A New Year, A New Focus

The holidays can be difficult for anyone trying to watch what they eat, but they’re even worse for those with an eating disorder. If you’ve spent years in a difficult relationship with food—binging every holiday season and resolving every January to cut calories and increase exercise, only to collapse in exhaustion come March—let Kat James’ story inspire you to make a drastic change in perspective.

At 24 years old, after battling with binge eating for 12 years, her health took a drastic turn for the worse. She was having heart palpitations, strange digestive issues, and blurred vision, but the real eye opener was her drastically inflamed liver, which “could become life-threatening without warning.” Her doctor wanted her to take immunosuppressant drugs to keep it functioning, but she refused.

In her bestseller, The Truth About Beauty, Kat writes, “The ‘thin’ dreams … were now under  threat of never materializing … from that moment I forgot about the scale, my diet, and the size 10 jeans I hoped to fit into. My decade-long obsession with weight completely vanished and my vision narrowed on my only beacon of hope: regaining my health.”

Kat started taking milk thistle, fish oil, and alpha-lipoic acid, and her liver returned to normal—her doctor couldn’t believe it. It was then she embarked on a path of transformation from the ideal of skin-deep beauty she had once embraced to the understanding that beauty happens from the inside out.

Kat continued her journey “making one informed choice after the other” and experienced a slow and sustained weight loss over the next three years, going from a size 18 to a size four. Her health issues and skin issues cleared up as well. The turning point in her understanding was when her food choices were no longer dictated by ads or social approval, but by her body’s approval. It was then she realized that if she sought health first and foremost, beauty would follow.

BEAUTY TIPS: WORKING FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Learn to shed: Beauty is just as much about what you don’t eat or put on your body as what you do. “Beauty and comfort in our own skin and bodies is a natural, effortless state that is too often thrown off balance by modern assaults, conveniences, and toxins to which our bodies are sometimes unable to adapt,” James writes. One of the most important things to shed is the body image burden.

Gain knowledge: Don’t waste your time on fads and trends. Instead, go to pubmed.org and look up studies on your condition. Focus on those that treated the condition through natural means. If someone is recommending a particular supplement, go to PubMed and see if there have been studies on it. Good information beats “hard work and fighting cravings” every time.

Glycemic index—go low: Sugar is a major culprit in foiling our efforts toward both health and beauty. Only by retraining our bodies to eat foods lower on the glycemic index (including lots of healthy fats) can we escape this trap. If you want alternative sweeteners, check out xylitol and stevia—they won’t spike your blood sugar.

“I had a pear shaped body and thyroid issues, among other things,” Kat said in an interview with PBS. “It’s actually easier in the long run if you’re given this information to know if you’re fighting one of these issues—there are supplements and conventional ways to face these issues. Not facing them is tragic in a way because you have to spend so much time and buy into that hard work myth.” The key is to balance the health issues to make the body work the way it is supposed to in relation to food. “It is these health issues that get glossed over in this day and age when we’re chasing after the extreme makeover with the Stairmaster and calorie deprivation.”

For this New Year’s resolution, focus on getting healthy … beauty will surely follow.