In this episode, we turn the tables a little bit. Shawn interviews Meg about her battle with anorexia and how she was able to overcome it and get to her healthy, happy mentality today. This is part of a series on eating disorders we will do to get an intimate look at who it affects, what it feels like, and how possible it can be to overcome them.
Check out this episode!
00:00:52 – Intro + Shawn’s recap of NTA Conference in Portland
00:14:01 – Meg’s Story
00:53:53 – Disordered eating patterns and orthorexia
01:00:11 – Is it possible to be fully recovered from an eating disorder, and is it a daily challenge?
01:01:54 – The first step in recovery and getting past denial
01:05:24 – Forming a new identity after recovery
01:08:32 – Getting stuck in the comparison trap
Shawn: You’re listening to Episode 51 of The Nourished Podcast.
Shawn: Thanks so much for tuning into The Nourished Podcast with Meg Doll and Shawn Mynar. We are two holistic nutritionists with a deep passion for finding true health and happiness, in our own lives, and helping others do the same in our private nutrition practices. We created this podcast to share what we know to be true about finding those two crucial pieces to life – and how to have fun along the way. We love chatting with others in the health community too, who have done the same and shared their stories right here on the show. Now, on to today’s episode.
00:00:52 – Intro + Shawn’s recap of NTA Conference in Portland
Shawn: Hey everyone, it’s me, Shawn, here with you today. As some of you probably know or have seen, my partner in crime, Meg, is on a fabulous looking vacation in Barbados for the next few weeks. And we did plan ahead when it came to the podcast and have some awesome episodes for you over the next couple of weeks. One of which is today, and I think you all are going to like and get a really good picture of what Meg is all about. And I’ll explain that in just a minute, but I wanted to take a minute just to kind of tell you guys a little bit about my weekend.
So as you all probably knew, if you’ve been listening to the past few episodes, I attended the Nutritional Therapy Association, their conference this weekend, in Portland, Oregon. It was actually, I was there for four days, if you include my day of travel on Thursday, and seeing a little bit of the sights of Portland. Although I didn’t get to do much, not nearly as much as I wanted, but the actual conference is Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and it is, as exhausted as I am, it was an amazing, amazing experience. I just, it totally reignited the flame that I had from the very beginning as soon as I found the NTA and knew I wanted to be a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Not that my flame had necessarily been blown out at all. I’m super passionate about nutrition and what I do and helping people, just holistically with all of their health concerns. It just really showed me how many people are also in that same boat. How many people are already doing such amazing things, and more so just the, I think, the momentum that the whole holistic and integrative health world is really getting. And just how many people are seeing the need for people like us to truly help and heal themselves from their health concerns. And it’s just so cool to see that.
There were about 500 people there, at the actual conference, I believe. And they have it set up really nicely where, you, I mean, there’s amazing speakers all day. I mean, some of the people that we all know so well. Sarah Ballantyne, Mickey Trescott, if you’re someone that’s in the autoimmune world. Isabella Wentz, if you’re someone that’s in the thyroid world. Liz Wolfe. Caroline Potter, if you’re a blogger. If you just like funny girls [laughing], because they both are. So it was just such a cool experience to see all these people and hear their talks, and they have it arranged really well where every day there’s three different tracks, basically, that you can choose from to see those, those talks. So, for instance there’s a real food talk where, excuse me, a real food track where all three of the speakers that day are going to be talking about things like making your own kombucha, making your own kefir, that kind of thing. And getting your clients involved in doing that and how to convey the benefits of that. And then there was an autoimmune track where you’re talking about helping your clients that have autoimmune diseases. And then there was a thyroid and hashimoto’s track that was talking about how to help your clients that have thyroid issues and hormone issues. And so on and so on. And then another day where the track was if you have an online business, and then the other track was for if you have a clinical practice. And so they have it broken up, obviously you can go to whatever track you want, you can switch back and forth between tracks throughout the day, which is what I did quite a bit. So there’s in total, for every day, there are five one-hour talks, so that means I went to fifteen talks. Because I went to all them, which I kind of think now that when I go next time I’ll maybe see if there’s one or two that I can skip out on, and either go take a nap, or go out to eat somewhere in town or whatever.
But anyway, they were all super informative. I just can’t say enough about the actual speakers and presenters and how much information they provided. Most of them have books, and they were really giving us information from themselves that they had put into a book. So those were the actual talks that were going on. There was also an expo. That just had the coolest stuff. A lot of stuff I had never seen before, like, as in products that were coming into the real food world. And of course we could sample them. A lot of different programs that you could continue doing for continuing education to help your clients even more. Just, like, the coolest stuff. I was able to try a lot of different new products. One of my favorites, they’re called Honey Mama’s. They’re little snack, snack bars. And they’re so delicious. Obviously one of the main ingredients is raw honey. Everything’s organic. Just really super high quality ingredients, and so I did buy some of those to bring home with me.
And it was also just nice talking to the people behind the products because everyone has a story. Everyone has a reason that they got to the point where they were using food to heal themselves or their family members. And it then became a business for them, which was just so awesome, to just hear all those stories. Which pretty much everyone in the room at that point has a story, all 500 of us, plus the speakers, plus the people at the expo. So it was just nice to hear everybody’s story.
And then they also, well, Friday and Saturday night we had a dinner there for everybody after the speakers were done. And I was kind of assuming it was going to be, like, the best, healthiest food we could get from a hotel-provided meal, kind of thing. I had no idea the food that we would get. We were just provided with the most organic, fresh, best recipes. Pasture raised meat from right down the street and kombucha from a Portland based business. And, like ghee on the table and bone broth. I mean, it was just the coolest thing we were…it was so funny, we were all just talking because immediately all of us just put ghee in our both broth because it just makes bone broth that much better, and then we have a much better chance of absorbing the nutrients from the bone broth if we have the fat with it. And we all just know this, and it was just so funny to see pretty much every table doing that, just automatically. It was the coolest thing. So, and everything, of course was fresh, organic, gluten free, dairy free, so it was just the coolest thing. And that happened both nights. Saturday night we had an organ meatloaf, which actually was really good. I was, of course, nervous because I don’t love organ meat, but it was super good and everyone really enjoyed it. So that was really cool.
