Why I’ve struggled with eating for so long & how I’m learning to let go

It’s odd being in a healthy relationship with a man you love and an abusive relationship with a disorder you loathe. You’re always trying to hide the abusive one from the healthy one, and you can’t help but be consumed by both.

Relationships of all kinds test our ability to be vulnerable. There’s the risk that if things don’t work out, we could find ourselves alone. Again. But there’s also the hope that we can become better if we’re brave enough to let love in.

After my mother died of breast cancer when I was 11, I was afraid of letting new people into my life because I didn’t want to deal with the possibility of losing them. But there was one relationship I could enter into without the fear of loss – my relationship with food.

Food has always been there for me, even when I wish it weren’t.

One of my favorite photos of me and my Mom, taken in Disney World in 1988. I was 3.

We’ve likely all found ourselves in a love-hate relationship with food at one point or another. But for some of us, the hate is stronger. My relationship with food has led me down a winding path that’s dotted with signs tempting me to go where I shouldn’t. It’s hard to avoid temptation when you feel like the only thing that can calm you is a box of chocolate chip cookies, a bag of tortilla chips, or all the foods that remind you of someone you’ve lost.

For 17 years, I’ve fed my hungry heart with food, not love. I’ve relied on food and rejected it, hid and hoarded it, loved and loathed it. I was in and out of Children’s Hospital Boston four times between the ages of 12 and 13, and then lived at a residential treatment facility called Germaine Lawrence for a year-and-a-half.

I remember my grandmother looking at me with tears in her eyes when I was first hospitalized. “You’re letting yourself waste away; you need food, Mallary. You’re so smart. Why can’t you just figure it out?” Being smart, though, doesn’t mean you’re always going to make smart choices.

For about two years after getting out of residential treatment, I did better. I listened to my body and ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. It seems so simple – to just listen to your body – but over the years it became increasingly difficult and I started to slip back into old habits. By freshman year in college, I had changed my eating routine. I wasn’t restricting all the time like I did when I was younger; I was binging one day and restricting the next.

Several women struggle with this same type of distorted eating. Because it doesn’t fall under the category of “anorexia” or “bulimia,” it’s more often categorized as “eating disorder not otherwise specified,” or EDNOS. (How’s that for a vague categorization?) Symptoms include night eating syndrome, chewing and spitting out food, purging, binging, repeated patterns of binging and restricting, and even picky eating.

The International Journal of Eating Disorders says EDNOS – which is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. – is “often a way station between an eating disorder and recovery or, less commonly, from recovery to a full-blown eating disorder.” A 2009 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that more people die from EDNOS than from bulimia or anorexia.

This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always believed that it’s easier to identify the symptoms of (and subsequently treat) bulimia and anorexia. When you’re bulimic, people start to notice when you repeatedly go to the bathroom after meals. When you’re anorexic, people see that you’re losing weight and get concerned. In my case, my weight has stayed the same, making it easier to mask my disordered eating habits.

I drew this picture when I was 12 and at one of my lowest points. I remember my therapist at the time saw it and said, "Have you ever heard the expression 'Fake it 'til you make it'? Seems like that's what you're doing here with all these smiley faces." I've always been good at pretending that everything's OK. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

I’ve mastered the art of hiding. Not wanting people to know about my struggles, I’ve kept so much inside. For years, I’ve wanted nothing more than to end my relationship with food, but that’s the hard part – you never really can. When you’re trying to recover from an eating disorder, you can’t swear off food like an alcoholic can swear off the bottle.

We need food to survive. But we also need the kind of nourishment that comes from people who care for and love us. In an ideal world, we would derive nourishment from the love we give ourselves. Once we begin to love ourselves, we realize that we don’t deserve to keep letting our eating disorder hurt us. Why would we want to hurt something we love?

Food never loves us back. When we stop trying to fill ourselves with something tangible, like donuts or French fries, we discover that there are other ways to feel full, to feel whole. For the first time in years, I’ve started to feel whole again – without food. And lately I’ve felt more compelled to confront my eating disorder and make healthier choices, in large part because I haven’t been able to hide from it like I used to.

