The Appetite Episode #20: Inner Wisdom: An Eating Disorder Recovery Story with Sarah Taylor

An Opal: Food+Body Wisdom Podcast

Today’s episode features the story of Sarah Taylor–The Appetite’s behind-the-scenes magic-maker! Sarah talks with host Carter Umhau, MA, LMHCA, and explores the story of her own recovery from an eating disorder, sharing about her experiences in treatment and the deeper healing that happened after-the-fact. Considering that every recovery story is so different, Sarah gracefully shares the ways that her own struggles with her body eventually lead her into a life postured toward advocacy for all bodies and a deeper spiritual connection with herself.

Links and Resources:

Eating in the Light of the Moon by Dr. Anita Johnston
 
Not mentioned in the podcast but a relevant film about the pressure on students today
 
 

Listen on Mobile

 

 

Carter:                  Hello and welcome to The Appetite, a podcast all about food, body, sport, and mental health. Brought to you by Opal: Food and Body Wisdom, an eating disorder treatment program in Seattle, Washington. This podcast is all about bringing the themes of our work as clinicians into a wider conversation. I’m your host Carter Umhau a therapist, artist, and writer.

Carter:                  Today we’ve got the honor of having Sarah Taylor join us today as a guest, sharing the powerful story of her own recovery from an eating disorder. Sarah has been working at Opal for two years in community relations. You also probably have heard her name if you’ve listened to our closing credits all the way through. Sarah has been behind the scenes of The Appetite since we started managing all production, and doing all our editing.

Carter:                  Sarah, I’m so delighted to have you on this side of the glass today.

Sarah:                   Thanks Carter.

Carter:                  Yeah, welcome. So this feels like such a treat to get to talk about your recovery story, and I actually got to have some conversation with clients this morning talking about how desperate they are to hear more stories of recovery. So this feels pretty cool timing just in Opal conversation lately too.

Sarah:                   Oh that’s nice to hear. That helps me settle in.

Carter:                  Oh good. So maybe we should just dive in.

Sarah:                   Yeah.

Carter:                  I’d love to hear kind of just where your eating disorder started, and kind of the trajectory.

Sarah:                   Yeah, so I developed my eating disorder when I was about fourteen, or fifteen years old. And then I went to treatment for three months, at the time in Washington state there wasn’t any residential, or inpatient treatment centers. My choices were the psych ward at Seattle Children’s, or going to Arizona to Remuda Ranch. So that’s where I went, and I was there for three months, and then upon returning I was medically stabilized. But I think as we know with eating disorders just because you’re nourished, doesn’t mean that you are actually recovered. So my real recovery, I feel didn’t start till I was in my early twenties, and was working in a group of women that were talking about food, and body, and metaphor through the “Eating in the Light of the Moon” book, by Anita Johnston.

Carter:                  Which we did a podcast on.

Sarah:                   Yes with her, yeah. And through that I was really able to begin actual recovery, and healing, and started to look at the world a little bit differently. And then I feel my recovery even, I don’t even wanna call it recovery at that point, because it was more just being a woman in the world.

Carter:                  What do you mean by that?

Sarah:                   I mean being a woman in a world that culturally defines us by how we look.

Carter:                  So do you mean that you were kind of more actively thinking through the themes of your eating disorder, and the work with your eating disorder. And then the next layer of the work was kind of more general around managing, and figuring out larger things?

Sarah:                   Yeah, I would say at some point there was this shift where it wasn’t about not having eating disorder behaviors, and not having to fit this ideal. And it was more about how do I just not get pulled into diet culture anymore, because it shifted from diet culture being triggering, to triggering me into a spiral that could potentially lead to loss of my life. To just being really harmful, and being unhappy with myself because I lived in this world that wanted me to be that way. And I think coming to Opal was really where I was able to make a bigger shift of just working on myself, to working with other people, and doing the social justice part of that. Which is why I say it’s not really my recovery, because I don’t really know how define that. I feel recovered, I feel I’m in recovery. But in some ways I think most of the women in the western world are kind of in a recovery because they’re trying to escape this culture that wants us to be small.