So all in all, I mean, I could go on forever about what I learned and how it’s going to affect my business and what I’m going to do next, but really it’s just, I want to convey the message that, you know, if you’re someone that is in this nutrition world, that it would be an awesome thing for you to do at some point in your career. At least once. If anything, while the speakers and everything are amazing, just connecting with so many people that are like you, like, that for me, connecting with people that I know through Instagram, was just super fun. To be able to see people in person and give them a hug and talk to them. So, just being in this community and actually being physically in the community instead of just relying on social media was just really, really super cool. And I got to meet and have a really awesome, fun conversation with Liz Wolfe of Real Food Liz and Balanced Bites, as most of you probably know her. And just, she was the person that got me into that program, to give me any sort of interest and thought that this could be a career for me. And so to be able to tell her that to her face, and thank her and just get a little bit more advice from her. She she’s the most down to earth, sweetest person ever. Like, just thinking we were already friends, and it was just so cool. So, just be able to do that with people that I admire and look up to is totally worth it, and I highly recommend it for anybody who is already in the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program.
If you’re thinking about it, of course you already know that I highly, highly, highly recommend it. It’s only getting better every single second, so just take the plunge and do it if you’ve been on the fence because it changes your life. And if you do want to do it, then put me as a referral [laughing]. Because that would be cool [laughing], on your application. That’d be awesome. But anyway. Just if you, yeah, if you do it, let me know. And I’d love to meet up with you some day, and we can be on this journey together. And if you have any other questions, more specifically, you can ask me. I’ll either answer them on the podcast or maybe I’ll do a blog post about it or something. If there are other questions. As you can probably hear from my voice, and my lack of personality, it totally exhausted me, because it’s kind of one of those things where sitting in a hotel room, hotel conference room, for ten hours, three days, plus flying and traveling and all that stuff. It’s like the lack of movement totally killed me, so I’m exhausted. So I’m going to take the rest of the day to relax and rejuvenate and rest and just absorb everything I learned and get some sleep.
So in the mean time, you guys have an amazing podcast to listen to. This is an episode that we kind of turned the tables a little bit, and Meg became my guest. So I could interview her on her battle with anorexia, how she overcame it, what she went through. Just, to be honest, I really didn’t hold back as far as things that I wanted to know, just about her story and just eating disorders in general. And you know, we really want to be able to provide you guys with an interview from every realm of what an eating disorder looks like. So you can see the similarities, the differences, if there’s someone you connect with that is sharing a story very similar to yours. Just to get a different perspective. Just to know that there is hope. To give you that inspiration and maybe that push that you need to perhaps get your own help or help your friend or family member, or someone that you know that could potentially be dealing with it. So that’s why we wanted to really do very specific interviews. And of course, who better to do an interview on anorexia nervosa than our girl, Meg. And so, she’s sharing every single detail about her personal journey that you guys are absolutely going to love. Whether it’s something you deal with or not, it’s just great to get that perspective from someone about a topic that some of us don’t know a lot about and don’t know what those people are actually going through. So without further ado, here is Meg Doll with her story about dealing with anorexia nervosa.
00:14:01 – Meg’s Story
Shawn: So Meg.
Shawn: You are my, you are your own guest on your own podcast today, right?
Meg: Yeah. I’m the one being interviewed today. It’s weird.
Shawn: I know. I mean, I’m kind of excited. But no, really, though, we have interviewed a bunch of amazing women. One of which was Sarah who talked about her, her kind of battle with binge eating disorder. And that got an amazing response from everyone. It’s just really an eye-opening thing to discuss. Whether that’s something you’ve been through or not. And it got us thinking that we haven’t really had anyone talk about the other eating disorders that people deal with. And you, being an expert on anorexia because you have, actually been through it, you’re the perfect person.
Meg: Yeah, thanks.
Meg: I thought it would be pretty appropriate.
Shawn: Yeah, it’s going to be super fun. I’m excited to kind of turn the tables on you.
Shawn: And be the one asking you questions and getting your answers. But also, I have to say, something that I, well just in knowing you and talking to you every day and becoming super close with you, have learned so much about just having an eating disorder in general, just from our conversations. And it’s a very interesting topic, and it’s something that I think more people need to kind of learn about. Whether it’s yourself or someone around that you that may be dealing with it, or eventually at some point in your life, you may come across someone. And I think, just, you know, talking about it and getting your story out there, which I know you’re super open to doing, is super helpful for so many people.
Meg: Yeah, and I always have had that mindset. Like, you know, I struggled with anorexia when I was ten and then again when I was fifteen. And even after that first experience with that eating disorder, I was so *** about it, and it was just kind of, you know, think about when I was ten…that was how many years ago, like?
Meg: Fourteen years ago. And, clearly I’m just terrible at math.
Meg: But you know, that was fourteen years ago, and back then eating disorders weren’t really talked about. Now, especially you know kind of in our health community and fitness and everything, everyone knows what an eating disorder is. And pretty much everyone has either struggled with some type of eating disorder or disordered eating. Or they know someone who has. But, like fourteen years ago, that wasn’t the case. I was a ten year-old girl, and kind of, no one knew what was going on with me. And after I recovered from it, I was very, very open about it because in my head, I thought, you know, no one’s going to learn about it from me being quiet.
