097. A Bulimia and Orthorexia Recovery Story ft. Sabrina Vega; @sabrinavadaui

sabrina

Written By:

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Ryann Nicole


Connect with Sabrina

📲 Instagram: @sabrinavadaui

🖥 Website: Read Sabrina’s Blog

Episode Transcript

Ryann

Hello everybody. Welcome back to the Food Freedom Lab. I have another very special guest today. I have Sabrina with us and she is going to be sharing her recovery story with us. And I am so excited to listen because I know parts here and there from looking at your social media, but I don’t know everything. But I know based on what I’ve seen, it’s going to be powerful. So Sabrina, thank you so much for being here and taking the time and sharing this with us today.

Sabrina

Thank you so much, Ryan, for having me. I’m very, very excited to be here with you. And I really appreciate you doing this for other people because I know that this is a way to feel supported and also by sharing our story, we can feel that connection that we all are in this together and we can heal as a community. So it’s important.

Ryann

Oh my gosh, 100%. So Sabrina, will you take us back and kick it off where all of this started for you and then kind of the depths of it, what ultimately led to you changing, what recovery was like for you, and then where you’re at now?

Sabrina

Yes, yes, absolutely. So I guess what I can start with is, when I was little, it was always very hard for me because I was always very skinny. So it was almost like a reward for me to be skinny. Like in this society, everyone will just like, congratulate me for that, or just tell me all the time, like how skinny I was in a way that I was feeling that it was all I had. That being skinny was part of who I was so I had to keep being that way in order for people to validate me and for people to love me and for people to accept me. And I have a twin sister also so people would compare us all the time and I was always the one that looks good, like physically, right? Like look good, like in certain way, right?

But in my head, it was really important for me to keep being that way, but I didn’t realize until, well, my dad left me and my sister when we were babies and that created a lot of insecurities in myself. I grew up being very insecure, looking for external validation all the time. So around when I was 13 years old, I met my dad for the first time. And I think that was like the key moment when all these eating disorders started really strong because I was trying to build a relationship with him, but he was with this girl. And this girl was a very hard person and she had a lot of issues like image issues and she would just like plant all these ideas in my head like oh you have to be this way, you have to, you can’t eat that, you can’t be like that and so me as this kid that thought that I had to be skinny in order to fit and then this woman comes and she started telling me all these things.

I was like, okay, I need to be like her in order for my dad to love me, you know, to accept me. Because I was starting to build a relationship with a person that I didn’t know. And on top of that, I would see that he would accept this woman, but not me or my sister. So I was like, I have to do everything in order to be this way. And this way was to be skinny, was to be like her. So I started this journey where I was just like, it started with anorexia where I was not eating a lot. I was exercising to the point where I was just like using it as a punishment for a long time. Like it was very very hard for me to get out of the circle where I just had to work out and work out and work out to the point where if one day I didn’t, I was just like hiding to do it, you know? And it was like this process where I will go jump in this moment where I was anorexic, where I was not eating enough.

And then I was going through this moment where I was just eating everything I could and then just vomit everything, just like get rid of everything. So it was a long time where I was experiencing all that. And then I kind of got better because it was really hard to keep this dynamic with my family because my mom, she was very, always, she always had a very healthy relationship with food, you know. My family was very hard on it, but in general it was a different dynamic. So it was really hard to keep just having all these behaviors. And then when I was all the way, when I was like 17 years old around that, everything started to get worse. I started to get very skinny.

Nobody would notice it because I was always very skinny, but I got obsessed with it. And I felt like food was a comfort place for me, like where I would escape from all my problems. I was going through panic attacks, anxiety, different things. And I was dealing with everything alone. I would not ask for help. And that was the problem that when I was around 25 years old, I decided to move outside the country because I was living in Peru by that time. And I moved all the way to California. And when I was like living here, I live in San Francisco now, that was like probably seven years ago. Things started to get a little worse just because I was alone and I felt really lonely and food was kind of like my escape from feeling that way.

So it was like, okay, I’m just going to eat to feel better and I would hide and then feel very bad about myself and just going into the circle where I was just like using laxative for just like different things because I felt so bad of how much I was eating But the moment eating was everything for me, right? I was just like the escape from everything. So so yes, I I started experiencing very bad moments with that then I was going to get married and my marriage didn’t work out so That’s when I hit the bottom, when I realized that everything was bad.

