I remember being in 6th grade, going to the bathroom with all of my friends and standing in front of the mirror all talking about how ‘fat’ we were. One of us would say, “I hate my thighs, they’re so fat,” Another girl would say, “I hate my stomach! Look how it sticks out over my pants.” “I’m so fat!” someone else would chime in. Another girl would answer, “No, you’re not fat, I’m so much bigger than you!”
Where was this coming from? Why was this the bathroom dialogue of a group of 11 year old girls?
Well, since then, I have yet to meet a woman who hasn’t struggled in this area. Whether or not it has become an illness that has completely taken her/them over, it’s something all women are conditioned to fixate on.
My journey was no exception. I remember putting on weight around the age of 15 and feeling so uncomfortable. Looking back, this weight wasn’t anything crazy or unhealthy, and in fact, I was starting to come into myself as a woman. I specifically remember a moment where a boy in my class walked by me and slapped my thigh and said, in a vary degrading way, “Nice thick thighs.” I was mortified. That was the tipping point for me to develop a complete obsession with slimming + shaping my body. Of course it wasn’t just this one comment that did it, but rather the constant messaging that we’re subjected to as women, the many comments I had heard before then (whether aimed toward me or someone else) and then, just the right set of words that hit me so deeply I couldn’t bare the idea of being ‘thick’ or ‘fat’ in someone else’s eyes.
My approach to begin to ‘fix’ my body was extreme over exercising and a disorder that is now defined as orthorexia: “An obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy.” I was also under eating for the amount of activity I was doing at the time, even though I was following the calorie recommendation that was given by my doctor for girls my height + size. I ended up losing 40lbs in the matter of about 3 months. Along with the weight went my period, my boobs and healthy looking skin. At the time, that seemed like a small price to pay in order to be thin. I remember getting so much praise and attention from everyone. Adults, teachers and peers admired me for my body and my extreme ‘self discipline.’
The scariest part of all of this is that I had no idea that I was relating to my body and my food in such a disordered way. Isn’t it just normal for women to have a complicated relationship with food? I remember at one point, my boyfriend at the time was called into the guidance counselors office and asked about my eating habits. He told our guidance counselor that I ate and that there wasn’t a problem. To follow, I was called in to meet with her and asked about my eating habits. Unfortunately, though I realize she was only trying to do her job, the way she interrogated me made me feel like I was getting in trouble and only further fueled my disorder.
There came a point, as things progressively escalated, that I began to realize that what I had subjected myself to for the last 2+ years was in fact disordered. I didn’t understand the degree to which this was true, but it did force me to begin to attempt to embrace a more balanced approach. That said, imprinting these behaviors multiple times a day for 2+ years takes more than just awareness to be able to unwind it. Not to mention, all of the women around you (and now social media) who are also enacting these behaviors that often bring you right back into it.
Going to school for Holistic Nutrition ended up being the therapy that I never new I needed. To this day, I am beyond grateful for that. Within the first month of school, I remember realizing, wow, my relationship to food has been toxic and therefor, my food has become toxic to my body. I then proceeded to do so much personal work to unwind these behaviors.
As I reflect back on these various phases of my journey, what I realize is how layered an eating disorder really is. There has been so many times in the last 7 years where I thought that I was over struggling with food issues and body dysmorphia. Then, a new layer would present itself and I would be forced to be with those unbearable thoughts once again.
The final release happened when I decided to begin By Erika Elizabeth, now, The Adeptist. I new that I wanted this company to be something big and I knew that it was going to take all of me to really show up to it. My remaining attachments to needing to workout or subtly attempt to control my food were actually divinely forced to fall away. I remember thinking to myself, you can either spend your energy controlling your food and obsessively thinking about when you’re going to exercise OR you can take all of that energy and pour it into something bigger than yourself. But I knew, for me, I couldn’t maintain both.
I chose to pour that energy into creating something bigger than shaping my body into what society had told me was the perfect size. This got me to think, was that part of what was underlying my eating disorder and body obsession to begin with? I had all of this amazing energy that needed to be applied somewhere. Growing up, I wasn’t stimulated or inspired by school, I didn’t have an outlet for creativity, I wasn’t being recognized or seen for my what I had to offer, so, perhaps I found some relief through channeling this energy into creating + sculpting the ‘perfect’ body.
Why was it so easy to let go of the remnants the second I had an avenue to pour myself into, other than my physical body? I’ve heard from women who have had children that a similar phenomenon happens. No longer is it just about them anymore. They’ve created a being and that human requires all of them…not a deprived, depleted version of them.
Is it possible that when woman are empowered to drop into their feminine and lean into their innate creativity that their energy now has an appropriate and healthy avenue to fulfill?
Living with an eating disorder makes you small, both physically and energetically. It dilutes your power. Perhaps a powerful woman is a threat to society? So here, eat less, workout more, feel depleted but show up anyways, do it all (as in cook, clean, take care of everybody first), stay young, don’t take up space, don't speak up, be polite, be kind, be a lady, keep to yourself and keep on pushing through. This is a sure way to keep women distracted and small. I suppose that’s a whole other conversation/blog post for another time, but just a thought. Perhaps you’re here to do more than shape your body into a mold it was never meant for.
These days, I eat in abundance. It’s completely intuitive and natural. You can ask any of my friends, they know me as someone who unapologetically eats and also makes sure others are always well fed. My relationship with food and my body is far from complicated. Quite honestly, I have so many other things on my plate that I literally do not have the capacity to give energy to obsessing over my body. I am creating something so much bigger than myself and that requires nourishment. I feel it is my responsibility to eat well, sleep, meditate and take care of myself in order to be able to serve on the level that I know I am designed for.
I don’t say this to be insensitive to those who are currently struggling with an eating disorder. Trust me, I feel you deeply and I realize it isn’t easy. I say all this to let you know that you are a powerful force of nature and if you’re here on this planet, right now, our world needs you at your fullest. And for me, what pushed me to finally leave this part of me in the past was realizing that my purpose in the world was not to stay small, but to get big.