Eating Disorder Recovery Journey with Shani Tal

me&my health up podcast episode #21- Transcript

Anthony Hartcher 0:00
Welcome to another insightful episode with me&my health Up. I’m your host, Anthony Hatcher, I’m a clinical nutritionist and lifestyle medicine specialist. Health up seeks to enhance and enlighten the well being of others.

And today we’re talking about a very topical topic. It’s certainly been in the media of recent and it’s certainly of you know, growing concern amongst the community is that we’re not talking enough about it and we’re not helping those that are out there with the disorder.

So this what I’m about to talk to you about and with I have here with me, Shani is we’re going to be talking about disordered eating, eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, so anything associated with disordered eating, and I’d love to welcome you, Shani Tal.

Shani is studying arts commerce at UNSW. And she seeks to develop a career in criminal justice. And so, I’ve brought Shani along today, because she’s doing a lot of great work on social media, with her Instagram account, which she’ll share with you, I think it’s body versity. Body versity.

So yeah, she’s doing some terrific work in terms of getting the awareness out there and where to go for help, you know, if you’re struggling with it, and I’ve brought along today to share her story and to share what’s worked for her. So welcome. Shani, thanks so much for joining us today.

Shani Tal 1:35
Thank you so much for having me, Anthony. I’m, I feel very honoured to be able to share aspects of my story and to help others understand eating disorders, and to anyone who’s going through it currently to let them know that they are not alone.

Anthony Hartcher 1:55
Yes, thank you, Shani. And this episode is a follow on, we’ve had two previous episodes on this disordered eating, so please, have a look at them.

So we’re not going to really go into the definitions of what eating disorders there are. It’s more, this is about Sharni and Sharni’s journey and what’s helped her and the message that she wants to impart in getting the awareness out there. And you know, what we can do as a society to help improve, I guess, the environment in which young people are brought up into, and they don’t feel that they need to go down this path. So yes, Shani, that, please start with your story and share what you’d like, you know, with the listeners and viewers.

Shani Tal 2:46
So firstly, I would just like to note that my experience is unique, everyone’s experience with an eating disorder is unique. So whatever I say is not a representation of people suffering from an eating disorder. But I think it is important to start talking about it more.

There isn’t that sense of shame, which is what I experienced in the first few years of my anorexia journey. So I was diagnosed five years ago, with anorexia. When I returned from my gap year, which I came home early from it, because my parents were could see that I was not well. And so I was not what I was expecting. When I got home, it, I was thrown into endless medical appointments, getting weekly tests to check up on all my health indicators.

And it was a very lonely and scary time. And my social anxiety took a toll. And yeah, I was doing behaviours and saying things that I reflect back now. And I’m like, I can’t believe I did that. Um, it makes me sad that I was going through that and that other people are going through that too.

So my recovery journey probably started when I found a psychologist with who I really connected with and felt safe with. I had previously tried a few other psychologists, but I just didn’t click with and I think that is something that’s so important is to know that there will be someone that you can talk to and if it’s not the first person or the second person that you’ve tried to keep trying, because they have different stuff. and approaches, and everyone’s different.

I’m very grateful that I found my specific psychologist who I’ve been seeing for many years, and she’s actually going on maternity leave. So, which was scary for me to think that, you know, this person who’s knows everything about me and helped me get to where I am in my recovery. I’ll no longer, you know, be meeting with her.

But I’ve been lucky to be put in touch with someone else who I had like, a trial session with to make sure that we clicked and we did. And so I’m feeling positive about that. And, yes, so, my journey has had a lot of relapses. When people say that healing is not a linear process, it is so true. But I think it is important to recognise that you don’t go backwards, even if it feels like you’ve gone backwards.

Once you overcome that battle, or that hiccup or that barrier, you are further along your journey, because you’ve had this strength to overcome something difficult. And you’ve got new insights now. So I don’t think relapses you going backwards, it’s once you’ve overcome that you have come out even stronger than you were before. And you’ve learned something new and different about yourself and your resilience and your abilities.

So yeah, I’ve had different triggers. And I think that’s also something really important for people suffering from an eating disorder to get in touch with what your triggers are, and trying to plan or come up with coping mechanisms for when you’re in those situations. So that you aren’t triggered to relapse and being able to catch it early. Because the it’s like snakes and ladders that you go down very quickly. And then to come back up. It hates a long, hard time. And so yeah, that’s an important message, I think, too.

