My Happy Ending: How I Turned A Negative Obsession With Food Into A Positive One
by: Allison Jorgens
When I stepped out of the shower, it was as if my world started moving in slow motion. I could feel myself falling and before I hit the floor, my world turned black. When I woke up alone that fall night on the cold hard floor of my university dorm room, I finally realized that I needed help.
Three years earlier, my battle with bulimia nervosa began. My eating disorder was less about a distorted perception of my body, and more about the ability to be in control of one aspect of my life. I was a competitive figure skater at the time, average at best, but I excelled at controlling my weight. Weigh-ins at the arena were always a breeze, and I rejoiced when someone expressed concern over my deteriorating body.
Physically, I was exhausted. I went from landing double axels to falling on waltz jumps (perhaps the equivalent of running 5 km to only being able to slowly walk a short distance). It would not be until long after my recovery, however, that I would experience the longer-term impact of my bulimia and it’s affects on my fertility (something you might not typically think about when you are a teenager).
Mentally, I was also exhausted. What seemed to be a sort of competition or game with myself, soon turned into a strong sense of isolation. Schoolwork became increasingly difficult because of my inability to concentrate and focus, and relationships with friends and family became increasingly distant, as I struggled to hide the truth from everyone.
Although I felt leaving home for university and starting fresh in a new environment would fix everything, I soon became overwhelmed by the highly competitive and demanding pre-veterinary program I was in and the added responsibility of living on my own.
In my second year of university, I enrolled in an elective course called Introduction to Nutrition. I signed up for the course because I thought it would be easy. Turns out, Intro to Nutrition would change my life. Only weeks into the course, I decided to pursue an education in nutrition, which was a challenge for the girl who had dreamed of becoming a veterinarian since the age of five.
My relationship and respect for food quickly changed. My negative obsession with food was finally becoming a positive one. I learned how to use food to assist in the treatment of disease, how to cook food properly, how to make food taste better, how to market food, the effect food has on the body, and, of course, a rather memorable unit on eating disorders, which was of special interest to me.
With only a minor relapse after the passing of my father in my last year of university, I was able to leave my eating disorder behind me and finally rejoice in all that life has to offer. My education opened doors to work for some of North America’s largest food companies – one with the added bonus of world travel. I re-established my friendships, as a result met my wonderful husband, and settled down a few streets over from where I had grown up in Thornhill (a dream come true).
While life seemed almost too good to be true, I was quickly reminded of my eating disorder and the toll it took on my body when my husband and I tried to start a family. I know there is conflicting research when it comes to eating disorders contributing to infertility, but I could not help but think that my fertility issues were at least partially correlated to my bulimia. After three years of doctor’s appointments, tests,
medications, inseminations, disappointment, and heartache, we decided our final option would be invitro fertilization.
I invested all of my self into this final attempt at conception and for six months leading up to the procedure, I took a holistic approach to my wellbeing. I saw a naturopathic doctor, an acupuncturist, a reiki master, took up running, cut my work hours back to part-time, and started volunteering with Eating Disorders of York Region (EDOYR).
Volunteering for EDOYR, an organization whose mandate and concept was so near and dear to my heart, gave me a real sense of purpose. It was the first time I had spoken publically about my eating disorder and for the first time, I was able to forgive myself and rejoice in my life and my ability to now reach out and help others.
Today, my life is filled with joy! I have two beautiful miracle baby boys, I recently published my first book Read It with a Grain of Salt – The Truth about Canadian Food Labels from an Industry Insider, and I am continuing my positive journey with food by working towards my Registered Holistic Nutritionist designation at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition.
Everyone’s journey is unique. Though some are longer than others, in the end we all have the power to learn positive life lessons from our experiences.