The Hungry Soul: Recovering from eating disorders

Illustration by Annie Internicola

Illustration by Annie Internicola

Olivia Jansen’s troubled relationship with food started when she was four or five. “In my family of origin there was this big secret, and I didn’t find out about it until I was in my early teens,” says Jansen (not her real name), of Greene County. “I had this feeling in my gut that there was something wrong with me that my family wasn’t telling me. To suppress that, I ate a lot.” As a kid she hated going to school: “I was tall, I was fat, and the teasing was unbelievable.” Switching to an all-girls school helped, and once she found out her family’s big secret, her eating normalized. Then Jansen hit college—and slid into anorexia and bulimia. “College food wasn’t very good, but it was also the thrill of being on my own. I didn’t have to listen to my mother saying ‘You must eat something.’ I always showed rebellion through food, either by eating too much or too little.” Anorexia, a pattern of severe food restriction, came first for Jansen. Bulimia, or purging, kicked in when she became involved with men, after her first sexual experience. “From the time I was 19 until today there have been periods in my life where I’ve been fairly ‘normal.’ I’m eating, I’m not overexercising, not throwing up, not bingeing.” But whenever a love relationship ended, the anorexia came back. “Then I’d get so thin that I’d end up bingeing because my body desperately needed food, and that led to purging,” says Jansen, who is in treatment now for her eating disorders. “Hopefully this time around the cycle will end.” Read full article