• Jennifer Jade Merrihue

ON DIS-ORDERED EATING

Before this day I will have told 2 people this story. You, the world - are my third.



When I was 11 I threw up blood.


I saw it on my fingers.


Ruby red and undeniable.


Something was wrong.


My back hit the stall wall and slid to the floor.


The cool of the stall wall chilled my back.


My forehead beaded with pearls of sweat.


Ribbons of tears streamed down my face.


Was I ok?


It’s the end of school before summer. I am just about to turn 12.


I get up, wash my face. Unzip the little bag of make-up I carry with me everywhere. It has pink little hearts on it.


I paint my face. Layering away the truth with creams, colors, and shadows. Lining my eyes like a warrior in black and gold. So I can get back out there and get through this day.


-

Flash forward a few weeks and I’m at my grandmother's house in Boston for the summer.

She’s not doing so well this summer.


Which means I’ll have a lot of time alone on my hands. Ideal.


I ask her to drive me to the library, pick me up later.


And at the library I gather all of the books I can find in the psych section.


I look up symptoms.


I tell my grandmother they are for my friends. I am worried about them.


There’s truth to that. But they are mainly for me.


I’ve thrown up blood because at the age of 11 I’m unknowingly harboring an eating disorder.


I’m too young to have known what it was before that day at the library.


You see, it was taught to me as the most light and logical thing on this planet.


But it’s not.


-


And so I read.


I read and I made copies and I printed all the information I could from that library.


I kept it hidden in my journals, I studied every page. On how to survive, get over it, on what to expect, on what would happen if I didn’t get a handle on it. On why I may have developed this coping mechanism in the first place.


I’ve been researching for a long time. I can now say it saved my life.


It was not an easy road and I chose to go it alone because I didn’t know any better.

I was a child. And I believed that I had to.


But we don’t have to. We had each other, world. This whole time.


It took me 3 years of intense, emotional, lonely work to evolve out of that eating disorder by the age of 14.


To look in the mirror and heal what I thought I had broken.


To understand through a child's eye that I had two choices- get better or choose to let this kill me.


Nothing like a little death-threat to leverage healing for an 11 year old.



If you knew me in high school (3 years later) you’d have known me as a person who saw food as medicine, who’s mission on this earth was to feed everyone around me, and heal the way people see themselves.


I chose to heal because I didn’t want to die but that’s not what kept me going when things got really hard. It was easier to outsource the strength. To do it for the friends I knew struggling with it. To do it for the family I loved. To figure out a way out of the hell so that other people going through it could know that it was possible, by living example.


I have been close with many friends who struggle with food. I wanted to introduce them to food as a way to pleasure, to connect, to love on people and ourselves.


I never didn’t buy the extra cookie for us, I never didn’t insist on the large extra cheese pizza.

Because from too young an age I battled a monster that almost killed me. That believed less was better.


The exhausting mental battle. The horrific and incessant judgement, shame, calculations, comparisons, criticisms.


I was too young then to know what I was taking on alone. But I am so thankful to that little girl that I did it.


-


An eating disorder is a desperate attempt for control in a world that feels so out of our control. I have a million reasons why I could have chosen this, but at the time, it was so easy to have an eating disorder. Every girl around me seemed to have one in some form or another.


There was culture of it thriving everywhere. Magazines, TV shows, bubbling between us girls.

Less was more.


Not eating was sexy. Suffering was sexy.


I went to international schools. By the time I got to London (11 years old) I had lived in 7 other countries.


I don’t know what other schools were like, but my issues were not out of the ordinary at mine, and were certainly not the scariest.


By 12 I had a friend struggling with schizophrenia, others with suicide, I had been bullied, girls around me were starving, cutting themselves, molested.


There is so much pain in a high school.


At least there was in mine. And I didn’t know who to talk to without scaring them.


That summer I got books on schizophrenia, bulimia, anorexia, bipolar, PTSD, and suicide.


These were the issues I was juggling at 11. Although only one of those issues was mine. The rest belonged to 5 other main players in my life. I cannot believe I survived. I cannot believe that by the age of 14 all that was left of that horrific disorder was a very shy girl who ate all the time, enjoyed the hell out of it, and exercised to balance and burn off the anxiety that led to the issue in the first place.


It’s been almost 2 decades since. And as you may know if you follow my content, I have been deep diving into trauma work.