I’ve written about my struggles with eating, but I haven’t gone into detail about how hard it still is for me. With the exception of a few months here and there, I’ve lived alone since graduating from college five years ago. I was always able to eat what I wanted, when I wanted.

If I wanted to binge on a carton of Edy’s mint chocolate chip ice cream, there was no one there to tell me I shouldn’t. If I didn’t eat dinner because I was fasting to make up for the previous day’s binge, I never had to worry about explaining myself. And I didn’t have to worry about what I looked like and what I did after binges. My stomach would be bloated, my cheeks painted with tears and runny mascara. When I was really disgusted with myself, I’d remove most of the food from my refrigerator and kitchen cabinets and throw it away. Then I’d pour liquid dish detergent on it so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat out of the trash.

These are some of the secrets I’ve kept.

I’ve kept them from my father and grandmother, who live 1,300 miles away. I’ve kept them from my friends. I’ve kept them from my boyfriend Troy … until recently. Troy had read my personal essays about eating and knew I underwent treatment for anorexia. He didn’t realize, though, that there are still days when I feel like I’ve lost all control.

Shortly before moving in with each other last October, Troy and I talked about how much we were looking forward to eating dinner with each other every night. We figured eating together on a more regular basis would motivate us to eat healthier.

But that hasn’t exactly been the case. For as much as I try to eat healthy at work, there have been many times when I’ve raided the vending machine or driven to the local Starbucks to buy food to binge on. By the end of an afternoon binge, I don’t feel like I can fit one more morsel of food in my body, let alone a full dinner.

This picture always makes me smile. Troy and I are standing in front of our new townhouse, which we moved into in January. Prior to that, we had been living in my little 113-year-old apartment.

Since moving in with Troy, I’ve realized there are only so many times you can use the excuse, “I’m not hungry,” “I had a really late lunch,” or “I’m not feeling well” before loved ones and friends start to worry. And after a while, there’s only so much you want to keep hiding.

You know that for a relationship to grow, you have to be open, honest and willing to expose your wounds. Fear inevitably kicks in. You worry that your partner will think you’re crazy, that he’ll start to focus on everything you eat, that he’ll leave you.

Troy could have left a long time ago, but instead he’s decided he wants to try to help me. We frequently talk about how, even though it’s difficult to change my eating habits, I can’t keep finding excuses. Instead of saying, “I’ll eat better – starting tomorrow,” I have to tell myself I can start now.

Troy has given me lots of suggestions on how to improve my eating habits, but I’ve had trouble following through. He’s suggested that I ask some of my colleagues if they’ll have lunch with me. I tell him that it’s hard to leave work in the middle of the day. “Well, just ask if they’ll have a sandwich with you at work, then,” he says.

I haven’t asked my colleagues because eating with others sometimes makes me nervous. I eat at my desk so I don’t have to worry about emails and work piling up. I’ve often cancelled lunch plans because I feel sickened by a binge from the day before, or because I’m trying to restrict and don’t want to “ruin it” on lunch. I’ve had to find excuses, (usually, “I’m on deadline”), hoping friends and colleagues won’t think I’m intentionally blowing them off.

Troy’s also suggested that I text him when I get the urge to binge. I haven’t, partly because of the disconnect I feel when I’m tempted to binge. I tend to get in “the zone” on binging days, and avoid all the resources I could be relying on for help. Once I start to get stressed, I bolt from my feelings and bury them deeper until I end up feeling nothing.

Food numbs the pain, but it never fills emotional voids, which is why I find myself eating. And eating. And eating. By the end of a binge, I’m left feeling physically full and emotionally empty. And I end up dreading the next day because I know I’ll wake up feeling bloated and won’t want to eat. I know I don’t have to restrict the entire next day, and that I shouldn’t, but the twisted food rules I’ve created for myself over the years are so ingrained in me that I feel as though I can’t break free from them.

Breaking free requires finding something that we can turn to instead of food – something that will make us realize we don’t need to rely on food whenever we feel frustrated, overwhelmed or lonely. It requires us to ask ourselves: What do we really want?

