Episode 17: Compassion and Connection, a Recovery Story, with Amy Brown
Content Warning: The following podcast episode explores one individual’s story about her eating disorder and may contain depictions that can be triggering for some individuals.
[Bouncy theme music plays.]
Sam: Hey, I’m Sam!
Ashley: Hi, I’m Ashley and you’re listening to All Bodies. All Foods. presented by The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders. We want to create a space for all bodies to come together authentically and purposefully to discuss various areas that impact us on a cultural and relational level.
Sam: We believe that all bodies and all foods are welcome, we would love for you to join us on this journey. Let’s learn together.
Ashley: All right, welcome back everybody for another episode of All Bodies. All Foods. Ashley and Sam are here, and we have a wonderful guest joining us today, Ms. Amy Brown. Amy Brown is the co-host of The Bobby Bones Show, iHeartMedia’s award winning country radio show. Amy also hosts the Women of iHeart Country and The Country Top 10 with Bones. She recently launched her new podcast, 4 Things with Amy Brown, and also hosts the Outweigh podcast, which aims to break the stigma and expose the truth about disordered eating. She is the co-founder of Espwa, a clothing and accessory line that benefits organizations and initiatives in Haiti. And last but not least she’s also a mother. Amy, thank you so much for being here with us!
Amy: Quite the intro, naming the different things. You know, I’m excited to be here and talk about this. It’s rare that I hop on somebody else’s podcast, especially when it comes to the disordered eating, body image, eating disorder space. So, thank y’all for inviting me!
Ashley: Yeah, definitely.
Sam: Yeah, thanks for being on here.
Ashley: I was—I joined Amy’s podcast Outweigh a few months ago and we talked about all sorts of things, body image, working with teenagers, things like that. And I really wanted her to be able to come onto our podcast and share her story, and just talk to us about her experience in general. And so, Amy, I would love to just hand it over to you and learn a little bit more about you.
Amy: Well, when it comes to my eating disorder, I found it, or it found me, however you wanna look at it, when I was about 13. And I don’t really know… here’s what— here’s my theory behind what it is, because I think I spent years in therapy trying to chase down what caused me to start to eat more food, or restrict more food. And for me personally, I truly feel that my experience was, I started dieting too young. So around that time I was exposed to dieting, before that I hadn’t really— there’s some circumstances that happened where this family came to live with us for a little bit, and the, they were building a house. It was sort of like a, “Hey, instead of renting somewhere,’ my mom was like, “Come stay with us!” Which is totally fine, I love them, and there’s no ill feelings, but the mom was a dieter and brought in different things into the house that I was like, “Oh, ok, spray butter? Oh, what’s this?” And so, I started putting these things in my body that my body is like, “I don’t really— this is not doing anything for me.” So then that led to more and more restriction, and it was the nineties, so also everywhere I looked that free, this free that.
Amy: So, I was like, “Oh, I can have all the SnackWell’s in the world, there’s no fat!” But the problem is I would restrict and then I would eat a whole box of SnackWell’s. So, it was binge, restrict, binge, restrict. And then the binges would get bigger and bigger, to where then I needed to figure out a way to purge. And for some people that’s working out, for me sometimes it was two hours at the gym. But honestly, that was sort of, by the time I got to high school and college two hours at the gym was sort of praised.
Amy: So, I didn’t ever see that as a purge.
Amy: And then, and I purged the other— I would, you know, force myself to purge in other ways as well. So, I knew that I was very damaging to my body, I think even emotionally it stunted me. But I have compassion for myself back then too, because I was just doing the best that I could. And my brain actually was trying to take care of me. So, when I say that I think I started dieting too young, part of my big— a big part of my recovery was a book called Brain Over Binge. And it was the first book in my adult life, I was late-thirties when I discovered it, where a light bulb finally went off. Because I had done all kinds of talk therapy, and I couldn’t really figure out why I couldn’t get to the bottom of this. Because even when I wasn’t purging in a way, and so that made me feel like I was in some sort of recovery, I was still restricting and binging, and I couldn’t end the cycle. And when I say binge, I’m not just talking about overeating, or eating too much, or having multiple meals. Like, I was in those— completely in my kitchen, standing there for maybe even an hour, like, just zoned out, not even realizing all that I had just consumed until finally, somehow, I come to and I’m— then that’s when the freak out would happen.
