Does Dirt Have Calories? — My Story

I awoke that morning as I did most mornings while living in Paris—woozy, exhausted and determined. During what should’ve been a pinnacle in the modeling career I’d held dear, I was enraptured and controlled by an eating disorder. Where logic would’ve told me to get some rest, nourish my body and tend to the day’s work responsibilities, E.D. commanded I wake up and run! Breakfast, castings, agency meetings and photo shoots would have to wait; my sole priority was the upkeep of my disease.

My emaciated body had been surviving on carrots, sugarless ice tea and Coke Light, yet felt gigantic and punishable. If I could eat as little as possible and burn far more than I chewed, I might finally reach thinness—i.e., happiness, success and perfection. I had to run.

I slipped my feet into my worn out, blood-stained sneakers, stepped out of my tiny Parisian flat and headed toward the Seine. The Eiffel Tower came into full view atop the pastel haze of the sunrise—a living, breathing Monet. It’s beauty could’ve taken a blind man’s breath away, I wrote in my journal. I didn’t deserve it. 

The dewy earth squished beneath my feet as I ran to the rhythm of calorie-counting. Forty-five plus six plus ten… Plus five plus ten plus three… I estimated the ‘damage’ from the day prior then plotted an itinerary of exercise and occasional food bits to compensate. So accustomed to ignoring the dizziness and fatigue accompanying me, anything else would’ve felt foreign. But this time was different.

I observed that the dip in the ground ahead looked like an adult-size cradle. Perhaps I knew what was coming.

I ran with increasing dizziness and pain, as though a metal clamp squeezed my brain. Run! Don’t stop! You can’t. Tears stung at my eyes as I tried to outrun the inevitable. I fell to the ground, as though in slow motion. And for a brief, savory moment, I felt weightless.

I awoke later, lying in the grassy cradle, the taste of blood and dirt in my mouth. Rather than wonder how long I’d been there or if I’d been hurt, one thought filled me with terror: Does dirt have calories? 

I don’t recall who found me or how I made it to the medical center, only the words of the British doctor: “You have anorexia. Do you understand what that means? You could’ve died. You could die.”

Her words blurred together like fog on a windshield as my thoughts went wild. She’s crazy! I can’t have anorexia. Please don’t make me eat… I felt neither thin nor “skilled” enough to have a disorder characterized by starvation. Sure, I had problems—the “cancer in my soul” I’d journaled about. I felt physically and emotionally rotted and weak, but couldn’t make sense of anything. I only knew I had to go home.

The week after I arrived in Minneapolis, I began treatment and fought harder to remain ill. Once I accepted my diagnosis, anorexia seemed the one special thing about me. If I let it go, what was left? The word ‘recovery’ seemed synonymous with ‘fatness,’ ‘failure’ and ‘mediocrity.’

As my starving measures increased, my emotional and physical self tolerated them less and less. My therapist repeatedly threatened in-patient treatment. I lied, promising I would eat more and gain necessary weight.

Finally, one of my worst nightmares came true. In a moment of despair, I gave in to my longing for a single bite of chocolate ice cream. As I placed the dollop of creamy cold sweetness into my mouth, my entire body trembled. I felt intoxicated, a sense of danger, head-to-toe orgasm, temporary relief. But one bite turned into two, then six, then all that remained of the half gallon. The fatty cream sat like a putrid rock in my shrunken stomach. I’d never felt so ashamed.

The bingeing/starving roller coaster that followed was the most excruciating and important occurrences in my recovery. At its worst, I entered what my therapist called a “bulimic trance.” The bingeing took over and I had little awareness of all I’d consumed until I found myself sobbing amidst wrappers and crumbs.

As weight returned to my body, friends and family told me how healthy I looked.

“You’re filling out so nicely!” The well-intended comment haunted me for months. Desperate to stop bingeing, I decided to take my treatment more seriously.

“I will do anything to stop this,” I told my therapist.

“Good,” she said. “It starts with eating. After you binge, don’t skip your next meal.”

Anything but that. I resisted her instructions, holding staunchly to the belief that if I were just strong enough, I could attain the thinness I desired and stop bingeing at once. It sounded Utopian. Meanwhile, I mourned the loss of my anorexia like a lost soulmate.

One night, after a fast ended in a gargantuan binge, I hit bottom. I considered gulping the poison I’d used on occasion to vomit, aware of the life-threatening risks. I didn’t want to die, but I couldn’t bear life as I knew it. In a fury, I scavenged the house for the tiny bottle. When I couldn’t find it, my heart raced. I struggled to breathe.

Then something remarkable happened. Incapable of purging in any of my viable methods, I calmed down. Calmness brought clarity. Rather than plot restriction strategies for the coming days, I began plotting a future free of ED.

I walked with trepidation to my wall mirror and looked not at my hips, belly or thighs, but into my eyes. The head-on stare punctured the swollen balloon of hurt inside me, releasing sobs.

“You can’t live like this anymore!” I told my reflection. “I won’t let you hate yourself so much. This is not who you are.” I didn’t know what I was fighting for, but my instincts said, don’t give up.

My anger at ED and proclamations in the mirror were the first signs of self-love I’d displayed in years, the light switch in the dark cave I lived in. If I managed to turn it on, I knew my life would change.

