I started dieting at the age of ten, the same year my father committed suicide. I stole my mother’s Fibre Trim tablets as I believed that I was fat. This perception was conceived from a tender age and looking into the mirror only magnified it. During ballet class I would compare the size of my thighs to those of my classmates, and although my body was athletically built, my mind perverted this image.

I cannot say that the genesis of my eating disorder was birthed at any particular point in time, or that a seed had been planted, since the idea that fat was undeserving of love was with me all along. In spite of my father’s traumatic death, there was no one outside of myself to blame for what was intrinsic to my nature.

Of course there were external factors which contributed to my disease and helped the progression of it. Like my eldest brother whom I admired and trusted very much, was just an adolescent when he told me that fat girls don’t get boyfriends. The messages I received from my mother’s regular dieting patterns may have also contributed. However, having said that, these factors merely confirmed what was already an illness and repertoire that eating was shameful. Nevertheless, I was cognitively dissonant.

apple treeBizarre as it may seem, it is only until recently that I have begun to apprehend food as a natural means by which the body lives and thrives. I love the way Buddhists view the gathering and preparation of food as a Spiritual process for the mind, body and soul. Whilst it connects with the mystery of life, food provides a connection with the life force energy inherent in the universe.  Quite often food is visualized in its initial incarnation, and the amount of work that is necessary to grow, transport, prepare and cook it creates a conscious connection with all things in Mother Nature. As it journeys through a chain of labouring hands; farmers, truckers, grocers, chefs, friends and family all expend energy in bringing food to the table. Soil, water and sunlight are acknowledged. Imagine the sun shining on an apple tree: eating is a celebration of life! Buddhists practice tasting food with Love and so eating is a sacrament offered to the Divine.  This practice and mind-set has transformed my thinking around food and eating to something sacred.

A year ago I found myself in treatment for anorexia nervosa. I decided to give up on a preserved war that I had upheld since inception around weight control. Over indulging, binge eating, excessive exercising, bulimia, laxatives and dieting pills, self-denial, dieting and starvation patterns were all unnecessary violence’s that I imposed upon my body. Depending on my mood, food was either my lover or my enemy, thus I stopped eating altogether and starved my body from any kind of beauty and femininity. Hidden in silence I withdrew further into my introversion. The kitchen that was once my constant companion became a foreign terrain in my home. I was reduced to a wiry frame of bones with menstruation cycles that were obsolete. Naturally, I thought I looked beautiful!

Eating disordered behaviour not only robs you of life, it also enables a lack of confronting to and dealing with life on life’s terms. Dysfunctional thinking patterns concur which inevitably causes more pain and suffering as an end result. My problems were building deep and steadily in my psyche without remedy or redemption. Without a healthy outlet, the pressure cooker eventually popped and I had a nervous breakdown. This was en route to becoming mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually anorexic. Indicatively, I lost my house and all of my belongings to the bank.

Treatment felt like a holiday. I meditated, wrote and learned new communication skills to help me cope with life. That is, until the psychiatrist diagnosed me with Schizoaffective Disorder; a mental illness with schizophrenia and Bi-Polar Type II combined. As one could imagine, the unanticipated information was a lot for me to assimilate; and it has taken me quite some time to receive this prognosis.

In simulacrum to eating disordered behaviour, mental illness is also a disease that no one can be blamed for. However, there were several conditions throughout my life such as the trauma of my father’s suicide that helped the disease to carry. Stumbling upon thirteen months in recovery, my heart has cracked open to receive a new compassion for my dad, myself and the world. And now I wish to share this Love and healing with others, through the vehicle of Recovery Coaching. We are people suffering with the extemporaneous disease of addiction, fighting the uninvited guest that obstinately seduces us into the arms of hell! Wanting to recover and to be in a state of wellness just for today is a humble journey that we must walk together. I am fortunately beginning to acknowledge my body with gratitude who lovingly still serves me today, in spite of my belligerent attitude and acts of cruelty towards it.

Recovery Coaching has taken me to a place that is beyond the traditions of 12 step reclamation. On the odyssey we aspire towards freedom, passion and purpose. It is a conduit for mentorship through which Love can express herself, manifesting in growth and abundance. All sickness and disordered thinking processes can be used as an opportunity to reunite with ourselves, each other and the Divine. And we ought to welcome and embrace the challenge!

Thank you for letting me share.

“Wakan Tanka nici un | May the Great Spirit walk always by your side.”

Onatah | Lisa Ann Cantano

For more information about Recovery Coach Training or our Recovery Wellness Program that addresses substance abuse and addictive behaviour diroders, please contact leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za | (011)728-9200