Meg: And I always thought, even as a really young girl, ten years old, that’s so young. But even when I was that young, I realized that if I didn’t say anything, no one could get help from it. And I knew that I went through it for some reason. And it was kind of like my job to be vocal about it. So I was always really open. And I remember, you know, going through elementary school even and hearing people be, like, oh, I can’t believe she’s so open about it. But I have nothing to hide, and I want to help people. So that’s why I have always been so open about it, just so people can learn, and you know they feel they can come to me if they need help. That was kind of like my biggest thing.
Shawn: Yeah, definitely. So you’ve shared bits and pieces on the podcast of your story, but I think everyone would love to hear the details of what actually happened from start to finish with you.
Meg: Yeah, sure. So, I mean we can back up about like fourteen, fifteen years ago, and I had such a positive childhood and everything was great. But then I lost a grandparent. He passed away from cancer when I was ten. And all of a sudden, I just, and again remember I was super young. This was like fifteen years ago, so it’s really hard to remember my thoughts that I had back then. But what happened was instead of coping with the death of this grandparent in a healthy way, I started focusing on my body. And I remember developing this incredible fear of getting fat. That was my biggest fear. And, of course, that’s one of the criteria of being diagnosed with anorexia, is developing, like an intense fear of being fat when you are definitely not.
So back then I was a dancer. I did ballet, hip hop, jazz, tap. And I wouldn’t say that the environment I was dancing in was the most body positive whatsoever. And I’m sure anyone who’s listening to this, if they have a history of dancing, they could probably agree with me that that environment just isn’t positive for such young girls *** to have a positive body image. So, with that I always felt like I wasn’t good enough or pretty. I definitely felt like a lot of my body *** stemmed from dancing, absolutely. And, just like the eating patterns that the girls had, that I danced with. You kind of pick up on that and start trying different things that they were doing. Like if you noticed that you were eating a little more than they were and you wanted to start looking a little more like they did, then you stopped eating as much as you did.
Then with my grandpa passing away, or it was my grandma’s partner, but he was very much like a grandpa to me, but after he passed away, like I said, I just dealt with it in a very, very wrong, twisted way and started restricting my food intake. And from there, like I always teach my clients because now today, I do work with eating disorder clients, I teach them that after, you know, not eating enough for a long time, your stomach does shrink. It’s not going to stay the same size if you are not eating as much. So you know, when I did have larger meals, I would complain about these intense stomachaches. And so my parents took me to the doctor. He said I had a viral infection. And even though my parents knew, they knew themselves that somehow I had an eating disorder, and the doctor insisted that I just had a virus, and it was just affecting my stomach. That’s why I was getting these stomachaches. But it was because I was, you know, starving myself, and when I did eat I would have a stomachache. And probably just so worked up as well that I caused myself to have a stomachache too.
Shawn: Did you try to hide it from your parents?
Meg: At this time, I didn’t even know. Like I was so young, that I didn’t even know what an eating disorder was. I didn’t know what calories were, right? I had no idea what a calorie was. I was in grade four, you know, and it’s just so crazy that I had no idea about a lot of the things that go into the reasons why people diet and restrict their food intake. I seriously just had this huge intense fear of getting fat. And in my head that, the only way that I couldn’t get fat was if I didn’t eat. So I stopped eating as much, and you know, from a girl I remember growing up and having like eight eggs on some mornings for breakfast. I remember that. And you know, like everyone, I grew up being called mouse and bug and feather, and stuff like that. Like I was always very, very small. And then, you know, I didn’t feel small when I ten, even though I was, and just developed this intense fear of getting fat. So I stopped eating as much as I was and that’s kind of how it all stemmed. Like, the premise of that round of an eating disorder was very, very stemmed from like just being scared of getting fat.
Shawn: So how long did that go on before finally there was some intervention?
Meg: Right. So, my parents obviously knew, like I was very sick with an eating disorder, so I started seeing doctors who diagnosed me. And I started seeing a social worker who didn’t really specialize in eating disorders but helped me in a few ways, I would say. And then I was admitted into the hospital for like, a night I think. But I remember that I was just freaking out. And when my parents brought me home, I remember when the winter came, my mom was going away. My mom’s a curler, so she was going away to Nationals in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And that’s so far away from where we were. And it’s quite a touristy spot. And I was very, very sick at this point. And my mom was going away. And I was just under the impression that we were going as a family, and my parents were like, there is no way you are coming with us if you don’t start eating. Like, you and dad are staying at home and just mom’s going.
So basically, my parents just gave me an ultimatum and were like, if you don’t start eating, then you’re not coming. So you have to prove to us that you’re going to start eating. And like I said, I, like I tell many people that I was able to overcome that eating disorder a lot faster than the majority of people who deal with eating disorders because I feel like I was so young and didn’t really understand food itself. Like I said, I didn’t really know what fat or a calorie was. It’s not like I was scared of an avocado versus an apple or vice versa. It was just like, I just stopped eating. So my parents were just like, you just have to start eating everything we make you, or you’re not coming on this trip with us.
So I started eating, and I, there was definitely huge psychological stuff that went on because an eating disorder is a mental illness. So I was seeing that social worker, doctors, but never ever had to see a dietician or anything like that because my parents just were able to make me food, and I eventually got better. And I remember it pretty much took all of grade five. I was struggling all of grade five, and I remember, like in grade five having such poor body image. And I would wear my mom’s big shirts to school because I was so self-conscious with myself, even though if you see pictures of me, I should probably write a blog post of this and share some of those pictures. But I was very, very small. You know, like there was nothing to me at all. And so that just goes to show you that I, the eating disorder was so in control and distorting how I saw myself. And yeah, I remember that, and it took all of grade five, and I remember over the course of the summer after my fifth year of elementary school, that’s when I was, you know, definitely recovered. And I remember going back to school in grade six and thinking, like oh my gosh, are people even going to recognize me? But I felt good, you know. Like I felt really good about myself. My parents made it a very positive thing that I was, you know, healthy again and recovered. Yeah, I totally remember going to school on that first day of grade six and people being like, Meg? Is that you? It was really funny. You know, I just was at a healthy weight again. I just looked like, you know, me again. Not sick anymore. That’s kind of that, the story of the first time.