I threw my “skinny clothes” and scale in a dumpster and removed the size tags from clothes that fit. I told myself that for one year, I would not diet, starve or make any other attempts at weight loss. If I gained weight during that year, so be it. The next morning, with trembling hands and tears flooding my cheeks, I ate breakfast.

Though I wanted to forego my commitments frequently over the subsequent weeks, I held fast. The bingeing continued at first, as did my weight gain, until I nearly doubled my lowest weight. If I have to start over every day, I will, I wrote. And start over again and again I did. I had nothing to lose by trying and everything to lose by not.

Months later, I was no longer dieting, starving or bingeing and my life was beginning to feel like a life. I was in college, making friends, writing songs and even, on occasion, laughing. But my recovery had reached a plateau. I felt awkward eating around others, anxious about eating too much or too little. The slightest pangs of hunger or fullness put me on edge. I saw plates of calories and felt guilty when I indulged. And though I resisted, I longed to diet. ED hadn’t left. He’d only grown quieter.

One day over steaming cups of Indian tea, my mom handed me a CD with a song she and my dad wanted me to hear: Lee Ann Womack’s, “I Hope You Dance.”

“It’s time to find joy,” she said. (And here I’d thought I had everyone fooled…)

The song’s message about “dancing,” which I took to mean many joyful things, hit me with profound force.

That evening I sat at a park watching a group of friends picnicking, captivated by a woman around my age. After a bite of her hearty sandwich, she closed her eyes, tipped her head back and said, “This is so good!” I longed for an ounce of her joy.

I’d been eating because I was “supposed” to, promised others I would and never wanted to go off the bingeing/starving deep end again. In order to fully recover, I had to manifest joy around eating.

I knew it was possible because I’d experienced it. My childhood love affair with food seemed insatiable. Family photographs portray a bubbly, smiling girl holding an ice cream cone, sitting before a luminous birthday cake or about to take a chomp out of a fresh red apple from our backyard tree. Before bed, I often asked my parents what the next day’s breakfast would entail, “so I could dream about it.”

Food for my family meant togetherness. Birthday celebrations, picnics by the lake, nightly home cooked meals—a special bond and a clay we used to build memories. Until fear and ED had creeped in. No more, I decided.

I began studying food with a velocity I’d only previously applied to treadmills. I wanted to discover its goodness and stop dreaming of ways to avoid it. What did particular foods do for me? If not for managing weight, why did people eat them? How could I eat healthfully, and not by diet book standards of what that was?

I began addressing a self-compiled “I’m afraid of” list. Eat in public. Eat at a restaurant, alone. Eat a meal prepared by others without demanding particulars. Eat the ice cream that triggered my first binge—one serving at a time.

I traded my diet books for medical and dietetic texts that defined food as fuel, a necessary means of nutrients, and obtained my certification in nutrition. I cooked, experimented with foods I’d never tried and volunteered at soup kitchens. I stopped aiming for dietary perfection. Multiple studies had convinced me that such increased my risk for bingeing, obesity, anxiety, depression and sleep problems—pretty much everything on my “No, thank you” list.

It took numerous attempts of arriving at an upscale restaurant alone before I dined there and several more before I enjoyed the food without heavy perspiration or heart palpitations. I wept over a homemade candlelit dinner for one, served on my grandmother’s china. I stocked my kitchen with food until it felt warm, loved and lived-in. Rather than cold and frightening, it felt like home. I took a Buddhist philosophy course and applied its principles to my meals. Eating slowly and without distraction soon went from mortifying to pacifying. On difficult days, I asked myself what I’d feed a dear friend then treated myself to just that.

*****

On a cool spring evening, I sat at my kitchen table with a bowl of spicy chili and fresh-baked corn bread. An unexpected breeze blew through my apartment window, carrying a flower from outside into my bowl. Plunk! As the pink petals swam amongst the diced tomatoes and cannelloni beans, I laughed. Struck my own amusement, I realized that nothing but goodness sat at my table. All anxiety, shame and feelings of inadequacy had dissipated, leaving me with a palpable sense of peace.

I returned to Paris that summer to celebrate my recovery. Near the grassy patch I’d fallen in I buried a capsule filled with cards from loved ones, photographs, under-sized clothes and copies of my songs and journal entries. ED’s funeral, I called it. A memorial service for my SELF. I ran along the Seine, this time grateful for the strong legs that carried me, the absence of pain and my second chance at a happy, healthy life.

*****

What does ‘beauty’ mean to you?
One of the BEST parts of my recovery was the growing ability to use my brain and energy for pursuits unrelated to diet or exercise—writing, reading, singing… Sam Levinson’s poem, Beauty of A Woman, inspired me on numerous difficult days. In honor of all the poem stands for, I invite you to join me in a beauty-FULL celebration on Friday, February 10th. To learn how you can participate as a blogger or prize sponsor, visit Beauty of a Woman BlogFest.

Leave a comment

162 Comments

  1. Wow! I read this with renewed appreciation of your ability to overcome a life-threatening condition and your amazing talent for writing.

    Reply
  2. You ever read something and it makes you want to say so many things that you can’t coherently say any of them?

    Reply
  3. gingercalem

     /  January 19, 2012

    Wow, such a powerful post, August. Thank you for sharing this piece of you. It has inspired me to write about this same issue of body image and how I’ve been impacted by it. Thank YOU for that inspiration! Now I think I know what I can contribute to your Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. 🙂

    HUGS!!