One of my favorite authors, Geenen Roth, once wrote: “We don’t want to eat hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to be hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves. We want to know wonder and mystery and possibility, and if instead we’ve given up on ourselves, if we’ve vacated our longings, if we’ve left possibility behind, we will feel an emptiness we can’t name. We will feel as if something is missing because something is missing – the connection to the source of all sweetness, all love, all power, all peace, all joy, all stillness. Since we had it once – we were born with and as it – it can’t help but haunt us.”

This is one of my favorite Mary Engelbreit drawings. It reminds me that just because I had one bad eating day doesn't mean I have to let it ruin the next day.

Troy has helped me find that peace and joy again. He respects me and tells me every day that I’m beautiful. He makes me realize that I’m worth more than my eating disorder. A lot of people have told me recently, “You look so happy!” And I am. I have great friends, a new home with Troy, and a job that I love. My issues with food are what sadden me. It’s funny how you can feel so happy about some aspects of your life and simultaneously sad about others.

I’m trying to be strong and encourage myself to strive for progress, not perfection. Slowly, I’m making small improvements. The other day after a binge, I told myself I wasn’t going to let it throw me off course. The next day I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner. I want to prove to myself that if I continue to let my disordered eating control me, I’ll continue to feel out of control. If I tell myself each morning that I’m going to begin the day anew, then maybe I can start to regain the control I’ve lost.

We all need to be gentle with ourselves and understand that recovery takes time and patience. More and more, I’ve found that thinking ahead to our future can be a good motivator.

I want to be healthy enough to have kids someday. But if I’m not giving my body the nourishment it needs, I won’t be able to. I never want to be in a position where I’m negatively influencing my children. I don’t want them to see me restricting or binging. I would feel horrible if they caught me studying my arms or stomach in the mirror and started to scrutinize their own bodies. (I’ll never forget the day my mom looked in the mirror and said, “I’m so fat.” I was only 8 or 9 at the time, but I tried to convince her she wasn’t. She was beautiful.) I want my own kids to be happy and healthy, and to genuinely enjoy eating — just like I used to.

The idea of someday becoming a parent reminds me not just of my mom, but of my dad. He’s always been so supportive and has never failed to tell me how much he loves me. While living with Troy has forced me to let go of the secrecy surrounding my eating habits, it’s caused my dad to let go in a different way. I noticed that after I moved in with Troy, my dad started calling less — not because he didn’t want to talk to me but because he was afraid he was interfering. I told him not to be silly.

At Christmastime, he took a day off from work to go sightseeing in Boston. We do this every year and call it our “Father Daughter Day.” This year on Father Daughter Day, Dad handed me a note that made me cry. He said he was already thinking ahead to December 2012 and the possibility that I’ll be with Troy — and not home in Massachusetts — on Christmas Day. Here’s part of his note, which he titled “Letting Go”:

Every time I “let go” I think of it as “let grow”; it makes it easier for me. Being the sentimentalist that I am, I reminisced about the times that I have let go of you in your life.

I remember so well, the 1st time that I let go of your hands when you were learning to walk, knowing that you would fall, but you didn’t. I remember bringing you on your bike to [the neighbor’s] driveway for the 1st time without training wheels. Mom and I were so excited, and scared. I gave you a little push, knowing that within 10 feet you would fall, and Mom would come rushing to your aid to wipe away your tears. You never fell. Instead, you made it all the way down the street. It was Mom and I who had tears in our eyes.

I hated letting you go to Germane Lawrence, but I knew that I had to.

I remember the 1st time you drove out of the driveway in the Tempo, alone for your 1st time. I was concerned, but I knew that I had to let you go.

I remember letting go of you on your 1st day at Providence College, as you walked toward the dining hall, while Gramz and I stood there teary-eyed watching you walk away.

When you graduated from Providence College, I wanted so much to keep you close by, but I knew letting go of you so that you could go to Florida was what I needed to do.

