Ambitious, overachiever, big hearted, devoted to God and family, nurturer, organized, truth seeker,...these are some words someone might use to describe me. They also might say I can be stubborn, opinionated, emotional, conflicted, a people pleaser, and self sacrificing among other things.
My heart is so full and compassionate that I will cry easily over any kind of emotional moving moment in a movie. But then on the opposite end, logic and reason is very strong in my choices and day to day tasks and decisions. I am a sun cancer and moon capricorn....it can be very exhausting.
As long as I can remember I have had a thirst for knowledge. I love a good challenge and am not content to sit still very long. If I am sitting, my leg or hand or something is often moving.
I grew up in a loving family and was taught about God and went to church regularly. I ventured onto my individual spiritual path early and sought to have a close relationship with God from a young age. That relationship grew and I rarely make any important decisions without consulting in prayer. I sensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit and also sensitive to the emotional state of all around me. I am just recently beginning to really learn where my emotions begin and anothers starts. It can be confusing.
I was partially homeschooled and started college at sixteen. I did a study abroad in Vienna and an internship in London.
I got married at twenty years old to my match. We finished growing up together and have had many adventures. Among those being moving to Boston with just what we could fit in our civic and no place to live or job secured, being thrown into a wide spectrum of the special needs world with our children and adopting four children.
Music has always been something I have been strongly drawn to. I play the oboe and english horn and enjoy dabbling on the piano and vocally as well.
I might be what someone would call a jack of all trades. I used to worry about not being focused on just one big thing in my life. Thankfully though I have come to learn that this is not a bad thing. My interest and ability to learn many things is who I am and I have chosen to embrace this. The key is to not do too many things at once and narrow it down to a manageable plate.
I have struggled with eating disorders and body image frequently over the years and share that story below.
My goal with this website is to compile my thoughts and experiences in a place that I can share with others to hopefully benefit someone. I don't claim to have all the answers. I know I do not and I know that all of our experiences and paths are very different and serve different purposes. I respect and honor that and do my best to not judge others, their choices or their perspectives.
This is me with my awesome husband Newell. We are at a Rare Conference in the picture because one of our daughters has a genetic syndrome that is extremely rare.
I used this picture when creating this website because I realized I need to get a headshot of myself now that I am recovered. I really do not want to use the headshot that was taken when I was restricting in order to look that way. So until then, this will work!
My obsession with weight started young. Throughout the years I struggled with it all to some extent: bulimia nervosa, orthorexia, compulsively exercising, anorexia nervosa and other atypical eating disorders such as chewing and spitting out my food. Let's face it, in our diet culture, it's hard for anyone not to.
For me my fear of being fat started in second grade. I was waiting outside in the snow for school to start. I was wearing a puffy blue parka. As I was standing there two boys nearby started whispering about me and referred to me as fat. This really threw me off. I remember hoping that it was because my coat was puffy and not because I was actually "fat." I am pretty sure I refused to wear that coat again. Then even more confusing for me at the time was one of those same boys told other kids that I was the prettiest girl in the class only a couple of weeks later.
This began my quiet, self concern about how I looked.
As I got older, I noticed how the "beautiful" women in movies and books and magazines were always thin. I obsessively began taking notice of what media said was beautiful and how to be more beautiful.
I started to notice extended family and friends talking about losing weight and being fat or thin.
Thankfully, as I sorted through this info from the input around me, my parents taught me over and over that food does not make you fat. I think this really saved me from any excessively compulsive behaviors for many years. Despite the building fear I had of being "fat," I held onto their words and resisted the need to lose weight.
However, as I moved into my teen years, I had friends that would talk about dieting and worry about their weight. I noticed how people would treat those who were bigger differently. My mom gained some weight and I saw how it distressed her.
So despite the fact that I was still not restricting, the fear kept growing. I also learned about this time that my mother had been hospitalized for anorexia as a teenager and had been working hard since we were born to fight those negative thoughts. However, as she gained some weight she started to struggle with some of those old thoughts and behaviors. What's funny is, that at the time, I thought there was no way I would ever do something like that.
I went through puberty hardcore. I had a full womanly figure by the time I was 15. I only had a smaller teen figure for maybe a year. My mother tried to help me through my discomfort with my body changes, but I still compared myself to my friends who mostly had smaller teen figures at that time.
Then one of my friends talked about how she was just too busy to eat regularly, it was like a little light bulb went off in my head. I don't think I consciously thought "This is my new plan: be too busy to eat so that I will be skinnier." But that is what I started doing. I began skipping meals and eating less all in the name of my studies, achievements and social life.
I did this for about a year and did lose some weight. Thankfully a family friend figured out what I was doing and told me I needed to stop. She told me what it could do to my body and thankfully I listened to her.
So life went on.
My mom once mentioned that she had never been fitter than when she was at college walking all over campus. I held onto this and when I got to college I purposefully walked everywhere I could, as far as I could, and if possible as fast as I could to the point of running. I would purposefully power up four flights of stairs, or more, at a time several times a day.
