How Katharine McPhee Helped Save Me From My Eating Disorder

In She Speaks by Ashley Mucha4 Comments

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Part 2: Continued from I Lost 10 Years of My Life To Dieting

If you can imagine a woman who has a husband who tells her multiple times a day that she is a horrible wife, a terrible mother, and worthless human being, and he insults her physical beauty and intellect…this was the equivalent of what I was doing to myself through my treatment of my body and negative self talk. It’s no secret, our self esteem begins with how we treat ourselves, talk to ourselves, and feel about ourselves. I was harming myself and unable to stop. I literally couldn’t stop sabotaging my future. How could I become who God intended for me to become when I was engaged in a permanent cycle of self punishment and self-hatred?

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, alone without knowing a soul, although I was so excited to be far (FAR) away from Texas my opinion of myself wasn’t the best due to a negative atmosphere in my family situation growing up. Fear based parenting, a detached father and an emotionally inconsistent mother put me in a position where I alone had been responsible for parenting and soothing myself.

At the time I was living in Sherman Oaks, and it was 2006, and there was a really cute local girl named Katharine McPhee who was a finalist on American Idol. One day, while waiting to checkout at Whole Foods, I looked up to find that Katharine was on the cover of the latest edition of Shape Magazine.

Her cover shoot was accompanied by an in-depth article which detailed her struggle with binge eating and exercise bulimia: it just so happened that in between her audition for American Idol and her time as a Finalist on the show she had attended eating disorder rehab (for binge eating and bulimia) at Los Angeles’ EDCC. Her reason? She knew that she wouldn’t be able to go any further with her career as a singer if she continued to torture her body and vocal chords (she was vomiting).

She talked about driving to grocery stores late at night to buy huge bags of candy and then sit in the parking lot to eat the entire bag, alone. I related so much to what she was saying. The only think I didn’t relate to was why she was talking about it and admitting it in a national magazine. How embarrassing! (But how humble, as well…) There was no way I would ever want people to know about all the weird dysfunctional things I had done in my struggles with food and to get food.

Wearing a swimsuit, Katharine’s body looked healthy-thin and normal; it was obvious that her body had re-organized itself since her time on American Idol a year prior. In fact, she looked a little TOO good; she must have been dieting or doing something else extreme to lose weight.

What is the most interesting and miraculous part of this story are some of the events that began to crop up…

The next time I went to that same Whole Foods, I looked up and the woman in front of me looked just like Katharine McPhee, just a bit older. Being the chatterbox that I am, I struck up conversation with the gal and asked her,

“Hey, are you by chance Katharine McPhee’s mother?”

“Yes, that’s my daughter!” she had said.

Downtown Sherman Oaks is just too small. Crazy.

Fast Forward. When my mom was in town, she walked up the street from my apartment to grab a cup of coffee:

“You’ll never believe who I saw at [coffee house]…that cute brunette from American Idol…Katherine McPhee…Your father and I just love her.”

 

Obviously, at this time, I was still very sick. Working out 2x a day. Binging like crazy, then starving myself all the next day to make-up for it.

I had just lost my job at a technology consulting firm. I had sent out my resume for a bunch of assistant jobs, and had just gotten a phone call for an executive assistant position working out of someone’s home office in Sherman Oaks. I interviewed for the job and got it. Several weeks into the job, here’s what my boss tells me:

 

“Hey, so you will never guess who just bought the condo next door.”

“Who?” I said.

“That girl from American Idol. Katherine- Katherine, uh. Katherine-can’t-remember-her-last-name.”

“McPhee. Katherine MCPHEE.”

“Yep. That’s her.”

 

When my boss’ wife had a baby, Katharine had the shower at her place and I helped host . Naturally, I watched to see if Katherine ate (HA!)… and she did. She didn’t just stick to crudités, but she ate salami and crackers and cake and just whatever.

Eventually, as I got to know Katherine a bit and I saw that she was normal, and healthy, and recovered. I wanted what she had: a diet free life. Total freedom. I wanted was desperate to have a funeral for my old life, bury it completely, and become a new person.

After doing some research, I found out that Katharine had received Intuitive Eatingcounseling while in rehab. She had in-deed gotten off the diet wagon.

After 15 years of dieting and being on a cycle of craziness, hiding, isolation, and food fear- I knew it was time to surrender. My surrendering looked more like a FACE PLANT. It was Christmastime of 2009 when I called my parents in Texas and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I really need some help.”

When I got back to LA, I started a custom 3-day a week outpatient program that involved twice daily support group meetings, an Intuitive Eating food therapist, and thrice weekly therapist sessions. This was my life for nearly a year.

So…what is Intuitive Eating, you ask? It’s the antidote for Diet-Head. It undoes the Diet Mentality. It saved my life.

Intuitive Eating (a book written by Beverly Hills nutritionists Elyce Resch and Evelyn Tribole) places emphasis on learning how to listen to your body’s natural hunger signals to know when to eat and how much to eat. Skinny people eat whatever sounds good whenever they feel like it. They don’t have rules or “bad foods” they avoid. They eat when they are hungry; they stop when they are full. They listen to their bodies. They trust themselves and their bodies’ hunger cues; the problem is, most people don’t know what those hunger cues feel like.

When I first was introduced to the method, I didn’t even know what a hunger signal was. I assumed that you wait until your stomach growls, right? NO. That could have you waiting way too long, until you are over hungry. When we wait until we are over hungry (more than 5 hours between meals) we activate “binge” hormones (leptin and ghrelin) that make it biologically impossible to control our appetite when we finally do eat.

The food therapist that I worked with was an Intuitive Eating specialist from Elyce Resch’s office in Beverly Hills- Shazi Shabatian. She worked with me through my food phobias and really helped me come back into contact with food being a pleasure source. What did I crave? What sounded good? I would say salad, and she would argue with me until I said cupcakes and pizza. Of course, I was scared to death of gaining weight and blowing up like a balloon.

I cried a lot; I was scared to trust myself with food and walk away from being a dieter. I just knew I was going to get fat eating all these foods I hadn’t eaten in over a decade. Shazi assured me that I wasn’t going to get fat by eating one cupcake or one slice of pizza. If I ate a whole pizza and a half dozen cupcakes- maybe J. I had been dieting myself fat all those years- which had added up to about a 30 pound weight gain.

As I learned to trust myself around food and listen to my body, my body began to reorganize itself. As I got smaller, my life began to get bigger- relationships, friendships, and a more fulfilling career. God began to reveal to me more and more of who he created me to be; that was something he could not do while I was hiding underneath the cloak of the eating disorder. Most importantly, the Lord assured me that, “[He] would repay [me] for the years that the locusts ha[d] eaten” (Joel 2:25). There is never time that isn’t redeemed on God’s calendar.

My struggles with food and exercise were standing in the way of God’s calling for my life. Will you continue to let food struggles steal your destiny as well?

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Comments

  1. Patty

    Ashley, i appreciate your courage and transparency. I also love what you wrote at the end…about how there is never time that isn’t redeemed on God’s calendar…what an encouraging reminder about the awesome love our Father has for us.

  2. Lynn

    Thank you so much for this story! I have been struggling with bulimia since I was a sophomore in high school and now I’m in my early 30’s. It seems like it is a cycle that comes and go.

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