Amy: But I started to just kind of, again, not purge. So somehow, I thought I was in a form of recovery. I also think I spent years with Orthorexia thinking I was in recovery. But really, I was obsessed with eating clean, and it was so mentally taxing to where I could barely eat out, or go out to eat, or eat food that my family had prepared because I didn’t know exactly how much oil they used and what not. I just have so many years of disordered behavior that we could honestly be here all day long. But to put a bow on it, the Brain Over Binge really resonated with me, and then I think it all dates back— yes, I had issues with my dad, and he left us as a kid, and there’s stuff I need to work through, and an eating disorder is perfect at numbing out things. Like, if you want to numb stuff, yeah, that will, that’ll do it. And so, I do think I used it as a numbing tool, but I also think it showed up for me because my brain wasn’t fully developed and I started starving it. And then when I would give it food, it would be like, “Ok, well, I’m gonna eat as much as I possibly can at this moment because I don’t know when this girl’s gonna feed me again.” And so my brain was just doing the best that it could to try to take care of me. And then that just went, you know, and here we are. That went on and on and here we are.
Amy: I’m almost three years into full recovery, so it’s—
Sam: Wow, that’s amazing!
Amy: It was March of 2020, so 2023, this would be three years that I deleted MyFitnessPal. Which was also the month that my Outweigh podcast launched. But I was still clinging, like I thought, “Oh, but I’m doing good, I’m doing good.” And my co-host for that is a registered dietician, Lisa Hayim, and she said, “Amy, I want to encourage you to delete it. I still feel like you are going to bed every night and able to sleep because you still have that control and you enter in everything that you’re doing.” And I said, “Well, I’m just doing that for knowledge. I wanna know, I wanna make sure I’ve eating adequately, because part of my recovery, too, is eating adequately because I don’t want my brain to ever think I’m starving it again.” So that was— and I remember kind of having the, for about two weeks, I was sort of freaking out because I couldn’t enter things into MyFitnessPal. And then I got over that hump, and now here we are!
Ashley: That is incredible, yeah.
Sam: Yeah. Thank you for bringing all— you bring up so many important components of the healing journey. And one of the things that stands out to me is the concept of scarcity. When our body is feeling like food is scarce, when our brain is feeling like food is scarce, binging is actually a survival mechanism.
Sam: And it’s so helpful, I think when people, when that clicks, when it’s like, “Oh, my body is supposed to be doing this because I’m not actually getting the food that I need, and I’m in survival mode.” So, thank you for bringing that up because I think especially with binge eating episodes and Binge Eating Disorder, there’s so much shame, like, “Why am I doing this? What’s the reason?” And it’s because your body’s trying to protect you.
Amy: Right. I remember, it was either late high school, I was maybe a senior. I remember Googling… because nobody talked about binge eating. This was the nineties, late nineties. So, I graduated high school in 1999. But nobody was talking about it. I mean, you knew what anorexic looked like, you knew what Bulimia was because that was your high school. You knew people talked about certain things and you knew that, period. But it’s not like anybody was like, “Oh yeah, I’m a—I binge eat.” That’s— it’s not— it was just something felt, yes, like you said, more shame around that. And I remember actually thinking, “Oh, why can’t I have the one that just, where I don’t eat at all? And I can get to that space.” And ugh, I say that with full awareness that, like, people that have gone through that would say, “Oh, no, don’t say that!” Because I just, I know how painful every part of any type of eating disorder is, whatever you’re facing. It’s just taxing, and exhausting, and it can be put you in a really, really dark place for sure. So, I just wanna make sure I recognize that because— but I mean, I don’t know if y’all ever found yourself wishing you had it this way because that seemed like the more acceptable way. But I remember trying to look up if there was Overeaters Anonymous, and I almost went to a— I didn’t end up going, again because shame, but I sourced a meeting in my town that was Overeaters Anonymous, and that’s the closest I got to ever really, online, at least the description, understanding or knowing that I wasn’t alone in whatever was happening.
Amy: But again, I never even went to the meeting. But then, thankfully, we’re at a place now, 23 years later, but we have been for quite some time. So, you know, 15, 20 years later, people started to talk about binge eating. And then I think that that helps people realize, “Oh, that is what I’m doing.” Because for so long I didn’t have an explanation for it. I would just, even in— I know I’ve pictured myself in my thirties doing it, my twenties, but I can even think back to when I was 16 years old in my dad’s kitchen, getting home from a night out. And it wasn’t a regular teenage “I’m snacking too much” thing. It would be— I would just stand there and dig, and dig, and dig, and look for anything and everything that I could grab. And then, you know, it’s interesting too, because it became a coping mechanism for me, even though I think it started with the dieting and the binge-restrict. But, since it did help me numb out, and I was like, “Oh, this is a helpful tool,” even when I thought I was in some form of recovery when I was orthorexic, I wasn’t really doing a lot, any, a lot of the binging or the restricting. No purging. But definitely Orthorexia, for sure. And then my mom died, and it’s like literally my brain, again, kind of did what it needed to do. It’s like, “Oh, wait! I know how to protect you from this pain.”