I ended up losing instead of gaining the freshman "fifteen." Even though I was compulsively moving as much as possible, I was very happy and loved college so I think at the time my body was okay to let go of that weight. I was also eating well but the thoughts that I needed to be even skinnier were still there. The obsession with my weight and controlling it grew.
I received many compliments on my weight loss and felt really good about how I looked. But then I started dating someone later that year and he would make comments about how it was important to him that he and whoever he was with were fit and trim. It was no secret that he thought I was attractive and he made regular comments on how it was important for me to stay thin.
He of course didn't say these things at the beginning. As with all manipulative relationships, he groomed me the first couple of months until I was hooked and confused and believing pretty much anything he said. He said he loved me and wanted to marry me. His regular comments fed into my fear of weight gain and fear of not being attractive.
I began skipping meals frequently to lose weight again and started exercising hard regularly to lose weight. I lost another 10-15 pounds. He of course complimented me even more on how I looked and I pushed myself even more.
Thankfully as the relationship continued I was blessed to see the problems and eventually broke it off. I still continued the disordered thoughts and behaviors though until my Dad pointed out one day that I did not look very good. He said that I looked worn out and too thin. He told me this in a loving way and expressed concern.
I trust my Dad completely and took his words to heart. This helped me start to pull out of what I was doing and I started to try and eat more regularly again and I started to let off on the exercise. I had a lot of healing to do in many ways but I thankfully had a whole summer study abroad and internship in Europe to look forward to after this relationship ended.
I did a lot better until closer to my wedding to my husband about a year later. My body had put the 10-15 pounds back on that I had lost the previous year and while I was kind of okay with it, I was worried about it and wondered if I needed to lose weight. I also worried about possibly gaining more weight after marriage.
So I started exercising again and started to worry more about eating "healthy." Then when I got pregnant I gained a lot of weight but I gave myself a pass because I was pregnant. But even when I was pregnant I was trying to walk as much as I could and avoid the brownies and ice cream. I thought I was too big and hated my picture being taken.
After giving birth, I loved nursing because I felt like it was an automatic calorie burner. I started exercising everyday and did religious portion control and the pregnancy weight came off within six months.
But then someone mentioned that I could be even leaner and fitter even though I had lost all of this weight, I honestly always felt too big. Always. I had since second grade. I would deal with it at times but I always felt like I could be thinner. So I decided they were right and intensified my workouts and started eating less carbs.
What's funny is that this resulted in me gaining about 10-15 pounds back. But what did I do? When someone mentioned that a doctor had told them that they needed to eat 1200 calories a day and they would lose weight no problem, I decided that was what I needed to do. So I did, and I lost some weight, but the cycle of binging and then purging (for me, purging was through laxatives and not eating) became worse.
I exercised daily and tried different diets for the next two years, still convinced I needed to be thinner.
Then I got pregnant again, and I was terrified of gaining as much weight as I did my first pregnancy so I was super diligent about continuing my exercise and watching what I ate. I actually was very happy when I got morning sickness because I thought it was great if I couldn't eat anything.
I kept my weight gain to a minimum the first two trimesters, but the last trimester I got pre-eclampsia and ended up gaining the same amount of weight anyway. I literally felt like I was starving and couldn't stop eating. I also could hardly move without being completely exhausted.
The weight didn't come off as easily after this pregnancy and I started exercising and dieting more. I couldn't exercise as much as I would've liked because of the care my second daughter required (she was medically fragile) so I focused on finding the "perfect diet" or "lifestyle" as they like to call it now.
I was obsessed with finding the perfect way to eat. I went through so many different types of diets. You name it, I probably did it. Sometimes I lost a little bit of weight or would lose weight but then start gaining it back within a couple of months. This went on for four years. For awhile I even convinced myself that the answer to health was daily intermittent fasting or the "lifestyle" where you keep your calories to 500 for two days a week. Then we adopted twins and I didn't have time for cooking and dieting. I was very stressed trying to take care of two babies and I started eating more processed food and gaining more weight.
I got really scared. In one month after getting the twins, I had gained back the 10-15 pounds I had struggled to lose over and over again the past four years. I got desperate and decided to start another diet that was really expensive but seemed to work.
Well it did work. I lost 25 pounds in three months. I was so proud of myself! I was finally at my pre-pregnancy weight again.
I started to slowly add back in foods like their plan tells you to; but honestly, the plan said if you tried to add something and you gained weight that you would need to wait so long before trying to eat it again. Well that didn't sound right to me so instead I just decided to try and not eat too much and watch what I ate.
This worked but anytime there was any stress it was like all determination to "control" my eating went out the window. I would binge like crazy. Then I would feel guilty and try to cut back and restrict again.
I had convinced myself that if I gained a little weight, I could just follow the diet again until the weight came back down. The caloric goal with this diet was to eat 800-1000 calories/day with the macros a very exact percentage. I had become so obsessed, that I reverse engineered what was in the diet food so that I could recreate it in a budget friendly way. This enabled me to do it as often as I wanted.