Carter:                  Oh my goodness, I love that idea of it actually being this constant active participation. I mean I love it, and I hate it that, that’s what’s required. But that sounds like the part that actually gets us all into a richer place of living, not just surviving.

Sarah:                   Yeah definitely, and I think another big shift for me is finding my anger in all of that. Instead of being angry at myself for not fitting into this cultural expectation, anger at the culture, and the commercialization of women’s bodies, and it becoming more of a feminist activist role, and that really fires me up. Even when I feel, I have my days where I have poor body image, I can think about that’s not fair, and I know it’s not about me now, and that’s really kind of internalized in me.

Carter:                  Oh my God I’m smiling so much. I wanna back up little bit though, because I wanna hear, I feel I really wanna get to some of the conversation about this kind of new phase of life, and sort of the stuff that you’ve internalized at this point. But I also wanna hear some more about what your eating disorder looked like back then, and what those three months of treatment felt like for you, and if you’d be willing to talk about that.

Sarah:                   Yeah, yeah. My eating disorder, I like to say that my eating disorder developed out of a lack of power, and a lack of voice. I grew up in a home with a lot of expectation. I was gonna say I was required, I was not required, but at the time it felt I was required to participate in a lot of sports, which I enjoyed in the beginning. But over time the demand was really challenging. I was a figure skater, which has a lot of expectations about what the body should look like. I was a figure skater, I also played volleyball, and fast pitch, and I was in orchestra, and music in school.

Carter:                  You were busy?

Sarah:                   I was really busy for a young girl. I was really busy, and it was really hard. As I’ve gotten older I’ve known that something that I need for myself is downtime, and I was never really granted that, and if I asked for that the answer was no. Yeah, there was times in my life where I was getting up in the morning and skating before school, going to school, going straight to my after school sport, and then getting picked up from there to go to another skating session, then getting home and doing homework, had meals in the car.

Carter:                  Wow.

Sarah:                   Yeah, and then after a while like I said, I asked to not do it anymore, and I was denied that. So I was denied the right to say no, and the right to have a voice in what I was doing with my days, and with my life. And then after a while, I don’t know if I just accepted that, or if I was able to find a little bit of control, or power in just okay, since I’m stuck here I’m going to just be the best at it that I can be. So I started to become very perfectionistic in school, I also started to become very perfectionistic in my sports, specifically with figure skating, and one of those things was controlling my body, and my food, and my exercise. And eventually that led to my family getting really scared, and wanting me to receive treatment. I was actually very anti recovery, and really didn’t wanna go to treatment. I was really proud of my eating disorder, and felt really connected to it, and really safe with it. It had given me a lot.

Carter:                  Yeah, it gave you your voice it sounds like when you actually couldn’t have one.

Sarah:                   Yeah, and this power that I’d never had before. My parents were afraid of me, they weren’t, they would let me do what I wanted because they were afraid, which is so messed up, but it was all I had at that time, and so I was sent to treatment.

Carter:                  Wow. Do you remember at the time what some of the reasoning was for why you weren’t allowed a break, or why things needed to be that busy? I guess if they’re messages underneath those demands?

Sarah:                   I’m not sure. I think I just remember it being this is what the expectation is, and I don’t know. Yeah, I don’t think I had any sort of this is the reasoning why. But it was like that was just what I was supposed to do, and I was supposed to do it well, very well.

Carter:                  Oof.

Sarah:                   Yeah. Looking back on it now it was a lot of pressure for anyone, pressure for me now.

Carter:                  Yeah, fourteen or fifteen years old, my goodness. And yet it also doesn’t sound that different than some of the kind of normative, middle class expectations for a lot of kids these days, or at least even hearing parents feel pressure to get their kids really involved in a bunch of stuff.