Amy: “You just ate dinner, let’s go get rid of it.” And I just remember, just being so aware, but also felt like I had no control. It’s like, I knew what I was going to do, but there was nothing you could do to stop me. And then that is what led to— that was 2014, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. That lasted six years until 2020, full recovery. So, it can, you can relapse. Like, it—
Ashley: Right, yeah.
Amy: It just can be bent and come back in different ways, but our brains, I again, I have compassion for that moment, and that person, and who I was, and I’m actually like, “Wow, cool, thank you brain for trying to take care of me.” And I even have some addiction in my family, that I— and now when I look at, I used to be so confused by some of their behavior, and now I have compassion for it. And I’m actually like, “Wow, you might be an alcoholic, but that’s also, again, that was your coping mechanism, that was your way of numbing out. You’re actually, like, your brain was actively trying to find a solution to this world.”
Amy: And that was its way of doing it.
Ashley: Amy, I just want to say, I get, as a therapist, as a clinician working in this field, I personally get super activated when I hear others say eating disorders are all about control. “It’s about control issues, you know, yada, yada, yada,” because I could not agree with you more about the fact that this is a coping mechanism. This is something that our brain is desperately trying to do to help us in a scenario that feels overwhelming and unmanageable. And I just, I want to echo your words so much, because I know that we have listeners that are hearing you today, and they’re like, “Whoa, that’s how I feel, that’s how I feel.” Even back, you know, at the very beginning when you mentioned, like, “At one time, I wanted to have this, you know, eating disorder over the other. Like, why couldn’t I have this one?” Our listeners are experiencing this, they’re understanding this, and just to echo again that, like, it really is something that kind of takes over our system, takes over our brain, and is something that helps, or so we think, right, that it is helping serve us in something that just feels totally unmanageable.
Sam: It serves a function.
Ashley: Well, it’s serving you until it doesn’t.
Amy: That’s because you will hit either a breaking point, or there’s death. Like it’s— I felt as though, when I was actively in my disorder, it was a slow suicide.
Amy: And I honestly was kind of okay with that. Like, I would know— because there was times where I thought, “Oh my goodness, like, I don’t know what’s happening with my—” because you’re, the behaviors, and how you’re treating your body, and what is happening is not normal. You’re asking your body to do something that, you know, whether you’re, you know, I’ve done the laxative thing too. Like, you’re, however you’re mistreating your body, it’s having to respond to that, and then, you know, you look at your organs and wanting to take care of them, and your heart rate when certain behaviors are happening, and your throat. Like, I kept being— “My eyeballs, I feel like they’re gonna pop out of my head,” or my brain was gonna explode. Like, I would have all these feelings. Or like my neck, I just remember thinking, “I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to move my neck after.” Like, there was just so many things, but also in that moment it didn’t matter.
Amy: But then I would also think, “Oh my gosh, if I were to pass out and die right here, this is how people would find me.”
Amy: But then, you know, I had to finally get to a place where enough is enough, and I was like, “This is no longer serving me and I want connection in my life. I want to free up space in my brain, because it completely consumed me. I want to have relationships with people,” and it’s really, really, really hard to have relationships with people when you have an eating disorder.
Sam: Yeah, exactly. Well, they’re disorders of disconnection.
Ashley: Yeah. Amy, I’m curious, so, you talk about like kind of the eating disorder starting when you were a teen and then kind of having some years of success and then having that relapse. I’m curious, can you think back about those initial points when you were younger, what was the catalyst that, like, encouraged you to get help the first time? And then the second time, like after the relapse, my thought is there is the… or there maybe was more shame or more kind of, like, “yuck” attached to it the second time— what was the catalyst? What helped you say that “I can’t do this anymore. Like, I know I want something different in my life.”
Amy: So, the first time I ever threw up, I remember calling my mom after, and I told her because I had done it at my dad’s house, and I called my mom and she was, I was like, “I don’t understand what just happened, but this just happened,” and she immediately put me in the therapy.
Ashley: Hmm, gotcha.