Shawn: Right. And there were a few years in between.
Meg: There were a lot of years, yeah. So I went from grade six to grade ten completely recovered. Never even, you know, I literally woke up and didn’t think about an eating disorder. And you know, again, that’s just because I think when I did experience that first eating disorder I truly did not understand food, at all, you know. And so I just was totally recovered and never ever looked back.
And then grade ten happened and again, I lost my grandpa. My mom’s dad passed away, and him and I were very, very close. And again, I just did not deal with it properly. And at this time I was definitely, I was being bullied at school. It was terrible. Like I would never, like, million dollars to go back to high school, I would never go back. It was so brutal. So bad body image, being bullied at school, feeling terrible about myself, self-conscious all the time. Then my grandpa dies. And again, I remember just thinking that I didn’t, like, what can I do to show how sad I am and how much I’m grieving, and I had this weird thought in my head. And I don’t even know where it came from. But I just had this thought in my head that if I don’t eat, it shows people that I’m sad. But if I do eat, that like shows to people that I’m totally fine. And I’m not okay. And I wasn’t okay. Like I was very, very upset from my grandpa dying. So I was like people need to know that I’m upset, and if I’m not just like going to cry every day, this is my way of showing people that I’m upset. So I stopped.
I remember like little rules starting happening. Like I set a rule that I was never able to, I was never allowed to never finish a meal. So you know, from going to always finishing the food on my plate, I slowly stopped. So like I would always leave like little bits behind. And then those little bits became more and more. And that one little rule stemmed into like a million rules, you know, and they got worse and worse. Eventually to the point where I’d go to school, throw out my lunches and never eat all day. You know, for days upon end. It’s really scary to think about now. And I was just really wrapped up in that eating disorder. And because I was older, I was able to know more about food. I had access to the internet. I could look up stuff. You know, I knew what, like the nutrition facts table was so I knew that, you know, I didn’t want that salad dressing, I wanted the zero fat salad dressing. And then eventually I knew that I didn’t want, you know, a sandwich for lunch. I wanted, you know, a few carrots lunch.
And just being older, you were more independent. I was away from my parents more. I could say, I was out to dinner with my friends, not eat, and then tell my friends that I ate at home. Just a lot of lying. And then, obviously, my parents are so with it. They knew what was happening the whole time. But I just lied and lied and lied and said that there was no, nothing wrong, nothing going on. And they just kept telling me, Meg, your eating disorder’s back, and I would obviously freak out on them and say it wasn’t and that they didn’t know what they were talking about. But deep down I knew that I had a big big problem. But I always kind of had these two rules that if I started like exercising then I would know I had a problem. And also if I started throwing my food up. If I started, like, purging then I would know I had a problem. But if I didn’t do those two things, then I didn’t have a problem. So I kind had those standards for myself.
And then one night, one of my best friends came over for a movie night. She’s my cousin, and she was my best friend back then. And we had this tradition of eating like those Cadbury mini eggs every single time we had a movie night. And so we went to co-op, my dad’s grocery store, and bought like the cheap, huge bag of mini eggs, and we were like all excited, but I could feel this hesitation within me that, you know, I wasn’t like excited, I was scared. Then we go home, put the movie on, and we like open up this bag of mini eggs, and she’s just like crushing them, just like I would’ve used to. And I just could not put my hand in the bag, and I so badly wanted to. But I couldn’t. Like it was the weirdest feeling. Like I felt like within me like I truly wanted those so bad but there was something that was holding me back stronger than I was, and I just couldn’t have them. And so then my cousin spent the night, went home the next day, and all day it was just stewing within me. Like, oh my god, you have to tell your parents that you have a problem. Like a big, big problem. And then that night I just broke down in tears, and I told them everything that was going on and you know, obviously they were super upset and crying, but they knew all along. And they were just like waiting for me to come out and tell them.
Shawn: So what was that period of time from your grandpa’s death to that moment?
Meg: That was, so he passed away at the end of grade 10, and I would have told them probably the end of grade 11, I think.
Shawn: Oh, so it was almost a year?
Meg: Yeah, yeah.
Shawn: And they, of course knew that during that time, but they had to wait for you to be willing to get there.
Meg: Right. Like I was just in complete denial that whole time and yeah. It was, I’m a very, very stubborn person, and my parents know that. And of course they wouldn’t have let it like spiral out of control in any way, but, yeah, every single day they put the little seed in my ear that I had something I had to deal with. And I denied it every single time, so you know, that whole grade 11 year, lots of fighting in our house.
Meg: Because I was in denial and you know, lying to them all the time, but then I knew I had a problem and knew I had to tell them.
Shawn: So, getting to like the lowest point, which was at some point during that year, obviously.
Meg: Mmm hmm.
Shawn: How bad was it? Like how little were you eating? How much did you weigh? What were you doing throughout the day or couldn’t get through during the day? Like how did you feel? That kind of stuff.
Meg: Oh my god. I felt terrible. And I was obviously super depressed and just not myself, you know. But at the same time, I wasn’t super tired you know. It was very weird. You kind of feel better the less you eat, but once you kind of hit rock bottom, you’re like oh my god, I feel so terrible. I remember not being to sleep at night. I would wake up with horrible leg cramps and just like in tears because my leg was cramping so bad. But I was so malnourished.