Also, I think people don’t realise that eating disorders can impact every aspect of your life. It’s not just about body image, or an obsession with weight or looking a certain way or, like, definitely can be. But that’s, you know, it’s so much more complex than that. And for everyone, it’s very different. And I have experienced a lot of physical health issues as a result of my anorexia.

I think that’s also something that’s not spoken about a lot. And I think sometimes being underweight can be romanticised in that. Yeah, people don’t realise the health complications that come with it. And so I think that also really needs to be more awareness around that as well.

Anthony Hartcher 8:56
Yeah, yeah. I totally hear you. And, you know, we certainly need to have that awareness out there that those I guess figures that are romanticised that, you know, as you know, that isn’t real, they’ve been airbrushed to the, to sort of their unreal, they are unrealistic, and that’s not ideal. And that ideal look is completely individual based on that person’s genetics and, and what their goals are.

So you know, not everyone has the same goals and same aspirations and it’s really just falling in love with what you know, God or you know, you’ve been given with and I think the more we can less judge people and the way they look and more, see them for who they are and love them for who they are, the better we will be, you know, in turn Helping people or helping prevent people going down this path. So I totally agree with what you’re saying there.

Shani Tal 10:11
Yeah, and that in the last year or so I have started creating my body versity Instagram account, I have been exposed to so many incredible people who do promote body acceptance and body diversity. And I think it is so important to diversify, who you follow who you get information from who you look up to.

That has really helped me as well on my journey. And so I think, yeah, Instagram can be a very dangerous tool and social media can be very dangerous. But if you use it in these ways, then it can really help you. And I think, yeah, very important to diversify your feed basically.

Anthony Hartcher 11:10
Absolutely, yeah, being in control and having the right filters there to protect you and, and to not allow those triggers to, to affect you. Because, you know, you mentioned those triggers earlier. And those triggers can be what someone says to you can be a smell, it can be some music could be some change in the environment, particularly a particular person can be a trigger.

And so on a particular article in the paper, some news. So these triggers, you know, as you said, is going to be different for everyone. But it’s important that people identify those triggers, and apply the filters like you did, to protect yourself. And you know, to avoid going down that snake and having more climbs up the ladders, towards progress.

But as you’ve rightly done, you know, it’s accepting that healing isn’t linear, and that life will come in front of us for whatever reason, we will encounter those obstacles, and you saw them exactly how they should be seen, as, you know, to serve us, to teach us something and to propel ourselves forward. And that’s exactly you know, how you’ve taken each of the setbacks on your journey to healing.

So, well done Sharni. It’s really, you know, inspirational in terms of, you know, you told me before the talk that this, you wouldn’t have had this courage some time ago, that, you know, over time you grow into, except that you have the condition and you’ve now embraced the fact that you can help others, which, and I’m so glad you’re doing that.

Shani Tal 13:01
Thank you. Yeah. I mean, in those moments of being consumed by eating disordered thoughts, and in those real lapses, I don’t have that thought process of I’m gonna learn from this. So it’s more in hindsight, that I’m able to reflect so.

Yeah, in those moments, it’s very difficult to be like, I’m gonna learn from this. But yeah, having, but knowing that you’ve been through tough times before and that you’ve gotten through that, in itself can give the courage to keep moving forward and knowing that whatever you’re going through, then it’s not permanent, it will pass. And just to keep moving forward as much as you can.

Anthony Hartcher 14:03
Sorry, I was just wondering, what are some of the things that helped you to move forward? So you know, what, when you hit those dark spots again, and those thoughts and that, you feel like you’re in that vortex or that spiral? How do you think I mean, you did mention that you think, Well, I have got out of this in the past? And is there any particular techniques that help you climb out of that hole?

Shani Tal 14:30
Yes. So in the last year or so, I’ve found that journaling has been so helpful for me. And I can’t believe that in my early recovery days that I wasn’t doing journaling, but you know, never too late to start.

I basically have, I have it right next to me, just from Kiki K. Pretty book and I ride in it Whatever is on my mind because I want to get it out of my head. And then I write it. And if it’s negative thoughts, I make sure that after I write affirmations, being like, you will get through this. You’ve got the strength, you’ve got the resilience, you’ve got the courage.

So not only have I let it all out of my head, I’ve also reassured myself that I can get past this, even if I don’t believe it in the moment. But just riding it in itself is really helpful. And then often I look back in my journal, and I’m like, wow, I’ve come such a long way. From that moment when I was having those thoughts, or when I was feeling like that. And it is important to be proud of yourself in your progress. Yeah. My number one, what was that? So we should number one? Channelling that’s journaling. Okay.