Now, you are entering the next stage of your life. You have a wonderful man who loves you. You belong with him, so that you two can start a new chapter in your lives. If I had a choice, every day would be Father-Daughter Day, but that would be selfish of me. I love you too much to ever be selfish toward you. …

Mallary, every time that I have let you go, I have watched you grow. You may look up to me for inspiration, but I look up to you for my inspiration.

Me and Dad, Christmas 2011.

I do look up to my dad for inspiration, and even though we only see each other once or twice a year, I still look to him for support. He has always been there for me, always had faith that I would make it. At times, Dad’s given me tough love. When I was first hospitalized, he told me: “Mom fought so hard to survive. Now, you’re just letting me die.”

Being in the hospital like Mom was throughout the last few years of her life made me feel closer to her. I know that sounds twisted, but it’s true. Now, I can’t think of anything that would make feel closer to her than becoming a mom myself. I don’t see this happening for another couple of years, but I nevertheless need to start making changes now.

When she was sick, Mom used to compare herself to the Little Engine That Could. She and Dad would try to convince me that she’d make it and that everything would be OK.

“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” she’d say.

Mom didn’t have a choice as to whether or not she’d survive; cancer was in control. I’m fortunate enough to have the freedom of choice and the chance to change. I’m sick of my abusive relationship with food, and I want to make healthier decisions. Mom would want me to, too.

I know I can, I know I can, I know I can.

Note to readers: I’d love to hear your thoughts on this essay. What part did you like best? What do you want to know more about? What parts do you think need work? I’ve always found feedback on essays like this to be invaluable, especially since I don’t have anyone look at them ahead of time.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Poynter.org. Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at mjtenore@gmail.com.

44 thoughts on “Why I’ve struggled with eating for so long & how I’m learning to let go

  1. Oh, Mallary. I’m sure you have the power to beat your destructive eating habits. You are stronger than you know. Writing this blog post is an amazing first step, and I wish you nothing but the best going forward. YOU CAN DO IT!

    Thank you for such a wonderfully written essay about the love-hate relationship so many of us have with food.

  2. This is a brave post — thanks for sharing it. Of the people I’ve known it seems more women struggle with food than men, but men need to pay attention to it as well. And now that I have daughters, I worry about whether this will be something they struggle with as well.

    1. David, you’re right that men also struggle with eating issues. I’ve known a couple of male anorexics. And I think a lot of people — male and female — have dealt with overeating. I’m always amazed by how many people write to me to say that they, too, have struggled with an eating disorder or know someone who has.

      ~Mallary

  3. First of all, I’m sending you a big hug. Thank you for your bravery, honesty and beautiful writing. It isn’t easy to not only write all of this down but to be so brave and actually hit the publish button.

    I’ve never met you or your father in real life but I was almost in tears when I read his note to you. The love your father feels for you is so strong and comes across so clearly. It really hit home. I can see my mom writing a similar note to me and I would react just as you did.

    Thank you again. Stay strong and have faith in yourself. You are a successful, beautiful young woman who will always have the will to stay strong and regain control over your own life.

    1. Hi Elana,

      Thanks for your kind note. It’s been so nice to form a network of virtual support through writing this essay. You’re right that it wasn’t easy to hit the publish button, but I’m glad I did. I waited a few days before posting it on Facebook. It’s one thing to publish it on my blog and tweet it; it’s another thing to share it on Facebook for all my friends to see!

      Thanks again,

      ~Malalry

  4. Beautifully written Mal… thank you for your honesty and courage. There are so many of us who struggle with eating, and your words are an inspiration for us to be healthier together.

    Thank God for dads like Andy T, his note brought tears to my eyes!

    Love you and miss you xoxo

  5. You are so inspirational, Mallary! Not only is this incredibly brave and honest of you — but you are SO talented. I can only dream of being able to put my thoughts, feelings, retrospections into words as well as you do. This essay means a lot to me for many reasons and I have some great ideas to share with you. I’ll send you an email in the next few days. 🙂 and in case I haven’t said it enough, I am so so so so so happy for you. You completely deserve all the happiness and success that you’ve created in your life (yes, created…these things just don’t come to people who sit around and wait!). Much love to you (and Troy)!

