As a part of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2019, I wanted to bring you all an intimate look at the transformative power body positivity, self-compassion, and hard work and determination can bring to survivors of eating disorders.
I had the pleasure of interviewing good friend and coworker, Amanda Burch, aspiring counselor and body-positive influencer, on her own intimate journey through eating disorder recovery.
Who you are and what your history has been with food and body image. Do you remember your experience with food and your body as a child? How did that change as you grew up (and in what ways)?
My name is Amanda Burch and I am a 27 year old counseling graduate student, body positive certified personal trainer, and diet culture dropout! My relationship with food and body hasn’t always been as intuitive or stress-free as it is now, and it is amazing to see how far I have come since my past struggles with disordered eating and compulsive exercise. Growing up, I became aware that my body was “different” than other girls my age. I had a big frame, matured quickly, and learned that my appearance was a source of scrutiny. Although I had a fairly “normal” relationship with food and my body for the first 14 years of my life, an eating disorder decided to rob me of my adolescence. My eating disorder was a freaking BITCH. I lost myself. I lost my values. I lost my sense of worth. Nothing mattered other than how I could manipulate and control my body through restriction and compensation. Luckily, I was able to continue jumping through the important hoops of life malnourished and obsessed. My relationship with food and body was fraught for several years into college, as I jumped aboard the “clean eating” train and utilized exercise to cope with all of the factors I was unhappy with in my life. After intense self-reflection and a whole lot of tears, I decided I was ready to break free from the prison I had created for myself through letting my eating disorder dictate every aspect of my life. I deleted my calorie trackers, stewed in the discomfort, and began learning that there was another way to navigate the world. Slowly, I began tapping into my intuition and relearning what it meant to be in touch with my body’s cues. I educated myself on the ways I had been conditioned into glorifying unrealistic beauty ideals and avoiding my problems through focusing solely on food and my body. I recognized that I was put on this earth for DOING rather than desperately attempting to fit a mold I was never meant to be. I am fortunate to have developed an intuitive relationship with food and movement, and I hope my story sparks hope in somebody struggling who’s looking to come back to themselves. I am pursuing my Master’s in clinical counseling in hopes of working with clients with eating disorders/substance abuse issues to utilize my past experience to encourage recovery and personal growth!
What are some things you do for yourself to foster body positivity in your life?
First and foremost, I make my self-care a priority. Whenever I have a negative body thought or a fleeting desire to manipulate my body in a certain way, I offer myself compassion and figure out what aspect of my self-care routing is lacking that is causing me to feel this way. I have come to acknowledge and wholeheartedly believe that optimal health and happiness revolves around balanced physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual states. For so long, I was only focusing on my physical appearance without recognizing that I wasn’t giving any energy or attention to other aspects of myself that are just as important. In order to continue fostering body positivity, I continue educating myself on Diet Culture and media manipulation as well as work towards dismantling my internalized fatphobia. To me, body positivity is much more than simply accepting my “recovered body”. Body positivity has served as an educational awakening that inspired me to challenge my beliefs and attitudes about bodies.
What tips or words of encouragement would you lend someone struggling to achieve body tolerance and acceptance?
Respect yourself enough to choose a different way of thinking. Rather than existing in your body try LIVING in it. Bodies are meant to provide our souls with a vessel to take on the world and have meaningful experiences. Having this type of relationship with your body may feel like lightyears away from where you are at in your journey, and that is okay! Offer yourself compassion and take pride in being brave enough to begin contemplating the radical act of self-acceptance. Educate yourself on what we are conditioned to believe about bodies and get woke. You only have one life to live. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got better things to do than spend mine giving up EVERY aspect of my life to shrink myself.
What lifts you up? Or, in other words, what supports you in pursuit of recovery/love/happiness/insert other meaningful life-pursuit here?
Every time I am able to identify with a choice that aligns with my authentic self, I feel fulfilled in a way that dieting or deadlifting never could provide. Having cultivated the awareness to actually stop and tune in to what my body desires in any given moment is powerful. Body trust is an amazing phenomenon that gets stripped away by outside forces and cultural ideals. Being in tune with myself and listening to others’ journeys towards self-acceptance help lift me up. Recognize that it’s ludicrous and torturous to manipulate and control a body that simply wants to be. What would you do if you had the mental space to exist without that pressure? Luckily, I gained the confidence to pursue all the things that make me happy, and I hope that sharing tidbits of my story help you find your genuine happy, too.
Are you LIVING in your body, or just existing in it? We challenge you to start LIVING; you deserve that.
Learn more about Eating Disorders: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
Eating Disorder Hotline: https://www.bulimia.com/topics/eating-disorder-hotline/
Warning Signs & Symptoms: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/warning-signs-and-symptoms
Justin writes about ways to optimize your health and well-being by cultivating resiliency and self-compassion through sustainable movement and exercise habits that lift you and those around you up..