Amy: Which I was very thankful for. But of course, I think that therapist literally was like, “Ok, well, let’s get to the root of this. Like, what’s—Oh, well, your dad left. Duh, that’s it.” And it was sort of like, “Okay, end of story.”
Amy: “This is why you’re doing it. Your dad left, and you’re a high schooler, and you want to feel thin.” And I’m like, “No. I mean, I guess the initial dieting was something about that, but it’s because I was exposed to it. And then, yes, society was saying this, this, and this.” And I honestly do remember friends that I felt like they could eat and eat and eat whatever they wanted. And I remember being jealous of that, because I didn’t feel as though I could do that, or I didn’t have— and I felt like they had such self-control around food. But thinking back, they were my friends that they didn’t, they weren’t exposed to dieting. They weren’t trying to control their food. So, they ate when they were hungry, they stopped when they weren’t. And I remember being so jealous of that.
Amy: But I think for me, it boiled down to, for me, dieting too young, and then my brain doing what it was gonna do. But then having thankfully a relationship where I could tell my mom right away. And then I continued the purging, but here’s the problem, I didn’t realize that going to the gym for hours on end is purging.
Ashley: Was purging.
Amy: So, I didn’t have that knowledge to know that I was being unhealthy. And so then when I got to college, I was still kind of on that, maybe once a month, maybe quarterly, like, I still dabbled in the— but I still had no control around food. None. It was off the charts, like, it was just so bonkers, and I had such an unhealthy relationship— my friend and I were actually— the story came up for the other day because she, she’s our friend Kat DeFatta—
Amy: So, she’s a therapist and she was telling me how she really wanted a Sesame bagel with butter, and she picked it up to go so she didn’t check the bag, and when she got home, it was a sesame bagel with cream cheese. And she was just having one of those days, and it made her… she cried over a freaking bagel.
Amy: And she, it wasn’t about any of her disordered eating past, like, it had nothing to do with that. It’s just that she really was annoyed that she drove to try to do something nice for her and her boyfriend and then her bagel was messed up. But clearly, I was like, “Let’s get to the, surely there’s something else going on that’s bothering you.” But it made me think of a time where I was in college and my boyfriend made me eggs, and he used the yolk. And I… I lost it. It’s almost like— he broke up with me and I get it, like, now. Like, looking back, I’m like, “I would have broken up with me too.” I was a nightmare. I couldn’t even recognize that someone did something nice and made me breakfast, my brain could only fixate on the fact that “I can’t eat these eggs now because there’s yolk in them, and I only eat egg whites.” And so, after he broke up with me, I think that’s when I also did some self-reflection of like, “Oh, I gotta get control of this,” but I just found other ways to disguise it. It’s almost like, “Ok, well, I’m gonna make it that I can’t eat gluten, or I can’t eat yolks, like, my body can’t handle that.” So, then I had all these— I was trying to get pregnant, so I read this one book that sent me on a whole disordered eating path because I had to be vegan, dairy free, gluten free. But it was the perfect disguise because I got to walk around being like, “Oh, well, sorry, I’m on this special thing because I’m trying to get pregnant.” But really if you were to dig deep, I was using that as my beard. Like, my way of continuing my disordered behavior, but with permission from everybody else because, “Oh, she’s doing this special thing where she barely eats and she controls everything because she wants a baby.”
Sam: Mmm. That eating disorder is sneaky.
Amy: I know. I never got pregnant by the way, but yeah. And I don’t know if I went back to your original question of, like, getting help, to go back to that. I remember going to my mom, and going to the therapist, and it being like, “Ok, I don’t really still feel like that’s helping me.” But then it was before I got married, I kind of—or right after college, I think. Maybe it was after that boyfriend had broken up with me. I know it was right before I met the person that I ended up marrying.
Amy: So, it was somewhere in there that I decided, “It’s sort of like I’m getting this fresh start.”
Amy: “So I’m no longer going to purge, or throw up.” And that’s when I started my calculation of how long I went without throwing up. But, and again, that’s what I defined as recovery. But if you look back, and knowing all we know now about disordered behaviors, I was not in recovery at all, because that’s when I was doing that BS about, you know, trying to get pregnant and I was—
Ashley: The fertility, right.
Amy: Yeah. And to some extent there is some control things, I think, that end up happening because you want to— and I can see for some people where it could be a total control thing. But for me it just got to where, you know, it was just obsessive, and I couldn’t, like, I was a total buzzkill anywhere that I was. My sister was so annoyed by me because she would be trying to cook, which is her love language, and I’d be like, “Dut dut dut dut, can you use this oil instead of that oil? And actually, you don’t even really need oil, do you?” Like, it just was, I was micromanaging everybody else and it was exhausting.