Anthony Hartcher 16:07
And do you find now when you’re slipping down this snake that you don’t go as far down as the tail? Do you find that you can prevent or stop before being so great is that, you know, what you’ve noticed in terms of, you know, it’s a nonlinear journey, but you’re heading in the right direction? Is, would that be your case? Or have you?

Shani Tal 16:27
Yeah, definitely. So last year, towards the end of last year, I was very close to relapsing, but I caught it early. So exactly. It’s having the Outlook to be able to catch it early, but then also, the tools in how to move past that and make sure that you don’t go down the spiral. And that you can get out of it. So definitely, I think, on that journey, it does become easier to catch yourself and to get out of it. At least in my experience.

Anthony Hartcher 17:12
Yeah. Okay. Because it’d be like anything that we do repetitively, you’re, you know, it’s happened to you a number of times, and so you build like, it’s like building muscle, in a sense wouldn’t lie to you. It’s that repetition, and you get better at doing that repetition. And, as you said, you now know the triggers. And so you’re better at filtering and stopping those triggers coming into your life.

And if you know, the one does come into your life, you can stop yourself from falling so far, because of these techniques. And you said the number one was your journaling, what, what is sort of your number two and three? Or do you have any others that really help you in these moments?

Shani Tal 18:00
Well, I mentioned my psychologist, so I think not even a psychologist but someone who you feel safe to open up to I also have a really close friend who I’m able to open up to, and I feel very lucky for that. So yeah, just having safe people who you don’t feel will judge you. And I think yeah, that’s really important, too.

I think just following people who promote body acceptance, or positive behaviours, rather than the opposite, is also really important. And another thing is reminding myself that I am not my anorexia. So for probably the first two or three years, I couldn’t separate myself from my anorexia, I felt like that was my identity and thought of, you know, getting rid of it was like an identity crisis. And it was scary, and I couldn’t even tolerate thinking about it.

But now I am able to separate myself and I am able, which has helped me catching the triggers because I’m able to be like, No, that’s the eating disorder talking. That’s eating disorder thoughts. That’s not me. That’s not healthy me. But in the past, I couldn’t differentiate and it was all consuming. So just reminding that I am not my eating disorder. I’m not my anorexia.

Anthony Hartcher 19:57
And is that something that your psychologist or friend helped through life in terms of that thinking?

Shani Tal 20:03
Yeah, definitely. And there’s also Yeah, as I’ve said, some amazing accounts on Instagram, that also promote that thinking. So just that constant reminder from Yeah, my psychologist and telling myself and seeing it on Instagram, definitely just why’s it, which is a really good reframing, I think, for recovery.

Anthony Hartcher 20:31
And I was just thinking, like, if you’re an observer of someone that you’re concerned about, that may be think, their behaviours to be unusual. And they’ve been doing this for a while and starting to see some signs that Something’s just not right.

Is there a particular way that you can, you know, approach the subject? Or is there something that you would find less offensive in terms of remarks or comments or support, and I’m just thinking, you know, that there’ll be people that are listening, that have someone they bit concerned about, but they’re just holding back from having that conversation or, you know, because I remember that, you know, at the start of, when we were speaking, before we went live, was that you mentioned, you’re in that denial, so I’m thinking, you know, the person they know, is in denial, and just wondering if you have any tips around that, or anything that would have helped you.

Because, you know, your parents, obviously, are a significant part to bringing a new home and getting help. And so I was just wondering, what was it that, you know, helps you, you know, convince you that you needed to come home? Or, you know, just I don’t know, if you can answer that, I just thought I’d ask it?

Shani Tal 21:47
I think that’s a really great question to ask, like, I don’t really have the answers, but I do have some insights. Yeah, a lot of people may be in denial, and it is so hard to bring up with someone you care about, because you don’t want to offend them, you don’t want to trigger them, which is a huge thing.

Because often when you’re in denial, or in those early days, someone telling you that there’s a problem can make you want to embrace it even more. And that happened to me, I was like, I don’t have an eating disorder. Not at all, because I don’t do this, I don’t do that. And then I was like, You know what, like, so then I embraced it in a way.

So I have to be careful not to label it as well. Maybe more just like, saying, um, I’ve noticed You haven’t been yourself lately, I just wanted to check in with you make sure everything’s okay. I just hope you know, I’m always here to talk. And that like, no judgement, or anything. Just a very light, neutral type conversation, not specifying that, notice, you haven’t been doing this, like, haven’t been eating or haven’t been doing these behaviours.