(To just make things clear, I was in the normal BMI range at my thinnest on this final diet. According to the "numbers" I was perfectly healthy and could even afford to lose even more weight. )
Well the fourth time I did this was after Christmas. However, my body started to rebel. I was very weak. I felt sick. (Again, I was in a normal BMI range, but my body was still starved.) And this time I wasn't losing the weight. I was starving myself and miserable and it was like my body was fighting tooth and nail not to lose the 6 or 7 pounds I had put on over Christmas. I think "letting" myself eat over the holidays woke up my hunger a bit and I was so hungry. This is when I knew something was wrong and that this couldn't be the way God intended it to be. I am very close to God and I couldn't see how he would support what I was doing.
So I started praying. I started letting myself eat a little bit more. I started looking around for the answer to staying thin without constant dieting and exercising.
I didn't find one. Instead what I found by accident were some videos about recovering from eating disorders and as I listened to them I realized that they sounded a lot like me. I looked more into it and finally put two and two together. I had eating disorders and I wanted to recover.
I knew I was afraid of food and that I thought it was fattening. I didn't know exactly if I could fix this but I knew something needed to change.
I knew I always felt I needed to exercise more and eat less but started to see that this was actually not healthy.
Kayla Rose, with Damn the Diets, was really the one who ultimately motivated me to recover for real, the right way. At first I had entertained following the vegan recovery path or vegetarian or whole foods....but I think it just felt like going back to dieting because I had already done that. So it didn't feel right.
I liked how Kalya talked about being "normal" with food and weight again. To stop trying to control it and just live your life. To trust your body. This felt like truth to me and even though I was absolutely terrified to possibly gain a bunch of weight, I decided it was better to do this now then be fighting my body and weight the rest of my life. I didn't want to fear food for the rest of my life either. That just sounded miserable.
I decided that weighing more would be worth not living that way anymore.
I spoke to my husband and he was super supportive, even though he didn't fully understand. (He really is the best!) And I started eating, for real, with zero guidelines or restrictions. I just ate what sounded good.
I also stopped exercising.
I ate a lot of things like peanut butter, pasta, icecream, chips, donuts and other high calorie foods the first month. I just wanted it. And I felt like I couldn't stop. I wanted to eat ALL the time. And I let myself. The floodgates had opened. My hunger and full cues were totally out of whack but the cravings were crazy and I honored them.
The second month it started to slow down a bit but I still did eat quite a lot. I personally didn't keep track of calories but I ate whatever and as much as I wanted. I slowly did start to feel full sometimes. I slowly stopped craving some of the really high calorie foods. I didn't want ice cream everyday. I no longer always needed two or three helpings of everything. One or two started to be enough. I no longer wanted peanut butter. (That was weird because it had been one of the biggest cravings I had fought for the past three or so years.)
The weight gain was scary and I would sometimes start to relapse. But I soon found that if I tried to start doing any kind of portion control or "not overeat" that I would usually be super hungry by bed time and would need to eat a lot to compensate. So I learned to just have no fear and eat as much as I wanted earlier in the day. Then I found if I honored that then I was truly full later in the day.
I think my hunger and full cues started to be more normal (like how I remember when I was younger) after about ten or eleven months of this and only after I committed 100%.
Before this, I had restricted for so long that I never really felt "full." Once in a while I would feel "stuffed" after a binge but that was pretty much it. But now I feel full every time I eat. Sometimes I feel full pretty quick and sometimes I need to eat more before I do. I just completely let my body guide me. Not some meal plan and not a calorie counter.
I used to worry that I was an emotional eater and I would get mad at myself for not managing my stress better. But now I honestly can't really overeat. If I am stressed I do find that my body sometimes wants more food but it always seems to adapt and adjust and maintain my current size/weight range. I figure if I am dealing with something super hard and I put on more weight that that is okay. There is nothing wrong with that and it will come back down when things are better if my body doesn't want to stay at that weight any longer.
Kayla at Damn the Diets says it so well. She says there is no point getting attached to how our bodies are at a given time because they are always going to be changing and aging. So why let it be such a focus of our lives?
I never knew that I could be more content with my body at a heavier weight. But I am! I love my body and have more confidence now then I ever did in the past twenty years. Even at my skinniest, I always had felt like I should be/could be skinnier.
I no longer fear food. I no longer hold onto my old clothes. The things that used to trigger me now just make me mad. Instead of being triggered, I now just feel sorry for those preaching weight loss and meal plans and managing weight. I no longer judge others by their weight and instead think how awesome they are to live their lives and have joy despite what the world says about what size you should be.
Instead of being so wrapped up in food and exercise, I put that physical and mental energy into my family, friends, dreams, beautifying my home, doing things that bring me joy and serving others. It had gotten to the point where I would struggle to talk and think about anything other than weight, food and exercise. But now, I talk about and get excited about so many other things!
Nothing beats getting your life back!
If you aren't sure whether you have an eating disorder or you know you do and want more one on one help, set up an appointment to talk with me. I would love to do what I can to help you.
Lots of Love,
Copyright © 2020 Kristine Bullen - All Rights Reserved.