088. An Honest Story of Bulimia Recovery ft. Jetty Nieuwenhuis; @trujetty

088. Jetty Nieuwenhuis, An Honest Story of Bulimia Recovery

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Ryann Nicole


Connect with Jetty

📲 Instagram: @trujetty

Episode Transcript

Ryann

Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the Food Freedom Lab. I am so grateful for today’s guest. I have Jetty here and she’s going to be sharing her story of disordered eating recovery. And, you know, we have a lot of guest experts on here that talk about how to recover. And I think that that is so important. And what I think is equally important is hearing somebody else say, you know, I’ve been through it and this is what it was like for me. And this is what it took to overcome it. And I know that for me, when I heard those words that not only helped me not feel so alone in this journey, but also it gave me that motivation and that hope. And if you have hope, oh, that’s all you need to get through this. So, Jetty, thank you so much for taking the time. I’m so excited to dive into this.

Jetty

Yeah, thank you so much for giving me the platform to share my story. I’m very excited and grateful.

Ryann

So let’s go ahead and just dive right in. For anybody that doesn’t know you or doesn’t know your story, how about you just give us a brief overview and then we’ll dive in deeper to little sections from there.

Jetty

Good, yeah. I’m Jetty Nieuwenhuis. Nobody can pronounce my name but it literally means new home. I was born in the Netherlands and I moved to Canada when I was 30 with my husband of almost 25 years and then one-year-old son. I have now two boys. Mostly in Canada I was a stay-at-home mom and I started my business mid and so there is a life in midlife. And yeah, I have struggled with eating disorder, with bulimia, to be specific, from 18 till 40. And then I still struggled with binge eating restriction, and not until really the last year that I really learned, okay, I have enough of counting calories, which I always thought was my way to go. I didn’t know any better. And I found freedom. the specifics of my story and also that it’s not always going to be perfect, right? And that was a hard thing for me, the black and white thinking. And I think many people with eating disorder can relate to that. is a midway, you know, in all this that can give you a fun life again without obsessing about food.

Ryann

Yeah, so you say this started at 18. What was going on when you were 18 and what kind of kick started the controlling of food for you?

Jetty

Looking for food actually when I was like eight and like eating big amounts of sweets and I don’t, I’m still kind of trying to, I always like to know things so still trying to find out why maybe there was not enough variety in my home, I don’t know. But also food was love. I did have a dysfunctional family and food meant warmth for me. And when I was 16, I started my first diet. Before that I was like, well, I pretty much was like small time binge eating, I would say. After school, I would buy a bag of chips and eat that on the bicycle. We had to cycle to school a long time, like 40k a day. So I never became like, that kind of movement kind of helped my body, I guess. But at 16, I decided, okay, I feel too big.

And of course people said that I had, we all had big genetic hips and also when I was a child I felt big and when I look at pictures I’m like completely normal looking kid so it was in my head but the diet, I started dieting at 16 and then I had to redo a year in school because I wasn’t paying enough attention. And then my friends moved out to university to Amsterdam and I had to stay. And I think my best friend moved at that point and I think that was another abandonment thing in my life happening that I figured out, hey, I can eat lots of sweets and chips without gaining weight. And I started purging then.

Ryann

When you were younger and you said, I felt big, but when I look back, I wasn’t. Do you have any idea where that feeling came from?

Jetty

I think talk maybe in my family because I had really older sisters. I was born, well, first kind of an oopsie baby. My mom was 44, my dad 46. I was the fifth child. A brother 20 years older could be my dad. So I did not feel in place. In my family, I had sisters that were 12 years older and 14. I’m always really bad at numbers, but they were dieting and talking about those things. I remember even having a sleepover at Cousins and they were even saying like we with our last name, my maiden name was different, we have a tendency for big hips. So I always believed that. So it started very young. And I really looked, I really looked normal, even, even skinny, you know, like, so it was really in my head. And I carried that always with me. And I still have those body image struggles and, or struggles. I wouldn’t say struggles, but I really do see now that that was really at the root of always wanting to diet and lose weight.

