Practicing Self-Compassion After an Eating Disorder

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WARNING: This post may contain triggers for and about eating disorders. I had intended to write about yoga, but this post molded into something completely different.

Today, 1000 voices around the world are speaking and writing about compassion. This movement isn’t intended to change the world, but maybe…just might. You can follow the movement by checking out the hashtag #1000Speak or by reading posts on the 1000 Voices for Compassion Link Up.

Compassion. What a beautiful and complicated word. It’s time to complicate it even more. Direct it at yourself.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my body since I was a little girl. I was the chubby girl. Bullied for my weight. Awkward. Quiet around my peers, but social around adults. Bigger than everyone else my age, but told I was beautiful by adults. Constantly informed that “I had a woman’s body.”

Chubby middle school pic

When I was in high school, I went on Weight Watchers for the first of MANY times. 

Pink Princess

In college, I went back on Weight Watchers with my best friend. 

College party shirts

Over the years, my weight fluctuated as much as Oprah’s — since I was 14. Sometimes, it was because of healthy things I did…and sometimes, it was not.

I guess it really started in college when I was binge drinking. I drank a lot. And I almost always threw up after drinking. When I felt sick, I’d preemptively puke. It seemed okay because everyone did it when they drank. And a lot of times, I did nothing to help it…it just happened. I would drink to excess nearly every weekend.

At some point it transitioned into something more.

At the end of and after college, I threw up. A lot. And it was no longer just because I was drinking. I purged daily for long periods of time. Some days it was more than once. Sometimes, after every meal. And after every snack. Between meals. Between dinner and dessert. I could go weeks or months without doing it. I didn’t believe I had a problem. And then one day, I would eat too much or not fit into a shirt the way I wanted to…and start again. I didn’t consider myself bulimic. Because I was still fat. And I could stop whenever I wanted to.

Business suit

I would be eating something. And thinking about how full I was getting or how my stomach hurt just a little…and then I would think, well…just go throw up. And then I would. I started eating things that would be easier to un-digest. I preferred to eat out where I could purge in a public restroom rather than at home.  I would pull my hair back and take my shirt off before crouching over the porcelain god. I blamed itchy contacts for my red eyes after going to the bathroom. I carried gum and breath mints everywhere. I was strategic. But I still didn’t think I had a problem.

When my mom asked me about it, a couple years after it started…she was very blunt. “Are you bulimic?” She had seen remnants in the bathroom on a regular basis. The evidence was pretty stacked against me.

Chrissy at a wedding rehearsal

By then, I knew I had a problem. I had even admitted it to one of my friends. A friend I knew wouldn’t judge me…and someone I knew wouldn’t take action. And she didn’t. But she would talk to me about it. And try to support me as best as she could. I responded to my mom in the only way I thought could be more evasive than point-blank lying. I told her I was just drinking too much. I wasn’t lying. I definitely drank A LOT. But I was still lying. To her…and probably to myself.

I didn’t have compassion for myself. I didn’t respect my body. One of the clearest memories through all of this was the control that I felt. It wasn’t feeling skinny or the satisfaction of eating whatever I wanted. It was control. I would stand in front of the mirror, suck in my stomach and think, I can control this. But I didn’t love my body. Not with everything I was putting it through.

Feeling skinny

I remember telling another very good friend. Another friend who I knew wouldn’t judge me…but he would try in his own way to help me. And he definitely did. At dinner, he’d ask me why I was going to the bathroom at a restaurant. And eventually, just knowing that he had his eyes on me and could confront me held me back. When I was out with that group of friends, I would only go to the bathroom when I needed to pee, and I’d be fast about it. I puked less and less.

Somewhere along the way I stopped for good. I remember the last time I did it. It was more about my emotional state than the act of needing to be skinnier or even feeling overfull or too drunk. I was so upset that I had made myself sick. 