    Reply
  4. As a health care professional, I admire the courage and strength you showed in making your recovery, and I applaud you for sharing your story with others. As a writer, I admire how beautifully you chronicled it. Wonderful post!

    Reply
  5. Thanks, guys! Your warmth and support mean so much… (And yes, Amber…like now. ;))

    Reply
  6. Thank heavens you had the strength within you to fight this disease, otherwise we would all be missing out on getting to know the amazing creative soul that you are. I love the flower story!

    Reply
  7. Wow amazing and inspiring. i’m so pleased you found peace and joy, long may that continue!

    Reply
  8. This is one of the most incredible stories I’ve ever read. So moving and powerful. I was moved to tears at the end when the flower flew into your chili. You are so brave for sharing this story, and I have no doubt it will help countless others.

    Reply
  9. paywindow7

     /  January 19, 2012

    From what I’ve read and your post here, ED must be a terrible disorder. One where you become your own assassin. I’m glad you took control of it and I hope your life continues to be be filled with personal joy.

    signpilot

    Reply
    • Very insightful of you. Yes, what begins as sufferers’ desire and belief that controlling and changing their bodies (and, thereby, their worth) is possible, quickly morphs into total loss – a death of all they were and could be. And anorexia actually has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric conditions.

      Thanks for your well wishes! Much joy to you, too.

      Reply
  10. This was incredible, August. An incredible story incredibly written. Thank you for sharing it.

    I thought this was particularly interesting, “My childhood love affair with food seemed insatiable.” It’s funny how it’s easiest to hurt the ones we most love, even if what we love is food.

    Reply
    • Interesting point. And we’re most vulnerable to hurt (hurting ourselves and others) when it’s love for ourselves that’s lacking.

      I can’t tell you what your kudos and support mean to me, Joe. Thanks so much.

      Reply
  11. Very powerful and moving. Thanks for sharing it.

    Reply
  12. August,

    I am so in awe of your strength and your generosity and bravery to share your story. Not just share it, but write it beautifully! Thank you for this.

    Reply
  13. August, I can’t bear to think of your fall or the taste of blood and dirt in your mouth, but what a transformation you’ve wrought since. When I “met” you in Kristen Lamb’s class, I remember thinking you were mighty young to exude wisdom and calm, and it gives me no satisfaction to know how hard-won those qualities are. I’m sorry for your years of pain but grateful to have you whole and healthy–and wise and calm–in our midst. Your joy in life and others is evident, too. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your warmth and support, Pat.

      Eating disorders, at all points on the spectrum, keep those who suffer from experiencing true joy or fulfillment. They also stunt our emotional and intellectual growth. Overcoming them, however, like many obstacles, lets it all lose again…with oodles more appreciation and empowerment. It means the world that you’ve sensed any of this in me (because I think the world of you!).

      I’ve met countless people suffering from similar issues along the way. Disordered eating seems to capture some of the most bright, loving and talented—breaks my heart.

      Reply
  14. Kourtney Heintz

     /  January 19, 2012

    Thank you for sharing such a personal and private memory. I have struggled with overeating for years and it’s taken me a long time to realize it’s about punishing myself and I don’t want to do that any longer. Your posts have truly helped me kick the new year off right.

    Congratulations for how much you’ve accomplished. This post is heart filling and inspiring. You are AMAZING!

    Reply
    • Thrilled to know I’ve influenced you in some positive way, Kourtney. That self-awareness you’ve developed will go a long way—often the most crucial part of growth and healing.

      Thanks for your kudos. 🙂 Means a lot!

      Reply
  15. What a moving demonstration of the harm that the modeling industry and Hollywood are causing to so many young women by promoting a standard of perfection that’s only attainable at a great cost! It’s heartbreaking to think of how many struggle with this horrible disease, many of whom won’t listen to the wakeup call like you did. Thanks for sharing – hopefully others will see this and realize eating disorders can be beat.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Jennette. The fashion and entertainment industries and overall societal ideals definitely contribute to our culture’s immense weight, body image and diet conflicts. I don’t blame the modeling industry by any stretch, but that career path didn’t help matters—other than helping to expedite my journey, one might say. 😉

      Reply
  16. Truly moving August. You will touch a lot of hearts with your words. The best posts dig deep within one’s self and that’s exactly what you have done here. I feel honored that you shared this story with us today. You are an amazing woman to have pulled yourself through such a tough thing and come out so wise for it. Bless you August.

    Reply
  17. You are an amazing lady. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us!

    Reply
  18. I know this because I’ve suffered from ED also. Both anerexia and bullemia at different times. I know every single feeling you’ve described. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. You’re so brave to publish it so that others will hopefully draw strength from your words.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve struggled, too, April. (Hmm… Something to do with month names?? ;))

      Sounds like ED is in your past—GIGANTIC HUGS and CHEERS for you! As you know, the experience can evoke tremendous strength and empowerment, as long as we commit to moving forward and living fully.

      Reply
  19. Coleen Patrick

     /  January 19, 2012

    Very powerful August!!

    Reply
  20. As one who has never missed a meal, I’ve never understood how anyone could have anerexia or bullemia. Thanks for giving me some understanding, August.