Ryann

Yeah. And when the bulimia started, did it feel like a problem to you at all? Or did it feel like, what did it feel like?

Jetty

Uh, at the time it kind of felt like a relief. It didn’t feel like a problem. And I, yeah, it felt like a relief and an outlet. And at that time we didn’t have social media, so I also did not really know or understand that it was a problem. Deep down I knew something wasn’t right, but I also didn’t shame myself I think for it. I did also not tell anybody, not until late in my 20s to my husband. eating, that was hard to get rid of that feeling of, oh, I just really love binge eating.

Ryann

Yeah, yeah. Can you tell me more about that? Because I feel like that is definitely common in the sense of this is something that feels really good and not something that a lot of people talk about. And in the moment, yeah, it can feel like a high before the shame and the guilt comes in. Like, what was that like for you?

Jetty

Yeah. Well, of course, later in my twenties, I figured out that it wasn’t good what I was doing. And then at 40, I had my last really bulimia episode. But I mean, if binge eating is such a habit and restricting, and black and white thinking, all those habits and patterns are really hard to get rid of. So for me, yeah, it was a coping mechanism. And not until I really started living the life I want to live. Like I had always morphed myself into other people, not even for example that my husband needed me to be a certain way. No, he’s a very easygoing guy and he’s very happy for all that I’ve achieved now. But I’m just a very ambitious woman apparently and I really needed a career and I’m glad I was there for my boys but it was just not fulfilling. I also never knew what I wanted in life so it was a combination of things and I found that that made me binge eat that feeling of not being happy with my life, not being, I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I wanted and food was there. Later on, it was still like boredom or also a form of self-sabotage I would say too. Like when the scale would be okay, I was like okay now I can eat.

Ryann

Yeah.

Jetty

And yeah, especially the liking of food and liking big meals was challenging, yeah, to get rid of.

Ryann

Totally. All those mental games that we play, and I definitely did that too, like, oh my gosh, the scale is lower, I can eat more, and it’s higher, oh my gosh, you know those games that we play all along and I super appreciate you sharing that because it can be so helpful to hear like, oh my gosh, I’m not the only one that thinks this way. I would love to know because initially this was a relief for you. And that’s how it usually starts. It’s something that is kind of like, oh, this is not a problem. This is something that helps until it’s not. So when did it shift from being a relief, not really a problem, not something that you really think about, to this is now starting to control my life?

Jetty

It was, I was 36 or 37 and my dad passed away, which he was 82, and we had sort of a troubled relationship. And when he passed away, that really started to get me on the healing path of my past and starting to, but also have respect and appreciation for his life and his troubles. And I started doing different healing modalities, having coaches all through up until now. I always love to have a coach that helps me expand and grow. At 37, I realized, okay, this is not normal. And I really did not have bulimia anymore for a little bit until I started doing Ironmans. Ironman’s and I had this coach that wanted me to eat paleo for performance in zone blocks.

Looking back, I was literally eating nothing and I lost weight really quickly and then of course I couldn’t sustain it. I mean, I could not even sustain that amount of food now while not doing that kind of exercise. And so then it came back. And then right to be two weeks before my Ironman in September 2012. I was like, I have my last episode. That was really my last episode. I was so exhausted. I was so tired of all living like that. And yeah, that was really the last bulimia episode, but like I said, it’s then still hard to get off.

Ryann

How do you get rid of the restriction mindset, always wanting to diet, and what’s the next new thing? The next new thing was low carb, all these things, and then you’re still going to binge eat. Were you working with coaches before your last bulimia episode?