    P.S. Does Troy have a younger brother? 😉

    1. Thanks, Marie! I have to tell you, after we met for lunch last December, I was so inspired by all that you’re doing to fulfill yourself — yoga, traveling, cooking healthy meals, etc. It inspired me to want to start doing things like that, too.

      I owe you an email response; I will try to write back later this week!

      ~Mallary
      P.S. Unfortunately, Troy doesn’t have a younger brother! 😛

  6. You are a brave, strong and motivated woman. This is a beautiful piece. It caught my eye on Facebook and I had no idea this was a struggle for you. I always thought if you as a warm, smart person. So glad you can share to help others!

  7. Mal, such a beautiful essay. It takes so much courage to confront your issues and fears, and even more so to share them with others. I recently was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and recovery is, as I’ve discovered, not a straight line but ups and downs and zig zags left and right. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Missy,

      Thanks for writing and sharing your own struggles. You’re so right — recovery is hardly a straight line! There are lots of twists and turns, but we can get through them.

      ~Mallary

    1. Thanks, Laura. You’ve always been so supportive throughout the years, and that means a lot. Even though we don’t get to talk as much anymore, I’m lucky to have you in my life!

      ~Mal

  8. Mallory, thank you for sharing your story. It is a gift that is truly appreciated. I am sitting on that 113 year old porch that we once shared, reading your story on my ipad and watching all the people go by, on foot, bikes, old cars, new cars, skateboards, strollers, motorcycles. . . and it struck me how we all have both suffering and happiness behind our smiles, behind closed doors. Our life stories are different and alike, all at the same time. After 61 years practicing the art of being human, I am still learning everyday how to be who I am in the present moment. There is a group beginning April 14th, that will learn a Mindfulness meditation developed by Jon Kabat Zinn, including mindful eating. Beth Meeker has a website where you can learn more. Thank you again for sharing your story, your love and compassion, Mary Beth

    1. Thanks so much, Mary Beth. You’re right that behind their smiles and closed doors, people struggle.

      I wasn’t aware of the group you mentioned and would love to find out more about it. I’ll look at the website you mentioned.

      I hope the apartment is still treating you well!
      ~Mallary

  9. Dear Mallary,
    I love reading your writing, and this essay… well, it completely blew me away. As I sit here with tears in my eyes, I know that it’s because I can relate to much of what you shared here. I especially liked the section where you exposed your secrets. Just by revealing them, you take away their identity as “secrets”, shine a light into that dark place, and immediately take a huge step forwards towards removing those behaviors from your lifestyle. What you wrote here takes an immense amount of strength and bravery to express in words and even more so to share with others in such a forum. I think you deserve a huge, self congratulatory pat on the back. May you be blessed with the strength to begin not only each day a new, but each moment a new. Best, Allie Spivack

    1. Thanks so much, Allie. You’re right that by revealing our secrets, we take away their identity as secrets. My hope is that by sharing more of these secrets, I can finally confront them and ultimately make healthier choices.

      ~Mallary

  10. (sorry if this shows up twice– I had an issue when I posted the comment before)

    Mal, you are so beautiful and strong! Hoping you realize the power and energy you have inside and all around you as you continue to “let grow” for YOURSELF and for those lucky kids to come;) xo

  11. Thank you for writing, Mal. Allie is right when she points out that by writing the secrets, they lose their power and their hold. I was struck, as I read, by the amount of bravery required to share your secrets with Troy. I know, in my own experience, allowing my significant other awareness and insight into my struggle was/is the most difficult–because when you put your significant other on notice, you’re admitting out loud that there isn’t room for both relationships, in your life, and, ergo, that you want to diminish the relationship with the eating disorder that, though abusive, has been primary and the method of coping and “being ok” for so long. For all of us who have engaged in the battle with ED, it’s hard and brave to choose someone else, because, though abusive, the eating disorder is reliable and, though damaging, the rules of the relationship are clear and easy for us perfectionists to perfect. Choosing someone else, with all the risk and mess and warmth and wonder of a healthy relationship with an actual person is tantamount to jumping off a cliff. When the relationship gives and nourishes, as healthy relationships do, it’s as if learning we can fly… but flying is hard and never perfect or completely graceful, and the eating disorder beckons with charm, compelling us back to terra firma. We choose to ignore the voice, choose to thwart the insidious ways he creeps back into our lives (skipping meals, lying about behaviors) and must repeatedly remember that the person at your side, the children who will someday bless your life don’t want perfection, they just want you.

