We’re becoming less and less equipped to deal with difficult emotions as there’s always a way to numb our emotions with Netflix (endless entertainment) and various social media platforms to distract us 24/7. And the not dealing with painful emotions makes women vulnerable to cope with it in another way and numb the pain either by not eating, or binging and puking, etc.
As a part of my interview series with public figures who struggled with and coped with an eating disorder, I had the pleasure to interview Merel Kriegsman. Merel is a million-dollar copy expert turned Business Mentor. She helps female entrepreneurs sell high-end — so they can make thousands of dollars a day, doing what they absolutely love (AKA, become the Hermes bag of their industry — and charge accordingly). Besides helping women GET RICH, she spends her time growing veggies with her husband and two toddlers in tow on their 160-acre farm in rural Canada. Get access to weekly tips on creating what Merel calls “A Money Vortex” at her private Facebook group Create Your Money Vortex.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
Absolutely. In my mid-twenties I had this SHOCKING realization that I hadn’t made more than about $8,000 in my entire life. And worse, that (just like my mom, my grandma, etc.) I was unable to turn my talents into something that generated money. And I was faced with a choice:
be like so many other women in my family, and live life relying on men financially, or live in poverty… or learn how to sell, and build a highly profitable business.
That day, I committed to the latter. What drove me was the fact that I was about to have a daughter myself, and that I was scrubbing toilets at $5 an hour (despite my university degree). I wanted better not just for myself. I was hellbent on not passing on these patterns to my little girl.
So I started my business (first as a conversion copywriter). And since then, I’ve transitioned into Business Mentorship for female online service providers, coaches, and experts, helping women get to consistent 5-figures a month in their business.
Besides running my business (my husband works inside my company too), we spend our time on our acreage with our two little kids. And when we’re in need of some “city time” we fly out to Toronto or New York for culture (Opera!) and high-powered shopping (upscale Vintage!).
Are you able to tell our readers the story of how you struggled with an eating disorder?
Yes! I’ve always been very open about it. Especially because I know people are struggling in silence, and them knowing I’ve gone through this experience and have come through the other end, gives them hope. And that’s my biggest wish in life: to inspire other people and make them see life can be better.
What was the final straw that made you decide that you were going to do all you can to get better?
I remember that day! I was 15-ish when the anorexia I struggled with got completely out of control (and a danger to my life). And so my parents brought me to a clinic, after trying to help me through it themselves for months and months.
After the intake conversation and physical examination, they brought me to a room with a big chalkboard and started writing down how my vital organs were doing, and how long I had (only months) before they’d go into shut down.
The thought of severely damaging my heart, having my kidneys fail, etc., scared the sh** out of me. And on the way home from the clinic that day, I asked for a sandwich and ate it.
And how are things going for you today?
Really great. With the professional help at the clinic and my family’s love, I was able to completely leave my food disorder behind. No fallbacks. No episodes since then. Nothing.
Based on your own experience are you able to share 5 things with our readers about how to support a loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder? If you can, can you share an example from your own experience?
>> Get professional help: As I shared, my parents tried to “fix me” themselves for months and months before they declared defeat and sought professional help. A food disorder isn’t something you can fully overcome without it, in my experience. BECAUSE food disorders often arise from toxic family dynamics. So reach out. Get outside, professional help.
>> Get support yourself: I remember one of the hardest things through my recovery time, was that I knew that I’d deeply traumatized my parents and siblings. My mom’s chronic illnesses had worsened. My little brother was having trouble in school. And I thought it was all my fault. The best thing you can do, if you have a loved one who is struggling with a food disorder, is not only getting help for them, but also for yourself. Whether it’s seeing a therapist, hiring a housekeeper (you might be driving to the clinic multiple times a week!), or getting a food delivery service to prepare healthy, yummy meals 3 times a week for you.
>> Show them the facts: A food disorder is an addiction, just like crack. That means, that the person struggling with the food disorder is willing to cheat, lie and steal if they have to, to keep going with their destructive behavior. I remember driving to the clinic with my dad one sunny winter day. We laughed on the way there and had a great time. And then they weighed me at the clinic and I’d lost another 4 pounds (I was extremely thin at that point). And they gave my dad a warning. On the way home, he confronted me for putting up a smokescreen. Pretending everything was fine and having fun. While in reality, I was well on my way to killing myself. Him confronting me, and seeing how I had hurt him with my lies, had a huge effect on me.
>> Discover the root cause: Although your biggest concern right now might be to get your loved one to eat. What you really should concern yourself with, is why they don’t want to live (or live only as a shadow of themselves). It’s not something YOU necessarily need to figure out (again, professional help), but… understanding the root cause of their struggle is what’s going to help them overcome the food disorder.