I remember days that I would purposely get up…oh, I had a job at the grocery store. And I asked for all 6 a.m. shifts, so I would go work from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and then I would go to school. And so I woke up like 5:30, went to work, I loved my job so much. I worked in a grocery store that wasn’t open between those hours, so no one was there. I was just like putting out stock that whole time. I was always a morning person, so I thought that was awesome, but I specifically asked for those shifts do I didn’t have to eat breakfast at home. So I went to work with a packed breakfast that my mom packed for me. Tossed it out at work. Worked. Went to school. Had lunch packed from my mom. Tossed it out at school. Went home, and I remember one night, and many nights actually, you know, I had a lot of friends and we hung out a lot, so I would go home, tell my parents I was going out with my friends for dinner, go out with my friends with a restaurant but then not eat there because I told them that I ate at home. So there were literally some days that I didn’t eat anything. And I can’t even imagine that now. Right?
Shawn: Right. Definitely.
Shawn: So, and you got to a point of obviously being well, well underweight. That took a year of your life.
Meg: Right. Yeah, yeah.
Shawn: And you were already starting out thin, I’m assuming.
Meg: Yeah, I was never overweight in my life. I was just, you know, very uncomfortable with myself.
Shawn: So those friends that you did have, especially in high school, did they ever say anything?
Meg: No. No one knew I had a problem.
Shawn: Looking back now, do you think that they knew and they were ignoring it or too scared to ask you or bring it up?
Meg: I have no idea. Those friendships were, it’s really hard when you have an eating disorder because you kind of distance yourself from people as well. So I started having issues with my friends, and especially once I did recover, you know, those friends kind of pulled back because they don’t know how to act around you. They don’t know what to do because you have an eating disorder. And no one understands them. Especially back then. No one understood them.
So, you know, I had a group of friends that I thought were really close, so I told them, and then they just pulled away. And kind of, I felt like they didn’t want anything to do with me. So that was a pretty tough time throughout high school. You know, when you’re sick and you know have a problem, so you’re on your road to getting better and no friends, you know. It was really tough. Just kind of feeling abandoned.
Shawn: You said especially during that first round with anorexia it was very much a fear of getting fat and then this second round it was more so a way to show that you were upset.
Shawn: Did it turn into more so a fear of getting fat or a body image issue? Did you ever deal with body dysmorphia, or is that something people always deal with? Does that go hand in hand?
Meg: Right, yeah. I totally dealt with the body image issues, for sure. And body dysmorphia I find is something totally, like that’s kind of like a different diagnosis, so I’m not going to say I was ever diagnosed with body dysmorphia. But with an eating disorder, you’re so malnourished that you do not see yourself correctly, right? So, yeah, I definitely looked in the mirror and saw this huge person when I was, you know, seventy some pounds.
Shawn: So you couldn’t see that you were skin and bones?
Shawn: You couldn’t see that?
Meg: No, no, no, no.
Shawn: So you just felt, continuously felt the need to keep restricting to make yourself thinner?
Meg: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, you develop all of these fears and all of these rules, you know. I, what I do with my eating disorder clients, and what I learned from going through recovery myself is that you, you are not your eating disorder. So you know, I’m going to talk and say the eating disorder, I’m going to refer to it as that, but throughout my eating disorder, the eating disorder set up many rules for me. So you had to kind of meet those rules. For an example, like, if I didn’t have breakfast on Monday, if I woke up on Tuesday, the eating disorder would tell me, well you didn’t have breakfast yesterday, so you’re not allowed to have breakfast today. You know, you’re very, very controlled by this eating disorder. It’s very twisted, but that’s how it works.
Shawn: And that’s why it is a mental illness.
Meg: Mmm hmm.
Shawn: And not just like, oh I want to be skinny.
Meg: Yeah, absolutely. Like there is something else like within you, I suppose, that’s how I explain it to people. Like there’s another voice within you trying to control the way you live and all your decisions. You just need to realize, and one big thing for many people recovering, is they need to realize that they’re not their eating disorder, and all of those thoughts telling them to do certain things is the eating disorder, and you need to start going against them.
Shawn: Got it. Okay, so then now let’s move on to this recovery because I’m assuming it didn’t go as quickly.
Shawn: And as smoothly as the first time.
Meg: Right. Yeah. It took a really long time. Because I knew so much about food, you know, all the numbers. Like, if you told me, can you tell me about an apple, I could rattle off everything you needed to know about an apple, including the sugar content per grams of like 100 grams of apple pieces. Or whatever, right? It was very, very obsessive. So I kind of like didn’t trust anyone, and I had a huge team. A doctor, my psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a dietician, but I first started out with only a doctor and a psychiatrist. And the psychiatrist wanted me to go into inpatient recovery in the hospital. And like I said at the beginning of the interview, I’m very, very, very, very stubborn and I told him no. And my parents just kind of looked at him and like, she’s not going to go. There’s just no way she’s going to go. And I was entering into my last year of high school, so grade 12, and I told my mom and dad that there’s no way you’re going to get me to go into the hospital for a year because that’s how long.
Meg: He told me I’d be in there for. He said I’d be in there for year. I was like there’s no way. There’s no way I’m going to start eating right now, and I’m going to prove to you, like do it, and recover on my own. And so that night, they were like, okay, prove to us. We’re going to Dairy Queen right now, and you’re going to have some ice cream. And so we did. We went to Dairy Queen, had some ice cream, and I remember not even being freaked out or anything. I was just like, okay, game on. This is my life, I’m, you know turning things around and proving this doctor wrong.
And I remember the next morning, my dad getting off the phone with him and telling him, no, we’ve made the decision, she’s not going in inpatient recovery, and he was just furious. But my parents were on my side and knew I could do it, so that’s always grateful for that. And I did recover on my own at home. And my parents, you know, obviously helped me, but I told my mom that day after we decided that this was going to be an at-home thing, I told my mom that no matter if she tells me the right thing, or if she serves me the right food, I know too much about food that I’m not going to believe her, and I need to see a dietician. Because if someone has gone to school to study nutrition, that’s the only person I’m going to listen to.