Sarah:                   Yeah I think about that, I think about how kids can get into college nowadays, the expectation for them to be in athletics, extra curricular activities, clubs, and do well in school. And I just know that for some students there is extreme consequences for all of that.

Carter:                  So when you went into treatment, you said that was sort of, it sounded like that was a lot about getting medically stable initially, and I imagine a lot of eating happening. But were there things that you felt like you were gaining at that time, or wrestling with at that time that did feel like kind of the first steps of growth for you?

Sarah:                   When I first decided to go to treatment I was very anti recovery, and I didn’t want treatment. But I also didn’t wanna be around my family anymore. So I was in a way kind of like, “Sweet, I’m getting out of here.” And then when I arrived I was like, “Oh, this is not a vacation, this sort of sucks.” And I think the main thing that was really helpful for me in treatment was the community that I received. I don’t think I could take anything home from the therapy, we did some anger work, which is really helpful for me to this day. But I think the main thing is the community that I still have. It’s been fifteen years since I was there, and I still stay connected with many of the people that I was in treatment with. And just working with them, and having this expectation of what treatment would be like, and then arriving and it being so different. It being a house, and not this padded room, and everyone being very similar to me, and having similar experiences. And I think adolescent treatment is so different, it’s really hard to compare it to adult treatment we would have at Opal, because a lot of the adolescents don’t have the awareness of the world to want recovery in the same way that an adult might want recover. Which I think is part of my thing, is that I just didn’t have the awareness as a young human being.

Carter:                  Yeah, it kind of makes sense that you would be anti recovery because like you said, that was the one thing that you had as an adolescent you really don’t have too much.

Sarah:                   I had nothing. Yeah, it was all that was mine. But all that being said, being in treatment was really necessary for me.

Carter:                  Yeah.

Sarah:                   It was necessary for me to get physically nourished, which would have been impossible for me to do at home. I wouldn’t be able to be medically monitored, and cared for, and also to have my parents being the one doing that work would be so hard on them, and it would be challenging for me to receive that. But it also was planted the seeds, and the beginning of this journey to recovery.

Carter:                  And all the deeper work that started from there.

Sarah:                   Yeah, yeah, it really did start from there, and I think even if I didn’t know it at the time there might have been these little tiny glimpse of therapy kind of working, and making these little connections, and that just slowly built to what work I was eventually able to do. So I do think that treatment is so necessary, and so important, and for some people they can experience all of the growth that I experienced later on in life, they can experience that in a treatment setting, and some people they just start in treatment.

Carter:                  Yeah, everyone’s trajectory is so different.

Sarah:                   Yeah.

Carter:                  Yeah. So I feel very curious about kind of all the work that happened after, because it sounds in a lot of ways that was something you had to do. The treatment part was something you had to do, and I’m imagining a lot of the story happened after that.

Sarah:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Carter:                  From what you’ve said so far. So you said that in your early twenties you wound up really feeling you were jumping into actual healing, and there’re a lot of years in between. So what were you dealing with during those years in terms of your relationship to food, and your body, and what made you start actually moving toward healing, it’s really different than just not using behaviors, or restricting or something.

Sarah:                   Yeah, I think in between those years the thing that kind of kept me, I’d like to say medically stable, because it feels that feels so clinical, and different than the actual healing, was when I got back my family was very afraid, and it gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted, because I had this power over them. And I had this power, and I could do what I wanted. So when I had that I was able to care for myself, and nourish myself, and I didn’t need to use an eating disorder to give me any sense of myself. So I was able to have a rebellious teenage phase, which is quite fun. Coming from this strict household of sport and school, to be able to go and have a boyfriend, and spend time with my friends.

Carter:                  It sounds sort of like a small version of Richie Rich.

