Testimony > Bulimia
Sophie went through and overcame the self-destructive spirals of bulimia and anorexia. Here is an account of her path towards self respect…
My story begins in a very traditional Breton family where any show of tenderness or intimacy was totally looked down on. When I first discovered boys, my puritan education had completely failed to prepare me for the emergence of sexuality and I thought there was something very wrong with it. I found anything linked to the flesh dirty. Perhaps that’s why I produced so much of it: to learn how to love it more.
My bulimia began when I started my third year at high school. It was a Marist co-ed. I had a very hard year. They thought I was a bad influence and a troublemaker. This was reflected in my work and I ended up failing and having to re-do the year. Then everything got worse. I started to smoke like a chimney and eat uncontrollably, swinging from anorexia to bulimia attacks, depending on my high or low emotional states. When I turned nineteen, I left home to go and move in with Jacques. Then my bulimia really kicked in: we loved each other but we couldn’t communicate. I think we just weren’t made for one another. Cramming myself with food was a way of suppressing my unhappiness.
After six years with Jacques, I was in an anorexic phase. I picked the rice grains out of salad because they were fattening. Our separation triggered a new bout of bulimia. I ate non-stop: burgers (which I hate), French fries, ice cream, and I drank a lot too… I forced myself to throw up so I could start all over again and mostly, of course, I ate secretly. Nobody knew my problem. I hated myself; and the more I hated myself, the more I ate... I remember spending entire weekends at home eating, sleeping and watching TV. The pain of the break-up slowly went away and I flew to Hong Kong to join a boyfriend. We had a chaotic, all-consuming affair… all-consuming was the word. After two years of problems and separations, I learned for the first time in my life how to say no: I choose not to live like that.
My body is a sacred vessel
That’s when I came across IVI and rediscovered prayer, which I had not practised since I was sixteen. Through prayer, the deep unhappiness which drove me to eat started to fade a lot. Some time after, I met Antoine, my future husband. By then, I’d already changed enough to no longer be afraid of what he would think of me, nor to be afraid of his tenderness. I remember our first evening together: after over an hour trying to dress properly, I went out looking a total mess… “Never mind,” I thought. “If this man is really going to be good for you, there’s no point in camouflage“. I had finally lowered my defences and put a knee on the ground.
I have also learned not to feel guilty anymore : the guiltier we feel, the more we eat.
I couldn’t bear this slavery anymore, this frantic need to go down to the shops to buy something, anything, to eat… At a certain point, I decided to accept my body. Prayer saved me by portraying this body to me as God’s temple, a sacred vessel, like a church, which has to be cared for so the soul can be beautiful, not turned into a dustbin. I still ate a lot but no longer had compulsive binges. I also learned not to feel guilt anymore: the guiltier we feel, the more we eat.
Another technique, so to speak, which really helped was to think of the whole chain of people who produce the food on our plate. When I ate bread, I’d think of the farmer who grew the wheat, the person who harvested it, the miller who milled the flour, the baker… This chain of love would naturally come to my mind forcing me to honour everything that I swallowed.
My new diet: sharing meals with love
Previously, I’d tried all sorts of diets. Weight Watchers was the best. I managed to do a whole year on it without a single relapse. I had help during that year and then I was left to fend for myself, to stand on my own two feet. On the last day, I said my farewells, convinced I was now grown up. Then I ate three camemberts and two baguettes in a row. I watched myself ruin a year’s efforts without being able to do anything about it. Then I understood that it hadn’t been a year of effort. It had been a year of will power. It is not will power that resolves things; it’s abandoning oneself to God. Truth isn’t to be found in restrictions. It’s in the search for freedom and balance. For years, I’d forbidden myself to share meals with others in order to avoid eating too much. Diets keep us away from other people. They stop us benefiting from this nourishing alchemy of a meal shared with love. Never again. Calorie counts are a big trap: I knew the calorific value of every morsel of food I swallowed. I went over two, three thousand… Food isn’t quantitative. It’s qualitative. We have to honour what we eat, not count it.
Full of life
I reached my ideal weight after giving birth to my children, who stabilised me once and for all. I felt literally full of life during my pregnancies. Food has probably always been related to my intense desire to be a mother: I’d had genital tuberculosis when I was twenty and I thought it had made me sterile. But today, God has given me three little girls and, through them, I have discovered true harmony. Now I feel completely free in relation to food, while continuing to love it. As long as there is this happiness, I will never become bulimic again… Sometimes I eat a whole bar of chocolate, but without feeling guilty. My husband is Swiss. When his brother comes to stay, he sometimes brings a kilo of chocolate as a gift. Before, when people brought food like that, I’d throw it all away because I was scared. In fact, it’s good to love all these gifts we receive…Also, there are times in our lives when we need sugar, others when we need salt. We have to listen to what our bodies tell us we need.
I still can’t eat slowly, just to enjoy the taste of food: it’s tough when you’ve got kids. But I know that sitting there saying: “now I’m going to eat slowly” doesn’t work. I leave this problem in a corner of my mind and entrust it to the angels and to the Lord. If the bathroom scales show that I’ve put on one or two extra kilos because of too many splurges, I entrust that to Him as well. Along with letting go, it seems to me that the best way to weigh oneself is with tenderness.