So there was one dietician in the city that we lived in, and we started seeing her that day. She gave me a meal plan. I loved her. She was amazing. She didn’t specialize in eating disorders, but she was so supportive. And I also started seeing a psychologist, who has an eating disorder recovery center in Brandon, Manitoba. And girls live in this house, and they stay there, and they recover, as kind of an inpatient, but in a house, with the psychologist and a dietician on site. But since we decided I wasn’t doing any inpatient things, I went to see him once a week and sort of through all of the mental stuff I was going through, he was a huge player in my recovery. So I saw a psychologist who made a huge impact on me. My dietician helped me with like a meal plan.
Every week, we’d you know, increase the meal plan wherever she saw fit, and you know, there’s a lot of fixation on weight with eating disorder recovery, so she was kind of just in charge of all that. I would never look at my weight, which was something I think was very, very critical in my recovery. Is that, you know, I knew that if I knew my weight, it would just freak me out. So I made, like I told my mom, no matter how bad I want to see my weight, just remind me that I don’t want to see it. And that we’re, you know, kind of making a plan that I’m not going to know what I weigh. So I would always like turn around and stuff, and she would just kind adjust my meal plan accordingly.
So I was seeing a dietician for the whole year of grade 12, along with all of my other support team. The psychologist and everyone else. So I saw them all of grade 12, and I really, really wanted to move away to go to university the year after, but I just like was still, you know, struggling. My weight wasn’t restored yet. Recovering from an eating disorder takes a very long time, and I was choosing to do it on my own, so it was taking even longer. And you know, my parents just didn’t feel comfortable with me moving away yet. So I stayed at home one year and did my first year of university at home at like the home campus. It was like the community college. And then after two years of committing to recovery, my parents felt comfortable enough, my whole support team felt comfortable enough for me to move away. So I moved to London, Ontario, and I was definitely recovered from anorexia.
However, you know, small disordered eating tendencies lingered. And I had never been one to be like in a gym before, and work out and stuff, so that kind of all started when I moved to London. And that’s when the disordered eating tendencies kind of really magnified. And I started fixating more on body image and kind of struggling with being very restrictive/obsessive. Like I would never not eat, and that’s how I always kind of justified I wasn’t anorexic anymore. You know, I was eating like 1,800 to 2,000 calories every single day. So I was like, no one can all me anorexic. But, I was still following a meal plan very strictly. If I went off my meal plan I would kind of freak out. I had a lot of food rules. And just within the past couple of years, I’ve worked to come intuitive, let go of all of those rules, and get to the place where I am today.
Shawn: Oh, I have so many questions now [laughing]. I don’t even know where to begin. Okay, so first of all, that recovery time, I would assume it’s not just like, all a sudden you go to a dietician and you’re cool to eat whatever they say. I feel like there still probably was some, it was probably still really hard for you to eat the food that she was telling you to eat. Right?
Meg: I was, like you’d honestly think so, but I think I was so excited to start eating again.
Meg: It was to the point where I was starving myself. Literally not eating anything. And I loved food, but I was just scared of it.
Meg: So once I realized that like, okay, I have an eating disorder that’s actually making me fearful of food, it’s not me. Like, I’m not scared of food. I love food. So I remember going to, you know, the grocery store with my mom and it being a really positive experience. Her being like, k Meg, what do you want? I’m going to buy you anything. You know, like my parents knew I haven’t eaten anything for how long, right?
Meg: And it just felt like I had a new life. It was very, very positive and kind of like liberating.
00:53:53 – Disordered eating patterns and orthorexia
Shawn: Okay. So now I really want to talk about, because you said you were recovered from anorexia and then went into more a disordered eating pattern. So you were recovered from one thing, not like you are today. So there was like that in-between period, and I feel like that’s where a lot of our listeners are right now.
Shawn: They’re definitely still in the spot, like no I either have never had an eating disorder or like I’m done with that but I’m still really scared of food.
Shawn: And I’m still really calculating and don’t know how much to eat. Don’t know what macronutrient ratio to have and that kind of stuff. And it’s a scary thing, and sometimes people are thinking about it way too much. I think we both have found. So I want to go into, first of all, there’s a difference, right? There’s a difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating.
Meg: Yeah, and I would say that’s kind of like orthorexia, right?
Meg: Just being very, very fixated on the healthy foods all the time.
Meg: Even between that I think there’s a difference between orthorexia and disordered eating, right? Because sometimes I was able to go have a treat and not freak out. Whereas orthorexia, that means like you are literally scared of all things unhealthy.
Shawn: Got it.
Meg: So yeah, there is a difference.
Shawn: Okay. And, and so how did you move then from that space of well, I’m eating the right food, I’m doing everything right, I know you still weren’t gaining weight that much because I know it took a whole different shift for you to actually start gaining the weight that you needed to be healthy. So how did you get there?
Meg: Yeah, again. Hitting rock bottom. Right? Like I remember being in a point where I wanted to eat a certain thing. I honestly forget what it was, but I was so fixated that like on it fitting into my diet plan. And everything revolving around food and my diet plan, it was just like, all on my mind, all the time. I was trying to study university, for exams and stuff. And I was literally just always about thinking about food. And I was thinking about, okay, well, you know like, how much does this potato weigh? Or how much does this piece of chicken weigh? And I was to the point where I was like weighing the spinach that I would have in a salad, which is absolutely so sad, but that’s what I was doing. And when I realized like, you’re crazy, I can’t be weighing spinach, and I just have to stop it all.
Like what is stressing me out right now? And I just made a list of all the things that were stressing me out. I was stressed out because I felt like I had to eat seven meals a day, like those little mini meals, like a body builder. I thought I had to do that every day. So I was like, okay, if that’s stressing me out, I’m going to stop it. I’m going to start eating three meals a day. And so I switched that. I was stressed out about measuring my food. So I was like, okay, no more measuring. That’s not allowed. I was stressed out about like using my fitness pal. I used that app all the time. And I was like, okay, that’s stressing me out, I’m going to stop that as well. And it was just kind of like you have to really take a look at your life and ask yourself, okay, what’s serving me? What isn’t serving me? And whatever wasn’t serving me, there was no room for it, and I’m never going to recover if I keep those things in my life.