    Your story tears at the reader’s emotions, and I’m sure it tore at yours to write it. Thank you for having the guts to share it. I don’t know anyone (that I’m aware of) who has this sort of problem, but I’d surely send this to them if I did.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad I heightened your understanding, David. (Though I’m glad you don’t relate!) Yes, tears were shed as I wrote this and as I’ve read people’s comments.

      Not everyone feels comfortable voicing their stories, which I fully respect. For me, it’s reaffirming. And reliving some of the pain on occasion keeps me centered and appreciative.

      Reply
  21. This is such a great piece. When we truly connect with the hearts and minds of our audience, regardless of the subject, that is Writing with a capital “W”. To be able to connect and actually HELP others, that’s a Service! You have done both exceedingly well, August.

    This work should be submitted to journals and publications on ED’s, and magazines that young women would read to help them understand what they may be going through.

    Reply
    • You hit on the two things I probably care most about: writing and inspiring. Thanks so much, MJ. Particularly coming a writer I respect, your cheers mean bunches.

      Reply
  22. I was moved to tears twice as I read this. August, I am in awe of your strength. You are my hero.

    Reply
  23. mgmillerbooks

     /  January 19, 2012

    Thank you, August, for being so open and candid. Your story is a cautionary tale to all those who think bodily perfection will bring them the happiness they desire, and a testament to finding the true beauty within.

    Reply
  24. I never understood eating disorders. I could comprehend that certain job demands forced people into decisions that were not healthy. Your line about dirt and blood in your mouth and the first concern was about calories really captures the sickness of the disorder, or really any disorder. I am always amazed at how fragile our brains are and how all of a sudden we look up from the depths of a personal hell and can’t figure out how we got there or how to climb back out. The road to recovery is a long and slow journey, but one which strengthens our inner self. I praise your courage for sharing such a deep and personal experience with us. As the reader I could really understand and feel the depths of the hell your had sunk into. Thank you for sharing your knowledge about this disorder.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your honesty, Tim. I think it’s difficult to grasp eating disorders if you’ve never had one, or similar/related issues.

      Modeling certainly contributed to my “issues,” shall we say…but it worked more like a magnifying glass, making prominent what was already there. The industry attracts people with insecurities. (I can think of one model of the many I knew in New York who seemed to have a healthy relationship with herself and body. Sadly, and perhaps as a consequence, she didn’t work much or last long…) Many models choose the career because they want the added pressure.

      I LOVE what you said about the fragility of our brains. The decline sure does seem to hit us suddenly, after denial fades and we hit rock bottom. Thanks for your support and insight!

      Reply
    • Eating disorders, like so many other compulsions, are more often than not a by-product: specifically, a by-product of an ultra-driven, exacting, perfectionistic nature, a nature that strives and usually does excel. This is one of the reasons that certain athletes, like wrestlers and boxers, develop such severe and destructive eating disorders, and at such young ages (junior high or high school), and it’s why 16-year-old wrestlers die of heart attack on the wrestling mat. I’ve personally known wrestlers who HAVE genuinely overcome their eating disorders, and yet that mindset has become so deeply rooted in their psyche that these men will never again quite approach food in the way they did before the eating disorder took hold. The compulsion — the fasting compulsion, I call it — becomes a way-of-life, a mindset, and there’s an (often overlooked) ascetical component to it, which for many if not most is every bit as entrenched and as important as the physical. That, in my opinion, is why dancers, models, special-forces soldiers, athletes, men-and-women-of-the cloth, et cetera, have strange affinities.

      What a post, August.

      Reply
      • Thanks so much for your insight, Ray. Such struggles can go on indefinitely… It’s heartbreaking.

        Simply believing that one can overcome such issues for good opens up the possibility for freedom. I was adamant about not being “in recovery” for the rest of my life, regardless of being told numerous times it was the best I could hope for. I survived then recovered and now thrive. Eating disorders don’t have to be a life sentence.

  25. What a totally beautiful post! It’s funny how you can look at someone and think how lucky they are, yet we can’t do that about ourselves. Also amazing that we see so many people everyday and never know their suffering. This was a heavy post, hard to read and no doubt hard to write, but I’m glad you shared. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

    Thanks for being brave enough to share your journey, August. And your beautiful pictures of Paris.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Reply
    • During my recovery I learned that comfort with discomfort is pretty important if we want to move forward and thrive in our lives. This is one reason I focused on some of the most shameful aspects of my illness here. (It’s amazing how many people correlate anorexia with discipline or glamour…)

      And you’re so right. People we see everyday have incredible stories, good and bad, admirable and frightening… It’s easy to judge not only books, but people, by covers. 😉 Thanks for your support, Patricia – means so much!

      Reply
  26. Wow August, what a powerful post. Your passion and honesty, the person you really are from within really jumps off the page.

    It’s horrible what we do to ourselves when we are in pain. We fool ourselves by thinking that we can hide it from others, even those most close to us, yet somehow it shows and we are only hiding from ourselves.

    What a courageous act of survival it took for you to look at yourself and recognize your self-destructive course and took the necessary steps to live and enjoy your life!

    I admire your strength August. By your unselfish effort to share your experience with us today, it has helped countless others. Thank you. 🙂

    Reply
    • Lovely of you to say, Karen. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt courageous, but then…who does? We all endure pain. Getting up and out of it must take some sort of bravery, particularly when carrying on with our behavior seems rational and involuntary.

