Raw liver & oysters: how gaining 115 lbs led me back to the same place, but entirely different (aka how I healed an eating disorder)
It is wild when I look back on the last year of my life.
I am an entirely different person.
Something massive has shifted for me in the last few weeks.
It has felt like piece after piece suddenly clicking into place.
My mind finally quiet enough that I can truly hear my body, more often than not.
13 months is how long this took.
13 months ago is when I began eating more food.
And I can look at my entire journey as a whole, and see these different phases and patterns and really this deep perfection of it all.
I am currently in the place with my body and with food that I wanted to be in when I really went All In, and up until it happened I didn’t know if it was really possible.
I am not in a “final” place with my body or food, and in nourishing ourselves and learning what makes us feel best I don’t know that there is a final place, only continued exploration. Our bodies change and so do we.
But I feel like I can finally say that I have healed the eating disorder part of my brain.
It feels like a tentative thing to write. Like can this really be true? The part of me that was afraid it wasn’t possible is still like, what if it comes back? How do you know?
But I have never, ever been in this place with food.
A month ago I was massaging my belly, working my tissue.
And suddenly this message dropped in, loud and clear:
“This IS living. This is life.”
It resounded throughout my entire system.
This. This being with my body. Touching my tissue.
IS MY LIFE.
There is this way in relating to my body that I have always been like, ok, these are the things I have to deal with so that then I can get back to the rest of my life.
Eating food. Cooking food. Touching my tissue. Moving my body. Even sex, often enough.
I have related to all of these things in this way of, I just need to check these boxes.
I have to do these things to take care of myself and so I will just do them so I can get them out of the way so that then I can live.
The important parts of my life are somewhere else.
I have often imagined that if I could just schedule in the ten or so things I imagine that if I did every day to feel good in my body that then I would feel great and could finally fully show up for my life.
If I could just prep all the meals. Eat on time. Touch my pussy daily. Go for a walk.
How to get these things done in the least time, so that they are done, and I can focus on MY LIFE.
And what landed suddenly so clearly was that these things are my life.
The purpose of my life is to be in a body.
This statement had always registered to me as a bit annoying, like I am a soul in a body and to be on Earth I have to have a body, so I have to deal with this body, and that is a side annoying piece of my soul doing its things on Earth.
But no – what actually is true is that being in this body is the most important part of my life.
Life, is learning from all of the pieces of my body.
Life is experiencing the sensations of my body.
Life is being with my body, eating and touching with my body, participating in life with my body.
How could there be anything else?
These things are not pieces to get out of the way.
They are It.
Eating food is not an annoying thing my body needs so that I am not hungry.
Eating food is part of the experience of being human that I am here to experience.
The deep question I feel in all of this is – do you want to participate in life or not?
Do you want to do the things so you can get them out of the way or do you want to be IN THEM, and make them actually the most valuable pieces of your life?
The embodiment of this is still reverberating throughout my system.
I have started a garden.
I have everyone in DIRT right now growing something from seed in order to see what it shows us about ourselves.
I have never had a real garden and every time I have tried every single plant I have had has died.
It is such a mirror.
The body of the Earth and our own bodies.
What are our thoughts and how do we relate to each.
Every time in the past that I have attempted to grow something the plants have died from my neglect.
I did the exact same thing with them that I did with myself and food.
I couldn’t see it then because I didn’t know to look.
Last spring I planted some plants on our balcony and they did not get enough light and I felt annoyed I had to take care of them and I would put off watering them for many days past when I should and I avoided looking things up about them because I just felt so overwhelmed.
This was actually an improvement because I kept some of them alive, just not well.
This was the beginning of my food journey. I was just starting to feed myself fully.
I kept the tomatoes alive enough that we got 3 tomatoes from 3 big plants (yes, total) and a bowl of cherry tomatoes from two other plants.
The peppers drowned in aphids that I fought for a little and then gave up.
I forgot to water our houseplants before we left for a trip and when we got back they were very droopy and then bugs moved in and I didn’t realize for weeks because I was avoiding how bad I felt about neglecting them so I just neglected them more.
I was really faced with this external representation of my own patterns with myself.
I started last March with this “metabolic” way of eating which I discovered initially through a woman called Jessica Ash.
I flooded my body with raw liver and oysters and orange juice and tropical fruit and all different kinds of meat and I tried to eat to hunger.
My hunger came roaring in. It was extreme and it was insatiable.
I’ve written about this here and here and here so I won’t go too in depth into the details here.
But what came up for me through eating more food were all my disordered eating thoughts, dormant since age 20 or so but really still running my life under the surface.
Most people have disordered eating. What turns something into an “eating disorder” is debatable in my opinion and I see it as a spectrum. You don’t have to have an official eating disorder to explore your relationship with food. Most people have a fucked up relationship with food.
