OK, so I am totally obsessed with Oprah…
…and I have been since I used to bunk off high-school to watch The Oprah Show in my lunch break. That was all the way back in 1986/1987! In 2010, and in preparation for the final season of twenty five years of The Oprah Show, I was interviewed by a Harpo producer as an ultimate viewer.
It really comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am counting down the days until December 12 when I will finally meet Oprah, my 30 year-long role model. I can totally feel a Mary Tyler Moore/Jackie Jackson Oprah ‘ugly cry’ coming on 😉
With Oprah heading down under, my eating disorder recovery story recently featured on Mel’s Blog at PowerFMRadio as part of an Oprah special. I love hearing from my clients how one inspirational person or moment was instrumental in their decision to choose recovery – read below how watching The Oprah Show was the catalyst for my eating disorder recovery and my journey towards health and wellbeing.
NB: This post and the videos may be triggering – please take care if you are still suffering with an eating disorder.
How Oprah and Rudine helped me overcome my eating disorder
“If I can leave you with one thing, it is to live your life on purpose – live your life on purpose.’– Oprah at the Opera House, Sydney
For most of my childhood, teenage years and then young adult life, I had chronic low-self-worth and a deep sense of shame which manifested in self-loathing and self-destructive behaviours around food, weight and exercise.
I started fat talking to myself at around 5 years old. At 8, my body shame was so bad, I wouldn’t even swim in my own backyard pool without a t-shirt to hide my ‘fat’ and by 13 until I was 27, I suffered with chronic yoyo/fad dieting, binge eating and eventually bulimia nervosa – sometimes binging and purging up to 30 times a day.
The cycle would always start with dieting – I jumped from diet to diet losing 6 or 7 kilos only to end up bingeing and putting on 10; each time feeling more and more shame and more and more like a failure. This is probably not surprising to anyone who chronically diets – it’s a well-known fact that our set-point often returns or raises higher through dieting. For the majority of people, dieting leads to weight gain, unhealthy behaviours and obsessions around food and in many cases disordered eating – as was the case for me.
There were many guests on Oprah over the years who I identified with and who called me to awaken to a new way of being but watching Rudine’s story and her suffering with anorexia was definitely a major wake-up call into my recovery journey. I wept as I watched the show where it was announced that Rudine had died and I thought, ‘I need help or I am going to die’. Around the same time, I went swimming with a wild dolphin in Ireland where I had a peak spiritual experience, shortly after, I made an appointment with a psychotherapist who specialised in eating disorders and started my journey through weekly depth-psychotherapy.
In a world where thin is increasingly a measurement of success, it was thought-changing for me to see a woman as successful as Oprah, show authenticity and vulnerability as she shared her own battle with food, weight and dieting (watch her story here and most recently, being interviewed by Brené Brown here) . This is why so many women identify with her. In many ways, she did the work for us by allowing herself to be vulnerable in front of the world.
Many years later, Oprah talks in this video about the difference between self and ego in relation to weight. The solution is not dieting (this is the ego talking); it is to focus on physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being (this is the self talking).
Along with guests such as Marianne Williamson, Geneen Roth, and more recently Brené Brown, she has raised awareness and highlighted how so many women feel about their relationship with food, body & self:
- How we get stuck in fat shaming ourselves
- How we misleadingly believe our thin self is more worthy of love than our fat self
- How we use food to comfort, soothe and ease stress
- How we can learn to focus on health, not thinness
- How we can embrace the body we have right now and practice gratitude towards our body
- How when our food and weight is out of control, it’s really balance we are craving
- How our relationship with food, weight and the body carry important messages and opportunities for us to discover more about our true self
- How we can move from identification with the ego and move towards identification with our authentic self
- How we need to prioritise ourselves and make time for replenishing energy
- How we need to stay focused on being fully alive, awake, present, engaged and connected in every area of our lives
- How we are ‘more than’ our body, our status and our position in life
- How we can rediscover our loveliness
- How deep down, we are spiritually bankrupt and hungry for something other than food – for spiritual qualities such as connection, love and self-compassion
When I saw Oprah at the Sydney show in 2010, she ended the show with, “If I can leave you with one thing, it is to live your life on purpose – live your life on purpose.” She also talked about each of us speaking to the world as she has, through our work.
Having recovered from chronic dieting, bingeing and bulimia, I went on to train as a psychotherapist and now specialise in eating disorders, eating psychology and women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns. Over the last 15+ years, I have helped 100s of women transform their relationship with food, body and self. I regularly pay it forward with the lessons I learnt from Oprah, her guests and more recently, my personal favourite – Super Soul Sunday.
This is what I know for sure….
In order to recover from food, weight and body image concerns, we need to redirect the focus from weight to Health at Every Size and in Oprah’s words, to develop and listen to our internal GPS for the Soul.
So many models for working with these issues pathologise our symptoms – we are so much more than this! The essence for me when it comes to recovery is to find the value, meaning and purpose contained within our food, weight and body image symptoms and concerns – they are continuously calling us to awaken and pay attention to the Divine inherent within.
Rudine, without knowing it, was way ahead of the times – she told Oprah her anorexia felt like a spiritual battle inside herself and that she needed to accept herself. I couldn’t agree more!
P.S. Since my story was published, Oprah announced her investment in Weight Watchers – both personally, through participating in the diet and professionally, through financial investment. This is something therapists who help people overcome eating disorders (myself included), Health at Every Size advocates and many women recovering from food weight and body image issues feel deeply disappointed about. Fingers crossed Oprah can inject some much needed soul and spirit into Weight Watchers and redirect the focus from weight-loss to size diversity and health and well-being at every size.
Who or what has been the inspiration for you to overcome your eating disorder? Add your comments below!
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, search for a psychotherapist in your area who can work in a holistic and soulful way with these issues. It takes time and a commitment to 1-2 times a week therapy but it’s worth it – recovery is possible!
As someone who is also in recovery from an eating disorder (binge eating disorder) and someone who chose (after 2 years of research and my own psychotherapy treatment) to pursue bariatric surgery, I can definitely identify with the need to live a healthy life over living a thin life. Learning to love myself completely was the most healthy thing I could have done for myself. I was able to be fully in the moment with my family, my career, my education. I was able to identify that I too could give back and help others learn that management of an eating disorder is possible and being healthy does not have to mean the media’s perception of beauty. Identifying what we are missing in our lives that we are trying to fulfill with food is such a huge part of healing (the term “spiritually bankrupt” is beautiful). Thank you for sharing this story!