      And all the while we think that no one else in the world understands or is like us, when in truth, we’re far more alike than we realize—whether we’re affected by illnesses like eating disorders or not.

      Reply
  27. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes

     /  January 19, 2012

    What an amazing journey you’ve been on. Thank you for sharing and inspiring others.

    Reply
  28. I said I wasn’t going to read and comment on posts today because I’m prepping to leave for a conference tomorrow, but when I saw what this was about, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve been there. Some of the things you wrote brought tears to my eyes because I’ve been there. I suffered from anorexia for years in my early to mid-twenties. I look back at pictures now, and it’s disgusting even to me how shrunken I’d become, but I just couldn’t see it. I felt fat.

    I can remember the breaking point came when I had a badly sprained ankle that the doctor told me I was supposed to stay off of if I didn’t want to cause myself permanent damage (this wasn’t the first time–I was in to the doctor or emergency room every month because my body was giving out). I wrapped it, took extra-strength aspirin, and worked out for four hours as usual. My mom found me later unable to put any weight on it, in intense pain despite what I’d taken, and crying not because I hurt but because I was afraid I’d have to miss a day of exercise. And I asked her if she’d still love me if I gained weight.

    Reply
    • Oh, Marcy… Your personal struggle proves what I said earlier: eating disorders capture some of the brightest most talented individuals. I relate all too well to the exercise obsession, physical pain (that doesn’t come close to matching the emotional angst), equating self-worth with body size and having no ability to see our physical selves accurately. That question you posed to your mother is absolutely heart breaking… No one should ever have to experience it.

      It’s obvious you’ve come a long way. I’m inspired. THANK you for the hard work you’ve done in your life. Many are benefiting, including me.

      Reply
  29. What a thought provoking story, August. I’m really glad you got control over the eating disorder that was killing you. I hope everyone who suffers from it finds the help they need like you did.

    Reply
    • I’m glad, too, Kristy! Such a blessing to feel whole, stable and happy again.

      I’m with you in your wish for others… If they had a taste of what recovery’s really like, they’d chase it and never turn back.

      Reply
  30. Catherine Johnson

     /  January 19, 2012

    Wow, that’s an amazing story of recovery August. Paris can have that effect on people. There is pressure everywhere to be skinny. Few peopel in Paris are actually fat. Well done for getting through it and posting so bravely about it here.

    Reply
    • Good point, Catherine, though I was surprised at how little emphasis there was in Paris on weight loss and skinniness (compared to New York, anyway :)). And though my struggle started long before, you’re so right. It’s hard not to be impacted by the appearance and standards of people around us.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

      Reply
  31. August, your writing is breath-taking and your story incredibly moving. I’m sitting at the computer taking big, cleansing breaths, trying not to cry at your strength and bravery.
    I need to tweet this post. It should be widely read.

    Reply
  32. Thank you for sharing your story August. Your struggle and triumph left me speechless.

    Reply
  33. August, your story brought tears to my eyes and I am so happy for you that you were able to beat this disorder. It takes bravery and courage to look in the mirror and accept yourself for who you truly are. Thank goodness you were strong enough to overcome this burden on your young life. Your parents must be so very proud of you.

    We are most beautiful inside where it counts, aren’t we? 🙂

    Reply
    • Absolutely, Sheila. It’s one thing to believe that rationally and another entirely to feel it in our hearts. All of us can probably stand to focus more inward.

      Thanks for your warm words. My parents are proud of all five of us kids, as are we of them. They’ve always believed in us and taught us to pursue our dreams, which makes all the difference in the world…

      Reply
  34. August, your story really touched me, and I thank you for your honest portrayal of both the anguish and the recovery. Such a powerful experience so aptly and visually described. I am going to save this and show it to my daughters. The continual starting over you describe may be the most difficult part, but it is also the part that gives us hope.

    Reply
    • That so much, Kecia! I hope your daughters benefit in some way. Thank you for loving them enough to challenge them…

      Standing back up isn’t often easy. We simply do it anyway.

      Reply
  35. Simply beautiful August. Thank you for sharing such a profound and intimate part of your life. It makes those of us who’ve been through hard times feel less alone 🙂

    Reply
  36. Oh my goodness, August, what a powerful, hearty-wrenching post. I thank you so much for sharing it.

    Reply
  37. I’m not sure I can be coherent August. For you to have gone through this and survived is awe inspiring. For you to have had the presence of mind to journal about it then the guts to share it is simply amazing. Thank you August for sharing this!

    Reply
  38. “I ran along the Seine, this time grateful for the strong legs that carried me, the absence of pain and my second chance at a happy, healthy life.”
    Wonderful line.
    I love your knack for titles, as well.

    Reply
  39. I’m in tears, August! To look at you now, I would never expect this from you, but am so grateful that you’ve shared your story. My heart weeps for that young woman you were and rejoices at the strong woman you’ve become. There is something to be learned here whether you are overweight and struggling with a few pounds, or have eating disorders that make you too skinny. Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
    • You have such a thoughtful way with words, Tameri. One of the greatest advantages of this “new” life has been connecting with friends and writers like you. Thanks for your support!

      Reply
  40. Thank you so much for introducing me to your blog by following mine. What a weird coincidence that this was the first post of yours I read, given that I struggled with similar issues many years ago (which are now making their way into some of my fiction, for the first time ever). I can only echo what so many have said: thank you for your honesty and for sharing your beautifully written, gut-wrenching story. I look forward to reading more from you.

