My Journey to Enlightenment
By Lana Grinev, LCSW-R, CASAC, CCM, BCD, BCPC
Certified Weight Management Consultant
Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist Life Coach
Wellness Transformation 180
A holistic approach to achieving psychological, physiological and nutritional success.
I want to thank my inner spiritual self for providing me with the strength, health and perseverance to share my journey of transformation with others who are struggling with similar challenges. Through sharing comes insight and the possibility of healing. I want to thank my loving family for giving me the inspiration to be able to express myself and empower others around me who share a similar story.
I immigrated to the United States from Moldova, Russia with my family when I was four years old. At that time, I was an only child being raised mainly by my grandparents because both my parents had to work. In my culture, as in many others, it is the norm to force feed a child as this form of destruction symbolizes good health and nourishment. They had good intentions and also saw food as a means of expressing their love. As I grew older, food became my “safe-haven”.
My parents and I had an estranged relationship. Growing up, I lacked the emotional support and guidance that every child yearns for. It was not well into my adulthood that I realized that they were both overly consumed with their own lives assimilating to a new country and truly lacked in the “positive” parental role. It was quite disheartening because I needed that support and guidance from them. Trying to fill this void of love, I turned to food. I became an emotionally detached and needy individual seeking validation from others to find some form of security within myself. I suffered from emotional neglect and what Americans would consider physical abuse, although it wasn’t considered abuse in my culture. This led to poor, unhealthy habits impacting my self-esteem in my childhood which exacerbated later in life.
To recapitulate on my youth, I remember starting Kindergarten in an all-girls Jewish Secular School and being the “heaviest” child in the class. I was what you can say a total “outcast”. I remember feeling out of place, depressed and always hid in the corner hoping to be unnoticed. I felt as if something was wrong with me and that I was “strange”. Growing up in this environment was challenging enough. Since I was not religiously observant my life became more complex. I desperately wanted to “blend in”. To complicate things further, my parents decided to extend the family and have more children. My sisters were born years later and the attention was geared more on their needs than my own. I became what you can call “a loner”; often hiding in my room, spending much time watching television and often dreaming of a “better life”.
In middle school, my weight issues intensified when I reached puberty. I was determined to look better and became motivated to lose weight. So my journey began. I started dieting by cutting down on my food intake and going to the gym more frequently. As I progressed in losing weight, I found myself dropping weight quickly. Within one year, at the age of eighteen, I was 108 lbs. Being only 5’8, I looked completely emaciated and malnourished. I lost my hair and my skin color changed. I gad extreme changes in menstruation but, most of all, my mental stability became a challenge. Soon after, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. As a licensed psychotherapist, I now realize that my actions and behaviors were a way to seek power and control within myself and my family. The rituals and obsessive behaviors around food became my mind’s consumption. I exercised for hours every day to get rid of the empty “calories”. When I looked in the mirror all I could see and focus on was that obese girl that I believed I was. But in reality, I was a walking skeleton. After hitting "rock bottom", I went to therapy for two years. This helped me to deal with my situation and recover from this morbid disease.
Years later, the weight crept up again. Because I was afraid of “being obese”, I started dieting and exercising excessively. I would often binge on healthy foods and then use laxatives and exercise to burn the calories. Due to my obesity, I had to have medical interventions for hormonal imbalances soon after I gave birth to my oldest daughter. This helped me to realize that I "had enough”. Soon after, I started researching healthy food choices. I developed a well-nourished meal plan focusing on portion controlled foods and a well-balanced exercise regime. I used emotion regulation, discipline and self-help techniques to change my life around. I created positive daily affirmations that helped to conceptualize my thoughts and feelings around food.
My husband was also an important influence, as he empowered me to change my life. He helped me realize that there are people in the world who actually love me for who I was and not what I looked like. I will always be thankful to him for aiding me in the rediscovery of myself. I regained power and built my self-esteem to help me take control of my actions, behaviors and over well-being. Every individual battles with their own emotional demons as we walk the path of life. I consider myself a "survivor" and want you to know that a positive support network, high self-esteem, discipline and healthy insight are important tools to help us through our journey to healthy beings.