    Good for you, for learning to want you, too.

    Even though we haven’t spoken in a long time, know that my thoughts and my prayers are with you, and that I understand all sides of the struggle in which we, and so many others, engage every day. I also know, at this point in my life, that we will succeed, even if our efforts are faltering and clumsy. Remember, that Little Engine struggled mightily, but in the end, she could.

    Caitlin Kane

    1. Hi Caitlin,

      It’s so good to hear from you! I was actually just looking at some of your new Facebook photos the other day and was happy to see that you seem to be doing well.

      I love this part of your response: “We choose to ignore the voice, choose to thwart the insidious ways he creeps back into our lives (skipping meals, lying about behaviors) and must repeatedly remember that the person at your side, the children who will someday bless your life don’t want perfection, they just want you.”

      So true.

      Like you, I’m confident we’ll both succeed. You’re in my thoughts and prayers, and I wish you lots of happiness. It would be great to catch up more soon!

      ~Mallary

  12. Mallary,

    When you lived with us in Dallas, I had no idea. I suspected that perhaps you were formerly anorexic, but that’s all. Then, when I stayed with you after Poynter and you opened up, I guess I believed that it was something you had made it past for the most part. I didn’t understand that it always was and still is this kind of a daily struggle for you.

    I think you’re so beautiful and so brave to lay this demon bare in an essay. It’s powerful and inspiring. I hope that other women who struggle with EDNOS read this and know that they aren’t alone and that change is possible.

    I related to you thinking about how being a mom can make you want to be better than you’ve been before. In two months I’ll have a daughter, and I don’t want her to see me overeating because I lack self-control or obsessing about my “pooch” (my curvy belly) the way I have since puberty.

    I’ve been crying since your dad’s letter, and I still am. You’ve come so far. I know you can do this. You can beat it with the love and support of your most important relationships. And I’m glad that now YOU know you can, too. For yourself and for your future children. You’re going to be such a sweet and loving mom 🙂

    1. Thanks, Misty! It helped living with you, because you introduced me to new foods and always invited me to eat with you. (Now you can probably understand why I turned down some of the offers!)

      So many people commented on my dad’s letter and said it brought tears to their eyes. My dad has always been a sentimentalist, and it shows through in all of his letters and emails to me.

      I appreciate you saying I’m going to be a sweet and loving mom someday. I know you will be, too. 🙂 I’m happy for you!

      ~Mallary

  13. Hi Mallary,

    I found your site through Geneen Roths facebook page and I am so glad I did. This article was beautifully written. My relationship with food is similar to yours in so many ways. Thank you very much for sharing it. It wasn’t until I read Geneens book did I finally start to understand that I was using food to numb myself. These days I feel that I am on the path to healing, but it is not always easy. I know that I struggled with food for so many years for a reason, and that one of my purposes in life is to help other people heal as well. One of the things I have learned so far is that by starting to share my story with others (like you have done here), I am lessening food of its power. I couldn’t stand on more second of hiding it. I am realizing that I am not my story, and I am focusing on loving myself exactly as I am in this moment. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Amanda,

      I’m glad you came across my essay and that you took the time to comment on it. I’m glad you’ve been able to share your story with others and, as you said, lessen food of its power. That’s so important. I wish you all the best moving forward.

      ~Mallary

  14. Reading your story was like looking into a mirror. I am normal body weight and keep it that way the same way you do. I used the same excuses not to eat especially with my husband and those ‘nightly dinners’. It took him a while to figure out something just wasn’t right and then we addressed it together with a therapist for the last couple of years. Geneen Roth’s books have helped me tremendously which did nothing for me fifteen years ago as I was trying to make the Overeaters Anonymous Grey Sheet work. Unlike you, I have had this eating disorder in one form or another since I was 10, I am now 51. I always said that my disorder is like a stretched out rubber band with anorexia at one end and bulimia (my choice of purging was always through exercise) at the other end and compulsive overeating in between. Once I gave up the exercise bulimia- which took decades to do, I turned to the restricting method. The scale was my G-d as that weighing obsession was a daily torture.