Sarah:                   Yeah, yeah, I guess so. But all of that wasn’t really sustainable. That was great for a while, and I felt really good in that. But it wasn’t real, it wasn’t real power, it was just me being manipulative, and trying to maybe be hurtful even to my family. So after a while the feeling of feeling great, and this is really what I want, and I’m on my way kind of dissipated, and I had a really difficult time in college. I struggled a lot with depression, and anxiety, and those years kind of feel like a blur of just getting through to the next day. And then after college I, I didn’t feel like I still had an eating disorder, I felt I was recovered. But I just had this distance with my body where I didn’t wanna talk about my body, I didn’t wanna look at my body, I didn’t wanna deal with it. I didn’t wanna even talk about my eating disorder, it’s not a part of my life, I don’t want it to be any part of my identity. And then I, for whatever reason, this amazing therapist in Bellingham where I lived, decided to do this series based on “Eating in the Light of the Moon.” And my friend was doing it, and she invited me to do it with her, and we started to look at our bodies, and food, and power, and all those things through metaphor. And it opened up this whole new world of spirituality, and thinking about my body in a different way, and thinking about other women in a different way that I had never experienced before, or even thought. I feel I was never told, I knew this intellectually, but I was never told that, “Okay, your eating disorder is not about changing the shape of your body. That’s not why you have an eating disorder, and that’s not what the eating disorder is. There are all these other things that you are doing through this eating disorder, and that the eating disorder is giving you something, it’s in a way, it’s kind of caring for you in a way that you can’t care for yourself.” So we don’t have to hate on the eating disorder in this way, we can say thank you, and let it go.

Carter:                  Man, I feel so glad that … I mean that feels like such a beautiful gift to finally get that understanding after all those years, and sounds also kind of a perfect timing where it was something you were still choosing, because I think I hear so many stories about yeah, maybe learning that at a time where you’re still really wanting to hold onto behaviors. And you’re like yeah, yeah, okay, it’s about other stuff.

Sarah:                   And that’s something that I hear a lot from clients, or from other people in recovery is that it takes a long time to recover, and there’s a reason for that, and I couldn’t have encountered this group, and this book ten years prior, or three years prior, or even maybe six months prior. It came to me at the right time when I was ready for it, and I’m so grateful that I had that time in between, even though it was painful, and it was hard. It’s important to have it at the right time, and this book, and this therapist, and this group of women that I did this group with came to me when I needed them, and when I was ready for it, and could take that in, in that way. Yeah.

Carter:                  So what did you start doing with all of the awareness that you had suddenly about metaphor, the new that you were seeing women and yourself?

Sarah:                   Yeah, I am definitely over control via RO DBT, so I took it quite literally.

Carter:                  What do you mean?

Sarah:                   I mean I would be eating a certain food, and I would just my mind would be like, “Okay, why do we like this food? What do we like about it? What does it mean? It’s salty.” And Anita Johnston says, “These type of foods mean these things.” So I was trying to think through all of that, which I think I’ve been able to be a lot more flexible on that now, and relax in that. But in the beginning it was a little bit, I take things a little bit too seriously. So it’s always good for me to have … I think that’s another thing about time, is if you’re over control like me, you need some space for when you first receive the information, to when you actually see it working in reality.

Carter:                  Because it’s not an intellectual process.

Sarah:                   It’s not.

Carter:                  It’s not something you can force upon yourself. So integration takes a really long time.

Sarah:                   Yeah, so I got this information, it really opened up a whole new world. Also, in spirituality, and in I like to call it woo-woo therapy. We would meditate in this group, and I’d never meditated before, and I didn’t really understand that it could actually do things for me.

Carter:                  What did it do for you?

Sarah:                   It kind of, I feel it cleared this fog in me, and allowed me to connect to my gut, and my intuition, and even other parts of myself. We talk, in the book we talk about the different archetypes, the child, the mother, maiden and the crone, and to connect to those parts of me was this bizarre experience that actually happened. But was really helpful.

Carter:                  Can you say more about those archetypes in your life?

