For years the author Antonia C. Wesseling suffered from anorexia. In her book she describes how she found her way out of the disease.
Puberty is a difficult phase for most people: you begin to perceive and compare your body correctly. Antonia, called Toni, also knows what effects this can have. At the age of just 14, she completely stopped eating overnight. "It felt as if I had nothing more to lose," Toni describes today in her book "How Much Does My Life weigh?"
It's just a phase – isn't it?
Her doctors dismissed Antonia's behavior as a temporary phase, but she was long in the process of looking for something in life to keep control over. And finally found that something in her weight. Although part of her knew how dangerous the path she was treading was, a much larger part didn't want to turn around. Toni knows today: "I wanted to get anorexic."
Everything was just too much and I wanted to get rid of it. That's why I firmly believed that I could get my life under control by losing weight.
A cycle of lies, denial and starvation ensued. Antonia let her school sandwiches disappear in the rubbish bin in the school yard, made sure to put almost exclusively vegetables on the plate in the canteen and made excuses as to why she couldn't eat at the moment. At some point it was her parents who pulled the ripcord: They admitted Toni to the closed psychiatry. As of September 2014, a strict eating plan and final weight goal determined her life.
Toni felt comfortable with the other patients after getting used to it, but although she gradually gained weight, the stay could not change her attitude. Her inner voice still advised her to dump parts of her meals in the trash without noticing. Even after she had reached the set target weight at some point, the anorexia itself was still anchored in her head: "I was far from cured."
Psychiatry as a bubble
Life in psychiatry was like a big bubble that burst as soon as Antonia was back in her everyday life. The fears returned, and with it the effects of the disease. Toni broke off her outpatient therapy because she believed she was already too healthy for further treatment. A mistake that many of those affected make, as she knows today. After a year she decided to go to the clinic for a second time. And made another mistake: Toni placed the entire responsibility in the hands of the doctors, therapists and her parents. Even so, she was still not able to let go of the illness inside. This time, too, she failed to overcome anorexia.
At the same time, she suffered from severe depression – and finally decided after a while to try again with a hospital stay. But this time with the focus on her depression, the anorexia should only be treated secondary. In the clinic, Antonia finally found the approach she needed to get rid of her anorexia: Instead of following strict nutrition plans, the therapy was individually tailored to her.
Toni was given a lot of freedom, but at the same time had to take responsibility for himself for the first time. In addition, she slowly gained inner maturity in conversations with older patients and began to think about what she actually wanted to do with her life and why she gave so much space to anorexia. Long walks in nature helped her, as did the knowledge of what mindfulness is and how it can be applied to her life.
It doesn't work without self-discipline
At some point, however, she realized that the stay in the clinic could only be the beginning. She had to be able to apply what she had learned about herself at home. So Antonia dismissed herself the day before her 19th birthday, although she had gained little weight and was still considered sick. But her attitude had finally changed: at home she actually gradually got used to eating normally again by listening to her feeling of hunger.
Antonia has now been maintaining a healthy weight for a year. But: There is no miracle cure for anorexia, either. When asked how she overcame the disease, she replies:
With a lot of self-discipline. With more self-discipline than I've ever needed to lose weight.
She also got an important tip from her therapist: she should concentrate on what is important to her in life. And that should be as different building blocks as possible – in case one of them breaks apart. She sticks to that to this day.
Tips from Antonia: This is how you learn to accept your body
- Ask yourself why you want to change your body. Antonia noticed, for example, that she was never interested in looks, but rather that she combined discipline and recognition with it.
- Don't constantly question your body. Distract yourself when thoughts like this arise.
- Don't talk badly about your body – words have the power to come true.
Antonia's full story and even more of her tips on how to learn to accept your own body can be found in her book.