Amy: And so, it wasn’t until I really wanted to stop and put in the work, like 2019, 2020, where a light bulb went off, and I’m telling you, I got that Brain Over Binge, but I think I was also in the right headspace to be committed. I had to put in the work. I had to decide enough is enough, I’m tired. It was mainly connection. I think I had also had some friends, some people close to me in life, that had shared they didn’t really feel like they knew, like, we were connected and that I was— I cared about them. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I do care!” But the thing is, you’re so, again, consumed with your eating disorder, that even though you know that you care, you’re actually not there for your people because you don’t have the head space.
Amy: Like you, you’re very wrapped up in what’s going on with you, and food, and when’s your next meal? When— how are you gonna get rid of this? When can you go to the gym? You go on vacation, you can’t really enjoy people because you gotta get in the workout. Like, everything was just ruled by that. So, I think it was also listening to those around me that are like, “Hey, I don’t feel connected to you,” and it’s like, “Oh, shoot, ok. Well, how do I want to show up in this world?” And now it’s like, “Ok, enough is enough. This served me—” And you know, I have to know too that something else may pop up, and I’m thankful that I really feel like I can confidently say here, that I put in so much work the last couple of years, that— my dad ended up passing away in 2021, and my response, just in my mind, body, spirit response to my dad dying versus my mom, and I love them equally, was so night and day. Because I was in such a safer space with myself. And I allowed myself to really grieve.
Amy: Which, I don’t even know that I fully grieved my mom until after I was in recovery, because the numbing started the day after she died. And so, I told that story as hope for people, and to know, like, don’t give up on yourself. There is hope, there is room for healing, but it takes work. You cannot sit back and be idle with this. This is something that is, you know, a daily effort, until maybe some days you’re like, “Oh, wow, look at me strollin’ through life. I haven’t really thought about food today, or I haven’t made a big deal about this, or actually, I haven’t worked out in three days.” And nothing is impacted. Your life is still the same. Because Lord knows we all have those days where it’s like— I would not work out for 24 hours and somehow I would feel that my knees were… you just started to think crazy thoughts. You’d be like, “Oh my gosh, I feel it in my knees. My knees are, my knees are getting fat. I didn’t work out today.” I mean, it’s like, and that’s not even where my eating disorder started. It just sort of like, you start to, I don’t know, you’re just making stuff up.
Ashley: It really sometimes can come on so innocently, and before you know it, I mean, you’re just, you’re so in deep and you have these intrusive thoughts. And it really had nothing to do with, like, maybe the initial starting point or what was going on, you know, initially.
Ashley: Yeah, I’m thinking too, Amy, just about what you shared about your length and your time frame of everything. And it, you know, so many people that we work with, like, they may have something going on internally, they may have some disordered eating, they may have a full blown eating disorder, and it can be so overwhelming to discuss and talk about that often, we may not see somebody presenting for help for years, right? And like, I think Bulimia, specifically the binge-purge cycle, we might see, when we see somebody finally come into therapy and come to get help, they may have been experiencing this for five or more years. I worked with a client with Anorexia and she was in her sixties when I first started working with her, and really could pinpoint back to her teenage years, and had never received help prior to then. And so, just to say, like ,what you’re sharing with us, that makes sense to me that, I mean, it— sometimes this can be years long before we’re maybe in that head space to do some of the work.
Sam: Well, especially when the eating disorder is so convincing that “You’re not sick enough.”
Ashley: Yeah, yes.
Sam: You know, or “You’re not, you’re not doing this that much,” or, you know, “Other people are much worse.” And that can really interfere with your willingness to come forward.
Amy: Yeah, I think too, you can, your eating disorder, which is your brain, it’s very smart.