Jetty

Not one on one, no. When I was a teenager and a little bit early in my 20s I had some help but not specifically for eating disorder because I had not told anybody and I did not know it was a problem but there was so much shame for me around help that it was just made shameful for me. But I was even hiding my bike, looking if nobody would see me, because we didn’t have online at the time, you had to be in a place. And it was just so much shame that I did not have wanted that kind of support. When I was 37, when my dad passed away, then online started, I started to do an eating program and that helped a little bit. But when I look back I was like journaling things from that time. I’m like, oh, very disordered.

Ryann

So what do you feel like helped you break through that shame of, okay, maybe it’s not a bad thing to ask for help.

Jetty

You know, a lot of times social media gets the bad rep, but there’s also a lot of good things happening on social media. So I started to see all these life coaches and you know, you started to hear like, Oprah has a life coach and Oprah has this past, you know, has trouble. I started to see, oh, everybody has problems. And when people started talking about it, that really made me feel more comfortable. And, oh, then I got Lyme disease in my 40s. So that was really my rock bottom. And yeah, it’s just through social media and the online world, it was just more normalized. And that’s when I had different coaches for different purposes. And I never had really specific for eating disorder until I did an intuitive eating program, which I’m just happy that it’s now here, you know, and that you guys are all promoting this so much and just BSing all the rules that are out there about specific diets and foods. And I believed everything.

Ryann

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And it’s convincing. Diet culture is so convincing. I mean, there’s a reason why it’s like a $72 billion industry. It’s one of those things where it’s like, we get told to eat this, but not that, and only this time, but only with that. And that is like, what is true? It’s so hard to understand. So when you started working with all the different coaches. What were some of the things from the different coaches that you worked with that was most helpful for you in your recovery?

Jetty

What was really, really helpful is the childhood, the childhood healing, the inner child healing, however you want to call it. That was so powerful of knowing what I actually needed as a child and what, not necessarily what was wrong, but what happened to me. That’s actually a book I’m reading, but that was most, most helpful and finding all my shadows. And the funny thing is, I all that time, I still held on to macro counting, I’m not starving myself anymore. For last years I have eaten like a rockstar I guess. But I was still needing that safety. I was thinking that would be something I could never give up. kind of around food. And, but yeah, inner child healing was most powerful and then working through different stages in my life, like my 20s and my 30s being a mom and yeah, that deeper healing was for me so important to do first, I guess.

Ryann

Yeah, definitely. When you say inner child healing, for anyone that hasn’t heard of that before, or what was that for you?

Jetty

What was that for me? Well, I did like a structured program with a coach and really went back to, in my mind, mostly through certain meditations and some things you don’t even really remember or you don’t want to remember and it kind of brings back certain events and just needing, knowing that sometimes I react to things that were actually my child’s version that react to that thing and knowing how the brain works. Like, and I literally had to reprogram, kind of neuroplastic, I don’t know, a lot of people might not be familiar with that, but really reprogramming kind of rolling my whole life. And just kind of taking a distance from that and nurturing that version too. And letting her know that she is safe now and that everything worked out fine.

Ryann

Oh yeah, totally. That inner child work is so important because I think that what we never learn is that even if our mind has hidden under the rug any experiences, our body remembers that, which a lot of times when we feel a certain way around something now that we can’t really explain, like, I don’t understand why I reacted to this. Usually it’s that past version of us that has that body remembrance that we just we just haven’t healed yet and Super super important. I’m really happy you brought that up

Jetty

Yeah, it was it was very important for me

Ryann

I would love to know because you’re definitely not alone in the sense of holding on to that macro counting for the last moment because I need that structure and that’s the thing that’s giving me safety. What helped you let go of that and get to a place where you realize you can be safe without that reassurance on your phone?

Jetty

Well, first of all, it’s just very, very hard. You see so many people online preaching food freedom, but then still, you know, counting macros. I wanted to go after food freedom, but it’s still everywhere. And I mean, for some people, it might be perfect. I don’t know. I went on a trip to Europe for three weeks and I went alone to France for two weeks, which was very empowering and new for me in a pandemic. A, I’m married for so long. I had boys that were just in university, so I had, you know, empty nester. So that was a little bit uncomfortable all, but I wanted to do it. And I was in Paris and I was seeing all these people eating pastries.

