Some people are lucky enough to have a balanced relationship with food. Maybe it’s not luck, and, perhaps, it is a skill people hone.
For many, food, diets, and exercise become extremes which lead to full blown eating disorders and flights from reality.
But there is hope, and here to talk about finding beauty after an eating disorder is writer, nutritionist, dietitian consultant, mom, wife, badass in recovery, Claudia Vidor. Vidor shares with us how she lives a balanced life today.
So what was your perception of beauty before recovery? (Beauty as in what makes a personal beautiful, whether superficially or deeper)
Until I recovered, beauty was very limited to me. It was normally defined as an athletic, slim, young, white woman. After opening up my horizons and getting in touch with the body positivity movement, I started realizing that beauty has many different shades. This is something that I also discuss in my eBook “I Want my Period Back”.
The “perfect” female (and male) body has dramatically changed over the years, even though the foundation of the female form has stayed the same.
Our culture judges a man primarily in terms of how powerful, ambitious, aggressive, and dominant he is in the schools of thought and action. On the other hand, a woman is judged almost entirely in terms of her appearance, her attractiveness to men, and her ability to keep the species going.
Women’s ideal body image has depended upon standards of beauty and desirability at different periods in history in different cultures.
How has your perception of beauty changed since entering recovery?
To me, beauty has now a little to do with physical appearance; instead, I value kindness, empathy, openness, and I concentrate on the small traits that make a person unique, such as a smile that lights up a room, eyes of a deep shade, or a strong posture that exudes confidence.
When it comes to my personal experience, I feel the most beautiful when I deeply listen to someone’s concern, when I make my kids smile, or after an ocean swim, salty air, sandy feet and all; to me, beauty now is linked to personal contentment.
I have also fully accepted the fact that after 2 pregnancies and after 40 years on planet earth, I won’t look like my perky twenty self. And yet, I have never felt so confident and beautiful in my own skin (grey hair, sagging skin, stretch marks and all).
Since you coach women with HA, do body image issues come up? How do you address them with other women?
Since working with women suffering from HA, I have come to realize that women are terrified of gaining weight. This isn’t so much because they don’t like the idea of looking more feminine, but because of how they will be perceived by their peers or close friends. (Or how they feel they will be perceived), and because they are scared of judgment, not being liked, and, in the end of it all, they are afraid of not being good enough. The truth is, people don’t care, and when they do care, they only mean well and want the best for us.
When working with them, I always start with the WHY; why do they want to recover, what’s in it for them? I want them to remember that there is a life beyond calorie counting, magazines flicking, Instagram scrolling, and pictures of “healthy” meals; there is, in fact, a life made of food freedom and mental freedom. I also invite them to make peace with their body and to forgive what they have put themselves through. I don’t want them to love their body, as it seems so far-fetched; Paradoxically, I just invite them to be ok with where they are, and I push them to take one step every day to become free of society constraints.
Silvia Plath always comes to my mind when I think of recovery from disordered eating behaviors:
If I didn’t choose recovery, “I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air”
What did you do to begin feeling good about your body after disordered eating?
It sounds quite cheesy, but 2 things happened:
I let a boy love me for the very first time. That means I didn’t push him away. I didn’t shush away the compliments. And I didn’t play games. I let him love me to the bones, and he taught me how to love myself, one day, and one meal at the time. That boy now is my husband of 10 years and the father of my 2 beautiful children.
Secondly, I became very spiritual. I dived into the yoga world, and I started meditating daily; I needed to find a way to stop focusing on the busyness around me, and I needed to get in touch with my core beliefs and values.
What did I really want in life? What mattered to me? Why was my identity so intertwined with the way I looked and moved?
It was a long journey. Recovery started when I decided to prioritize my health and stop disordered eating behaviors. But I’m always in recovery. Thoughts come, and every day I choose to avoid dwelling into them and not act on them.
You look so healthy and vibrant; what are the steps you take to care for yourself and maintain your health?
Every day I make sure to move my body in a way that feels nourishing; I eat from the earth as often as I can, but I don’t shy away from a daily cuddle (that can be a second coffee, a slice of cake, a glass of wine, a takeaway pizza). I speak kind words every day, and I treat others with respect. It is magical to witness how much positivity you get back. I also spend a lot of time with my kids, and they “force” me to live in the present moment. To top it all off, I’m doing the work I have always wanted to do, and I never forget to be grateful for where I am and what I have got.
What does self-care and wellness look like for you after having lived with an eating disorder?
Whenever I allow myself to rest, I know I’m kind to myself. In a society where rest seems superfluous, or has a negative connotation, it’s hard to listen to our body and accept that stillness is, in fact, a powerful form of movement. Whenever I’m still, I know I’m caring for my mind, body, soul, and family. I used to always be on the go, and I missed out so many moments because I was continually looking at the future, unable to soak in the present moment. Whenever I choose a book over a class at the gym, whenever I decide to sleep in instead of enjoying a morning meditation, whenever I say no to an extra client on Saturday evening, I know I’m prioritizing my health. Even though it doesn’t come easy, I’m always working on it.
And remember, that if you really want to achieve something, you will always find the time; if you don’t, you will always find an excuse.
Claudia Vidor’s wise words can be pertinent for anyone, eating disorder history or not.
Vidor is a Nutritionist and Dietitian Consultant (BHSC) who suffered with anorexia and over-exercising for over a decade. She has written extensively about her experience and wisdom on her Medium publication: Life Without An Eating Disorder. Now, a wife and mother of two, Claudia works as a professional who helps other women overcome restrictive eating behaviors and Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (a condition where a woman loses her period due to malnutrition).
Finding beauty after an eating disorder is hard. It takes time and an effort in rewiring your thinking. But it definitely is possible! Most of all, the key to finding beauty after an eating disorder is realizing beauty is beyond how we look. Beauty has to do with who we are.
Follow Claudia Vidor on Instagram, Facebook, and her website!
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