At first it was heavy, in my body, in my life. I had to leave a lot of things, stay home, give myself abundant time. I have not been rushing this. And the more time I gave it the more sense I made to myself.


I did not have the permission to feel then what I feel now. I didn’t have an adult who knew what I was going through to tell me that I could handle it.


That it made total sense to have been feeling exhausted, terrified, clueless, and sad.

That It would be weird if I didn’t feel those things as I juggled these huge scary things in my self, in the pain of others, in the life of highschool.


That the most logical thing on the planet would be for me to sleep for as many days as I needed to, cry for as long as I needed to, eat, and sleep again. Until I felt healthy again. And complete.


When I was 11 I just kept on pushing, surviving, going. I read up, got a strategy , made a commitment that I wanted to live and then didn’t give up on myself (f)or others. I didn’t stop to give myself nice hugs, or take a bath, or be nice to myself. Those things seemed dangerous. Like if I did those, if I allowed myself to feel the depth of my pain, or my fear, or my loneliness, I might never recover or come out of it.


But your mind and body will never give you more than you can handle. It might feel like it. But what’s missing in that moment is trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in your body. Trusting in the process that it takes to feel through the depths of pain, to completely release it THROUGH your body.


I did not have trust when I was that small. Even though I outperformed an eating disorder when I had only been alive for ELEVEN YEARS.


I learnt many wrongful lessons from it:


How survival depended on never slowing down. That I’d have to do it alone. That to get things done things have to feel like life or death.


…You can bet your butt that’s the strategy I’ve been using for years since.


So now as a grown ass woman, who’s a grown ass coach. I have had the luxury and horror to slow the fuck down and give that 11 year old girl everything she couldn’t have back then.


Understanding. Community. Connection. TIME.


VERY intentionally this past year, I decided I would slow down for as long as it took, and listen to my nervous system. What affects it for the better or for the worse, use it as my guide for whether I do things 100% of the time.


When I am sad now, even if I have no idea why, I make some damn space.


I don’t make it mean that it’s the sadness from back then.


But I respect the shit out the fact that it very well might be. So I make some room, give it a bath, some healthy snacks. And most importantly time and recognition.


I thank my body for all its been through and I commit that I’ll be here, listening for whatever else it might go through.


As any adult should learn to do for a child-look them straight in the eye, in the depth of all their pain, and assure them that you’re there with them and there’s nothing you can’t handle together. I am now learning to do for my own inner child.


An eating disorder is no joke. If you’re looking for support around one don’t hesitate to reach out.


Though I overcame one by age 14, it did not “cure” the initial sources that led to having one.

I was dealing with an immense amount of fear and anxiety that I had to find other outlets for like exercise, writing, and art.


I also had a long way to go in understanding food.


Even though I was eating ALL the time in my 20’s and was REALLY healthy, calorically it was nowhere near enough food I was eating with how active I was.


I went back to school and studied holistic health and nutrition to help myself understand bodies more. I wanted to learn alternatives to chemical medicine, to use food as actual medicine and reverse heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.


What I learnt was our body is complex. Every single body is different. There is no one answer that applies to everyone. Nothing is an accident. It’s a communication. Emotional or physical.

I’ve been bulimic, anorexic, vegan, raw vegan, paleo, keto, the whole shabang!


I can tell you that each philosophy is CONVINCED that they are the right one, and that everyone you love is poisoning themselves with the way the eat and live. In my experience, besides the eating disorders mentioned, they all have their merits and their drawbacks and the diet that works is one that works with your body chemistry, life style, and general mind state.


I like living in abundance. But the thing that was missing through this ENTIRE journey. Was you guys.


Was connection, honesty, the strength to look around and trust that I could still be loved even though I had had this horrible thing in my life that I judged as egotistical and superficial and that I almost died from.


So step in sharing it with you the world. I hope none of you are having to juggle things of this magnitude alone. I hope you reach out to me, to each other, to anyone else. Because going through it alone just teaches you that you have to do that to survive. And that’s just not true.

Peace and Love to you all and thank you for reading this…


If you or anyone you know is struggling with some heavy issues, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re in this together.


_________________________________________________________________________________


What saved my life here was having the knowledge, then the STRUCTURE with which I could relax into freedom.


I mainly cook vegan at home for myself. I cook decadent and easy recipes that respond to any childhood craving I have when I have it. I just improvise with any healthier ingredient I can find so I can also honor and serve my body as I feed my inner child.