Shawn: So, in that point were you, could you say that you were officially recovered from anorexia but still in that disordered eating? Was that tendency to still make it an aesthetic thing there, like the fear of getting fat? Was that still there?
Meg: Um, yeah. When I looked in the mirror I definitely thought I was, like I would often refer to myself as skinny fat. And now I look back at pictures, and I’m like, oh my god, I was literally like bones.
Meg: There was no fat.
Shawn: Right. Even after you were technically healed from anorexia there was still that tendency to be fearful of that. Or to think something that was clearly not there.
Meg: Yeah, I often refer to them as “E-D” eyes, or eating disorder eyes, you know. Like I still had my “E-D” eyes.
Shawn: Mmm hmm.
Meg: And I was still seeing myself very, like in a disordered way. And I truly don’t think that goes away until you start nourishing yourself properly.
Shawn: Okay. So that was my next question, is when did that change for you? So once you start really focusing on what you need to do to be nourished?
Meg: Mmm hmm. Yeah, so once I actually go of all those rules and everything that was stressing me out, everything that was no longer serving me, and just focusing on doing things that made me healthy and happy, that was kind of like my rule. I said, okay, I’m going to let go of all of those things. Weighing and tracking and timing my meals. All of that. Going to let go of all of that, but I’m just going to stick to one rule. And it was just that, I had to make sure that everything I did was making me happy and healthy. So you know, if working out as much as I was was no longer making me healthy, yet it was making me happy, well it didn’t satisfy both of those criteria, so I wasn’t allowed to do that, you know. So before every decision I made, I put my health and happiness first, and if those two criteria weren’t met, then I wasn’t allowed. Or, you know, I was allowed kind of thing.
Shawn: Got it. Okay, so then now moving to present day, obviously you’ve overcome quite a bit.
Meg: Mmm hmm.
01:00:11 – Is it possible to be fully recovered from an eating disorder, and is it a daily challenge?
Shawn: And I wonder, is it ever, is it like a daily challenge. Like sometimes people say, like with alcoholics, they have to wake up every day and be like, I’m not going to drink today. Is that how it is for you?
Meg: Right. No.
Meg: No. And I think that’s, I just kind of have this internal promise, I guess, to myself that, you know, I’m never ever going to miss a meal again. Or not eat again. And some days I forget about anything that went on, right? And then I’ll be doing something, and it’ll just kind of like kick me, like a wave, and I’m like, whoa. It’s so awesome that I’m able to look at myself and just absolutely love myself. Or it’s awesome that I’m able to just eat whatever the heck I want and not stress about it. You know, it kind of comes in waves how amazed I am with myself. But no, it’s not one of those things where I wake up every day and is like, okay, I can do this.
Shawn: Right. And, and people who may be dealing with this, or have in the past, or are currently and aren’t really at that spot yet, where you just said and I wake up and I love myself every day, and I don’t even think sometimes at one point I had an eating disorder, like I love food, and I love nourishing myself.
Meg: Mmm hmm.
Shawn: But not everyone’s there yet, so there’s definitely.
Shawn: But there’s a lot of work to do, and I think that’s what people need to understand. Is you put a lot of effort into getting to where you are today.
Meg: Mmm hmm. Yeah.
Shawn: And it’s a lot of mental effort. Right?
Meg: That’s the main thing.
Shawn: It’s the mental work.
Meg: Because like it’s a mental illness. And you have to remember that.
01:01:54 – The first step in recovery and getting past denial
Shawn: Okay. Got it. Cool. So I guess my last question, and then we’ll move on actually to some questions we had from listeners, what would you say is the first step in, I guess, admitting it to yourself or getting past that denial stage? Because, to be honest, I feel like when I see people, because I see people at the gym, quite often that are definitely dealing with an eating disorder. I can see it. It’s very obvious. But there’s got to be some sort of denial going on for them to not see that. So how do you, how do you bridge that gap to get there? Like where you ready to be okay, mom and dad, it’s back, I need help?
Meg: Right. I, I honestly think it just was because my parents put that bug in my ear so many times that I did have a problem. And if no one would have ever said anything to me, I would’ve just thought, hey, I can get away with this, and no one’s even going to notice. So I do think that in order to fully recover, like you need to want to do it. So you either need to hit rock bottom, or you know, some people don’t hit rock bottom, they just kind of wake up one day and like I did, you know, when I was going to university. I just kind of woke up one day and was like, oh my gosh, what am I doing? I’m not happy. I’m not healthy. And I’m stressed, and I hate my life, you know.
Meg: So that kind, you know, you either wake up and realize that you don’t want to keep living like that or else, you actually literally hit rock bottom. Like I did when I was in high school, and then you realize that you need to admit it to someone. So you know, it has to be you who wants to get better.
Shawn: And that may also be a message, though, too if we’re having this conversation and there’s not someone that, it’s not you in particular who has this disorder, but you know someone.
Meg: Mmm hmm.
Shawn: Then that may be a message too that maybe it is a good idea to start mentioning something. Like I think a lot of people who know somebody are kind of afraid to say something. Like maybe that’s why your friends didn’t ever mention it to you. Like they don’t know what to say. Or they don’t want to be, you know, rude or whatever. But maybe it is a point where you do mention it because it did help.
Meg: I honestly think so yeah. Because you have to realize that people, like myself who are struggling with an eating disorder, like I was really hurting on the inside.
Meg: And if it wasn’t for my mom and dad bringing it up a million times.
Shawn: Mmm hmm.