And the breakfast was croissants, which I would not eat carbs in the morning, just eggs and a sausage and some butter. I would save my carbs for later in the day, which was a problem I found out later. And I decided, okay, I’m just going to eat whatever I get on my trip. I’m just going to adjust. And I also know I’m traveling more. And since then, I have traveled and I want to travel a lot and also for me being a model and doing photo shoots everywhere, I was like in my mind, how can I count macros, go on all these places in the world, and then get off my plan and feel good, no shame and guilt, I want to learn to listen to my body and just I want to learn to eat in New York a breakfast or lunch or eat pizza, but I want to learn when to stop.

And that was really the turning point. When I came back from that trip, I tried vigorously counting calories and it was like a disaster. And yeah, it was like, I don’t wanna live like that anymore. Or, you know, then going on a trip, for example, in December, I went to an all-inclusive and when you’re used to counting, and you see all this food, you lose control, or you’re gonna be really clean, which I did in the past, when I was with my kids on vacations and very lean. And I would bring my cereal even one time and I’m like, what an example. Is that not good?

What, how does it make me feel not good? You know, to keep up that leanness with behaviors like that. then finally flipping to the point where you have that bite of dessert and then go all out. And yeah, I was like, I cannot live like that anymore. I want to learn to trust my body, like I have to trust everything in life. I have to trust my body and I had that illness to the Lyme disease because I felt this disconnect between mind and body and I just wanna be one.

Ryann

Yeah.

Jetty

Whole.

Ryann

Yeah, oh, so beautiful. Throughout that process, did you have any urges or any thoughts about purging again? And if so, how did you manage those?

Jetty

Yeah, no purging, but of course, I had some weeks that I overdid it and I laugh about it with my husband now. I have a thing with whipping cream and you know I had to go crazy on the whipping cream and but not in that amount of binging anymore but just because I had to stop myself and ask okay how okay, how does it actually taste? How do I feel? All those things and creating that awareness. But yeah, I definitely had things that I had to incorporate that I still need to have. Like, a whippy cream is actually a daily thing that I have on my waffle. But yeah, no, not binging, purging. Actually, I love your reels and stuff too. So whenever I have a heart moment or whenever I had a heart moment, I just went online and looked at like motivating videos.

And one thing that really helped me was, yeah, the next meal, I can have it because I was eating three meals, four meals a day, and I went back to six meals a day. You know, it used to be years ago, then it was bad to eat six meals because we had to be fasting and have this eating window. So, and I realized that it was creating hunger in me. And so the six meals really helped me too and realize, hey, the next meal I can have food again. So just a reassurance that, yeah. So no, the big, oh yeah, I haven’t had a binge for a long time now. So yeah, it’s been good.

Ryann

What about like any thoughts about purging? Like how you manage those in the beginning where for so long that was your way to cope with any anxiety that came up, any fear around the food. Like how did you sit in that discomfort to move through that urge to not purge?

Jetty

Because I knew it would throw off my digestion and that I would feel not good. You know, body wise, because at some point, I just wanted to feel better in my body, too. And yeah, I did gain weight a little bit in that process too, you know, and but I was like, also being honest with myself and looking back at some photos, I look way good. So just finding that middle and yeah basically the purge is it’s just how it made me feel in the end and how uh but mostly in my times I did I did vomit so I’ll just share that with you and that was just creating fog in my head and you know my face uh you know so I just did not, yeah, did not want that anymore.

Ryann

Would you tell us how your life is different now with food and your overall life satisfaction and just how your entire life is different than it was when you were in the depths of bulimia?