Sarah:                   Sure, in the group that I did we, in a meditation, we had a tea party, and you’re just visualizing these things, and you might visualize something different for each archetype, and every person in the groups gonna be visualizing something differently. And those things are little symbols that you can take, and you can interpret, and you can use. So we have the child, who is a child. The maiden, who for me is about a teenager. The mother, which doesn’t necessarily mean mother, it could be mothering. If anything, for me I think it’s more mothering of myself. So I would say that I’m currently in the mother phase, and then the crone is the older, wise women who I really, really benefited from.

Sarah:                   I loved being with the crone, and I had a lot of sadness for the maiden who is really struggling, the teenage version of me, and then the child, I feel I could really connect with the child, and see the parts of myself that were there before they got shut down by conditioning, or expectation. And is that a good overview?

Carter:                  Yeah, I feel sort of tearful about that just because I think that, for me as well in my own process of healing, and just becoming more of myself. Those ideas of really, I wouldn’t have used that language before. I definitely have thought through archetypes, but the process of somehow getting in touch with these different parts of self has been incredibly transformative. I think I had a similar experience with my writing process, which I’ve shared about some on the podcast. But I just, I would use the writing as a way to kind of meditate, and get closer to myself, and eventually it felt there were these different voices that were sort of popping up. Parts of me that felt really, really young, and then parts of me that seemed wise beyond my years, wisdom that would come out of me all of sudden that I didn’t know was there. And so I was able to kind of start mothering myself through that process, as well. So I just really resinate with that.

Sarah:                   That’s beautiful.

Carter:                  Yeah. I think it’s hard to even want … Well not even to, I was gonna say it’s hard to want more out of life without … I think what I’m trying to say is that I think that it’s really hard to really position ourselves toward compassion for ourselves if we’re not aware of all these different parts of self functioning for really distinctive reasons. And going through the process of validating, and understanding, and being curious about what each part of us is playing out, and why, and then how to interact with all those things. How do you talk to yourself when you’re acting like a teenager? How do you talk to yourself when you just feel like a raw child with no words?

Sarah:                   Yeah, yeah, and sometimes the culture can be really dismissive of that, and it being kind of like I said before, kind of woo-woo. But it’s for me, it’s really worked even in those moments where I’m like, “This is weird, I’m actually having a conversation with a four year old self inside me, what is happening?” But it works, and that four year old self is free, and loud, and likes to play, and sometimes I need to tap into her and ask her what she thinks I should do in this situation, or what she wants to do today. And it’s really freeing to kind of break down all of the things that have been put on me when I was a teenager, and when I was a maiden, and even now.

Carter:                  Yeah, and I mean I get why that sounds woo-woo. But I also think even from a psychological perspective there are parts of us that are un-integrated. Memories that are un-integrated into our sense of self, things that happen when we’re four years old that we haven’t been able to process because it was, or two, we’re preverbal. I mean all that stuff actually exists inside of our body still, and the emotional memory, and those parts of us are older than our current self. So to not do work around having conversations with those parts that maybe are still showing up all of the time, but we don’t think they should. I mean, we should talk about. We should talk to ourselves about it.

Sarah:                   I know.

Carter:                  See what’s going on.

Sarah:                   Yeah, yeah, thanks for bringing that in because I don’t have psychology training. So I never know, I don’t know, I think I maybe have … Again, I grew up in this household, like again, I was in treatment for three months, and then I was in therapy forever, and I live in a family that no one else will go when they need to. I live in a world where I didn’t have friends that were going to therapy as well, until after college.

Carter:                  Wow.

Sarah:                   I just, whatever community I grew up with didn’t value that, and sometimes I feel I have to have a disclaimer about my process, which isn’t fair.

Carter:                  Yeah, but it is, I mean I think, I started going to therapy at a young age too. I definitely didn’t know anyone that was going, you don’t necessarily talk about that at school. Maybe it’s rare too, but not talking about it at school probably. So I wanna hear some more too about after this work was happening for you, and you were becoming closer to yourself in these ways, where that started translating into some of the activism you spoke of earlier?