Am I craving lasagna? Great. I’ll use brown rice or quinoa lasagna sheets. Sprouted tofu is a great substitute for ricotta cheese and is protein. Engine 2 kale tomato sauce (because I love is business), nutritional yeast, so-much-spinach (A WHOLE DAMN box), really finely chopped broccoli, garlic, onion, black olives, VIOLIFE (vegan cheese because it melts like normal cheese and I’m on board with all the ingredients), and then on top I’ll put some real cheese if I have some or crumble some goats cheese and pine nuts and bake it. Then this feeds me for a week. And it feels like it’s the MOST unhealthy thing ever but it’s not. It’s really good for me. So it’s a double win.


Almond flour cakes, protein disguised as cookies, giant epic salads, pulled ‘pork’ mushroom burgers, stews, veggie risottos, homemade dumplings and samosas…I try to use the least grain possible, try to hide as many veggies in my food…you name it there’s nothing my body can’t have.


Eating great a home means when I’m out, traveling the deep fried night markets of the world, or when someone cooks me a 12 braised short rib from scratch I can enjoy the hell out of that and know that my home life structure has my back. With no dieting or restriction needed.


I like living in abundance. But the thing that was missing through this ENTIRE journey. Was you guys.


Was connection, was honesty, was the strength to look around and trust that I could still be loved even though I had had this horrible thing in my life that I judged as egotistical and superficial and that I almost died from.


So step in sharing it with you the world. I hope none of you are having to juggle things of this magnitude alone. I hope you reach out to me, to each other, to anyone else. Because going through it alone just teaches you that you have to do that to survive. And that’s just not true.

Peace and Love to you all and thank you for reading this…


An eating disorder is no joke. If you’re looking for support around one don’t hesitate to reach out.


————————————————————————————————————


I cook my food and can eat whatever I want in and out of house because I understand my body chemistry now and I have a home system that supports it’s every physical and emotional need. Everyones is different. Your stress levels and environment affect what you should be eating and getting informed is crucial.


I’ve been bulimic, anorexic, vegan, raw vegan, paleo, keto, the whole shebang!


I can tell you that each philosophy is CONVINCED that they are the right one, and that everyone you love is poisoning themselves with the way the eat and live. In my experience, besides the eating disorders mentioned, they all have their merits and their draw backs and the diet that works is one that works with your body chemistry, life style, and general mind state.


What saved my life here was having the knowledge, then the STRUCTURE with which I could relax into freedom.


I mainly cook vegan at home for myself. I cook decadent and easy recipes that respond to any childhood craving I have when I have it. I just improvise with any healthier ingredient I can find so I can also honor and serve my body as I feed my inner child.


Am I craving lasagna? Great. I’ll use brown rice or quinoa lasagna sheets. Sprouted tofu is a great substitute for ricotta cheese and is protein. Engine 2 kale tomato sauce (because I love is business), nutritional yeast, so-much-spinach (A WHOLE DAMN box), really finely chopped broccoli, garlic, onion, black olives, VIOLIFE (vegan cheese because it melts like normal cheese and I’m on board with all the ingredients), and then on top I’ll put some real cheese if I have some or crumble some goats cheese and pine nuts and bake it. Then this feeds me for a week. And it feels like it’s the MOST unhealthy thing ever but it’s not. It’s really good for me. So it’s a double win.


Almond flour cakes, protein disguised as cookies, giant epic salads, pulled ‘pork’ mushroom burgers, stews, veggie risottos, homemade dumplings and samosas…I try to use the least grain possible, try to hide as many veggies in my food…you name it there’s nothing my body can’t have.


Eating great a home means when I’m out, traveling the deep fried night markets of the world, or when someone cooks me a 12 braised short rib from scratch I can enjoy the hell out of that and know that my home life structure has my back. With no dieting or restriction needed.


I like living in abundance. But the thing that was missing through this ENTIRE journey. Was you guys.


Was connection, was honesty, was the strength to look around and trust that I could still be loved even though I had had this horrible thing in my life that I judged as egotistical and superficial and that I almost died from.


So step in sharing it with you the world. I hope none of you are having to juggle things of this magnitude alone. I hope you reach out to me, to each other, to anyone else. Because going through it alone just teaches you that you have to do that to survive. And that’s just not true.

Peace and Love to you all and thank you for reading this…


An eating disorder is no joke. If you’re looking for support around one don’t hesitate to reach out.


To anyone struggling out there, I love you and we're in this together.

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