    At this time I am the healthiest I have ever been and I truly believe in Geneen’s methods in keeping this disorder at bay. It has taken my entire life to get to this point because a lot of years I either hid my problem or I kept trying all the things that never worked over & over again. So, I wish you luck and I am glad you are on the road to NOT suffering anymore with this issue at a younger age than myself. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Shelli

    1. Hi Shelli,

      I’m really glad you stumbled upon my essay. It sounds like you’ve struggled for so long but that you’re starting to get better. I’m happy for you, and I hope you continue to do well.

      I struggled with obsessive exercising, too, but have luckily managed to make healthier choices when it comes to exercising. I run most days, but try not to overdo it.

      I’m happy you have a supportive husband. What a difference it makes to have loved ones in your life who want to help you. Ultimately, we have to make the decision to get better, but support from others can help move us in the right direction.

      ~Mallary

  15. Beautifully written. Loosing someone one you love, someone who is part of you, your life, your everything is the most difficult thing to loose. No matter if it is your brother, your aunt or your mother; you never forget and you do have to struggle with the pain and thoughts almost every day.

    As you may know I struggle with the same thing everyday and at times I keep it to myself to deal with. I find keeping a photo of my brother with me always help remember and receive piece.

    With you writting about it and sharing your stories bring you one step closer in healing. It brings you one step closer in finding a healthy way with dealing with the pain. Having a loving partner to help you take those steps are wonderful, wonderful for someone to hold your hand and help guide you. You are doing amazing things….you know she may not be here on earth with you but she will always be with you, her spirit lives with you. You are so much like her in more ways than you know. Keep up the wonderful work…you know you have so many loved ones supporting you every step of the way. I am very proud of you. Love

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. It’s been so nice reconnecting with you from afar on Facebook. I always like hearing your responses to my essays. You’re right that you “never forget” when you lose a loved one.

      Love,
      ~Mallary

  16. Beautifully written Mallary! Progress always always occurs one step at a time and its great that you have started your journey.. Wish you all the best; I am sure that you will have a beautiful relationship with food sooner than you think!

  17. Mallary–you are an amazing person and a daily inspiration on so many levels. I hope on the days you find yourself struggling you can remember how much you are loved by so many people and how many people are sending you so much positive energy. (you can! you can! you can!)

    As for your essay itself, it flows so well and as many have said in the comments, you really bring to light emotional concepts that relate to so many women, with or without disordered eating issues. You shift from the personal the general really naturally without taking on the self-righteous or self-involved tone I see in a lot of longer personal essays. Keep up the amazing work!!!

    XOXO
    Sarah Vaz

    1. Thanks for your sweet note, Sarah.

      I agree that it would help to remind myself that I’m loved, and to surround myself with people who can give me positive energy.

      I hope to keep writing. I’m working on a memoir; it’s just taking some time.

      I miss you and hope you’re doing well!
      ~Mallary

  18. I left a comment on your most recent post (not sure if it went through) – but part of it was that I was thinking of this posting today. I wanted to go back and reread your insights which I’m grateful that you had the courage to write about and share.

    “It’s funny how you can feel so happy about some aspects of your life and simultaneously sad about others.” – This line is particularly what hits me and comforts me today… (We could use a good catching up call sometime -though I know you’re probably even busier now than ever and I with school…) Not understanding how so many things can be going well, and yet there is still a similar struggle with the “unhealthy relationship”…Perhaps it doesn’t need to be understood, but rather lived and the answers/healing will come in time.

    I don’t know, but in the meantime, it’s helpful to know I’m not alone. Sending love and prayers from Providence – and if you do want to catch up sometime – I’d love it 🙂 In the meantime, I so happy/proud/inspired by you!

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