Sarah:                   I really don’t think that I started to be really active in it until I started here at Opal, and I think a lot of that has to do with health at every size, and not really, I’ve not heard of it before.

Carter:                  Before Opal?

Sarah:                   Before Opal, and the job at Opal really kind of fell into my lap. I never wanted to work in an eating disorder treatment, I didn’t want anything to do with it. And then I moved to Seattle, and I think I saw a posting online from some other treatment center, and I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna look around and see.” And this, the one at Opal was the hours I wanted, I had the experience, I had an eating disorder recovery story so I felt I could relate really well. But it ended up being a really wonderful gift for me, because part of my job is to do social media, and Opal is also does its best to be involved in the social justice piece of the Body Liberation Movement, and weight discrimination. And so I was working with Julie, whose really involved with that, and learning about the projects that she was working on, as well as what’s going on around the country, and then reading all of these stories of people who have been so harmed by the way our culture wants women’s bodies to be. And just reading these stories, and reading what other people were doing, and reading articles on weight science, and metabolism, and health at every size, and it just it made me really angry, and not a lot of things every made me angry. That was an emotion that I really kept in check, and I suddenly, it wasn’t my fault that I struggle with an eating disorder, and it wasn’t my fault that I felt this way about my body. And it wasn’t, I mean it’s not anybody’s fault. But it’s just this accumulation of this culture that we have, and it suddenly I felt so much energy to help other people not experience this, and I feel it’s getting worse. Where disordered eating is so normalized, and encouraged, that it makes me really nervous, and afraid for the young people of the world that this is what they might have to grow up in. And then to learn about intuitive eating, and even Julie’s perspective on eating it just clicked, it felt so like duh. Duh, this makes so much sense, and starting to do that work just opened up a whole new piece of, I guess I call it recovery. But again, I don’t even know how to define where I am in that timeline. But it just opened up this whole new door and it feels really like what the whole eating disorder journey has been for me. What it’s supposed to lead to is to not just prevent eating disorders in other people, but also say, “No, the whole system is wrong, and the whole way that we are looking at women’s bodies, and peoples bodies in general it’s not right, it’s not moral, it’s not ethical, and it kind of doesn’t make any sense.”

Carter:                  It doesn’t make any sense. One thing that really strikes me about what you’re saying is the amount of anger you’re talking about now, and the amount of anger you were talking about at the beginning of your story too.

Sarah:                   Yeah.

Carter:                  And it’s really cool to hear about how that has sort of shown up again in this really different, really empathetic way as well. That you were raging against something as a kid, and also are raging against something now, and I don’t know. I think working with people with eating disorders so much of the time I’m like, “You have so much energy.” Energy isn’t necessarily always the word. But you have so much emotion, you’re feeling so much.

Sarah:                   The fire.

Carter:                  Yes, clearly there is a fire in you that is making you do these things to yourself. Okay, so what is that about? Where did that fire come from? What are you mad about? What are you so sad about? And I have a feeling that’s not actually about you. It’s so misdirected, it’s often so misdirected. And so to hear your story start from a rebellion, and then also for you now to have this rebellion in you against society, culture, I’m losing the words. But pop culture-

Sarah:                   There not words, there not a lot of words for it I feel like, yeah.

Carter:                  Yeah, it’s just it’s exciting to hear about that transformation, I think also because even through your work with “Eating in the Light of the Moon” as well, I imagine that being a process of building a lot more compassion and understanding for yourself, and it’s really hard to then start getting engaged in the world if you haven’t also developed some compassion for yourself first. There’s a lot of compassion we need to dole out, and if you don’t feel you have enough for yourself, then of course you’re maybe impatient with all the plight of the world.

Sarah:                   Aw, thanks Carter for illuminating that for me, because I think that’s true. Is that, that fire at the times destructive, and it was towards myself, and it was towards my family, and for our other clients that might be feeling that destruction towards themselves. That’s still something that can be used, and it might take some time, and it’s okay that it’s not happening right now. Let it take the course it needs to take, and it can eventually really help other people.