For me, the way that my thoughts were, my relationship with food, and my relationship to hunger were all very classic orthorexia patterns. Orthorexia is a type of anorexia but it presents as an obsession with healthy eating instead of eating less.
You all know how I feel about labels and becoming attached to them and what I see in a lot of the eating disorder world is people being very victimized by this external thing they term “MY eating disorder” and kind of collapsing under the diagnosis of this. And it’s not their fault, really, because the medical way this is handled seems most of the time pretty unhelpful overall and people feel they are stuck “in remission” forever and never completely heal.
I call bullshit on this and I think it is the same way we relate to a lot of mental health – anxiety and depression, too, for example. And it’s just not true, not in my experience and not in many others.
I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder the same way I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. “28 yo female with longstanding anorexia” was what was written on my doctors form last year, which was quite sobering to me since I did not feel I fit any of the perceptions of someone with anorexia.
I healed the anxiety long ago and I have healed the eating disorder.
What having an eating disorder meant last March was that I took this new way of eating and I applied rules to my life. I felt stressed about it and I wanted to do it perfectly. The foods these people said to eat less of I decided I would never eat again, because I would do it well and I was going to heal my body once and for all.
But once I added back in all these foods I had been missing – dairy and carbs, mainly – I was fucking starving.
Some people really thought I was just eating to gain weight, eating because of “emotional hunger,” etc etc – No. I was so starving that I would eat and I didn’t feel full I just felt like my stomach was about to explode. Then less than an hour later I would be starving again.
Then came the phase where I started craving the things that were “not allowed.”
In retrospect this makes total sense as my body had felt like it was in a famine for years and it desperately needed calories – aka fuel to repair itself – in the quickest densest way possible.
I wanted desserts, and cheeseburgers, and then came the day when I wanted a donut and had a total breakdown because I could suddenly see how terrified I was of eating one single donut and realized I really had a problem.
I hadn’t had to realize I had a problem, because I was too busy ignoring my hunger and disconnecting from anything my body wanted to instead give it what my mind had decided was best for us.
The donut day was a big day, and soon after that I went All In.
Here is the thing. I had eaten in this metabolic way for just over 3 months and things were shifting massively. I felt great in my body, I was sleeping better, my periods were wildly better (and I have had pretty severe endometriosis for many years now so that was a huge thing).
I knew that this was the way my body needed to eat. These foods were really nutrient-dense foods that supported my hormones and fertility. Organ meats, meats, sourdough bread, fruits, milk, cheese, ice cream, nettles, so many things.
The things this way of eating suggested eating less of were things like nuts, seeds, seed oils, grains with additives, additives in general, etc.
I did not have the capability of looking at this in a neutral way and I knew this was a problem.
Relating to any way of eating, no matter how amazing the food, with a sense of stress and “fixing” was going to be detrimental in the long run and I knew that.
I did not know how to relate to food in any way other than stress and control and from the perspective of my mind.
I had no sense of real body cravings, and when I started to have cravings they were for things like donuts and McDonald’s and I knew I needed to trust that.
Because if I did not learn to follow and trust my body there was no other way I was going to have the relationship with food and my body that I really deeply wanted.
I did not know if this was possible but I did know that the way I had been relating to all of this had clearly not been working. I knew this because for most of the past 15 years I had been trying to control and fix my body with food one way or another and no matter what I ate or which diet I tried, nothing had been fixed and I still felt stressed.
So the only way out was to do the scariest thing I had ever done: to “lose control” with food, to let my body lead me, to trust my hunger, and to see what happened.
Initially I did not really think I would gain weight. There are videos of me very skinny saying “I might gain something like 30 lbs, I can’t imagine gaining 30 lbs.” I was not afraid of this because I did not think it would happen. I had been at the same weight for the last decade of my life and I identified with being tiny.
I did not identify with someone who tried to stay skinny and so I didn’t really believe I would gain weight until I started eating and my body packed on weight as quickly as it could because I was finally fully feeding it.
This response was actually in a weird way what kept me going. This sense that if my body was doing this, there must be a good reason. And the more I learned the more I realized just how much damage I had been doing to my body when not feeding it enough.
And just to be clear I had not been eating a wildly small amount. My usual was around 1500 calories/day, which is more than most people on a diet.
But my body was starving. Gradually I learned that my body had been shrinking my organs in response to this. And the more I ate the happier I became. I started to laugh way more and these parts of me came back that I hadn’t felt since a little girl. I no longer woke up moody, I no longer had big mood swings. I was way more fun to be around.
Going All In was feeding my body but it was also rewiring my mental relationship with food. I was terrified of regular grocery stores. I would not even consider touching things like Oreos or Doritos and definitely not McDonald’s.