    Reply
    • I love that you’ve worked your personal struggles into your fiction, Audrey, though I’m sorry to hear you faced them. Books and other art forms are wonderful places to put our insight, lessons learned and experiences…whether fictionalized or not. (Fiction often holds more truth than non, IMHO… ;))

      Thanks so much for your visit and comment. I look forward to staying in touch!

      Reply
  41. Marc Schuster

     /  January 19, 2012

    I admire your courage — both in facing your ED and sharing your story.

    Reply
  42. Thank you so much for sharing your story, August. It was so sad yet so beautiful. I am so glad that it ended so well. I love that you took yourself back to Paris for a funeral for ED. What an amazing celebration of your life.

    Reply
  43. August, you are a beautiful woman in so many ways and this is a gorgeous, heart-rending piece of writing. I’ve never known what it meant to have an ED, though I have friends who went through it (we live in LA, after all). Now I understand their pain.

    I also think it’s wonderful you’re a nutritionist, bringing your hard-earned healthy relationship with food to others. Count me in for your blogfest.

    Reply
  44. What a powerful story, August. Beautifully written, emotional and strong. Like you. Anorexia is such a sneaky dirty disease. To think you worked through it and recovered so completely is to contemplate a miracle. Well done, beautiful lady. well done.

    Reply
  45. Oh, August, It hurts me to think you went through all that pain and struggle. My best friend’s daughter, with whom I’ve always been very close, nearly died from the complications of anorexia a few short years ago. That was the bottom for her. She went into treatment which helped immensely, and her parents went to counseling to learn to understand why she was so tormented. Fortunately she’s healthy and happy today in a wonderful relationship and has a 3 month old baby.
    The courage you displayed in telling this heart-wrenching story is admirable. I think it’s important to share experiences such as this, so others don’t feel so alone in their dark moments. I love that you are thriving now and pray you’ll never experience that pain again. What an inspiration you are!

    Reply
    • What an inspiring story, Marcia. Proper treatment and the support of loved ones go a long way toward healing. Your friend’s daughter and baby are prime examples.

      I can’t thank you enough for your support!

      Reply
  46. Wow! August, this is one of the most powerful and beautiful posts I have ever read. I am left in awe by your strength and your openness and willingness to share with us. I am inspired. I am moved. What a journey. I cannot begin to imagine the hell this journey was for you but I am sooo pleased you have found your way to the other side and have discovered your inner beauty and power! I haven’t know you long or even personally, but I see it and feel it in your writing and spirit!
    Hugs my friend! You are a treasure and may you always know all of life’s joys! Mwauh…xox

    Reply
  47. Your post has taken me back to think about a classmate who took her life after several years of battling anorexia. It was the beginning of our sophomore year of college and we couldn’t understand because from outward appearances and actions, we thought she was “better.” Thanks for having the courage in sharing the deep pain of your journey. It gives me a view into the world she lived in and an understanding of some of the things she most likely also felt.

    Reply
    • What a tragedy, Barbara. I’m so sorry you and your classmates had to endure it. It’s amazing how much darker the world of a person newly recovering from an ED can get when all seems well from the outside. The fear, loathing and longing for food and weight loss go on long after weight gain and re-feeding begin. Meanwhile, the only coping mechanism they’ve had is ripped away.

      So glad to hear that I’ve shone some light on what your friend must have been experiencing—makes my own struggles feel more worthy.

      Reply
  48. Excellent and moving post. I think it’s pretty cool that you were willing to share something so personal; I’m sure that anyone who suffers from an ED would benefit from reading it. And I never thought of it before, but now I’m consumed by it: Does dirt have calories? French dirt probably does…

    Reply
    • Well yes, most every “thing” has calories, which are units of energy. And depending on where it’s reaped, dirt may also have various amounts of minerals and fiber. This is not to say that one should be eating it. 😉

      Thanks for your warm words!

      Reply
  49. We DO have a lot alike, August! I almost couldn’t read this all the way through. I consider myself “cured,” but the emotions that surfaced are still very “raw.” I understand your story all too well (as I’m sure you know by now). My battle lasted nearly 15 years and the feeding tube surgically inserted in my small intestine (I was tubefed for 12 months at my lowest point) left physical and emotional scars that will never fade.
    And I appreciate learning that you went through a period of bingeing… my son recently unearthed our engagement photos and let out a shout of surprise. “Mommy, you were FAT!” he said. Obviously, my husband is not afraid of a “real” woman with curves… which really helped me in my recovery (ironically, years of intuitive eating caused me to LOSE weight albeit healthfully).
    I am proud to say I have not looked at a scale in over 8 years. I’m getting older and my body is changing, but I do not have ANY desire to return to the “thin” me. I now recognize all the amazing things my body can DO and tend to not be as focused on how it LOOKS (although I feel more beautiful now than I ever did while dieting).
    No one can appreciate what you’ve been though more than someone who has traveled that same road. I admire your willingness to share and am eternally grateful that you overcame the disordered thinking to share your unique perspective with the rest of us. Your writing is truly a gift!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for your lovely words and support, Jana! Though I hate knowing you’ve gone through so much, I’m thrilled that we have the latter parts in common—surviving, recovering and ongoing thriving.

