*Disclaimer: I speak about my faith in this post. In my one on one work with clients, I do not bring up Christian faith based teachings unless specifically asked by my patient in our sessions. I see a variety of clients with various spiritual/non-spiritual backgrounds. This is a personal post and is not representative of my work with clients.*
**Trigger warning: some vague mention of eating disorder behaviors are in this post. Please use discretion.**
Hi! My name is Maddi, and I am the owner of Flexible Nutrition. Read more about me and my work with clients here. Today I am sharing a bit of my personal story in the hopes that it urges at least one person to fight for recovery. Because of my own experience, I have decided to make it part of my life's work to help those who also struggled like I did. So here goes.
My husband and I decided to start “trying” to get pregnant in January 2022. I put “trying” in quotes, because I was not having a regular menstrual cycle or ovulating (critical pieces of the pregnancy puzzle).
Because of my eating disorder (ED), I have not had my menstrual cycle regularly since my sophomore year of college (about 7 years at this time of writing). I talk more in depth about this and my journey up to this point here. Essentially, I wasn’t getting my menstrual cycle regularly due to my compulsive exercise and restriction of food to manage my body size. I had struggled with (and continue to struggle, however at a much, much lower capacity) putting my worth and my identity in my size and my fitness.
I went through phases of “pseudo recovery” since the pandemic in 2020. I would pause/reduce exercise and increase eating, get my period back, and then swiftly resume my previous habits. I was OK with gaining “a certain amount of weight” - but no more than this. I had allowed all foods back into my life, and had even "chilled out" on the rigidity of my exercise routine. However, my heart was still wrapped around the identity I had formed 7 years ago.
My identity was "the thin, fit, runner and healthy Dietitian" that many people had come to know me as. I craved these compliments, and I was very afraid of possibly losing this identity. Who would I be if I wasn’t those things? Which, technically, I was anything BUT healthy.
I wholeheartedly believed in food freedom and appropriate weight restoration for my clients. I believed our culture’s view on health and weight was bogus. I believed that health and fitness didn’t have “a look”, and that movement should be so much more than managing a certain body size.
I believed that God formed me in my mother’s womb, and that my identity is in Him. That God made food for enjoyment as well as nourishment. That physical training is of some value, but training for Godliness has eternal value (1 Timothy 4:8). That my purpose was way, way higher than managing a certain size. That in the end, how I loved people and Jesus is what matters most.
As hard as I tried for 2 years, I could not recover from my ED on my own. After almost 9 months in 2022 of “trying” to get pregnant, still without a regular period/ovulation (I had maybe 1-2 periods in that time) I realized that I needed help. I wanted a baby.
This is when I started therapy. This was a tough decision for me, as I believed the lies that “if you were really a good Dietitian, you would be able to fix yourself” and “if you really loved God like you say you do, then you should be able to believe what’s right and act accordingly”.
I am glad I fought through the lies and made the appointment. I came to really believe in my heart that it is TRUE that we cannot treat ourselves (even therapists see other therapists, doctors see other doctors), and that having an ED is not a choice, it is a mental health condition. I also came to realize that it is TRUE that you can still love God deeply and have a relationship with Him, and also seek professional help when necessary because we are imperfect humans living in our “already, not yet” reality of being saved, yet still waiting for the completion of our salvation.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of these will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
Jesus’s words in Matthew really spoke to my heart during this time. I remember taking walks and through tears crying out to God, “why am I struggling with this? Why can’t I keep my behaviors and this identity?”
This is the verse I clung to throughout therapy, I needed my heart desperately to believe that I didn’t need my ED behaviors to be happy, to be worthy, or to be known. That my identity is in Christ alone, and that He loves me so much that He knows exactly how many hairs I have on my head. That His love for me is enough. That the praises I would ever receive from the world pale in comparison to His love and purpose for me.
Through my professional work in therapy, seeking His Word and His people, I got my period back naturally in December of 2022. Not only did I get my period back, but my heart and my mind went through a lot of healing. I now had more coping skills, and the things I knew to be true in my head about movement, food, my body and identity really started making its way to my heart.
I didn’t get my period back again in January 2023.
Because I saw the 2 blue lines show up on the ClearBlue pregnancy test. I was pregnant.
God’s timing is beautiful and perfect. He knew that those couple periods throughout 2022 when I did get my menstrual cycle back, that I was not mentally or emotionally ready to have this baby. Looking back, I knew that I was not mentally or emotionally ready. I am still in awe to this day that the Lord blessed me in this pregnancy as quickly as it happened. I truly realize how much of a gift that is - because it is not the case for everyone, and I am so, so grateful.
If you are struggling with irregular/missing periods because of a disordered relationship with food and your dream is pregnancy, I hope my story helps inspire you to move towards recovery.
If you are struggling with your mental health and need professional help, don’t let your fears rule you. You are not “less of” anything if you need professional mental health services. It can be life altering, just like in my story.
Maddi Osburn RDN LD