Monday, May 9, 2011

Help for Eating Disorders: Interview with Nina

I recently had the honor of speaking with Nina-an eating disorder survivor who wanted to share her story. She truly believes that complete recovery IS possible: "When you are in the middle of an eating disorder, you don’t often hear this. Whether it’s the disorder that blocks you from hearing it, or a lack of understanding in the medical community and a lack of sharing of recovery stories, the fact is that full and complete recovery is possible. I have been there, in the depths of eating disorder hell, and I am now on the other side. That is my only qualification but it is the message of hope that I wish to spread to all those suffering with this disease." Read on for Nina's thoughts on Guilt, dieting, and eating disorders!

Tell us a little bit about yourself Nina!

I am a 30 year old woman living in New York and I love this city, yoga, writing, spirituality and meditation. I come from a background of journalism and marketing and I love learning new things and being able to help others.

My website Help for Eating Disorder came about after a long history of struggling with various eating disorders and never being able to find a permanent and lasting solution. I would go on and off diets, meal plans and I had tried various types of therapies but nothing really ever stuck. I reached a real rock bottom place but I still had a glimmer of hope that I could COMPLETELY recover from all eating disorders. By complete recovery I mean freedom from the entire obsession with food and weight and being able to eat like a “normal” or “intuitive” eater.

I promised myself that if I ever did achieve this sort of recovery, and it lasted, that I would do all that I could to help as many others who are suffering to achieve the same sort of full recovery that I now have. So I posted my story online and ended up receiving hundreds of emails from people asking about how I recovered, tips, advice and just generally wanting to open up about their own eating issues. After spending a lot of time responding to these emails, I thought it would be a great idea to set up my own site where I could post about specific questions that people were asking and offer all of the advice and assistance that I could.

What inspired you to start Help for Eating Disorders?

My main inspiration for starting Help for Eating Disorders was the miracle that I had experienced in my own life. After so many years of hell, hospitalizations, job losses and isolation, I was finally free. I knew this was a gift and one that I could keep by giving it away to others. I waited for a few years to make sure that it was REAL and FULL recovery before I started offering information and advice.

What does recovery from eating disorders look like? Is it the same for everyone?

I think that the most important thing that I have learned is that eating disorder recovery is completely different for everybody and it is an individual and personal path. What works for some people may not work for others. Readers who are attracted to my site are probably attracted to the path that I have taken. There are no accidents – what ever you are searching for is also searching for you.

However, I don’t think that my way is the ONLY way and just like the Buddhists say, there are 84.000 paths to enlightenment. I believe it is the same with eating disorder recovery. There are a multitude of paths to recovery; the challenge is finding what works for you and having the determination and courage to make mistakes, get back up and never give up.

The way that my eating disorder recovery looks like is this:

I eat exactly what I want when I want
I know what hunger feels like and I know what I am hungry for
I have not had an urge to binge, purge, starve or diet for over 4 years
I eat out with friends and am more interested in the social aspect than what I am eating
I never feel guilty about what I have eaten
I have no obsession with food or my weigh
My weight has been normal and stable for several years and does not fluctuate

The most important thing that I think many disordered eaters are searching for is the FREEDOM. Above all else, it is the mental torture of an eating disorder that is the worst manifestation. I want to share with everyone that I live with complete freedom with any type of obsession, mental preoccupation, guilt or concern about food or my weight.

How big of a problem are eating disorders/disordered eating in this country? Why do you think it is such a problem?

Estimates show that up to 10 million females and 1 million males in the United States have an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Millions more have binge eating disorder Also, sadly, only 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment. What is more concerning is that 35% of "normal dieters" progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders. (Shisslak & Crago, 1995) 25% of Americans men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day (Smolak, 1996).

What is even more alarming in my opinion is the 35% of “dieters” end up developing an eating disorder. I believe that this is where the root of the problem is. We are so obsessed with dieting, calorie counting, restricting and eating “healthy” food that we have become out of sync with what our bodies really want and need.

Add that to the fact that diets have 98% failure rate and you end up with millions of people who are using diets as a way to control their weight, when the inevitable result is that they will fail. The failure causes more starving, deprivation, overeating and eating disorders. The guilt, sense of failure and depression that result from the diet failure drive people to unhealthy disordered eating behaviors such as purging, over exercising, complete obsession with food and weight loss and binge eating to cope with the stress of this problem that has become so unmanageable.

What is one thing everyone can do to help start to put an end to disordered eating?

The main thing that everyone can do to start to put an end to the disordered eating is:

Reject the diet mentality
Learn to eat intuitively
Let go of rules and rigid planning
Understand and identify your triggers (weight loss sites, scales, etc)
Eliminate the triggers

And most importantly, have a desire to recover above all else.

What does guilt have to do with eating disorders

The guilt that comes with eating disorders is a cumulative effect from years of classifying food as good and bad, and thereby yourself as good or bad depending on what you ate that day. It is embedded into our psyche and is a loud, negative and self defeating voice that will always lead to more hopelessness, further guilt and no recovery. It is crucial to develop ways to fight off the guilt when entering recovery as it is one of the main driving forces of the disorder and prevents full and complete recovery.

What is your top tip for letting go of guilt, and freeing yourself from disordered eating?

In order to let go of the guilt I had to have a complete mental shift regarding diets, weight loss, my eating behavior and a recognition of my triggers. I came to a point where I knew deep in my heart that the dieting mentality was fueling my disordered eating and that I would never be able to beat the eating disorder beast. The only way to win was to let go. I started practicing “normal” or intuitive eating almost 5 years ago when my body and mind were completely done with the whole diet-binge-restrict cycle. I had to be at this place of total defeat.

I started to legalize all food – slowly at first, but I was persistent and I was getting results which made me even more determined. I stopped isolating so that I could either eat my special “diet” food or binge. I ate out with people, I tried food that I actually liked and I gave myself the permission to eat the way that I did as a child.

I strongly believe that rejecting the diet mentality and getting in tune with your own body’s hunger and satiety signals is the key. Any externally imposed eating plan will always fail in my experience and will trigger off the guilt and obsession.

I had to dedicate myself to challenging every single guilt thought, realizing that is was not true, that it was the eating disorder talking and trying to get me back in its death grip.

I followed the example of other normal eaters that I knew and slowly the guilt subsided, I reached a normal weight and had the obsession removed. It is the results that speak for themselves. I knew that I wanted COMPLETE recovery, not just a way to “manage” the eating disorder through eating plans and rigid rules. I wanted to be completely in tune with my own body and that is the way that I live today.

Thank you Nina for your wise words of advice! Nina writes a blog at Help for Eating Disorder and has recently published an EBook about Recovery From Eating Disorders. You can also follow her on Twitter @helpfored and "Like" the blog on Facebook!


  1. Thanks for sharing Nina! Your blog looks wonderful as well.

    It's always so great to hear any recovery story, and I think it's amazing you want to help others. I'm just barely getting to a place of recovery. What you describe sounds so far off, but it truly helps to hear someone else's story. So thanks! :)

  2. Nice I also share with you something hope this helpful for you my friends The good news is that the eating disorder behaviors you’ve learned can be unlearned if you’re motivated to change and willing to ask for help. However, overcoming an eating disorder is about more than giving up unhealthy eating behaviors. It is also about rediscovering who you are beyond your eating habits, weight, and body image. Check it out thanks.