I wish I could tell you what made me stop. I wish I could tell you the moment that I took control of my urges and changed the control from puking to not puking. But I can’t. And it’s not just because I decided to stop one day and magically did. I know I could have benefited from professional help. (I now HAVE professional help, and it is still helpful, even more than a decade after my last purge).

The funny thing is: as I was trying to find old pictures for this post, I couldn’t find one where I thought I was REALLY fat. But at the time, I thought I was huge. My body has done and can do wondrous things. Even when trolls on the internet think I’m ugly. Or stupid. Or worthless. I am none of those. I am beautiful. And by respecting myself and my body, I can better show compassion toward others.

When we have compassion for someone, we sympathize. We empathize. We express concern. We show love. We sometimes pity. We worry. We care. We think. We share in the experiences of others. Compassion is difficult.

When we have compassion for ourselves, we have to dig deep to truly understand our minds and our bodies. We learn to respect what we can and cannot do. We strive to achieve. We exist.

curvy yoga
I recently started practicing yoga again. And I can’t tell you how much the support on Instagram and Facebook has meant to me. I’ve been participating in yoga challenges, and posting yoga pictures daily. Not only is it keeping me accountable, but I’m able to channel that same control I once had over my body into a new venture. Instead of controlling what goes in and out of my body, I can control how I move my body. And I can challenge myself while respecting my limitations and understanding that I am beautiful. Regardless of my size. Or whether society thinks I should take a picture of myself in a sports bra.

curvy yogaHow do you practice self-compassion? Have you suffered from an eating disorder? How have you handled body issues for yourself?

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45 Responses

  1. Ohmygosh. I’m sitting here in tears. My weight has always been an issue and I’ve battled anorexia since I was about 13. It still comes back when my anxiety levels spiral out of control. No one ever thought to ask me if there was something disordered about my eating because I’ve always been overweight. My body just isn’t meant to be thin…even when I was passing out from starving myself and exercising constantly. We learned to be kind to ourselves, you and I. I’ve been following your yoga posts and love love love them. So much. XOXO

  2. It does not matter what size you are. What matters is that you, my friend, are a wonderful woman who is hysterical, kind, loving and all around badass.

    My dad once (well, actually several times) told me that if I ever expected to land a good husband I first needed to lose weight. Even at a young age (we’re talking 20-23 here), I still had enough sense to remind him that if a man cared more about my jeans size than the person inside those jeans then he doesn’t deserve me. I have held on to that for years and never faltered. I’m fortunate to now be married to someone who doesn’t give a shit what the scale reads. As long as I am happy with myself, that’s all that matters.

  3. I love the standing yoga pose … is that one dancer? I love yoga, but only do it rarely and always get the names wrong. Anyway, you look so centered.

    To answer your question I’ve never struggled with body dysmorphia, though my weight has always fluctuated. I’m 5’2. I’ve gotten as high as 230 and hover around 150 when I’m eating right and not exercising quiiite enough, which is most of the time. For me, the big issue was the same as my daughter’s is. My poor eleven year old daughter is 5″1 and weighs … oh, not a hundred pounds soaking wet, I’d guess. And she is a C cup. She never wore an A or a B. She skipped straight from training bras to C.

    That’s pretty much what happened to me. I skipped over “pretty” and went straight to “supportive” in the foundations department. The boobs grew no matter what I did. I gained weight, the boobs grew. I LOST weight, the boobs grew. Until I wore a 36 K last July.

    When I went to order my favorite bras and realized I would actually have to GAIN a band size if I wanted to even play the “subtract-a-cup-size add-a-band-size, look the bra fits” game.

    I gave in and got reductive surgery.

    I was a 36 C for the first time in my life.

    I’ve lost a few pounds since then.

    You won’t be surprised to learn I’m now a D cup.

