My eating disorder taught me so much

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Anne Poirier (1)

Anne Poirier

May, 2009. “I am worried about you…you are disappearing before my eyes, and I am losing my friend Anne. I can’t see her anymore; and I am sad.  I really want her back. I love you and I am here, caring about you”…Love P

I had no idea what this note was all about. I was blind to the obsessive thoughts and feelings.  Food and exercise were all that mattered. From the moment I woke up in the morning to the time my head hit the pillow. Counting and calculating, such a familiar way of thinking. 

So familiar in fact, that the first time I fell into that trap was back in 1974, when I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I assumed I was recovered, until I realized I was not, and for the next 26 years my body was the enemy. Food was my obsession, and exercise was my punishment.  

The ‘real recovery’ started in 2012, when I (the operative word here) reached out for help.  Three long years after that note. 

Recovery was a multifaceted approach that began with therapy I reached out for. I reached out because I realized I was in trouble, and wanted, and was willing to receive HELP.  

Recovery looks different for everyone. Mine included therapy, medication, group support, journaling, workbooks, and self-talk, mindset training. All this led me back to school to study eating disorders. I needed to understand and know more of how and why this obsession with food and body had robbed me of so many experiences and moments of my life. 

The recovery door was opened by awareness, admittance, and surrender that I was suffering. 

It was time to let go of the rules, the have to’s, should’s and shouldn’ts, the critical inner voices, and the self-punishment. 

I surrendered my disordered inner voice to eating disorder professional voices (who had earned my trust). The voices of reason, who during that time, knew what I needed more than I did. They guided me until I could start to trust myself and have the ability to listen to my body, and hear what it needed. 

One of the most important parts of my journey came when I began to see my body as ‘Neutral’. Giving myself permission to not have to love it, and along with that, not to have to hate it either.  I started seeing it as the vehicle I experienced my days in. The vessel that talked and walked, listened and learned, laughed and cried. 

It was in this body that I experienced it all in. The one I had treated so poorly. The one I punished, degraded, judged and criticized, and yet it continued to show up for me every day.  No questions asked. 

Recovery in this body, my body is body neutrality, body acceptance, body respect. This body that I have learned to fully appreciate, take care of and trust. 

This body, my body, founded Shaping Perspectives where I now guide, educate and empower others to feel more comfortable and confident in their own skin as an intuitive eating counselor, body image and mindset coach. My body also shows up every day as the leader of the Body Joyful Revolution, whose mission is to reduce bullying, body shaming, weight stigma, disordered and eating disorders. My past has led me to this purpose. I believe that everyone deserves to be seen, heard and appreciated, regardless of size, shape or weight. 

My recovery survival pack

  • Seeking therapy and support when I need it
  • Rejecting diet culture and society’s thin ideal
  • Embracing body neutrality and body respect
  • Listening to, trusting, and acting upon my body’s physical and emotional cues
  • Cultivating self-compassion and guiding my inner voice to become my friend and ally 
  • Prioritizing my own self-care 
  • Embracing joyful movement 

If you are struggling, please know there is help available. If a friend is struggling, reach out a compassionate loving hand. You are not alone. Your recovery is waiting for you, patiently.  

Anne Poirier CSCS, is a nationally recognized Body Image Expert, certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, author of the Body Joyful, and leader of the Body Joyful Revolution.  Anne is a pioneer and leading voice for the body neutrality movement.  She has been featured and cited in major media outlets around the world including Shape, Women’s Health, New York Times, Washington Post, Newsy, Livestrong, Huff Post,  ABC, Fox, CBS and NPR.  As a long-time eating disorder survivor, non-diet coach and certified self-talk trainer Anne helps others free themselves from diet culture and society’s thin ideal using her Body Joyful Solution.  As the Director of Behavioral Health at Hilton Head Health, Anne teaches clients how to develop a new relationship with food, exercise and body, while living and sustaining a diet-free lifestyle