Amy: And, so it’s, yeah, breaking that— building those new neural pathways takes time, and it takes patience, and it takes compassion. I love that word, when it comes to eating disorders. Compassion is so important. Like, let’s get to the— ok, now that if you have the time to figure out the “why,” ok, now that you figured out the “why,” and like, you can— I say this to myself a lot too, like, “Oh, you know, I forgive myself for having certain thoughts or treating my body that way.” Like, but saying it out loud to myself like, “Body, I forgive me for doing that to you.” And then you can release some of that guilt and, you know, the shame part, it’s tricky. Because again, you don’t always hear a lot of people talking about it. You almost have to seek out these outlets—
Amy: That y’all are talking about it, or if you’re at a treatment center, or you’re, somehow you’re around people, you have a support group. But if you don’t have any family members or friends that have experienced an eating disorder, it can be very isolating, and lonely, and confusing, and they don’t understand, and, you know— my sister, I bring her up often. She’s one of my best friends and she’s obviously known me my whole life, and she’s never had an eating disorder. And, you know, funny thing too, bringing that up to that therapist back at the beginning, like, my dad left her too, but she didn’t develop an eating disorder.
Amy: But she also, she never dieted, she never invited that into her life. So, then she always seems to have a healthy relationship with food. And she’s someone that I felt comfortable that I could talk to, but she was just like, “Gosh, I hear you and like, but I don’t get it. And then also you’re annoying,” because I was so obnoxious to be around. I mean, I felt safe talking to, you know, my husband at times. But again, until you find the right people that you can talk to that are going to really hear you, and try to understand, and offer advice that’s gonna be helpful and not perpetuating the problem or triggering in any way. You know, it’s hard to find that space depending, especially if you’re just now having that light bulb go off. Because like you said, some people have been living with an eating disorder, and maybe they’re aware of it, and maybe not.
Ashley: Right, right.
Amy: Like, there’s so many disorder behaviors where, I mean, on Outweigh we get emails from people that say, “Yeah, I’m 50 years old and I’m listening to some of the stuff you’re saying, and I do all of that. But I had no idea it was a disordered behavior. I just thought, ‘Well, this is how I live.’” And they’re kind of exhausted by it, but they just thought that’s life.
Amy: And there is so much more space and true, like, room for joy and happiness. And not that I didn’t experience any of that when I was in my eating disorder, I did.
Amy: But there’s so much more space for it now. And you have room, and you’re not living so small. Like, I just feel like my life was so small and— but people on the outside looking at my life— because I could still show up, and put on my game face, and do my job, very public job. People would have no idea that, like, I had an episode last night.
Ashley: Right. I was gonna ask, did that add another layer of complexity for everything for you, being a public figure?
Amy: Well, since it all started way before my career ever did, I guess I can’t really say for sure, other than, as an older woman and, you know, age is relative, but I’m 41 years old, and a lot of people that come into our studio or around us, so these, you know— I just have to watch myself because, you know, a 23-year-old artist will come in and I’ll be like, “Oh my gosh,” you know? And it’s more— I’m not even talking just, you know, body or physique, but it’s just how we can be so hard on ourselves aging and, you know, appreciating, like, different things about us. Like, I’m not going to look like a 23-year-old. I am almost 42. Like, it’s just, I’m not gonna do that. So, it’s more so not letting yourself get wrapped up in who you’re sort of around a lot.
Amy: And also, I don’t have— they have stylists, they have the hair, and the makeup and, you know, I’ve had some of that from time to time, but some people, you just being— I could see how being in this business and being around people that have all these bells and whistles and lights and things, like, it can just make you start to, like, feel “ehh” about yourself. But I think the pendulum swung for me big time, like, I had to finally level out. Like, I think I would swing so far one way. I remember being obnoxious at work actually, when I was first in recovery, because I was just so irritated by all the news stories out there that would place so much fear around certain foods, and call foods “good” or “bad.”
Amy: And I’m like, “Food has no moral value!” And I was just on this high horse of, “Why are they putting out this article? And now people are gonna be scared of potatoes, and potatoes are good!” But again, not “good,” not “bad,” not moral value. But like, I want people to feel safe to eat a potato and not feel guilty if they eat a potato because some article was done. And then now I get to make that decision for myself. My brain isn’t doing it, like, in this weird trance of like eating a bunch of Oreos. It’s more, “Do I want an Oreo today?” And have grace for yourself. It takes a while to get here. I’m not someone that’s trying to say this happened to me overnight. But I was someone that, I could never have Oreos in my pantry. And now, I have two kids and they’re like, “Thank God mom got in recovery, because now we can have Oreos in the pantry.”
Amy: And I know that I, if I want an Oreo, I’m gonna have an Oreo. If I don’t want an Oreo, I’m not gonna have an Oreo. And I think that, for a little bit, I had to eat as if that was normal. “I’m gonna eat an Oreo every day as if that is normal.” And then eventually I regulate it.