Carter:                  Yeah, you talked about it in this interesting way when you were just describing this as, you don’t know where you are in your process of recovery is what you said?

Sarah:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Carter:                  And I definitely think of you as recovered, which I think the difference between those two words in recovery, versus recovered is up for debate among a lot of people in terms of what that means. But the way you were describing it sounds sort of like you’re still in a process of awakening. It’s this kind of unfolding of all these different layers around what it means to be a woman in their world, like you said. And what it means to be in this world, and all the different layers of interacting with the external, and the internal, and how those two things are constantly at play. If you’re engaged, there’s more to learn about yourself, and if you’re learning about yourself, there’s probably more to engage with outside of yourself too. I don’t know if that resinates with you.

Sarah:                   Yeah, yeah. I think I always struggle with people saying in recovery, over recovery, and I just am like it’s all just a timeline. I don’t know what’s gonna happen in five years, I don’t feel like I, it feels there’s not really words to describe what it’s like to be in a body that at one point decided to do this. I decided to do this with my body, ad now this is how I am in my body.

Carter:                  It’s like being open, and being in dialogue with yourself.

Sarah:                   Yeah, and I just don’t think that there’s, that you can put those things in a box. It’s so much grayer than that.

Carter:                  I like that perspective. I think that I really believe in people reaching a point where they’re not actually actively struggling with behaviors anymore, and that they’re probably not gonna go back to those behaviors anymore at a certain point. But I also think that I’ve struggled sometimes hearing people just say recovered full stop, because I like the language of constant process, and assuming that there will be growth, and there will be changed required constantly as you react to your life, and that being in a body is part of that.

Sarah:                   Yeah, and we live in a world that has a lot to say about being in your body, whether you like your body or don’t like your body. You can’t really go right here. So it’s gonna be a conversation, unless you isolate yourself from the world, it’s gonna continue to happen, and it’s not all the painful struggle of being deep, deep, deep in your eating disorder. And that’s just something that I always hope people can hear is that yes, it takes a long time to recover. But it’s not always like this.

Carter:                  Great.

Sarah:                   And this when you look back on it, it’s gonna look different than it feels right now too.

Carter:                  One of the things that’s so obvious in a lot of eating disorders across the board is this current, or this theme of perfectionism, and that’s not the case for everybody. It’s really not the case for everybody. But I think that there’s either some sort of perfectionism, or some sort of comparison that happens in the realm of eating disorders. Even if that’s just coming from a place of emotional loneliness, and so I think that it can be normal for people to maybe assume that their story should also look like somebody else’s. Their body should look like somebody else’s, their story should look like somebody else’s, the trajectory of their treatment should be a certain way, or it should be good, or this should be on point with it, or all of that. And it’s just, I would hope the main point would be that people actually become connected to themselves. So both in hearing the stories, and doing their own recovery. My hope would be that for listeners, and for people on any sort of journey of healing, and getting to know themselves, that can be the main reminder that it’s work to be done about you, and unfortunately, the saddest part about life is there’s no road map for you in particular. Yeah, you kind of gotta make it up.

Sarah:                   Yeah, that’s interesting that you say that because that really clicks for me. Just because what started to work for me was when I went against everything that I thought was gonna be quote on quote, “The right thing to do.”

Carter:                  Wow.

Sarah:                   When I went to this group that was hippy, and meditaty, and it worked, and I was like, “Wow, this is my thing. Nobody in my world does this,” and that really started me off on really moving forward on this path, instead of kind of just wandering around trying to fine quote on quote, “The perfect solution.”

Carter:                  Right, and that’s often the thing that gets people in some sort of cycle of disordered eating, or addictive behavior in general. Is that they don’t know, it’s an identity crisis in a lot of ways, a lot of the time. And so to then think that you’re gonna solve that problem by taking on someone else’s journey, or someone else’s prescription for what you should be doing, that’s kind of backwards. Instead, I think that the point is who are you? Who are you, and what do you need? And how can you engage your life, and your particularity, and your story in a way that’s gonna be really honoring of that story, and that particularity.

