My Story – Overcoming Two Eating Disorders

nikki-sharp-eating-disorders
03 Apr 2018

This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever publicly come out with and it’s taken me years to even be able to admit it to myself. However, I believe that by doing this it will help a lot of people who might be struggling with food and their body. I share this to help others to know that you are not alone.

So here it is: I’ve had two eating disorders – anorexia and binge eating.

Small warning: this might trigger you if you are currently facing your own eating disorder

(the video goes into some detail that is not mentioned here, there is also a full version)

 

How my eating disorders started

It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles at 19 when my first eating disorder started. I was going to university full time, working, and modeling. I was all alone in a new place, my family and bf were back home, I couldn’t sleep, and I suddenly found myself lonelier than I had ever been. It seemed the only thing that I could do to have some control over my life was to restrict my eating. (As I got skinnier I also seemed to get more jobs in the modeling industry, something that perpetuated my eating disorder.)

Morning:  instant coffee with sugar free creamer + 2 packets sweet and low, a one egg omelette with a slice of orange fake cheese and 2 pepperoni slices.

Lunch/ Dinner:  bowl of iceberg lettuce with a few more slices of pepperoni, a small bit of ranch dressing and a few croutons. Dinner was either the omelette or salad again.

If I had late classes, I’d make a green tea with a small bit of skim milk and 4 packets of sweet and low. I did this for one school year. I would also run for nearly an hour prior to breakfast each  morning, then go to another fitness class during school.

This was also the first time that I stopped sleeping, something that still affects me to this day. I went to the school counselor and was given Ambien, where I begin my addiction to sleeping pills for the next 5 years.

My eating disorder goes away… then comes back

After moving back to Colorado (I was on a year long exchange program) friends barely recognized me – I was skin and bones. But I felt so good and was proud of my tiny body. My value was so heavily tied to how I looked.

I began an internship at Gaiam where I did yoga a few days a week at lunch, which brought me so much  joy. My food normalized and I gained back a bit of weight. My food and sleep issues seemed to disappear as quick as they came. I was happy, no longer lonely, and my value was now tied to my work at Gaiam.

After graduating from university at 20, I moved to Shanghai to pursue full-time modeling,  this time the lonely feelings being even more intense than LA and I found myself barely eating at all. I had nothing to occupy my mind during the day (like school or work) and was a slave to if I had castings or not. This would deem how much I would workout in a day. I’d go to the gym for an hour or longer in the morning, and back in the evening for another hour to two hours. We had cockroaches in our kitchen so I never dared to cook, rather I would eat one tiny yogurt for breakfast, skip eating until I thought I would faint then get a bag of salted peanuts and diet coke, then at night have some carrots. I relied on sleeping pills every night.

I went from 110lbs to 98lbs.

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Anorexia turns into Binge Eating

After years of restriction and not eating, the anorexia finally turned into binging and sometimes purging. After years of my body gaining and losing weight, the insane amount of restriction, and lack of nutrients I needed – I started to eat everything in sight when I could. My body was finally saying ENOUGH. FEED ME.

But instead of feeding myself  healthy, nourishing meals (remember, health was NOT what it is today!), I would eat chocolate, hummus, pizza, donuts, pasta. I mean you name it, I’d eat it. As I moved across the world modeling, my value was so heavily tied to the way I looked. I would starve myself, then I’d get hungry and binge, then purge if I could. Thank god I didn’t have a strong gag reflex because without a doubt I would have  had that as a full-on eating disorder as well. Rather, I would try to make myself throw up, tears streaming from my face as I’m shoving my finger down my throat, and nothing would happen.

modeling and acceptance

This photo was taken in Athens while I was modeling. I loved how skinny I was but I thought my hips were still too big. You can see where my mind is by the words I write ‘hatred, acceptance, saddness’

Instagram – my dark side

When I started my IG account in 2013, it was a place that I could keep myself accountable. I would post inspiring images of girls who looked fit and foods that I knew were good for me, all to get myself to go workout that day, or make a healthier meal.

Because I was modeling I wasn’t comfortable publicly admitting that I had eating disorders, so I would post headless body shots of myself, talking about my journey of the eating disorders. I would share when I had a good day of eating and or when I binged and felt fat. I would tell my followers about my struggles, which was easy to do because no one knew my name (or saw my face). The account was called ‘skinnyminime_xoxo‘ and it was my private sanctuary to be free in a world where I didn’t feel I had anyone to go to. My community started to grow and people were so supportive. The more that I shared my journey and what I went through, the more others opened up to me.