My marriage was destroyed and I decided to go backpacking with my twin sisters. So we went backpacking around the world for five months and we went around Europe, we went around Asia. And then during this whole process of discovering who I was, because I was so disconnected from my body, from myself, from everything, right? Everything was just like, my mind and my body was like two completely different things, right? So during this process of backpacking around Europe, Asia, I found meditation, I found different tools that let me realize, oh my God, this is who I am, and I’m just completely forgetting who I am, right?

So I went really deep into healing and understanding what was happening. And I had two episodes during this backpacking moments when I was not eating and I started realizing that, okay, something’s going on here. And that was my moment of, okay, awakening and realizing that something’s going on and probably I am lying to myself by saying there’s nothing wrong because I kind of got into the moment where I was eating everything but it was not everything, it was just like I fell into this place where I was eating just all the healthy food I could and in my mind I was telling to myself, okay you eat everything, everything is perfect so you’re fine, but then I started realizing that no, there’s still a restriction in there because you’re still limiting yourself. You’re still not wanting to eat this or this or this.

Yes, in my mind, I could be eating everything but I am not really enjoying because I’m limiting myself and I’m like thinking before doing things. So when I came back backpacking, actually a year ago or two years ago is when I started all my recovery process, when I met this new partner that I have right now and I realized how healthy his relationship with food was and I was like oh my god there’s another world that I don’t know and I like have I had no idea that existed and once I started like putting myself in this so uncomfortable places where I was like okay I have I have to try this.

So I have to put myself in this really moment where I have to eat something that probably will make me feel really uncomfortable, but nothing happened. Like the only thing that happened is that I crossed the line for something better to come. And that was the process of recovery when I discovered like freedom and a world where I was like happy and not like food had no control over me anymore. I had control over food. So that was like a long process of understanding a completely new world. And it was just like so amazing for me, really. Crazy how powerful it could be, really.

Ryann

I have chills, I have chills. Did you do recovery completely on your own?

Sabrina

Yes, actually. It took me a while to accept that I had a problem. Yeah. Because it was really hard for me to be vulnerable enough to accept it. And then once I accepted it, I was so deep into meditation. I mean, I’m a health coach, but through meditation and these different tools, I help others. So that’s the way I help myself by understanding what I was going through and then accepting it. And once I accepted it, I went through the most uncomfortable place, but to be where I am now, and this is like, okay, wow, I did it, and I really want to share my story with others so they know that they can do it, you know?

Ryann

Oh my gosh, I love that. So with you being very into meditation, I’m curious, like, because obviously a lot of the disorder and the chaos comes from our minds. So did that help quiet the thoughts or how did meditation help specifically with recovery?

Sabrina

Yes, that’s a really good question because meditation is a very powerful tool and also it can be very hard for someone that has eating disorders because it’s like you have another human inside of you telling you the opposite of what you should be doing. So meditation was very helpful because it helped me observe this part of myself and look at it with compassion, like from a different perspective and understand that, okay, maybe this voice is going to be there for the rest of my life, but it’s the way how I approach that voice now and not how I react with what it tells me.

So meditation was to be able to sit with it and probably after having something that scared me so much just being able to sit and say okay this voice is gonna keep talking but the more I can sit with it and observe it and accept it by meditating the less it has power over me and it’s just like it’s less powerful and and less powerful over time, over time. So meditation was like a way for me to do that, to just sit with it and just approach it in a different way.

Ryann

And what is your meditation practice like?

Sabrina

This is really a very interesting question because I think it changes, depends on how I’m feeling and trying to be like, because I’ve been through any hard things in my life, I feel like I try to be very compassionate with myself because I used to be very, very hard on myself all the time. So I try to ask myself what is it that I need because sometimes I really, if I could sit for an hour and be meditating for an hour. So it’s just like, basically what I do is just when I wake up is the first thing that I do is I sit and meditate and try to have like an intention for my day.

And then it’s like kind of my tool to start my day. So meditation, so, but I don’t have like a rule and how long it has to be because sometimes it could be 20 minutes, it can be 40 minutes, it can be an hour, but it’s regularly, yeah, every day. And sometimes if I’m having a hard day, and especially because I feel like I can say that I’m not 100% recovered from my eating disorder because it’s been all my life pretty much since I was 13 years old and I’m 31 right now. So it started only two or three years ago so I could be 80% recovered. So meditation is a tool that I do every day for me to be able to deal with this. Sometimes if I eat something and it’s triggering something on some thoughts, I sit and meditate during the day and just like try to look at it with more compassion, yeah.

