It’s Going To Be Alright: On Conquering Anorexia and Self-Loathing

By Jennifer Pastiloff

I’m on the New Jersey Transit on my way to New York City to lead one of my Manifestation Yoga® workshops and my head is lolling back and forth so much, seemingly by its own will, that I’m afraid it might snap off and roll down the aisle if the train stops suddenly. I’ve just left Princeton where I led a workshop. Before that I was in Philadelphia and Massachusetts. I’m tired. My head is tired. It’s heavier than normal and my brain feels electric, as if there is a fire inside.

When I get this tired my mind slips into what is easy. Yesterday on the phone, my childhood friend said something to me about how when we are stressed we pleasure seek. Yes, I do tend to sip a little too much wine when stressed, but more than that, I seek to find fault. I become a fault seeker when I am stressed.

When I am tired or stressed, I revert back to old “easy” patterns. Patterns like “I’m so fat.” “I look gross.” I hate myself.” B.S. all of it. But I survived on those patterns, they are what sailed me through years of my life. When I am tired I revert. It’s the easier thing to do because really, who wants to “work” when they are bone tired and exhausted to the core? Not me.

But I must. I lead workshops around the world. I have thousands of readers on my site The Manifest-Station. All of these people are looking to me.

Yea, and?…

It’s not them I must do the work for (although I do feel some sense of responsibility to be the best version of myself I can be.) I must do the work for myself. For my own sanity and happiness. I cannot get by on air anymore.

When I am over tired and the voices from my past start to loom, I must simply take a break. Literally slow it down. Wallowing in my own suckery (my latest made up Jen-ism) is something I refuse to do anymore. (Did it all through my 20’s and it was awful.)

I close my eyes on the train and rest. When I open them I see a little girl wearing glitter boots and a princess tiara and I wonder if she has thought yet of the words, fat, ugly, gross.

I didn’t start my journey with anorexia until I was seventeen but I know that some girls get initiated into this belief system a lit earlier. I sent her a little imaginary fairy dust and wished only lovely words for her: magic, beautiful, capable.

How much we do to survive. The lengths we will go to make it through one more day without having our heads explode or roll down the aisle of a train.

I think a lot about what people do to survive in the world and how easy it is to judge them for it. I didn’t know how to deal with my grief over losing my father so young so starved my pain out. I hated myself because hating him wasn’t bringing him back into the world.

Jennifer Pastloff

I recently found an old journal entry which made me stop breathing as I read it. Pages and pages of the same types of sentences. All filled with self-loathing.

Looking through the old journal I find myself at a set of train tracks, which if I choose to cross will take me to the dusty town I used to live in, filled with nights of pressing my ribs to make sure they still protruded and days of heavy eyelids from not sleeping. If I choose to cross the tracks I can go back to the barren land of self-abuse and hatred with it’s county jail filled with only one occupant: me.

If I choose to cross the tracks I will meet again with the devil and shake his hand firmly, look him square in the eye and say politely: F*ck Off.

So, here I go. I am at a set of tracks and I will cross them and go back to that dusty little town so I can take back what I left there. So I can grow and expand and share with anyone what is truly possible in terms of healing and discovery.

***

8/2/1995

I am already dreading waking up tomorrow morning because I wake up so depressed. Tomorrow I will NOT wake up depressed. I refuse! I am in control of my life. Of my emotions. No more waking up depressed, no more binge eating. I am the only person in control of my life. No more feeling sorry for myself.

Tomorrow I will not feel guilty for all the food I ate tonight. I will MAYBE eat some fruit. I will not be sad. I will not obsess. I will get in shape and lose weight. I won’t night eat anymore. I am certainly in control. I am NOT fat.

Why do I hate myself so much? Why am I so self destructive? Why do I feel so down and unworthy? Why do I feel so ugly? Why do I obsess over food? Why do I have such a fucked up relationship with food?

Well… No More!

I am so bloated. I am not eating anything else today. All week I ate so much. Pasta, potato chips, Indian food. Raisins! My new diet starts today. My does my face look so fucking ugly?

I don’t want to be this way. I want to be normal.

From now on I can deal with hunger. I’ll eat my own hunger.

***

I share because I think it’s important to see me now, not as someone who is perfect (far from it) but rather as someone who chosen to be here fully. Someone who made it out alive to the other side.

That’s not to say the journey is always easy. Some days it’s hard. I forget to breathe or I have to avoid mirrors. But mostly, I am doing okay in the world. I have learned to feel what I need to feel instead of avoiding it or starving it to death. I try and teach or share what I have learned along the way as best as I can.

People have an illusion sometimes that when you “heal” things miraculously disappear for good. That’s not been true for me, or most people I know. It’s a process. A one foot in front of the other, one breath at a time, today I am going to love myself process.

So I am here on the train watching this little girl rest her head in her mother’s lap. She looks safe and content, so much so that I start to feel that way as well. I focus on my breathing (basically that I am remembering to breathe) and my head feels like it’s no longer about to decapitate.

I’m a big advocate of safety. I like to feel safe. I seek out situations and people that make me feel safe, to a fault.

It’s going to be okay. Everything is going to be alright. The words buried under my tongue like little hopefuls. They are always there, waiting in the wings. It’s going to be okay. Don’t worry in my mouth, fraying in the back of my throat, choking in my spit. It’s going to be alright buried in my gums.