What people didn’t know was that while I posted these #fitspo images, I was following a lot of accounts that promoted eating disorders with the hashtags #ANA (anorexia) and #ED (eating disorder). It’s a little known fact that in the eating disorder world you talk about Ana and Ed like people, like they are your friends. I call them the Siamese Twins (more on that below).  I would scour the internet for websites that shared and promoted ways to keep your eating disorder, even though you were fighting, tips to throw up, stay skinny, avoid eating when out. You name it – I searched for it.

So it was a catch 22 that while I’m sharing this positive message of health, I was equally not ready to let my eating disorders go.

During this time I would have some pretty amazing days. It’s when I started learning about things like superfood powders, healthier options for foods to eat, and meditation. I felt good. Yet, I would also have insanely bad days and remember thinking, I just want to know that Gisele and Miranda Kerr had shitty days. That they felt like crap about their body, binged, and that they got over it. I literally needed to know that I wasn’t alone. So my IG became a place that I promised myself that I would share all my struggles for others to know they weren’t alone.

But, as the account grew, the less I was able to share my story. I was becoming a wellness expert and started to get nervous of people’s judgments of how skinny I was and I could not handle the comments of ‘I needed to eat a cheeseburger.’

So I stopped sharing my experiences of trying to overcome eating disorders.

I ended up changing my IG name to ‘staysharpbestrong‘ once I publicly shared my face and took my mask off. I converted the account to all fitness and health related images and took down anything that resembled my eating disorders struggles.

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My waist – literally 2D – where I still wanted to lose weight

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The Siamese Twins of eating disorders

I equate an eating disorder to that of a Siamese Twin, because it is part of you. It’s the person to your right that gets you more than anymore. This person talks to you, comforts you, and tells you everything is going to be okay (when you listen to his/her messages of the ED). And at the same time, anyone who has had an ED knows that this Siamese Twin is something you’d like to  kill off immediately. You hate that they control your life and you don’t know how to stop it. You want freedom from the restriction of what you eat. You want to be a normal person.

But herein lies the problem, when you have an ED and you are trying to get rid of it, you are literally killing off a part of you. She screams in agony as you do things to make her go away. He rages like fire when you tell him you’re going to do things that are healthier for your  mind. In my experience, I found that killing off this girl inside of me was harder than anything else I’ve done.

She likes to pop up her ugly head once in a while now and tell me that I’m fat; that I should diet and get my collarbones back the way they were. She wants me to have my  hip bones jutting out. She believes that the control over how my body looks makes me of higher value to society. But I recognize and acknowledge that this Siamese Twin is not me. It is a false reality. And I never, ever want to go back there. I am too happy with my life now.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still have bad days, but it means that I have given myself the tools to succeed and not let her come back.

Why I went into the health world

As I started learning about nutrition to help me overcome the eating disorders, I realized I had a passion for it. I’m now a certified health coach, raw foods specialist, certified in sports nutrition, nutrition for everyday living, certified yoga teacher, and trained as a vegan chef. I knew that as I was overcoming my eating disorders and sharing the knowledge I found to work, the more people I was also affecting in a positive light.

This is why I do what I do. Because I have literally overcome two eating disorders by eating the way that I do, not to mention insomnia (which I have been hospitalized 2x for). I focused on healthy balanced meals with no restriction, eating lots of colors, added meditation, and journaling. I started seeing exercise as a reward, not a punishment. This formula, with food being the main factor, has transformed my life and my health: it literally made my survive. 

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I went on Accutane 3x and this is after all of them.

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My journey into the health world gave me good skin.

I have never promoted restricted eating (or calling things a ‘cheat meal’) because it’s a world I NEVER want to visit again. Food has been the enemy of my life for too many years. I no longer fear food. I don’t fear pizza, or pasta, or chocolate cake, or alcohol. All of these are lovely things that I get to have in times of enjoyment. I have learned that when I am stressed or tired and want to eat, food will not solve these.

I am so incredibly passionate about sharing my way of living with others because I know what it’s like to be fearful of food, to hate your body, to feel like you’re alone. I’ve managed to overcome: depression, anxiety, acne, insomnia, anorexia, binge eating disorder, and body dysmorphia.

And I’m telling you right now, you can too. I am here to help you. I’ve been there, done that and I am ready to begin this chapter of using all the tools I’ve learned. If you are facing an eating disorder or disordered eating – my recipes and way of thinking does help; they worked on me. This is why I absolutely know that my detox book will work for you, and why my new book (about meal prepping) will change your life.

This has been years in the making to share and I have finally liberated myself from this shameful secret. I hope that this story and video inspired made you realize you’re not alone.

Love,

Nikki

Please note: please see your doctor if you are facing an eating disorder, depression, or suicidal thoughts. This blog post is in no way shape or form meant to heal, treat, or cure others. It is simply my journey and what has worked for me.

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17 Responses

  1. Stephanie Negreanu says:

    thank you for sharing this
    i too struggled with anorexia and am now trying to recover from my bingeing and purgeing.