Ryann

I love that. So going off of that, with bulimia recovery, I know a lot of my clients express, and I know that I felt this as well, just like the overwhelming anxiety of sitting with the food and then not releasing it. What helped you when you decided, okay, I am ready to do something different and I know that means that like I need to stop engaging in these behaviors. What helped you sit with that food with that anxiety in the beginning?

Sabrina

Really knowing and repeating to myself that nothing’s going to happen. Like, life keeps going the same way, and it doesn’t matter if I eat more today or I will eat more yesterday or less yesterday. Life keeps going. And something that really helped me a lot is that I had a lot of digestive issues because of how hard I was with my stomach. Like, I ended up having very, very, very, very bad issues where I had to recover from that as well physically. So one thing that helps me a lot is just to really talk to my belly and just like really look at it and touch it and say, hey, everything’s going to be okay and I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I did to you because I feel like there was a disconnect.

Of course, there’s a disconnection when you have a nuding disorder, but it’s just like I was really so heartened and at that time I didn’t know, but now I know that I don’t want my stomach to go through that again. So that’s like my tool to say when I eat something, hey, you deserve it and it’s going to be okay.

Ryann

Oh my gosh, I love that practice, especially like connecting with your body after being connected for so long and coming from this place of compassion of just, hey, like putting your hands there where, I know for me, it was triggering to put my hands on my stomach. So I put a pillow there and then like wrapped around the pillow, but I did some of that too. And it feels like silly at first, but it really does make such a difference.

Sabrina

Yes, because it’s like I really practice a lot talking to my body because for so long I was just like so hard on my body and yeah it can sound really weird but the more you practice it the more you realize yeah it’s just like it’s a part of you and it really allows you to do so many things every day so it’s just like being appreciative of that and having gratitude around like, hey, I have two legs and some people they don’t, or I have arms and it allows me to do all these things, you know, and it’s just like having like gratitude every day I wake up and just like realizing all the things that I’m capable of doing because of my body, it’s just like, it’s very important, I think.

Ryann

So important. Going back even further, I’m curious to know, I know you mentioned in your story being in denial for a long time and not realizing what you were doing was actually a problem. When did you connect the dots of, wait a minute, what I’m doing with food is becoming a problem?

Sabrina

I remember exactly the moment because I decided to become a health coach. I was studying a lot about nutrition as well and just because I wanted to understand what food does in our body, right? And they were talking about orthorexia and I haven’t heard, at that time I hadn’t heard of that. So I started like reading about orthorexia and I was like, oh my God, I started reading all the symptoms and different things and I was like, this is very similar to what I’m experiencing right now. And in my mind I was like, okay, I’m fine, but this is not normal. Like, I feel like everything that they were like listing and that was everything I was doing. So I was like, okay, there’s probably still something going on. And I sat with my boyfriend now, but that was like probably two years ago. And I sat with him and I told him like, oh, hey, can you read this?

And he made a joke and he was like, oh, that’s you, that’s my baby, because he called me like that. And I was like, okay, and I started laughing, but inside of me, I was like, I started learning more, wanting to learn more what it is and what’s happening. And then I started reading more books, anti-diet, intuitive eating, and I started learning about all this. And I was like, okay, there’s still a restriction here. And then I started connecting all the dots, all these moments in my life when I was just like limiting myself and I was just like not doing so many things that I wanted because of food and how scared I was of food as well. And I was still scared and I was like, okay, this is a problem and I have to do something about it. So that’s when I started like all my journey of recovery, like just learning as much as I could about intuitive eating. And it was very powerful for me, especially because I was really very scared.

Many foods and it’s just like how you start like adding all these new foods that you haven’t had in a while. And it just brings so much happiness because I mean, ice cream was, I was terribly scared of it. And the first time, it was the first thing I ate when I was like in recovery and my heart was racing. I was so nervous and for probably for everyone in that ice cream place, it was like a normal day having ice cream. But for me, I was like almost crying. And it felt like freedom. And every day, the more I added more things and I was doing things that really were very scary, but helped me a lot in this process. It was more freedom and freedom and freedom, like taking a back out of my shoulder. And it was just like very, very powerful, yes.

Ryann

You can like feel the energy of the freedom just like based on how you are talking about that. What was it like sharing this with your current boyfriend and how did you open up to him about this?

Sabrina

Yes, that’s a really good question because he’s actually one of the reasons why I realized that I had a problem because of how healthy his relationship with food was. He was just like, listening to his body in a way that I didn’t even know it was possible. And that’s when I was starting also realizing that, oh, there’s something going on with me because this guy just comes and eats without thinking. He just like comes and grabs this and if he’s hungry, he doesn’t matter what it is. He just sees food as food, not like as anything else, and he just wants to nurture his body all the time. And I was like, okay, this is something weird.

