Overcoming anorexia: Meg’s Success Story

Of all the Success Story interviews I’ve done, this is one I’ve always wanted to write. If my calculations are correct, the inspiring group of people featured on this blog, as well as in the 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking, have reached a collective weight loss of ONE THOUSAND POUNDS. 

Sorry to break the streak everyone, but for the first time ever, that number is about to come back down.

Meg in BarbadosMeg is one of the most beautiful, energetic,and passionate girls I’ve ever spoken to. Between finishing her education as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and planning a wedding for the upcoming year, she also shares her passion for life and happiness through her blog, A Dash of Meg. If you’ve ever spoken to her or read her blog,  you would never guess this bubbily girl could ever have a negative or self-deprecating thought cross her mind. So as she told me her story of going through high school with an eating disorder, I had a hard time comprehending it.  “But…I’ve seen pictures of you,” I told her. “You’re GORGEOUS.” Yet she never saw it.  At her lowest point, she didn’t even weigh 90 lbs. She never played sports because she thought she wasn’t “good enough” to be on anyone’s team. She would get mad at herself if her hip bones didn’t stick out enough. When she finally was able to admit she had a problem, it was on a family vacation when she physically could not force herself to eat an apple. 

Meg’s story is not unlike many others out there. We all have days when we don’t see ourselves as beautiful. We all have friends who could be the beautiful person in a room, but would never see it. As Meg told me, all those negative thoughts are just not worth it. A life of happiness, and the ability to see your own value – that’s worth it. Thank you Meg for sharing your story! -Kara

My boss Hayley originally found you on Instagram. How did you get into blogging?High FIve Friday

I started blogging when I moved 30 hours from home to go to University. I’ve always been extremely close with my parents, and a lifestyle blog was an easy way to keep them updated. I gained followers as I started posting workouts and recipes online. I became really passionate about it after I attended a few conferences and made friends all over the world. I love reaching people though my blog. I do this series called High Five Friday where anyone can e-mail me something they’re proud of for that week. It could be anything! Even something as small as taking a new yoga class. When I had an eating disorder six years ago, I never saw my value or how good I was. When I was recovering, I realized it’s a big deal to MAKE a big deal of the little things. That’s what High Five Fridays are all about.

You’re so happy, energized, and confident. I can’t imagine you putting yourself down. How did [your eating disorder] start?

It all started when my grandpa passed away six years ago. I was in grade 10, a time when boys were picking on me and I had really bad body image. An eating disorder was how I coped. In my mind, not eating would solve all my problems. My “rock bottom” came in grade 11, and I finally told my parents. They totally knew what was happening, but you’ll never get help until you see it for yourself. The next day I went to a psychiatrist, who told me I would spend the next year of my life in a hospital. I told my parents that wasn’t happening. 

You said you hit rock bottom in grade 11. What road led to that moment? 

Before everything started, I ate like a normal high school kid. I would eat eggs and toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, an abundance of snacks after school, and then I’d eat whatever my parents made for dinner. Everything started with just smaller portion sizes. I actually started feeling better! I didn’t feel so chunky, so I decided I didn’t need my after-school snacks. Then I thought, “Well, my parents don’t see me at school so…” and that’s the day I started throwing my lunches away. For awhile, I was just eating breakfast and dinner. Then I started “sleeping in” so I didn’t “have time” for breakfast. I eventually found ways to skip dinner: I would tell my parents I was going out for pizza with my friends, but when I arrived I told my friends I had just had dinner with my parents. I can remember one day when all I ate was celery; and that wasn’t until 5:00 in the afternoon.

Meg before and after

Left: 2012, following food restrictions; Right: April 2014

You were in high school when all of this happened. How did you think? How did you concentrate?

Oh, I couldn’t. I had to reschedule so many tests in Grade 11. I had NO energy. I couldn’t do anything. Luckily, I had always had such good marks my teachers let me retake my exams. I retook my exams the summer before grade 12.

If you refused to be admiMeg and her parentstted to a hospital, how did you get through recovery? 

My entire last year of high school I was on the road to recovery, and believe me when I say that road is so long. On the very first day, my parents were with me. I have always had a ton of girlfriends, and even when I was in my eating disorder my social life never suffered. But my parents will always be my best friends. I lived with them the year after high school and did University there, as I wasn’t well enough to move away. The second year I moved away, but I was still dealing with food restrictions and bad thoughts. For the next few years, I was still dealing with disordered eating; even though I was over my eating disorder. There’s a difference between the two.

The biggest thing is time. When you are in an eating disorder, you are listening to the eating disorder and living by it’s rules. You have to learn to deny the eating disorder. It tells you to do something, and you do the exact opposite. The less you listen to those thoughts, the less they come to you. I’ve been away for five years now, and I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. I can remember when I had been in recovery for maybe three weeks and one of my friends asked, “Oh. You mean you’re not better yet?” She actually asked me that. And here I stand, the healthiest I’ve ever been, and it took me six years to get here. 

Meg before and after

Left: 2013, eating freely and trying to gain weight; Right: 2014

Did you ever do any other therapy? 

I saw both a dietician and a psychologist all of grade 12. My psychologist was a total genius and really understood eating disorders, and my dietician planned all my meals for me. She never told me how many calories were in it, and I never did any meal prep. I was too controlling and knew “too much” about food. So my mom made all my meals. 