Amy: But I had to kind of give myself that permission to sort of be a rebel and do whatever the heck I wanted. But then again, I’m not being a rebel because it’s allowed. And then I regulated. So, you’ll find yourself, like, you know, kind of swinging back and forthish until you sort of land and you find your groove, and then you’re in your rhythm. And then hopefully, with the right tools, and the continued work, and the continued support, you can stay there. But if you happen to swing, give yourself grace.
Sam: Well, this is exactly what Evelyn Tripoli talks about with Intuitive Eating, you know, giving yourself unconditional permission to have those Oreos. And over time there’s habituation, you know, you start to tune into your body and realize what, you know, what you want to eat, what you enjoy, what you maybe don’t enjoy so much. But yeah, thank you for bringing it up because it’s a process.
Amy: Yeah, there is so many things that I used to overeat because I didn’t allow myself to have them. And honestly, I don’t think I really was paying attention to how they tasted, but it was like, “Oh, dah dah dah dah.” And I, you know, I’d consume it all, and then now that I have permission to eat it, I’m like, “This is actually not even good.”
Amy: “Like, I am 0% satisfied by this.” And of course, I found some things where I’m like, “Ok, this is still my sweet spot, I love it!” But other things, it’s so funny the pedestal that I have them on. And I actually don’t like them, and it’s sort of funny because there was a time where I probably would have consumed so many of them that I made myself sick.
Sam: Right! Well, labeling food as forbidden, it gives it this power. It’s, I mean, that’s why we always teach, like, “Let’s not label any food, good, bad, forbidden, safe, unsafe,” you know? And it takes time. And, you know, thanks for that reminder, Amy, it’s like, this doesn’t happen overnight. Your eating disorder didn’t happen overnight. So, learning how to eat intuitively is not gonna happen overnight either.
Ashley: And I also think about that coupled with other behaviors too that we talk about a lot in the eating disorder community. And, Amy, when I was on your podcast Outweigh, I remember— I don’t remember fully what we were discussing, but something had to do with social media. and we were talking about filters. And you said, “Filters are fun.” And I have thought about that forever and ever and ever. Like, it’s— filters can be fun on social media. We can use those. We don’t have to use those to, like, alter, and shift, and change everything. We can use those for fun, right? And in the same way with food, food can be fun. Food can be enjoyable. And when we finally allow ourselves to consume food in general, yes, we are going to find things that we don’t enjoy tasting! And we’re gonna find other things that we do enjoy tasting a lot, you know? So, finding that balance. I just love what you were saying about that because it does take time and it, and maybe sometimes our pendulum will swing hard right and hard left at times. And that’s the process of recovery. We get to have those moments and we get to then kind of maybe be real with ourselves, you know, go internal, see what our experience was, and maybe process that with somebody, too.
Amy: Yeah, and I think—
Sam: It’s self-discovery.
Amy: Yes. Self-discovery. And I think also, too, becoming a mom contributed to my desire, to go back to your earlier question of, like, getting help and that light finally going off of, like, “OK, I’m done with this.” It was— I had also been a mom, we had adopted, so I had a daughter who was, when she came to live with us, was 10. And so, when I had got into recovery, she was about 12. So, she lived two years with me with my eating disorder, and she is very thankful that I’m in recovery because her life is so much better. She gets to enjoy certain things that I used to not allow. Like I said, the Oreos in her house. But I mean, it was so bad when they first got here. I remember being so annoyed at church because the Sunday school class had given them this bag of candy, and I wasn’t gonna give my kids candy. And they just moved to America, and I didn’t want them to think, like, they just get all this candy. And I was really just projecting all of my stuff onto them and making them live this life of “blah.” And just so many things, like I said, “My kids aren’t gonna have this kind of food, and we’re not gonna eat processed, and I’m gonna cook all the time.” And you know what? Actually, I became a mom and realized I don’t like cooking that much. This is not my thing.
Amy: Like, I have a few things that I make and I make well, and I do that. But both my kids listen to their bodies well. and I learned a lot from them. And I think that becoming a mom actually flipped that switch too, of wanting that connection with people, having space, like, having brain space for them, and showing up as a better mom for them as well. And now I’m able to not only have more space and connection for them, but I’m more fun.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Ashley: I think that that’s important to, like, just understand that about ourselves. That it’s ok, like, we have— our younger selves maybe have expectations of our older selves, right? And how, like, life is gonna pan out, and it’s ok to shift that narrative when you get in that space. It’s ok, just to go back to that phrase self-discovery, it’s ok to have that. It’s ok to realize that you don’t love cooking every day and you don’t have to.