So I say them to myself out loud there on The New Jersey Transit, Everything is going to be alright. It’s going to be okay. And I think the little girl in the princess tiara hears me because she lifts her head up from her mother’s lap and smiles at me.


Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer and international yoga retreat leader, Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of the popular The Manifest-Station blog. She’s been featured on Oprah.com, NY Magazine, Good Morning America, to name a few. She leads yoga/writing retreats and workshops around the world. All information at www.jenniferpastiloff.com. She tweets and instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Her Facebook tribe can be found at www.facebook.com/jenniferpastiloff.com.

Photos: Jen Pastiloff

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  • Beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing

  • Hope Novello

    Jenn,

    I feel what you were feeling. And while I’ve never walked in your shoes I seem to understand it. To get where you were. I empathize with you. But I also see the new and improved you. The you that walked through the fire by simply putting one foot in front of the other. And you made it. And you maybe discovered your purpose along the way. To help, to teach, and to share. To give back to the world. And what a gift that is.And this I understand because I too have walked through the fire. Just a different fire. And I am on my way too. Love ya….

  • opening it all up so beautifully and honestly heals the writer and the reader xo

  • Liz

    Jen,

    Reading this brings back so many memories, at least the memories I can remember because unforfortunately over the years my memories are non-existant. Perhaps my self conscience mind’s way of protecting me? My mom will tell me things that happened during the prime of my anorexia (12 years old – 20 years old) and it’s as though I was never there as I literally can not remember. Your journal entry resembles those that I wrote during my teens. I’ve only picked it up a time or two to glance through it as it pains me to read how I was, but, I can relate to what you wrote completely. At 34 years old now I have done a 180 since my 85 pound anorexia days. I have since competed in Figure and Bodybuilding competitions placing 1st and overall in the last I did. The obsessive nature of the eating disorder that enslaved me for so many dark years followed me into my 20’s even though I began eating. I went from one extreme to another spending hours in the gym. I can say with a sigh of relief that I have found a sense of peace with myself since those days. I am still on a quest to figure out my purpose and find happiness, whatever that may be, but, I have done the same as you by getting that demon of starvation off my back. I am happy for you that you get to share your story and help others. That is something I have always desired to do as well. If you ever need contributing writers or something of that nature please contact me.

    Sincerely,

    Liz

  • Deb

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful, truthful, authentic self & part of your difficult journey. You are such a gifted writer !

    love, your skaken sister

  • cindy daniels

    I retreated with Jen this weekend. She is authentic and walks the talk, and inspires others to do the same. Awesome woman, amazing experience!

  • Shannon

    This made me tear up.. I love you Jen Pastilloff! xo

  • Cassandra

    Jen
    Your words are flawless; they hold such truth; boy do I understand self loathing; thank you for sharing your soul; xoxo
    Cassie

  • “I sent her a little imaginary fairy dust and wished only lovely words for her: magic, beautiful, capable.” ~ This line is one of my 5 most beautiful things today. Note to self: A sense of wonder, eyes that see into and not look past or through, a pocketful of fairy dust, lovely, kind, empowering words, and a smile…don’t leave home without these super weapons. Cape is optional. I love you Jen Pastiloff. You are beauty, your Manifestation retreat this weekend was beauty, and these words and the hope that drips from them, saying “Everything’s going to be all right” is beauty. P.S. I’m super glad your head didn’t fall off and roll around the train. That would have been super awkward when aiming the fairy dust.

  • Janet

    Jen, beautiful and profound as always. Thanks for sharing and for being so gorgeously, apologetically you . And I love it that you sent the little girl magic and fairy dust – I’m going to take up that practice! xo, Janet

    • Janet

      That should read UNapologetically you 🙂 Love.

  • Juliana

    Thank you so much for sharing this Jen. I had never really stopped to think about when I tear myself apart, and it is in times of stress that I am the most critical. Next time I feel stressed I will choose to be MORE kind to myself, and not less.

  • Gwendolyn D’Amico

    The insightfulness of this article could be applied to many topics for which we beat ourselves up. It is good to hear from someone else who has experienced this to say it is ok to forgive ourself. I will also send fairy dust to all young girls I see so that they may grow up talking positively to themselves. Bravo Jen. You are unapologetically awesome!!

  • Erin

    And this, Jen, is why I brought my daughter to your retreat. After having my own retreat experience, I knew how powerful and healing it could be. As I expected…you reached her, Jen. Your journal entries as a young woman could be her journal entries…hell, they could be MY journal entries from 25 years ago.
    You saw exactly where my daughter was. “Can’t bullshit a bullshitter” you told her, when she was going to “pass” on dinner. I’ve seen her door closing tighter and tighter for years, and you put your foot right in there and shoved it open wide enough for her to look out and see the beauty of that place; those 3 days; the people who surrounded her and supported her.
    Your writing gives me affirmation and hope. Body image can be transformed. Some days may be better than others, but there is the possibility for acceptance and healing and self love.
    Thank you always….my Jen.
    XXOO

  • Love your raw, vulnerable, powerful self. You open the door for people to look at their stuff and deal with it, once and for all, deal with it. Thank you.

  • Janice

    Jen, this made me want to both hug you, and stand up and cheer for you. I love that you shared the journal entry. It was unbearably sad, but so real. I certainly have those kinds of entries, and the dates are not so far back as that. You continue to inspire in so many ways. xo

  • Sofía

    Thank´s for showing us your true self… loved it <3

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