My Own Struggle
It was over 20 years ago that I last stood bent over the loo, retching to get up (hopefully) all the food I had recently consumed.
You’d have thought I'd have remembered that truly wonderful day but it passed without celebration or even acknowledgement. It really should have been a victorious day but because I’d promised myself so many times that I would never do 'it' again, that this was 'The Last Time', I never recognized it as such. And so it passed unnoticed, no doubt, in a barrage of self-recrimination and disgust.
For years I had been struggling to beat Bulimia and for almost 17 years I lived with it in varying degrees of intimacy. Many years that should have been some of the most memorable times of my life.
As a successful model, working in London, Paris, Hamburg and Tokyo, it seemed like I was living the sort of life many people dream of.
However, in reality my life was somewhat less glamorous.
Behind the painted smiles and faked happiness I hid my shameful secret – the unrelenting struggle with Bulimia, which cut me off from any possibility of truly enjoying my life and the opportunities that came my way.
It also threatened my health, eroded my relationships, cut me off from family and friends and destroyed my self-esteem and confidence.
As a result, what should have been some of the most exciting years of my life were dominated by an obsession with my weight and food, a never-ending cycle of binging and purging, feelings of self-loathing, loneliness and fear and the stress of constantly having to conceal my eating disorder.
I was absolutely terrified that that there was something wrong with me. I couldn't understand how something I had done occasionally and had seemingly been under my control, had become something that now had a mind of it’s own.
However I was too scared to tell anyone because of the over-riding fear of putting on weight. I didn't want anyone making me eat what I didn't want to eat and I certainly didn't want anyone watching over me – what would I do if I needed to purge?
So I'd justify to myself that I couldn't possible be 'that bad', after all I was working and no one was saying anything.
My Turning Point
Then, by chance, one day in the gym when sharing a piece of the equipment with a young woman, Celie, I asked how she kept so slim. To me she not only had a perfect body – trim and toned with curves in all the 'right' places – she looked so healthy and vital. I was sure she had some secret.
And she did, but not one I would've thought of in a million years.
She told me that she ate 6 times a day – 3 smallish meals with snacks in between! When she proceeded to list a whole range of foods she ate in any one day, I just couldn't believe it.
And as I was picking my chin off the floor she was telling me how she’d been an amateur bodybuilder but had chosen to give it up because she didn't like the 'ripped' look that was now required for the competitions. "I just wasn't prepared to do that to myself or my body for anything or anyone," she said.
I agreed, it wasn't a great look and said that I thought it was really quite ugly. Celie then said not at all unkindly, “You know – they’d think you look quite ugly too”. You could have knocked me over with a feather and at that time you probably could have done. I was totally shocked but I heard a little voice inside me say, "She's right Julie".
I lay in bed that night thinking about what she had said. Was I prepared? Did I have the courage to give up bulimia? Did I have the courage to give up modeling?
Images of 'ripped' bodybuilders and my own – the two 'ugly' extremes – danced in my mind, with Celie's coming through bigger and brighter – healthy, wholesome and vitally alive, with her glossy hair, bright eyes and a happy smile. I knew then how I wanted to look and feel.
So I vowed to follow her plan – eat regularly and often and always have breakfast. And despite my fear, that is what I did. There were relapses – lots to start with – but I stuck at it.
And to my amazement I began to feel a whole lot better, physically, mentally and emotionally. I'm not saying it was easy, but the day came when it really was 'The Last Time'.
Learning To Love Life Again
And so at some point 20 years ago I turned my back on my eating disorder and all its corrupting thoughts and behaviours for good.
Not once, despite many trials and tribulations (including break ups, illness and temporary facial disfigurement) have I had the urge or desire to even binge, let alone purge. Those thoughts just never cross my mind.
It admittedly took some years to stop being fussy about what I ate but when I stopped dieting and worrying about my weight a weird thing happened: my weight stabilized!
I can happily eat food I don't really like or those I'd have once considered 'forbidden', as I've done many times over the years when trekking in remote parts of Peru and Kenya and riding across the Ecuadorian Andes on horseback.
Even a dodgy meal at a friend’s house, in a restaurant or the ones I can sometimes create myself, causes me no angst whatsoever.
These days I'll take the excitement of adventure and enjoying the love, laughter and company of friends and loved ones any day over worrying about what I eat.
My Wilderness Years
But this transformation didn't happen overnight, because whilst Bulimia is 'all about food' it is also 'not about food'.
So although I'd stopped the bulimic behaviors of binging and purging, my self-esteem and confidence had taken a severe knock and when I stopped modeling in my thirties I felt completely lost.
I spent a number of years first living in a social whirl, using men and drink to make me feel good about myself, not realizing I was substituting one drug for another, before opening up my own Interior Design company and then later investing in property.
However my heart was never really in any of it.
The Moment My Path Eventually Became Clear
Eventually, quite by ‘accident’, I found myself in a room of 200 people doing something called The Landmark Forum. After that weekend, my view of life and myself had changed forever and so began my journey of personal development, training and self-discovery that still continues today.
I studied and trained in life coaching, NLP, and intuitive coaching and read avidly to feed my insatiable thirst for knowledge which led to the joy of discovering my Self, what is important to me and falling in love with my life and with myself (most of the time anyway!)
I discovered concepts and ideas which, had I known about them earlier, could have speeded up my journey from 'recovering', or trying to stop, to being both ‘recovered’ and stopped; concepts that would have given me back my self-esteem and confidence and the power and freedom to create a life I love far sooner – Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
During this period it became very clear to me that my true passion lay in supporting others get to a place where bulimia slipped away rather than it be something they have to fight against.
Recovery to me is not just about breaking away from the eating disorder but about falling in love with yourself and your life. This is true freedom, true recovery.
I did it and so can you!
Why I Believe Recovery Is Possible for Anyone
I realize that you might have some difficulty believing me but I truly believe that full recovery from Bulimia is possible for anyone, no matter how long they've lived with their eating disorder.
You see, in this respect you are no different to me or anyone else for that matter. As human beings, regardless of age, background, ethnicity or sex, we are born with innate gifts.
This means you already have what it takes to recover and create a life you love hidden inside yourself. These invisible resources cost you nothing and are available to you 24/7, whenever you need them.
You don’t need any special skills. In fact, you've already been using these innate gifts, just not in a way that empowers you or that brings you what you desire: a life you love, happiness, love, confidence and peace of mind.
I've learnt that each of us is the creator, director and the star of our life. How the plot goes and your role in it is very much up to you.
And so today I have a healthy relationship with my Self, my body and food, live a full and exciting life and without any effort stay slim.
Your Own First Step
If you feel ready to start your own journey to freedom CLICK HERE