldest of 6 kids and My youngest sister was born when I was 16. I took care of my siblings a lot, my parents fought a lot and they suffer from low self-esteem too.

As I got older, I became more mindful of what I ate. Some with good intentions and some with bad. I still ate what I wanted and my relationship with food was still good. Occasionally, looking at food labels, engaging in diet talk with friends, and maybe forgoing a big Costco muffin. I ran track and cross country in High school and continued running when I went to BYU because I loved it. I felt like I burned anything right off.

I got married young. I was 19 when I met Brady and 6 months later, we got married. So happy I made that decision. I love him and it was the right timing for our lives.

Brady and I ate pretty much whatever we wanted the first year we were married. Then he got a job with a health company and we decided to go on a health kick together. We would drink protein shakes, green smoothies, and fiber supplements. We were in amazing shape and worked out at the Smith field house on the BYU campus almost every day, with sprinting circuits, HIIT routines, and weights. We loved talking about health and fitness and we bonded through it. We started placing more emphasis on the way we look. Brady started his own personal training business and started training clients individually. He loved seeing people change their lives and it was cool to hear and see these people’s stories.

We had our first baby when I was 22. My pregnancy went great but of course, it is never easy. But then, after a baby, your body changes. I kept on some of the weight. I am sure that all of you moms listening understand. Not only that, I had a lot more time at mom since I was now transitioning to being a full-time stay-at-home mom. I was alone a lot too. Just my small baby Emmett and me. Brady had 3 jobs, Part-time work at the Lehi Fire Department, Security at the Hospital, and personal training. I was so lonely and didn’t know what to do with myself. We had just moved to a new place too.

So I turned to food. I had just finished my degree before I had my baby. My last and final class was an online cooking and baking class. I was excited to fill up my last few classes with something fun. And I have always loved cooking and baking. Our textbook: The famous Betty Crocker cookbook! So now that I had learned more skills from that class, I decided to keep going. Totally fine to do but I was not addressing the real problem. I was having Postpartum depression. I would make these yummy dinners and treats overeat all the time. I started gaining more weight. I started to say mean things in my head about myself when I looked in the mirror.

These habits would continue and would ebb and flow in their intensity. A couple of years went by and Brady and I are still always worried about food and getting our workout in for the day. It became a source of stress a lot of the time.

This my friend is called Orthorexia. The obsession with only eating healthy foods and having a strict exercise routine, especially when it crosses the line of making you feel like you have done something morally wrong. I like to explain it like, Orthodox Jews. When you think of them, they are very strict in their religion, wear the clothes for it all the time and conduct their life in that manner. Same with Orthorexia. Not to be confused with anorexia. But being so strict with food as if it were a religion.

It was about at this point that I remember Brady starting to sometimes say rude things about my body or comments that triggered preoccupation with food. Not to point out the negative here, but just to give light to the whole situation. And to hopefully teach anyone here to set their own boundaries. I didn’t set my boundary. I let him say things to me. Whether it was pointing out that I am eating too much, that my workout didn’t count, and not wanting me to eat treats because he wanted my body to stay in shape. I thought I deserved it because I didn’t always stay strict on healthy eating. I didn’t feel like I was doing enough (or even further, didn’t feel like I was enough) I would feel self-conscious about what I ate around him and that wasn’t right.

This is also when the Body Dysmorphia started to settle in. I just didn’t know it. I would look at myself and think I needed to lose more fat here, lift these up there, etc… Even if I did well for the day, I felt like I should have done more. More, more, MORE! They are all lies from Satan! And it was really hard on me to not compare myself to Brady. If any of you know him, he is very fit and works very hard at it. He is awesome for that! He has amazing dedication and determination! Gets up early to workout, eats well, and writes out his workouts. But my body and the way I really wanted to spend my time is different, and I didn’t want to accept that.

So I kept dieting! I have tried so many. Raw Vegan, 21-day fix, Plant-based, sugar fasts, no gluten, no dairy, intermittent fasting, clean eating, etc…I wanted to try it if it was going to help me get thinner.

I have a miscarriage at 12 weeks between my first and second. I started to feel bad thinking that it was my dieting. And then I started to feel bad again because it took me more months to get pregnant after skipping periods from some weight loss in the 21-day fix diet.

But we did have more kids! And my body got a little more out of shape each time. I did not want to accept that so I would always gear up for the next diet and try my very hardest. Forget that my body deserves praise for having these precious kids. I was not happy with myself a lot of the time. It created anxiety and a preoccupation with food and exercise that always took up some space in my mind and schedule for real things in life.

I do have a love for health and nutrition. I find it fascinating. And if you are listening to this, I imagine you do too. And there is nothing wrong with that! In fact, God needs some people to have that talent in order to help others. The war in heaven was all based on us gaining physical bodies right?! And it didn’t stop there. This earth has most of its problems centered around our health and our bodies. The Lord needs an army of people here on earth to help in His cause. To help others love their bodies, fix them in the ways that they can and especially nurture their mind and come to Christ.

It was for this reason that I decided to go into Health and Life Coaching. In a previous episode, I talked about my Self Actualization. Where I finally found something that makes me feel creative, alive, and fulfilled. Yes, motherhood and marriage do that for me but I needed more with it. Something to help other women. And to use my knowledge and passion for health.

I went to school and learned a lot! I started my business and tried my best. But knowing me, I take it too far. I started to put my worth in how healthy I was and trying to hold a reputation now. It was too focused on what others thought of me. I was even tougher on myself because the stakes were higher. I am a Health Coach now. I am telling you this just to help you understand the gravity of how it fed into my body dysmorphia and orthorexia.