      I felt similar to how you described hearing Portia DeRossi read part of her book, “Unbearable Lightness.” Even after we’ve healed, that rawness can peak up. It’s a positive thing in many ways… We get to keep the gratitude, empowerment and compassion overcoming such hardship can provide.

      Kindred spirits in healing and pen?? 😉 Stay well, sister-friend.

      Reply
      • You as well, my dear! The pen is a mighty force in healing!
        If you ever DO take it to the next level and put this story in print… I’d love to collaborate. I saved all my journals from that horrific time and (in addition to sharing the experience through public speaking at the local high school) would love to make the message of survival available to more who suffer…
        I put a copy of “Unbearable Lightness” on hold… look forward to reading it.

  50. August, you got a mention on my latest blog post – Top 10!
    http://mjmonaghan.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/blog-quotes-top-10/

    Reply
  51. A funeral for ED. Congratulations. What a battle but I’m glad you won. The image of the flower coming into the room on the breeze and landing in your bowl… wow…

    Reply
  52. August, the honesty and sensitivity in this post is incredibly powerful. It strikes me as something that could be immensely helpful to other intelligent young women who are in the grip of the monster ED. I hope someday (soon) you will publish it where many others can read it and benefit from your moving words and experience. Thanks for sharing this part of your life with us.

    Reply
  53. A very powerful post, August. I couldn’t help but feel your pain as you struggled with ED. I am really looking forward to participating in your blogfest.

    Reply
  54. J Holmes

     /  January 20, 2012

    Thanks for this important article August. I’m at a loss for words.

    Reply
  55. I saw you listed on MJ’s site and thought I’d pop over and read the post about dirt and calories. Nicely done. Eating disorders are tough, I work with a lot of kids who have them. It’s good to see how people overcome and make their life their own. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  56. snagglewordz

     /  January 21, 2012

    August, I have tears in my eyes as I write. Thank you for sharing such a private and deeply moving experience. It was incredibly brave and I hope that others suffering from ED will draw strength from your words.

    Reply
  57. arbohl

     /  January 21, 2012

    Absolutely beautiful and heartwrenching. My very best friend struggled, and still struggles with ED, so your story definitely hits home. It takes a lot of courage to write something like this.

    Reply
  58. Hi August. I would never expect you to suffer from such a problem, but that’s always the way isn’t it? We never suspect and so never offer to help those who a really in most need. By their very nature, problems with our perception of ourselves are they very last thing anyone wants to discuss. I’m so glad you were able overcome this cruel problem and face sharing your battle. Good luck on feb 10th.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the encouragement, Nigel. Indeed, hiding problems—skillfully—is pretty much a given with anyone struggling with an ED and most addictive, self-harming conditions. (Most of my friends and family couldn’t even find me in the midst.)

      If sharing my story helps another in some way, it’s ultra fulfilling.

      Reply
  59. August, this is such a wonderfully courageous, exquisitely-written post. You are an amazing woman and an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us!

    Reply
  60. Hi August, I found your site through the “Writers Sisters” blog (Betsy and Laurie). I read your comment on one of their posts and felt led to click on your blog. Thank you for sharing your story. It was beautifully written. I’m married to a wonderful man who sadly seems to have anxiety over food and the way his body looks every day. He feels guilty when he misses the gym to workout or when he eats something with too many calories. With prayer and God’s strength, He is learning to not let food control him. Reading your story gives me more hope. Thank you for your courage and boldness to share what you have been going through.

    Reply
  61. I found you through your intriguing quote of ‘does dirt have calories?’ You have spoken so poignantly about the issue facing every woman – body image. We are all too something in our own minds and sometimes in the minds of others as well – too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too old, etc. Thank you for your honest portrayal of what the internal struggle is like when trying to fit in. I wish you continued peace.

    Reply
  62. Thank you for sharing your story. It took a lot of courage to share something that personal. And it was so well written.

    Reply
  63. This is a very powerful and inspiring post. I’m so glad you have overcome anorexia.

    I’ve been raised in Europe, and dieting then was a part of every girl’s life. We all watched what and how much we ate. We had to fit in the tiniest clothes. I don’t think I will ever recover from guilt associated with putting even a few pounds on. Recently I’ve had health issues and battled some personal problems, which resulted in losing ten pounds in a course of less than three weeks. I didn’t try to lose weight. I just couldn’t eat. That’s how it has always been for me during my childhood and beyond – always either overeating (when feeling content and happy), or not eating anything at all (when stressed out). These things are hard to change – I still count calories, eat mostly vegetables and lean meat and stay away from desserts. Not that I want to. I just don’t know how to do it differently. But overall, I eat healthy (when I eat), and that’s what counts.

    Reply
    • My heart goes out to you, Angela. What you’ve described is disordered eating—a term used to describe any number of negative eating thoughts and behaviors that don’t reflect a full-fledged eating disorder, but detract from our well-being. It’s a greater epidemic than eating disorders themselves, meaning it’s far more common. (While less than 2 percent of Americans have anorexia, millions grapple with disordered eating. And many people with EDs face it for years or decades post-recovery.) One of my goals is for people to realize they can surpass this.

      You’re so right about the difficulty of changing habits. I hope you’ll continue to strive for positive change. If you’d like support, please consider me a resource. Most of us don’t realize how deeply DE affects our lives until we’re free of it. “Free” is a happy, healthy, beautiful place where, though it matters less to you, you actually feel and appear to yourself as lighter.