Amy: Yeah, that’s huge. Giving yourself permission to change is really important. Because I think I learned— I wish I would have understood that earlier in life. But hey! I’m thankful that I’ve got it now at 41 instead of maybe, yeah, 70 thinking… You know, I think my dad is someone as an example, not eating disorder related, but he was in his seventies before some light bulbs went off for him. And, you know, he passed away at 79, 80, or just before his 80th. And, you know, I often think of him like, “Oh, well, shoot. I wonder if he wishes he would have done some work earlier to try to show up differently. But I’m thankful for the years that we did have some of that change in him. That was really cool to see. But I don’t wanna wake up, you know, I don’t want to waste all this time. Like, I’m thankful at least I woke up in my late thirties.
Amy: And for some people, maybe listeners right now, they’re 18 and they get to wake up now, or they’re 21 they get to wake up. How exciting! But also if you’re older than me and you’re listening to this, and you’re 61 you’re just now waking up, ok great! You’re waking up. So, what’s the next step? What are you gonna do?
Ashley: Yes, yeah.
Amy: And then by next step, it’s just the one. What’s the next right thing? Because it can be so overwhelming. It is completely overwhelming because you just wanna skip to the good part, and “Let’s go ahead and get to the recovery.” But you’ve got— literally, you are rewiring your brain. And that takes you doing it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.
Ashley: And over.
Amy: And believing in yourself. And I’m a story of hope, because I honestly thought how I lived in my brain was so messed up, and I just thought, “Well, this, again, this is how you live. This is life.” Like, I just, “This is the way it’s going to be till I die.” And then it’s like, “Oh, wow. Now I know that’s not how it has to be till I die.” So, it’s pretty cool.
Ashley: Amy, you’ve shared so many pearls of wisdom, and we’re about to run out of time. But before we go, I really just wanna ask you, like, what is something— so thinking about your recovery, thinking about these last three years in specific, what’s, like, one piece of wisdom or your journey that you want to leave with our audience today?
Amy: Well, I mean, I feel like we’ve shared a lot of it, but to sort of leave with some more encouragement, it would be, like, that you deserve to do this for yourself. And know that you are worth it. Because I think I spent a lot of time, deep down, not thinking that I was worthy. I mean, and that’s without getting, like, too deep into some therapy stuff. But I think that when you’re deciding to, you know, get help, and lean into recovery, and do what you need to do to take care of yourself, that’s something that is for you. But you have to believe that you’re truly worth it. And I honestly, still even in early on, like, that’s something that came out even a year and a half, two years after I had been in this three years of recovery that I’ve been talking about. I’m still working through, like, “You deserve good things,” like, “You are worthy.” And I think sometimes we can, because we don’t think that, there’s a lot of self-sabotage that can happen. And so awareness is key, though. So, yeah, my last bit of information on that, or my last little nugget, would be self-reflection, self-awareness. Sometimes that can come out through journaling. How— maybe you don’t journal. OK. Well, try. Because I feel like that is a very powerful way to, like, get some stuff out. And then— because you can’t know that you’re not feeling that you’re worthy until you’re aware of it.
Amy: So, that’s where the self-awareness comes in. And again, that takes work. So, yeah, in a nutshell, you deserve good things and you are worth it.
Sam: That might need to be the title of this episode.
Ashley: I was just making that!
Sam: I love it.
Amy: Yeah. Well, it’s hard for us to think that. We, you know, and that sabotages can be real, especially when you feel that guilt, or that shame, or that—it’s like, “Ok, well, I’m this crappy person. This is—if anybody had any idea, if they were inside my head right now, they would think I’m a crazy person. So, therefore I am crazy.” And then you just, it’s like it perpetuates. Like, you just get on this hamster wheel. So, gotta get off. You gotta get off.
Sam: Well, I think that’s a good place to end this episode. Thank you for listening to All Bodies. All Foods. And thank you so much Amy Brown for sharing your story of hope with us today. If you loved this episode, you can support us by subscribing, rating, leaving a review, or sharing it with others. And if you want more, you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Our handle is @RenfrewCenter. For free education, events, trainings, webinars, resources, and blogs, just head over to our website: www.RenfrewCenter.com. And if you have any questions you’d like us to answer in a future episode, email them to us at [email protected]. Hope you join us next time on All Bodies. All Foods.
Ashley: Thank you for listening with us today on All Bodies. All Foods. presented by The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders.
Sam: We’re looking forward to you joining us next time as we continue these conversations.
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