Then I met a woman named Kacey. She’d fought “ED” and won. I didn’t want to change, but I wanted the confidence, boundaries, zest for life and self-acceptance she had. She listened to me and accepted me where I was rather than trying to change me.

When I decided to try recovery, I remembered where she said she had gone and called The Meadows Ranch. Through a miracle, I ended up at Remuda and was shown, unconditional love. It was the first time I wasn’t judged for struggling, labeled non-compliant or told to “just eat.” It was also the first time I was challenged with the truth in love.

There I met Kelley, an RD, who modeled acceptance of her body, challenged me, and laid the foundation for me to navigate the inevitable pitfalls of the recovery process. I had two pivotal experiences with her. The first was shortly after admission when she met with me and asked how she could help me meet my meal plan since I was refusing pretty much everything.

I started listing off “safe foods” and other ED- related demands when she stopped me. She told me she loved me too much to compromise with my eating disorder and walked off. At first, I was hurt and angry with her but I came to trust and love her because she fought for me and not ED.

The second was when she led our cooking experiential and we made chocolate chip cookies. I asked about sampling the cookie dough and she did it with me without commenting on how it was a “bad” food or how it would impact her body. She modeled that all foods fit into balance, variety, and moderation and that none are “good or bad.”

Thanks to the love, support, prayers, and challenges, when I left, I was doing well. I was in my weight range for the first time as an adult and happy.

I thought I wouldn’t have to fight this battle again.

A few years passed and then I contracted a serious illness and relapsed. Because I went from healthy to critically ill in the space of a few months, my insurance denied care and nearly cost me my life. I ended up in a program that was a poor fit and caused additional mental and emotional damage. Upon discharge, I connected with Kendra, a registered dietitian new to my area. Slowly, with her help and support and the support of additional team members, I begin to heal.

For me, the hardest part has been becoming comfortable in my body. There’s a place of the recovery process when physically things look stable objectively, but mentally and emotionally it’s the most dangerous because, yes, physically I’m healthier but ED is still very vocal. It takes time to learn how to be ok in my own skin and not jump right back off the cliff again. Kendra has been the most instrumental and helping me accept my body. First, she taught me touch can be safe—she’s a hugger. At first, it freaked me out, but over the years it’s something I’ve come to look forward to and even ask for.

Another neat aspect of working with her has been she’s a former competitive gymnast and has been able to relate to some of my struggles with clothing designers because I’m more muscular than many women as the result of doing a very physically demanding job. It’s hard to find clothes that fit well off the shelf. Having someone who can normalize that struggle helped me stop trying to mold my body in ways it’s not meant to be. She also models that all foods can fit, and has joined me on many an impromptu snack when I brought something I’ve made into a session.

Overall, though what has helped the most has been what Kendra, Kelley, and Kacey have not done: try to force me to change. The common thread with all of these amazing women is they’ve led, guided, and listened. I’ve tried at points to force them away and yet they refused to go and for that I’m grateful. It wasn’t until I was shown love that I could begin to love myself. It’s still my most vulnerable area, but I’m no longer abusing my body. Even on hard days, I still meet my needs and give my body the care it needs.

What’s Your Story?

We want to give you a chance to share your story of learning to celebrate the beauty of your own unique body and soul.,p> Was there a major turning point in your eating disorder recovery where you finally accepted and appreciated your body? At what point did it happen, and what led you there? In what ways did it change your life?

Send a 500- 1000 word essay to [email protected] The first ten essays to be chosen for The Meadows Ranch blog will receive a free The Meadows Ranch blanket as a special gift! Submit your essay by Jan. 15, 2017. We look forward to reading your incredible stories!