    1. Yep, dancer pose. And thank you!

      I have the same thing with my boobs. I always tell people that when it comes to weight fluctuations, my boobs are the “first to grow, last to go”

  4. Wow. It’s so hard for me to get my head around the fact that I am older than you, because you are such a voice of inspiration and love to me. You are solid and strong and amazing. I’m sorry you battled that purging bastard, but the strength you just showed in sharing this post lets me know how strong and brilliant you have become. I just love and adore you Chrissy.

  5. Self compassion is a damn good idea. Even if inner talk is arising saying something like “you’re just no damn good” or horrific images are occurring of your high school class laughing at you and mocking you. We can not all be “genetic celebrities”. I suspect most of them think they are just no damn good. My advise is just let this crap go.

  6. First of all, that Scorpion should absolutely not go unnoticed. Hot damn….please tell me how I can make mine look that good? I can’t even get my left arm to bend back like that. So far, that’s my favorite of your yoga photos. The background is gorgeous too.

    How have I not been reading your blog? I follow you on Instagram and am in love with your yoga photos. I try and comment any chance I see a pic when I’m not driving…because I signed that whole don’t text and drive contract and shit. I love this story of victory over something as challenging as an eating disorder, but even more than that I admire you for realizing how beautiful you are and loving yourself enough to share it with us. Thank you for this post, and thanks to Kim^^ for guiding me here. I’ll definitely be back.

  7. I love your yoga pictures and I think you look strong a beautiful in them. I also have a demon that lives in my head and tells me that I’m not thin enough or pretty enough to post pictures of myself on my blog or on instagram. It’s easy to listen to it and focus on the muffin top creeping over my pants… but sometimes it’s also easy to tell him to shut the fuck up and post the pictures anyways. Because frankly I’m sick of looking at only skinny girls on style blogs.

  8. Very brave and honest post. Being compassionate to ourselves is one of the hardest things. I struggle with that daily. Keep going, keep doing those yoga poses, and show yourself that you truly matter.

  9. I love you so much more after reading this.

    You’re brave. You’re strong. You’re beautiful.

    You got this.

  10. There are so many ways to write about compassion. I chose to write about someone else for #1000Speak this time, but self compassion is another great way to approach it.
    I write a lot about myself on my blog, but writing about my issues with body image and my history with my weight is one of the last subjects I ever would write about. I guess I am more sensitive to it than I thought I was. Great for you to tell this story for us all to read. I am sharing. Hope you don’t mind. I think we need to spread compassion, of all kinds, as much and as far across the web as we can.

  11. QC,
    You are brave, honest, lovely. How could anyone not love you? Just remember if someone is an ass towards you just say to them ‘Namaste’ and THINK to your self, “the mother effer is implied”. We learned that from Jen Mann. It works.

  12. Chrissy,

    I, too, think you are amazing to post this. I had a friend who, like you, thought she was fat and started all sorts of diet fads at a young age. Looking back at those pictures, she realizes that she wasn’t fat at all. The yo-yo dieting did, however, have an effect on her metabolism, and her weight began to balloon out of control. Exercise helped get her back on track, and improved her mood as well due to the endorphins. Yoga is an excellent form of exercise because of the mindfulness one practices along with it. Being mindful is one of the best ways to become a compassionate person. And, yes, you need to start with yourself!

    1. Thank you Connie. It’s so hard when kids and teens have this small-mindedness about size. I had a woman’s body when I was 14, and my friends still had teen bodies. I wasn’t fat, but I was bigger than all of them. I love the mindfulness of yoga. So so much. And the IG yoga community is amazing.

  13. Thanks for sharing such a personal story and a great message for us all. Self-compassion is something that we also need. Having compassion for ourselves can actually help us have compassion for others. Your post is inspiring. YOU are inspiring. You are beautiful.
    And I’m so glad that I got the chance to visit your blog.

  14. You’re awesome, Lady!

    Finding self compassion, I think, is one of the more difficult things to do. To realize, and acknowledge, that we are worthy of it, that it’s not just for other ppl, but for us too…and that it doesn’t make us selfish, arrogant, self centred.

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