Back to my timeline, My last baby, Paige, also sparked some more diet behavior a couple of years ago after she was born. She had a dairy intolerance so I had to go off dairy myself if I would continue nursing her. This wasn’t a bad thing of course but the after-effects were hard on me. It was very difficult to go off dairy but after a few months, it didn’t phase me anymore! It was a thrill actually. After I was done nursing her, I thought to myself, what else can I take out that can help me lose weight? Then this started my vegan/plant-based dieting stint. I wouldn’t eat any eggs, dairy, or meat. I started to lose a lot of weight and I still had energy. I was the lowest I ever had been before since my wedding day.

The past stories of my mental health are interwoven in this journey too. I just had to talk about these stories in their own category in order for it all to make sense. But my eating disorders were definitely a big part of my depression. Those negative mental constructs in my mind were going to keep sending poison to my brain as I gave into my diet behaviors. And by this point, it had been 7 straight years of diet mentality (not always dieting since I was having kids) but paying tribute to “big brother” and abiding by his rules in whatever way I can.

This is not where I wanted to be. I wanted to give that time and energy to God. I came across the Intuitive Eating book on Instagram about 3 years ago. Someone was talking about it and I thought I would check it out. I loved it and tried it for a couple of weeks but then abandoned its principles because I still wanted to lose weight. But I think God had a purpose for me reading it at that time. He was going to remind me of it later when I was truly on my knees and ready to change.

After I went to the psych ward in the summer of 2020 and realized that my depression was a serious trial, I started to tighten my grip even more with food. I kept up my Vegan eating and even started juicing. As I was going through those different crazy medications and having bad side effects, I compensated with doing “cleanses”. I wanted to feel in control of my body again and get rid of all the toxins that these medications had. I did juice cleanses, read a ton of healthy eating books, got colonics, and even ate fully raw vegan for a week.

Yes, I have great determination and stubbornness to do things myself, but Satan knew how to wield these great qualities of mine to work in his favor. It was becoming an obsession. Now, all that restricting was going to backlash in full force. This is when binge eating started. Once or twice a week, I would finally give in to my cravings and I would eat everything in sight that I wanted. There were no rules now. And who is to know when I will have it again. This is what goes in my mind. I would feel sick in my stomach, feel bad about myself for days and restrict myself again. Skip meals, not eat as much, and back to only the “healthy” food.

There was also a psychological side to my binge eating. They are both so intertwined. Since my medications were up and down, not always working for me, I would search for a hit of dopamine that food would give me since my serotonin levels were obviously deficient. I was also super stressed out as a mom of 3 young kids, lonely from my husband working a ton and we were having marital conflict weekly. This was a recipe for disaster and bingeing was my comforting friend for about a year total.

I was drawn to the Lord more than I have ever been during this past year. I was on my knees every day sincerely to help me with my depression and my prayers were now asking for help with my eating too. The Lord answered my prayers slowly. He first helped me clearly see that these things are a problem. I need to name them and take responsibility for them. I thought back to the time when I read the Intuitive Eating book. The spirit kept telling me to revisit that material again. God believes in good books and the scriptures have told us to seek after them. After some time, I finally headed the prompting and skimmed the book again.

These principles felt like home. They felt healing. They felt right. The principles like making peace with food, no matter what kind. Getting rid of my food police in my mind. Honoring my fullness. These all felt so good. I bought and started the workbook that is sold separately and hoped that it would help me integrate the principles even more. And they have. There is something about answering journal prompts and taking time to seriously reflect instead of just reading that works wonders.

But I knew I needed even more help. I was still having some bingeing episodes, lots of negative comments about myself, and trying to dodge Brady’s unsolicited comments about starting a whole new lifestyle. And this was definitely a WHOLE NEW lifestyle to us as a couple. It felt like we didn’t have as much of a bond anymore since healthy talk was such a big part of our lives before. But I had to be true to myself. I also needed to have more support with going through such a big change to rip the seams of dieting for years. I needed professional help through these clinically identified disorders.

I made the call for The Center for Change, an eating disorder recovery center. They had their first screening call with me and definitely thought I needed help. I was admitted to their Intensive Outpatient Program. It is about 15 hours total a week with a few days doing group sessions, eating dinners together, weekly individual therapy, and dietitian appointments. I have started the program and it is wonderful. I am learning so much so far. I love doing with other people and we lean on each other through this journey. There is so much more to go and maybe in a later episode, I will summarize my experience and teach you some of what I learned.

So…This was all pretty vulnerable for me! Honestly, it feels like I am a fraud sometimes. I am a health and life coach and I can’t keep my life together. I have eating disorders and I was to help others with their health?? Who is going to believe that?!

But I had to step back and coach myself! No, Laura, you have a lot to offer. This only gives your more experience to identify with others. I want to live whole-heartedly and earn TRUE empathy. Going through it yourself is the only way you can gain that. Sharing our hearts is what will build Zion and prepare for the second coming for Christ.

So all in all, I am still going through this huge trial. I am by far not done with this yet. But I still want to show up as I am in it. I still want to give value to this world and I know you are the type of person who wants to as well, even though your trials right now. That is what God expects of us, what we do EVEN WHEN it gets hard.

I am here for you and I love the power of coaching. I would love to help you anyway. As I have said before, sign up for a free session from me and we will uncover some powerful stuff for you. Get you on a better path and create a vision of what your health can be with Intuitive Eating and with Christ. Please reach out to me. I would love to hear your story if you have dealt with eating disorders too. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

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