      Reply
  64. August, what a powerful story. Your writing is beautiful. I’m so happy you saved yourself and found your joy. I’m going to put a link to your post on my fanpage. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  65. This is such a powerful story! Thank you so much for sharing your struggles and accomplishments; many will benefit from reading them (I have).

    Reply
  66. lynnkelleyauthor

     /  January 24, 2012

    Wow, this is such a powerful post, August, sharing your trials and triumphants with ED. I’m soooooooo glad you were able to overcome it and now write about it. I have no doubt that your story will help others who are suffering and struggling. I can’t imagine all that you been through. You’re an amazing woman and an inspiration for all those who are fighting that same battle. I love that song, “I Hope You Dance.” I’m glad you’re dancing.

    Reply
  67. BoJo Photo

     /  January 30, 2012

    Incredible story. I’ve had friends struggle with ED but stories like yours is a help to them. Thanks for sharing!!!

    Reply
  68. August, one of my dearest friend’s baby sister has been battling ED for years. She currently weighs 75 and just collapsed and has been refusing all help. She literally cannot chew.

    Her newest efforts are to drink her calories but we’ve all just been worried sick. The family doesn’t know where to start because I don’t they can commit her to treatment against her will.

    Any insight you have would be so appreciated. I’m in awe of the fortitude it took you to sit down and write this post. Be proud (and well), my friend.

    I’m going to look into the Feb 10th challenge…

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry to hear that, Jenny. EDs are vicious and affect (infect, arguably) loved ones incredibly. I’m going to drop you an email in case I can be of help.

      Thank you for caring for your friend and her sister. It means more to her than you likely know.

      Reply
  69. I feel remiss for not commenting on the article when you posted it originally. Your information can and should open the eyes of anyone at risk. Thank you for helping us understand.

    Reply
  70. This post was amazing and inspiring. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Reply
  71. Young woman need to read this post. Joy is attainable. I hope your wonderful writing is a source of joy.

    Reply
  72. Hi, August. I popped over from Julie Helund’s blog. Love Her.

    This is so beautifully written. Beautifully soul-stirring.

    ‘Does Dirt Have Calories’ ~ THIS… so honest, and raw, says everything about the disease of the mind and heart. What horrors we are capable of. I applaud you, August, for finding your courage to heal.

    Love!

    Reply
  73. I was moved to tears reading your post. Thank you for sharing this with the world. You truly captured the pain of addiction and the profound surprise of unexpected joy found in healing / recovery.

    Reply
  74. Dear August,
    You are incredibly talented…Your writing is just wonderful! I lost all sense of time reading your story. Maybe because your story is similar to my own…. I especially identified with your line regarding the desperation of suicide, “I didn’t want to die.” Your story, so well-written, reminded me to be very thankful for the new life I have today — how far I’ve come — and that the best is yet to come…. 🙂 Thanks so much!

    Reply
  75. Hi August,
    I read your most recent blog ‘Body Image Mirrors: What Does Yours Reflect?’ and commented on my own battle with self esteem and eating disorders. Afterward I saw this heart wrenching post you’d written earlier in the year. As I read it, I was moved to tears.

    My own journey is similar in the way I was drawn to study nutrition, cookery and also the social sciences in an effort to not only to understand myself but also societal norms and pressures that encourage us to view ‘thinness’ as the Holy grail..

    The image of Venus of Willendorf with her round droopy breasts, full belly and cellulite thighs suggests had we lived in another era, our perceptions of beauty would be vastly different.

    Thanks you for sharing your story and your recovery process, August. I wish you continued enjoyment with your writing and singing.

    Reply
  76. Incredibly powerful story, August! Congrats on conquering your disease and healing yourself.

    Steve

    Reply
  77. DV

     /  November 3, 2012

    This is inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
  78. blowingoffsteamandmore

     /  June 17, 2013

    What a beautiful, honest, heartbreaking, uplifting post! I suffered from bulimia for years, beginning in middle school and “ending” in my 20s. It never really ends though, does it? I have discovered ways to redirect the energy that once drove me to such a negative place but it’s a constant struggle. All of the years of self exploration, discussion, research were worth every second. The first time I looked in the mirror and thought, ‘I look pretty!’ was a moment I will never, ever forget. No one can take that happiness away from you. Congratulations on your recovery!

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry that you relate to my story. Thanks for your lovely words! I believe that the struggles with eating disorders can fully end—though, of course, we carry them with us. Mine and many others’ have become past tense, but it takes a heck of a lot of time and effort… It sounds to me as though you’re the right track. I had chills over your mirror moment! 🙂 Healing brings a new appreciation of so many things, and a strength we can work wonders with. Congrats on your hard work, too! I hope you’ll keep me posted.

      Reply
      • blowingoffsteamandmore

         /  June 17, 2013

        Thank you! I haven’t been bulimic for over 10 years but I still struggle with self confidence issues here and there. I am in a completely different world than I was back then, especially since I got pregnant with my son. Having children really does wonders for a person! I was already driven to beat the ED before I had kids but every time I second guess myself now I think about what example I am setting for them and it gives me the motivation to quiet that negative voice and succeed! I am very proud of how far I have come. 🙂

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