And he would trigger everything at the beginning of the relationship. Everything he would do, it would trigger something on me. It all started when I realized this story I told you about orthorexia and we talked about it and then every day I would talk more about it, more and more and more and discover more things and the more I would discover the more I would tell him and he was like 100% supporting me so much. I don’t think I would have been able to do it without him because he would really support me so much and it still does and also in a way that would take heaviness out of this because the whole process was really hard for me but he would make it so light, like make fun of it sometimes and just say, oh yeah, you just ate an ice cream, it’s the end of the world, you know.

And I was just like sometimes crying but then laughing because he would make me laugh. When you ask me if I did it by myself, I don’t think it’s a good thing to do it by yourself because you really need help. I’m glad I had him, but if I could have been like with a therapist during this whole process, then I would have done it, of course, because I feel like the more support you can get and the more you can talk about it, the more you can heal and the better it is for you and the faster you can do it as well.

Ryann

Yeah. Totally. Totally. He sounds awesome. He sounds like a keeper.

Sabrina

Yes. Yeah. It’s amazing. I feel like that’s the reason why I had to go through this with him, I think, like, because he was really, yeah, a big support for me in this journey.

Ryann

Did anyone in your family struggle with food or body or what was, what were the messages that you were taught growing up in your family?

Sabrina

Yeah, that’s really another good question because my family, well I grew up with my mom’s family, right, because I met my dad when I was older, but there was a lot of issues with food all the time. It was just like, oh, you’re going to eat that? It’s always a comment around food, always if you would eat too much. And also food was like the center of all our reunions. And yes, there was always a weight of praise as if we were like losing weight or if we were gaining weight also a comment. So there was always so many negative things around food, also positive. So it was like kind of like that’s why when I moved by myself, food was kind of like my way of reminding my family and all the reunions that we had. That’s why I was just like running to eat all the food I could because it was the only way for me to feel happy, feel like I was close to my family.

So yes, growing up, my mom was very, very open with food, but my mom, she was always bigger than us. And that was another thing it was really hard because I would always see how people would treat her different just because she was bigger and even she had not issues around it it would affect me a lot to the point where I would see I would think it’s normal for her to not be able to eat certain things just because she she was a little bigger than them so people would always have a comment around her and I would feel so bad. It would make me feel, oh yeah, no, my mom doesn’t deserve to eat that because she can’t. And I would always have that idea that I can’t be like that and if I’m like, if I’m bigger, then I can’t eat that.

And it was just like a normal, normal thing for me. And now, not so long ago, I finally told my mom about everything I went through and I told her, thank you so much and I appreciate it. And I’m sorry if I ever thought that you didn’t deserve to eat something because people made me think that it was that way. And it was very healing for me to be able to talk to her about it because she was like, she really appreciated that I opened myself with her and I told her everything I went through and how she really made me feel very safe around food and she never, never, never made me feel less just because I was eating more than other people or anything else. Yeah.

Ryann

Wow. I can only imagine how healing that was not only for you, but for her as well.

Sabrina

I mean, when I realized I had an eating disorder for a long time, I never talked to anybody about it. And with my mom, it was always to show myself vulnerable, but it was the first time I could talk to her and show vulnerability and connect with her in this level where I could heal as well. And she could heal too. So it was very powerful and I feel like it was very healing for her too because she had, she’s a very strong woman and she always taught me to be strong but it’s good, it was good for me to validate the way she was feeling as well.

Ryann

I’m just so amazed that you did this on your own because that is not easy and I know that it can feel really hopeless when you don’t have the resources or you don’t have the financial means to connect with somebody else. But I think that it’s so important to be able to share that you are able to do it on your own. Will you talk us through, I know you mentioned, you read anti-diet and intuitive eating, but what were some of the other things that you did to help as you were beginning recovery and like some of the things that you did on your own?

Sabrina

First of all, read a lot about it. I read, yeah, all this book and tried to get all the information possible around. And I feel like something really important was to just get rid of all the things that were not helping me during this journey. Like I know social media can be very toxic and a plus was like for a long time I didn’t have social media. I disappeared from social media for like three years. So it was really helpful for me to not see anything. But then when I came back to social media and I started seeing all of these new trends and stuff and diets, I was like, okay, I’m not going to follow anything like that. And if I see someone that would trigger something, I would just like stop following it and try to respect my process and try to know that it is hard right now because I’m in a process of recovery to see these things. That’s why I have to get rid of all that.