Carter:                  So I think that it’s really cool that in your story you did move towards something that seemed off the beaten path, and unusual even for you, and that it wound up resinating. Yeah, I think that in my story of healing, in general, and in my relationship to food as well, like I’ve said so many times on here writing was a big part of that, and it was a place for me to figure out what do I think in particular? What do I need in particular in this moment? And it got me answering those questions over, and over again, and it helped me form a stronger, and stronger sense of self to be responding to, and to then creatively craft my life from there. My journey, yeah.

Carter:                  I feel I do wanna have a longer conversation about what it means to be consistently, and always in a body in a world that has a lot to say about bodies. Just like you said, because there’s so much happening right now too where I feel a lot of the politics that we are entrenched in are at the core, sort of politics around the body. Where there’s so much happening in response to race, and ethnicity, and country, and size, and gender, and it feels like a time that it’s about, in a really overt way, about the body. And I think that it often, and always has been. But I think that pop culture has more language to deal with that then it has previously, and so I do feel sometimes like we’re kind of at war with bodies right now.

Sarah:                   Yeah.

Carter:                  And that feels heartbreaking, to even in my own process be aware of going through all these different layers of relationship to myself, and my weight, and my shape, and my race, and my culture, and all these different things, and that those stories, and those narratives just will keep, we’re gonna just keep cycling through those narratives. I will keep cycling through the narratives of what it means to be in my particular body, as my particular race, as my particular positionality in the world, and being engaged means doing that work consistently.

Sarah:                   Yeah, and there’s just so much, there’s so much work to do. There’s so much to be inclusive, and even in eating disorder treatment. I was really lucky that I could even go to treatment, or that I even got diagnosed, because people of color, people in larger sized bodies, they don’t get diagnosed, and at that time, not at all.

Carter:                  I don’t know, I get excited about talking about eating disorders because it feels when you’re engaged in the story of someones recovery. It’s really hard to then not go and tell all of these bigger themes, and bigger experiences of the world too, because I think that again, the politics of our own bodies as we engage ourselves one on one. They’re all there already, all the struggle that we’re feeling from the outside world, and the fact that we get to engage power, or engage rebellion, or engage grief through our body.

Sarah:                   Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately too. Just I’ve had a couple of people be like, “Well things are a lot better now, aren’t they?” And then like, “No, people are starting to have a little bit of voice, maybe. But things are not better now.” And I feel really grateful to work in a place where I have been able to have a voice, and I have a lot of cautious hope for the future.

Carter:                  Cautious hope.

Sarah:                   Cautious hope, I mean I think that’s also part of my over control tendencies is to always be cautious.

Carter:                  That’s good.

Sarah:                   Yeah, yeah.

Carter:                  It’s good.

Sarah:                   So I guess we could cross that out, and say hopeful, I’m hopeful.

Carter:                  Well caution is good too. But it allows you to engage with thought.

Sarah:                   Yeah.

Carter:                  Yeah.

Carter:                  Thanks so much for joining us today, and that’s to Jack Straw Cultural Center for sound engineering. To Aaron Davidson for The Appetite’s original music, and to Sarah Taylor. Not just for sharing herself with us today, but also for production assistance, and all of our editing. Stay in touch with what’s new on The Appetite by subscribing to the podcast on your preferred podcast app. If you have the time, we also love getting reviews of the podcast. So write a little something or other to us, and let us know how you’re liking it.

Carter:                  If you have any questions, or just wanna connect, email us at theappetite@opalfoodandbody.com. If you feel you’re struggling, or you wanna learn more about Opal in general, please find us at opalfoodandbody.com. To learn about our treatment program, and just to get a little bit of a better sense of our culture. You can follow us on Facebook, and Twitter as well. Thanks again for listening, talk to you next time.

 

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