Melainie Rogers, eating disorder survivor, nutritionist, and founder & CEO of BALANCE Eating Disorder Treatment Center, shares her story of recovery.
ALOHA: How did the eating disorder begin?
M.R: I’d just moved for a job and I gained a little weight. And then I was dumped on the same day that my grandfather died. I decided to cope with the grief by dieting. I lost some weight and quickly became obsessive—I weighed myself daily. I began running (which I hated), and before long I was doing marathons.
ALOHA: What did it take away from you?
M.R: Friendships, happiness, time, energy, and emotional wellbeing. People would ask me to go out for dinner and I would say “I haven’t had a great eating week and I need to cleanse.” A lot of friendships deteriorated. And the restricting escolated to binging.
I would get up at 5am to cook my meals, as I would only eat what I had cooked myself, then I’d go for an hour run followed by 12-14 hours of work. I’d come home exhausted and go to sleep immediately, just to get up and do it agian. My life became very small and constrained.
ALOHA: What was the turning point?
M.R: I got a running injury and had to stop running. It was terrifying - I gained weight and couldn’t do anything about it. I also couldn’t restrict anymore, which is common—you reach a point where you can’t do it anymore.
The weight gain actually helped me restabalize. There’s a genetic vulnerability for eating disorders, and if you lose weight beyond a certain point it switches on the eating disorder. If you restore weight to where your body wants to be, it switches off the eating disorder.
My obsession mellowed, but I was left in this horrendous place of hating my body and feeling out of control. So I thought, “I’m just going to ignore my body. Clearly I can’t do anything about it, so I’m just going to disconnect.”
Thankfully, I’d just started my masters—having something so captivating and enriching distracted me from my body.
ALOHA: What else did recovery entail?
M.R: My boyfriend and I broke up and the transitional stress motivated me to seek counseling. My counselor helped me with my anxiety and depression, and over time I learned how to manage those emotions without the eating disorder. That excruciating time caused me to take the steps to recovery.
ALOHA: What was the hardest part of recovery?
M.R: The weight gain. You want to crawl out of your skin—it’s a revulsion. It’s a not wanting to look at your body. I hide myself in over-sized clothes because my body disgusted me.
ALOHA: How did you get through those challenging times?
M.R: I dissociated and disconnected. I avoided mirrors. I didn’t look at my body. But I eventually got sick of it. I was amazed by my boyfriend who never restricted his meals and managed his weight by “eatting when hungry and stopping when full.” So I tried that with an order of Chinese. Normally I got steamed chicken and broccoli with sauces on the side and one tiny spoon of rice—I would eat all of that and then some. And he would have a dish with everything. So this night I ordered a normal meal. I was nervous until I started eating and quickly felt full! I took a rest and waited - the hunger didn’t come back. That was satiety and fullness—if you slow down and pay attention, there’s a regulatory system there. That was my introduction to listening to hunger and fullness.
I stopped restricting and my body weight reassimilated. After a year of maintaining, your body weight shifts to where it’s supposed to be, if you’re not messing around with it. I was struck with gratitude and grief—I didn’t need to starve myself for all of those years. This is my natural bodyweight and I don’t need to do much to control it.
ALOHA: Is there any advice you would give to your recovering self?
M.R: Acknowledging that I had an eating disorder sooner. Unfortunately, when you’re in the disorder you think you don’t have an eating disorder or it’s not serious enough to warrant help. If I hadn’t gone into therapy I might still be struggling. This idea that you can do it on your own has gotten me into a lot of trouble.
ALOHA: What advice would you give to someone who is ambivalent about recovery?
M.R: When I compare what my life was like pre and post recovery, it’s jarring. I wouldn’t have the elements of richness in my life if I still had an eating disorder. Think about the life you would like and understand that may be impossible to acheive with an eating disorder.
If you believe you’re at war with your body, contact BALANCE Eating Disorder Treatment Center for cutting-edge, comprehensive support.
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