And eventually, sometime in September or so, I hit a new spot.
The big cravings for the food I had previously avoided died down. My extreme hunger died down. I was still hungry and sensitive to going too long without eating (and still am) but it was more of a normal hunger, just one I still wasn’t used to responding to.
And honestly, the last 6 months of the journey have in some ways been the hardest part.
I feel like the fall and winter was this weird time that felt like a no mans land of trying to eat enough, having some new and different cravings (like a raw carrot, for example), and trying to figure out how I liked to eat now that food was all allowed.
I had some weeks where I wasn’t eating enough and I’d have really bad heartburn and be very stressed and then I’d have some weeks where I felt freer with food than I ever had before. It was really up and down. I had some points where I was like, was this entire thing pointless, was anything ever really wrong with me, maybe I have messed it up or done it wrong. And then I’d have points where I would have a new experience (like my stomach actually audibly growling for the first time in my adult life I can remember) and I would be like ok, things are still happening.
There was a place where I turned All In into a new type of diet and this was a huge realization for me.
That my patterns were still there in this new sneaky way. Last summer for example I would want ice cream every day and it was true. I wanted ice cream every day. But in the winter I was in this place of just having the ice cream because it used to be a scary food, not because I really wanted it.
I didn’t know what I really wanted because I didn’t know if I could trust what I felt like I wanted.
Like, as my body started to crave more foods that I had previously deemed “good” foods, I wasn’t sure if I could trust it because what if that was the eating disorder part of my brain being sneaky.
And this is what I mean when I say I see the perfection of my journey.
Because there is a way that I suspect that the last 40 lbs or so that I gained, I gained more because of reaching for ice cream or chips without wanting them than because my body needed to gain that weight.
And at the same time, I would never make the weight wrong. Because I did really need to have that time to see my patterns at play. There was also a place where even though I was eating enough, I would still have the pattern come up of putting off feeding myself. And so sometimes I would get toward the end of a day and be like omg, I didn’t eat enough, I’m so hungry, I need to eat a pint of ice cream just to feel full again to catch up.
And I want to be really careful with this because there is nothing wrong with that. I still don’t see anything wrong with that. But people will take it that way because that’s what our society does with food.
There was nothing wrong with it. I was just still not fully in the place of listening to my body because I was still learning how to really hear it.
My hunger cues and cravings had been so all over the place and confusing that once they started to settle I didn’t know if I could trust them.
But slowly, I did.
I had cravings for side salads and so we ate side salads (I barely ate a single vegetable in my first 6 months of this journey). I had cravings for chicken breast – I couldn’t get enough chicken breast.
And then sometimes I would not eat enough and I would eat half a bag of chips because I knew I needed calories but didn’t know what I wanted.
This is what I mean by no mans land. It was really confusing and in some ways over the last few months the patterns got louder than ever. Which I know from experience this is what patterns often do before they are ready to die, but when I was in it I couldn’t see that. I just knew I would have the best week with food ever where it felt easy, and then it would feel like the worst and like maybe nothing had changed at all.
I had this thing with hummus and crackers. Where they came in this little convenient pack. And I learned that if I ate them as a mid-morning snack after breakfast I would be full enough til lunch. But the truth was that I also kind of hate hummus most of the time and my body was like, I hate this. But I’d make myself eat it because it would keep me full.
And then I realized how I was afraid of being hungry. This was a big piece too, my fear of hunger. I would feel hungry and panic because I was sure I was doing something wrong. I noticed how I was making my hunger wrong. I had to learn that being hungry is a normal and healthy thing to feel. That whether I was hungry one hour or three hours after a meal that was great, and fine and normal, and would change daily.
It felt a bit like I was relearning hunger and fullness and how to eat. Remembering too, really, like I’d have these moments of freedom where I would be like, this is how I remember feeling with food as a child.
And then I realized, somehow without realizing it, food had become neutral to me.
I had a moment where I was eating both fresh cucumber pieces and gummy bears and I was like wow, these feel the same to me. Either one my body would want would feel totally fine.
There is no moral attachment, no mind piece of “this is what you should want,” or a secret yay, I want the “healthy” thing!
This is also something that has shifted – last fall when I stopped wanting McDonald’s, there was still a tiny part of me that was secretly proud and happy I didn’t want it anymore.
Now that is just entirely not there. I don’t feel proud or happy that I don’t want certain foods. Because the foods are not bad to me. They are just foods.
If you liked this piece, you might also enjoy:
– A rant about the annoying comments people make during my food journey (video)
– Stepping on the scale for the first time in 6 months & where I’m at now with food & nourishment (full recovery)
– I did not know I was restricting food
– The first time I finally felt full – crying while eating a burger
– Everything to do with my food journey & weight gain in chronological order