So that was one of the first things I did. Then I, all the information I could and then it was just trying all the things that scared me. Try it, try it and try it and try it and keep trying and keep trying and even if I would go back to a small little because I feel like recovery is like up and downs right you can you can just do something one day and then the next day go back to the to your routines again but it’s just like when I catch myself doing the same thing that I was doing okay let’s try something new today and also having patience a lot of patience because it takes time and talk about it with as many people as I can. As I could, I didn’t, but I’m just like anyone that is listening to this and is going through recovery, I think it’s very, very important to talk about it with as many people as you can that you trust, of course. It’s not that you’re just going to go and talk to everyone like a hey, you know, but it’s just like talking to the people that I love the most about this was so helpful and it’s very healing because saying it out loud, it makes it real and it makes recovery real.

So that’s another thing that I did and then just really trying, trying all the things that scared me all the time, I would just do it and deal with it after and that’s the reason why I think like people need support with this because I had my boyfriend and he was really a big support but if I was like on my own living by myself then it probably would have been a lot harder. That’s why I feel like if someone’s going through this alone, to not wait, just like you can have support anyway. Like I mean you were amazing to Ryann during my process because I saw your Instagram and really all your videos was like, oh my God, this is just like, this is possible. And just like encourage me to do all of these things that would scare me. So like, I would just encourage people to look for people like you, Ryann, and people that really support us through this journey is just very, very key for recovery.

Ryann

I appreciate that so much. Thank you. Sabrina, for anybody that is listening, that is feeling hopeless, that is thinking about the journey of recovery and is like, I don’t know if I can do that. What words would you have for them?

Sabrina

Look at things from a different perspective and just try to see how would how life would be if they were on the other side of it, when they don’t have the eating disorders? What would be the things that they would gain? What would be different and what would be better? And try to imagine how they would feel if they were going through that and if their life was that way. And have patience. It’s like nothing that lasted for so long is gonna be fixed in a day. And that’s the beauty of this process that that really you learn so much about yourself and just like I really I am grateful.

It’s been hard but I’m grateful for going through this because it really made me learn so much about myself, about my body, about the things that I enjoy and and to see it as a process of discovery, as a process of learning, as a process of growing, and to know that they have all the support and all the tools. All they have to do is look. Look and get all the information they can, and they have support everywhere, really. If they want, they have the support. So just to keep going, because I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s so, so worth it.

Ryann

So worth it. I always say I have yet to meet somebody. And if you know somebody, send them my way because I’ve yet to meet somebody that has said recovery wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t for me. I have never met anybody that has said that. And I so appreciate how you mentioned, you know, this was really about getting back into your life, but also cultivating that relationship with you. I think that it’s so easy to think of recovery as this is about food and this is about body and yes, that’s a part of it, but it’s so much deeper than that. It’s really about rebuilding this relationship with yourself. And that’s why I just really love the exercise that you talked about with putting your hands on your stomach and talking to your body, definitely, definitely gonna use that. Sabrina, in honor of the Food Freedom Lab, what does food freedom mean to you?

Sabrina

It means enjoyment, it means relaxation, it means not missing out moments that I would in the past and just having the freedom to be who I am because it’s not only about the food like you just said, it’s about the control. So it means letting go of control and surrendering to the moment and just enjoying life because life is only once and it really everyone repeats that but really if you think about it try to think about it life is only once and I’m waiting.

Ryann

Oh my gosh, just amazing. Sabrina, if listeners want to connect with you, chat with you more, learn more about you, where can they find you?

Sabrina

Yes, I mean they can find me on Instagram. It’s Sabrina, B-A-B-A-U-I. I’m a health coach so they can definitely find me there and they can see my website and all my different offerings that I have in there and I would love to connect with them and if they just need like someone to support them through this journey as well just to talk about something it’s just like I’m always open to to talk about this I know how hard it is and how much support and as a community we can help each other always. Yeah.

Ryann

Yes. Amazing. And I will have those links below so that you can connect with her. Sabrina, thank you again for taking the time, for being vulnerable, for being here. I appreciate you so much.

Sabrina

No, I appreciate you, Ryann. This is what you do is amazing. I really appreciate it. And yeah, let’s keep connecting. And thank you so much for having me. Really. Thank you. Thank you.

Disclaimer: If you have or suspect that you have an eating disorder, please contact a qualified healthcare professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical or health emergency, please call 911 or call for appropriate emergency medical help. 

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.