Guest Post: ED Meet BETH

Jennifer DiGennaro is an inspiring friend of mine who I met through the Go Boldly, Love Your Body Campaign in Grand Rapids. She is the founder of Nourished Energy, a fusion of Grounded, Mindful, Intuitive Eating and Energy Support for Women. As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Energy Therapist, Mentor, Activist and Advocate, Jen offers support, education, and guidance to women who are ready to move beyond the dieting mentality to practice Intuitive Eating and to let go of body shame to reclaim authentic beauty, energy, and power. Jen has a private practice based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. To learn more about Jen’s work please visit www.NourishedEnergy.com.

Jennifer DiGennaro cropped circle-2

Not me. I do not have an eating disorder. I saw the after school specials. Anorexia. Bulimia. That is not me. It was not until one afternoon in my mid 30s that something changed.

The veil over my eyes lifted.
It all came into focus. I was feeling anxiety, and the urgency to start a diet came on so strong it shocked me. I had been practicing mindfulness and was able to sit with the intense feelings and thoughts with curiosity. The pattern of my life revealed itself. Since I was 14 years old, my go-to when life presented me with difficulty was to start a diet, detox, cleanse, radical lifestyle change, or exercise regimen. I thought it was simply the drive to be thin and healthy that kept me on the diet mentality hamster wheel, yet it suddenly hit me, maybe there was something deeper going on.
I knew it was time to do something other than diet.
I read the book Life Without ED by Jenni Schaefer on recommendation from a therapist I was working with. Jenni named her eating disorder ED. Throughout the book she talked to him and was able to tease out her voice from his, which helped lead her to recovery. That is when I met my own disordered eating voice. I called her BETH, an acronym for Bad Eating Thoughts Hell. She actually started hanging out with me when I was about 9 or 10. She told me food was something to be coveted and controlled, that there was something wrong with my body and ABSOLUTELY there was nothing worse in the world to be than fat. She was the collective voice of our fat shaming culture and she also aimed to shield me from the troubled times of my own childhood. By focusing on what was wrong with my body, I was distracted from the complicated issues in my family life and the world at large. BETH worked so hard to keep me numb. As long as I was focusing on what was wrong with me and what I was eating, I did not have to deal with other hard things.
When I was able to discern my own true voice from BETH’s my healing journey intensified. I started to access my wisdom grounded in connection to reality. Not the false sense of security BETH offered me. I had space around my thoughts. I started writing letters to BETH. Here is the very first one:
Dear BETH, for years you unconsciously held my hand. Now that I know you for who you are, there is no going back to you. Now when I hear your voice I know it is not mine. I can no longer listen. For so long you have been my constant companion. When, as a young girl, I got the message that my body was not okay, you came in and took that pain away. You held my broken heart and made food my medicine, my poison, my cure, my problem, my answer, my comfort, my hell. You tried, but now I know the truth. Food is just food and my body is okay. And when I get scared and uncertain around food and my body, as I sometimes still do, you no longer get to answer for me. I am choosing a life where food is just food and my body is okay, believing I have that choice. Wading through and flushing out the junk you have told me. Living in a culture that often echoes your distorted voice and finding ways not to listen.
It has been a wild ride. Sifting back through the years of my life, the flip-flopping chaos and hyper vigilance around food. My heart still hurts when I think about the years spent with BETH, years I can never get back.
One step in my recovery was making some visits to a community support group for suffers of eating disorders. Sitting in that room for the first time shook me to the core. It became clear that there is not a clean line between those with eating disorders, the recovered, and normal eaters. There is a big gray problem area fueled by the diet industry and other industries aimed at keeping us lost, disconnected, scared, and confused. At one meeting, I sat across from a teenage girl who wondered why she could not go on diet, why everyone else can do it, but she can’t. It was like looking at a younger version of myself, I wanted to jump up and grab her by the shoulders and scream, wake-up, it is all lie, no one should be dieting! Do not waste years of your life like I did. A flame in me was ignited that night and it has not gone out. We can and need to be louder. We can teach others to recognize and then stand up to the EDs and BETHs that thrive in our culture of body shaming and food shaming.
I was able to walk away from BETH through doing my own healing work from meditation to naturopathy to bodywork to counseling to acupuncture to cognitive behavioral therapy to integrative psychotherapy and back again. But first and foremost, by stabilizing my eating and then moving into Intuitive Eating. It is my passion to bring hope to those who struggle with food and body acceptance; to take away the stigma around seeking support, as much support as it takes, when we struggle, and making a radical vow to deep self-care a non-negotiable one.
Nourished-Energy-Logo.pngFor more with Jennifer DiGennaro, visit her at:
https://www.facebook.com/NourishedEnergy/
www.NourishedEnergy.com

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.
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