Jetty

I was probably thinking about food all the time or researching the next new diet, binging and thinking about, okay, tomorrow, I spent hours, tomorrow I’m going to start this diet. Daily, it consumed everything in my head. And now I have a career, I do a certain form of meditation. Honestly, I don’t like sitting still. You know, people say, you need to do this, or this, or this, yeah, no. You need to do what fits with you. And, you know, some days I journal, some days I don’t if I really don’t feel, and I’m not, but I have time for all those things. I read books, I grow in different ways. You know, I look beyond the food. I was able to look into my childhood, you know, to look into myself.

And my life is… Like a couple of years ago, I decided, okay, I want to live life on my terms. I want to… I want to do this, I want to do that, yes I can be married but it also means I am my own person, I can do my own things, you know, I had all these beliefs and I was able to go after it and to stand up for myself From a victim, a person that was suffering, thinking she was suffering, a victim, a drama queen and gossip queen, I turned into a woman that, yeah, has her own career, and just living a good life with no worries around foods or bad foods and knowing that I cannot go back to that macro counting. That’s one thing I deleted my fitness pal with all those years of history. I deleted it. I’ve tried to regain it back sometimes. But I just knew that I can’t go back that way.

Nobody can tell me not to eat my cinnamon raisin bagel. You know, like I have to eat a portion of brown rice. Yeah, no, thank you. See, all those things, I cannot go back to that life. Yeah, it’s been just so freeing and just knowing that hey tomorrow I can go somewhere in an airplane And I’ll have my wine on the plane, and I don’t have to worry I can adjust to the local And for some people travel might not be but a restaurant my friend invites me for Pub night tomorrow, and I don’t have to worry that it will, you know, I can just trust myself. I can trust myself.

Ryann

Yeah, living, living! I mean, that is what I hear there and it’s just so inspiring. It’s really helpful to hear and to know that, you know, you were on the other side and now you’re back in your life. And I mean, that’s what it’s about, right? It’s about enjoying those croissants in the morning because you’re in a place where they make them fresh and having those moments with your sons and your husband and just all of the memories. So powerful. For anybody who is currently struggling with bulimia specifically, any words that you would offer them right now?

Jetty

Yeah, definitely look, get help. You know, it’s just so, help is number one thing. Like I said before, I always have coaches. Like you have a fitness trainer, you also need a trainer for your brain and for the things that you struggle with and find a registered dietitian and try different things maybe too. If one thing doesn’t work or you need to feel a connection with somebody too, if that doesn’t work then look for something else because what works for one person doesn’t work for the other, and then don’t get discouraged. Have patience, patience is a virtue, they say in life, and it really is a thing, not only for your eating disorder, it’s for everything in life, you need to have patience, and patience with yourself. But definitely the number one thing is help and look online for people like you. Find your strength in that and yeah, help. Ask help.

Ryann

Totally, totally. I mean, I think for me when I also got to the point of asking for help and realized that I couldn’t do this on my own, not saying that you can, but for me, I couldn’t. Getting to a place where I was like, if someone can help me get there faster, I’ve already spent so much time on this, it is worth it. So I think that that is huge for sure. My last question for you, just in honor of the Food Freedom Lab, what does food freedom mean to you?

Jetty

Food freedom means having my life back, having, living the life of my dreams, doing everything, every day what I want to do. And those are also things that are uncomfortable. And you know, on the day that I die, when I look back on my life, that I have no regrets for holding back. And that’s really what food freedom gave me, like joy. And I still enjoy foods. Now I’m allowed to enjoy them.

Yeah. I love that. I love that so much. Yeti, T R U J E T T Y. Yeah, I always share my truth from the moment, you know, and it might change because I change, you know, we’re growing. And yeah, I just share there my, my vulnerable real stories and the things I, especially when you look back at my posts, the things I struggled with and the inner child stuff is all there. I bash the diet culture once in a while when I’m mad at all the, you know, wellness beliefs. So yeah, that on Instagram, true yeti. Amazing. Thank you so much again for taking the time, for sharing your story, for being so vulnerable. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed our conversation.

Ryann Nicole

Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach

Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.