  2. Vuvu says:

    Thanks for sharing. Peace.

  3. Maria Kravchuk says:

    This has made me cry because it is so much like a story of my own. I had bulemia for most of my life and have slowly overcome it by becoming older and more confident in my skin and curious I guess as to how my body works. And losing negative people on my life. I wonder if this is the only way to go? Substituting a healthy and balanced life instead of the life with the fake values. Have just finished Jane Fonda’s biography “My life so far” and she talks about her battle with bulemia and her experience with being sexually abused which is what happened to me. It’s like we are punishing our bodies for it. It’s a great book even if you’re not a fan of her which is hard since she’s marvelous. Thank you for sharing Nikki. Your fan from Ukraine, kookycook80 xx

    • nikki sharp says:

      i highly recommend replacing people in your life that are toxic or trigger you. those in your life should support! and thanks for the recommendation xxx

  4. Jules says:

    Thanks for sharing(: I overcame anorexia, and like you said it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I’m scared though because I recently moved to a new country for my masters and feel super alone. It’s really expensive so it’s harder to continue my hobbies, and people are really reserved. The voices have been creeping in and I have become a lot more restrictive and sneaky with my food :/ I thought I was rid of it once and for all. BUT this gave me hope so thank you (:

    • nikki sharp says:

      yes, i feel you with loneliness. i’d ask – what can you do to surround yourself with new people that are like minded? i would even suggest finding an ED group there for support. and HEAVILY rely on friends. tell them you need them to be there for you during this time. people are more supportive than you think x

  5. RedSportsCar says:

    Such a brave and important post. I can only imagine the business of high-end modeling, for an intelligent and sensitive person, can be a near-nightmare at times. All the money in the world can’t make the judgements of others go away, the loneliness of travel and hotel rooms easier to bear.
    I’m really glad you seem to have moved past the worst of it, and are in tune with what your body needs to be beautiful AND healthy. I admire your courage in sharing and I hope you can help even one person avoid, or just get through, the physical trauma that comes from this.

  6. Hi Nikki, I have been following your journey since your account was skinnyminime_xoxo – I remember the post you did in the early days but most of all the post you made about changing your username and I was so excited to see that positive change. You have always had such an amazing aura something that has kept me following all these years. I feel like I know you and am so proud of all your achievements 💕
    Kindly
    Alana

  7. Zana O'Connell says:

    Hey Nikki,
    I too have been following you since the skinnyminime days… and have been on a very very similar journey; I’m incredibly happy for your journey and how it has unfolded and how you now also use your experience and struggles as your strength now. This is so so powerful.
    Keep spreading your beautiful light and positivity, you are an amazing role model now for younger girls like we once were, struggling to find their way in the world.
    Sending you much love and kindness.
    Zana xxx

  8. Caz says:

    Thankyou for your vulnerability. I have never had an eating disorder but body image and shame in our imperfections is something I think all of us can relate to. This post has made me evaluate my attitudes towards food and health and I appreciate you sharing your journey. I have been following you for awhile. God bless x

  9. Amanda says:

    I was denial that I had a eating disorder for awhile. I had moved to LA went to college full time while prusing modeling. All the agencies told me that I was too big so I was determined to get down to the size I needed to be. My roommate at the time was doing the same so it made it worse because we both were determined to be skinny we counted calories and fat and exercised a ton we did the master lemonade cleanse all the time to supplement our diet but because I still ate I didn’t feel like I truely had an eating disorder. When we would have a cheat day we would eat normal food and not count calories I’d end up trying to throw up literally putting 4 fingers down my throat and couldn’t so then I’d feel shame. I tried to get help and took some time off from “dieting” but then got way more intense when I came back I’d cut my calories even further to lose weight faster. The whole time I had struggled with health issues and ignored the fact I shouldn’t cleanse while on antibotics. I ended up developing a stomach condition that made it hard for me to eat a lot of things but drove me to a Paleo diet. But then the doctor suggested fasting in order to help my stomach it was hard not getting re-addicted to feeling good about myself when I didn’t eat. I got fired from my 1st job out of college and it was hard not to go back to my eating disorder but I fought it. I do not count calories anymore and fat content. If it’s unprocessed natural Paleo friendly I don’t care. I appreciate you sharing I think we don’t realize how common eating disorders are and I know for me it’s hard for me to tell a lot of people because then people will investigate my eating habits even though I’ve recovered.

    • nikki sharp says:

      oh goodness girl, im so sorry you went through all this! i can relate so much obviously! I hope that you find comfort in knowing food isn’t the thing to be afraid of and i’m sure one day you’ll be totally find with all types of food, not just paleo. but keep up whatever works now – just dont get too strict, because orthorexia is another bad one that is easy to fall into xx

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