My psychologist really helped me stop comparing myself to others. One day I told him I couldn’t even go out anymore because all I did was compare myself to other people. What he told me is something I’ll never forget. He asked me, “Picture a rose and a tulip. Which is prettier?”

I thought for a second, and I said, “I don’t know…they’re both pretty!” He pushed me harder. He said, “No really, pick one. Which one is prettier?” When I told him I couldn’t pick, he said “Exactly. One is not better than the other, just like you and everyone else. Everyone is great and unique in their own way.” That really hit home with me, and I still use it today. I know that I should never pay ANY ATTENTION to what someone else is eating or how they’re exercising, because it does. not. impact. me. Even now that I technically eat Paleo, I never use that label. What if I decide to eat a piece of cake at a wedding, or have oats for breakfast? Then what? I’m just not Paleo anymore? That seems pointless. I eat whatever makes me happy and feel good at that point in time. 

Meg lifting

You mentioned that even after your eating disorder, you still had “disordered eating.” Can you explain that? 

When I began my recovery, I still feared food so much. I feared fat, so I definitely limited it in my diet. I drank skim milk, ate zero-fat yogurt, wouldn’t eat egg yolks, and wouldn’t even touch an avocado. And avocados used to be my favorite food! My boyfriend, now fiancé, watched me follow those restrictions and knew I still had issues with food.

I also had a tendency to over-exercise. I didn’t do any sports in high school, because I never thought I was good enough to be on anyone’s team. Once I started lifting weights, I got really into it. Lifting made me feel awesome. I researched how to eat to build muscle, so I started eating six times a day. I created this meal plan that I just had to follow. I was eating every two hours and using a food scale like crazy. I started walking everywhere; literally I never sat down. Exercising gave me this confidence I never had before. My parents were proud I was doing something that made me feel that confident.

Your blog is all about loving yourself and being happy; when did you finally let go of all those bad thoughts?

In March of 2013, I told myself, “I’m letting go of every last bit of this disordered eating.” I gave up my My Fitness Pal app and my food scale. I stopped eating every two hours, and told myself I would simply eat when I was hungry. I filled my body with things that made me happy, like avocados and eggs. When I ate a low-fat diet, I had really bad anxiety, low energy, and borderline depression. Now I’m just filled with energy. I write down one thing every single day that I’m thankful for. I drive 20 minutes every single day, to go pick up a tea that I love, JUST because it makes me happy. I have all these happy thoughts, and I’m sure it’s because of the fat in my diet.

By this fall, I was trying desperately to gain weight. But I was still really small and lean. Finally, I stopped eating grains and the weight came on easily. Maybe I was eating more calories, or maybe enough time had passed that I was finally putting on weight; or maybe my body wasn’t able to digest grains. Who knows what it was, but I FINALLY put on weight and big changes started happening. 

For any girl in high school, or anyone out there suffering from an eating disorder, what would you want to tell them?

Honestly I would just want to hold them because I know how bad they’re hurting inside. It pains me to see little girls – or anyone for that matter – judge themselves. Because in the end it just doesn’t matter. People love you for YOU. They love you for the way you smile or for the way you laugh and for all the things you do. When I think of all the years I spent focusing on how little food I could eat that day, it just didn’t matter. It breaks my heart that I did that to myself. I would do these horrible body checks where I would feel my hip bones, and if they weren’t sticking out enough I would get so mad at myself. I wish I could go back and be a big sister to that little girl. 

Following negative thoughts is just not worth it. A life full of happiness and confidence is healthy. I think happiness is health. When I was in my eating disorder, was I happy? NO. I don’t think anyone with an eating disorder could honestly say that starving themselves ever made them happy. 

Do you have any advice you would like to leave everyone with? 

Yes; if something scares you, you SHOULD do it. If taking a week off from the gym scares you, you should probably do it. If eating a chocolate bar scares you, you should do it. If food scares you, you should be eating it. Always do the things that scare you. It’s the only way to erase those awful demons from your life.

I used to see food as something to make you gain weight; this thing that I didn’t want. Now I just love food for all the nourishment it gives you-for your body and for your mind. For so long, I didn’t understand that because I obeyed the rules of the eating disorder, and I was comfortable doing that. You need to make yourself feel uncomfortable. You need to deny the restrictions you have set for yourself. 

Keep pushing yourself. Keep making yourself uncomfortable.

To find out more about Meg, be sure to check out her blog and follow her on Instagram! 

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    1. tamorrison
      May 19, 2014

      So proud of Megan……..you are truly beautiful……..and now I am glad you know it.. I wish you happiness always.

    2. May 19, 2014

      This is honestly one of the best things I have read in a long time! So proud of you Meg!

    3. megmichelle
      May 20, 2014

      Thank you so much for featuring me today 🙂 I am so honoured. I hope to meet the two of you some day 🙂

    4. Klairamae
      May 29, 2014

      As someone who has been through almost an identical ordeal (and thankfully, recovery!)… Meg, your have captured the essence of anorexia and recovery. It is not black or white, but once you are past a certain point, every success takes your breath away because you are so grateful you are not where you used to be. And, it is so wonderful to learn that you are stronger than you ever imagined. Thank you for challenging all of us to do what we fear–I agree, it is the only way beyond that which keeps us paralyzed and trapped. Thank you for sharing your story, and I wish that no matter what life brings you, you continue to not just survive, but thrive. 🙂

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