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Food, My Friend: At 13, I struggled with an eating disorder and now I help patients establish a better relationship with food

What does an eating disorder look like? How do eating disorders affect our lives? What causes an eating disorder? How do we recover from eating disorders?

When I was younger, around the age of 13, I started struggling with an eating disorder. It was at a time in my life when I felt like I had little, to no control.

I felt very suffocated, and my eating disorder became a way to escape—a way to control something.

I personally struggled with a mixture of bulimia and anorexia. For me, bulimia consisted of bingeing, which is eating a lot of food at one time, and then purging, which is forcing yourself to throw up. But then I would bounce to the anorexia side, which is not eating/starving yourself. Along with the struggle with food, I had a very unhealthy relationship with exercise. Exercise was not something that I did to be strong or to have a healthy body, exercise was purely something that I used to try to “burn off food” or lose weight.

I struggled with these two eating disorders until I was about 19 years old, and I started to get help when I was 17. A lot of my healing came from working with a therapist to find the root causes of the eating disorder, and also working with a dietitian to build healthier food habits again. The work of healing from a 4-5 year long battle with food was not an easy one. I would be lying if I said that it was quick, easy, or painless—because it was quite the opposite. For me it took about 2-3 years to fully heal, and I am so grateful that it is not a struggle for me anymore. Every now and then I will have those old thoughts start to creep in, but I am able to shut them down very quickly. I now work around food and exercise, and help my patients build healthier relationships with food, exercise, and themselves. It is such a beautiful thing to me to be able to use my past struggles and my healing journey to now help others as well.

This is a little piece of my story. And I say that, because the answers to the beginning questions look different for every single person. An eating disorder can range from eating too much, to eating very little. Eating disorders can affect our lives in so many ways—from our relationships with our bodies and our relationships with other people, to our overall mental and physical health. There are many different causes for eating disorders, from the way you were raised, to the way you view your body.

The recovery looks different for every single person who struggles. Some people fully recover, and some people still struggle periodically.

No matter where you’re at in this journey—if you’ve struggled, if you know someone who struggles, if you’re healed…please know that there is help. You don’t have to fear or hate food for the rest of your life. I also want you to know that you are normal, you are okay. Just because you may struggle does not mean you’re broken or too far for help. You are loved, and food wants to be your friend.

Abby Horst

A podcaster, wife, health/wellness coach, beach lover, and musician. She specialises in nutrition education, meal planning, and developing sustainable habits. She passionately works with her patients to help them build healthier and happier relationships with food, exercise, and themselves.

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