Meg: Like I wouldn’t have felt like I had an issue. Or I wouldn’t have felt like I had to tell someone.
Meg: Right? And I think maybe that’s why so many people maybe live with it for so many years because, you know, no one ever says anything to them, and they don’t feel like they have to say anything to anyone else.
Shawn: Exactly, yes. So I think maybe that the message that if you do know somebody, maybe start bringing it up. Just in a very loving, gentle way. You know?
Meg: Mmm hmm. Yeah. It doesn’t have to be an intervention.
Shawn: Right, right. Just know that people, they know that someone’s noticed.
Meg: Mmm hmm. Yeah.
01:05:24 – Forming a new identity after recovery
Shawn: And that you’re there for them kind of thing. Okay, cool. So now we have a few questions from some listeners, so we will go into those. Okay. How do you form a new identity once you’ve recovered? I feel like I’ve been sick for such a long time that it has become a part of who I am, which is really sad.
Meg: Yeah, so I mean, like I read this question, and I totally understand what she’s saying, you know. And it’s not even just with anorexia but like if someone has cancer or if they have diabetes, a lot of the times you know, like your illness can become who you are. And that’s just like you always feel like you’re sick, or you know, people will start to know you as, oh yeah she has an eating disorder or, you know, oh she’s the one with like diabetes. Something like that.
But I think for me, like I didn’t really form a new identity. Like I’m still Meg. But it’s like I don’t own, I know that the eating disorder that I struggled with wasn’t me. It’s something that I had to overcome. And it’s always going to be part of my story because I wouldn’t be who I am without struggling and overcoming it, right? So I think for this girl, is just like understanding that it’s always going to be a part of your story, but it’s not all of your story. And start using, you know, your experience with it, like I’m not sure if she’s recovered or not, but you know, maybe start talking about it. And start talking about how you’re recovered now and all of the good things that are happening in your life now. Versus on dwelling on what you just had to overcome and struggle with, you know. So I think, kind of like shifting your focus from the struggle to your success, your accomplishment. And really using that. Like, you know, I truly believe all of us go through everything in our life for a certain reason, you know. So you endured an eating disorder for a certain reason and now put that reason to use, and maybe you can help someone. It’s to always be a part of your story. I don’t think you should ever just like ignore something that happened to you. Just understand that it’s not all your story.
Shawn: Yeah. And if I could just add something real quick, I think a really good way to think about is that you have the power to be who you want to be, to mix your story up. So yeah, it’s your past, but you have the power to change that. The eating disorder doesn’t. Or your past doesn’t. You have the power to make your future whatever you want it to be starting today, so today, go ahead and be the person you want to be. Let that eating disorder past go, and start fresh.
Meg: Mmm hmm.
Shawn: You can do that every single day of your life. You know.
01:08:32 – Getting stuck in the comparison trap
Shawn: Okay, here is another question. How do you stop comparing yourself to other people? I find that I often get stuck in the comparison trap.
Meg: Mmm hmm. Yeah, big one. And I’m sure you can totally chime in on this too, Shawn. But there are going to be triggers. Like, what’s causing you to compare yourself to people? Usually, it’s social media. Big one. So like if you’re on Instagram and you start finding yourself that you’re comparing to certain people, then stop going on Instagram. If it, if you hang out with a certain person, like I remember this too, when I was kind of struggling with my eating disorder and then later on, kind of struggling with, you know orthorexia, disordered eating, I would start comparing myself when
I hung out with certain people. Stop hanging out with them. They’re triggering you in some way, so for this girl, I would suggest just kind of sitting down and being honest with herself. What are her triggers? What are, what’s causing her to be constantly comparing herself to others, and start letting those things go because they don’t belong in her life.
Shawn: Yeah, whatever’s making you feel the need to compare, I think that’s something that really needs to, again, be let go of. Like, that just doesn’t matter. What everyone else is doing isn’t really integral to your life. What your doing is what’s important, and how you’re feeling. And are you healthy, and are you happy? Like, if you could answer those two questions, that’s really all that matters because, quite honestly, the people that you’re comparing yourself to and may be jealous of and whatever, there’s a good chance they can’t answer those questions. You know, so if you think about that way, then you have the upper hand. You’re the one that’s in those two spots, and that’s really what needs to be considered. I think.
Meg: Yeah, absolutely.
Shawn: Thank you so much for being super honest.
Shawn: And sharing your story. We all loved hearing it, all of our listeners. I know we did. It just really says a lot about where you’ve come from and what you’ve been through. And how strong of a person you are, and I’m so proud to know you.
Shawn: And to be your best friend.
Shawn: And to know you went through that. And I know you do such fantastic work helping other girls go through the same. So where can people learn more about your one on one stuff?
Meg: Right, yeah. So I would love to help anyone who is struggling, and I, you know, help anyone with any type of eating disorder or disordered eating, body image issues, that sort of thing. And they can find me on my website. I have a little tab at the top “Work with me” and then I have one on one coaching services that you can check out there.
Shawn: And if there’s still more questions that have come up because of this conversation, we can always do a round two.
Shawn: So, if there are questions you guys have, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’m sure Meg would love to help us out with answering those questions. Thank you so much for being super open and helping us all understand what it means.
Meg: Thank you.
Shawn: And how you can help others.
Meg: Thank you for interviewing me.
Shawn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Nourished Podcast. If you like what you’re hearing, would you mind heading to iTunes and leaving us a review? We would so appreciate it, and love hearing from you. If you’d like to hear more from Meg, head to megtherhn.com. If you’d like to hear more from me, Shawn, head to well-belly.com. If you’d like to learn more about the Eat Feel Live Love Challenge, which is the program Meg and I developed together based on the four pillars of true health and happiness, please head to eatfeellivelove.com where you can find out, much more information. If you have a question you would like answered on an upcoming episode of the podcast, please email us at email@example.com.