I’m just very, like, broad and reassuring that person that you are there for them, and that there is no judgement and that it’s a safe space, and that they can always come and talk to you. And if they don’t, then it’s still reassuring for that person. I think that they know they have someone so even if you think you haven’t done anything you have, and just showing that you care.

That’s really important. And if they do say, You know what I have been struggling. I’m suggesting to see a psychologist who specialises in eating disorders, or the Butterfly Foundation is an incredible resource. And they have this like, live chat that you can talk to someone as well. So, yeah, one of those trees even if you just started with the Butterfly Foundation, and they can, like, direct you. So yeah, it is really difficult though, being an outsider and seeing someone that you care about being that situation.

Anthony Hartcher 24:34
I think you’ve answered it really well shot, Shani, sort of, you know, you’ve allowed, you know, you’ve just stated what you’ve just noticing that Something’s just not right with them. And so that puts them at ease that someone’s realising that I’m struggling a bit and, and they think, oh, that’s, you know, they’ve really not acknowledged that and then they’re just pretty much saying that I’m here for you, you know, If you need someone to talk to, and so you’re showing that you’re open to them, when they’re ready to come and knock on the door and say, you know, I’d like you to help me or this is what’s really going on.

So I think that that is a fantastic way to address or approach the subject that may be on someone’s mind or, you know, a concern for a loved one. Yeah. Is there any parting words that you’d like to share with what maybe you know, what we can do or what our society should be doing to help prevent this totally preventable disorder? So I’m just thinking, I mean, you’ve mentioned there’s the, the way in which idolise certain characters, or models or things like or a certain image that idolization for that, and, and creating that as what people should aspire to.

That’s obviously something that we and that’s not good, that’s happening in society? Is do you think there’s enough awareness and education in schools? If that, did you come across anything that could might not help prevent you from going down the path that you went?

Shani Tal 26:19
Definitely not. I think, yeah, it’s that when I was at school, it was little awareness about it. And it was very like hush hush and a lot of shame. And I think a lot of disordered eating behaviours are promoted and deemed acceptable from such an early age.

I think schools do have a role to play as well. And the Butterfly Foundation I know do work with schools, which is amazing. So yeah, I think is the combination of this certain body image and then also disordered eating behaviours and obsessions with exercise, just a combination of things and then also, just De-stigmatising and trying to get rid of all this shame that goes with being labelled as someone with an eating disorder or just the term.

Anthony Hartcher 27:29
And just in terms of closing remarks as to what you’d like to share with anyone that’s listening, that maybe at the beginning of their recovery journey, or, or maybe just maybe still in denial, I don’t know if there’s any wise words, based on your experience you’d like to share?

Shani Tal 27:52
Well, to anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder or thinks they are struggling with one, no, that your recovery is worthy, you’re worthy of recovery, and that to not be ashamed, and that you are a worrier, and you can do this, and, yes, seek the help that you deserve. And you are not alone.

Anthony Hartcher 28:28
Beautifully said Sharni. Beautifully said. So I really appreciate you coming, you know onto the show and sharing your story being open, vulnerable, just to help someone else and help them on their recovery journey.

You shared some great tips from journaling to filtering the triggers, to embracing you know, or to assisting and finding the right psychologists for you. You know, connecting with close people to you that really support you and have your back that you can go to in times of need. And so I really, really do appreciate what you’ve done in terms of coming on and being so open and, and sharing your knowledge. So thank you.

Shani Tal 29:19
Well, thank you for having me. And yeah, it’s been a privilege to be able to share aspects of my story and what has helped me because yeah, if it can help one person or just anyone understand a bit more about eating disorders, then yeah, that’s amazing.

Anthony Hartcher 29:39
And for the viewers and listeners, I’ll include Shani’s Instagram account, which is amazing resource and Shannon will also share with me anything else that she’s found useful in terms of resources, and I’ll put all those links wherever I post this material. And, and yeah, and you can Yeah, connect with Sharni via probably Instagram. Is that is that the best? Yeah, yeah.

Shani Tal 30:05
Yeah, you can message me on Instagram. It’s @bodyversity.

Anthony Hartcher 30:16
Fantastic. So thanks again, Shani. I really appreciate it. And I wish you all the best on this journey of recovery and I really do appreciate what you’ve done you what and what you’re doing to help get the word out there and prevent others from ending up where you where you did and have recovered from so thank you so much.

Shani Tal 30:39
Thank you.

Transcribed by