For me personally, my food disorder arose from a mix of growing up with siblings who had special needs, parent-child dynamics, sexual abuse (just like so many other women), being bisexual and not knowing how to cope with that, being a total perfectionist, having a powerful personality and having no clue how to navigate the intensity of my emotions (the list goes on)…
… and it made it impossible for me to want to cross that threshold into womanhood. I just couldn’t do it. And so I developed a food disorder to keep myself small, and what I felt was “safe”.
The day I ate that sandwich in the car, I realized I wanted to live — no matter who I am or what my history is. From that point on, things went uphill.
>> Get outdoors: This is me just sharing what worked for me. But a couple of weeks after I ate that big sandwich? My mom asked my older brother to take me along to his work: cleaning out horse stables 🙂 That’s right: demanding, physical labor. Instead of sitting on the couch getting fatter (my homework from the clinic), my family decided I needed fresh air, to get back in my body and work up a healthy appetite. And it worked brilliantly. It got me out of my head and out of the house. I would have fainted if I hadn’t properly fueled up. And it showed me that my family TRUSTED me to not use physical exercise as a means to lose weight. It gave me self confidence!
Is there a message you would like to tell someone who may be reading this, who is currently struggling with an eating disorder?
Get professional help. Like, right now. Stop reading this article, and go google for food disorder clinics or call your family doctor and talk to them about your struggle. And, if you’re reading this and you’re like, “But maybe what I have doesn’t qualify as a full-blown food disorder”. Yeah, it does. Go find help today, and set yourself free.
According to this study cited by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people in the U.S. of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. Can you suggest 3–5 reasons why this has become such a critical issue recently?
Numbing emotions: We’re becoming less and less equipped to deal with difficult emotions as there’s always a way to numb our emotions with Netflix (endless entertainment) and various social media platforms to distract us 24/7. And the not dealing with painful emotions makes women vulnerable to cope with it in another way and numb the pain either by not eating, or binging and puking, etc.
Processed foods: Our gut has a huge effect on our mental state (and how the brain is able to function). All kinds of mental disorders are on the rise, and I truly believe that one of the culprits is chronic inflammation caused by the processed food and abundance of sugar we’re digesting every day. My anorexia was preceded by 2 years of eating unhealthily as I used all my pocket money in high school to buy sweets and deep-fried snacks along the way.
Peer pressure on social: Peer pressure (to look a certain way) has always been there, but now it’s in our faces nonstop. Women take selfies of themselves (of how fit and thin they look) and other women who see these posts enter a destructive spiral of comparison as they scroll on social media.
Photoshopping: Do I need to say more? A never-ending stream of “perfect bodies” is giving women a completely out of whack expectation of their own body and what it should look like. Another unattainable standard that’s distracting women from focusing on what really matters. Instead, they obsess over trying to look more like photoshopped models. P.S. And I get it, my branding pics are also slightly photoshopped. And yes, I use the “touch up appearance” feature on Zoom (a video conferencing software). What can I say… I’m vain 🙂
Our education system: I think a food disorder stems from an innate sense of feeling different, and therefore (in their own eyes)… unlovable. And I’m afraid our current school system isn’t set up to help kids who are different thrive (and celebrate who they are). A person who develops a food disorder has some pretty extraordinary traits that, if used correctly, could make them very happy and successful: grit, determination, iron willpower… just for starters. But if those powers remain underutilized, they turn against the individual. Just to explain where this comes from… when I had my food disorder, I literally felt like the fire I had inside of me was burning me up on the inside. I couldn’t express it. And therefore, the power to be a huge positive influence in the world started to destroy my very self.
Based on your insight, what concrete steps can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to address the core issues that are leading to this problem?
I think influencers who have experienced a food disorder can do a lot of good (in small communities, and in the media) by sharing about their experience. Which is why I’m doing this interview.
More awareness building! People misunderstand what a food disorder is and isn’t. By talking about it (in schools, in the work environment) + putting out a lifeline, as in “If you’re struggling with these issues, talk to us”…
…I think we can avoid scenarios like my friend and client J. who’s struggled with bulimia for 28 years, and is now FINALLY asking for help (she just didn’t identify herself as bulimic).
If you see someone struggle, help them get professional help. PRONTO.
Turn around our self-obsessed culture on social (if it was up to me!).
But more than anything, CELEBRATE DIVERSITY.
I was always different.
And because of that, I was bullied in school.
I felt my personality was too big to handle.
Add to that a colorful sexual orientation + some family dynamics that weren’t working in my favor, and TADAA! A food disorder.
Despite the fact that my family has always supported me in being myself (they’re awesome), I just felt I couldn’t.
That I needed to diminish myself.
That the full package (ME!) was too much.
Had society given me other clues around “it’s OK to be your colorful self!”, I might not have tried to starve myself to death.
As you know, one of the challenges of an eating disorder is the harmful, and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just control yourself”. What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that an eating disorder is an illness just like heart disease or schizophrenia?
It would be absolutely wonderful if professionals reached out into the community and would speak about food disorders (what it is, and what it isn’t) in schools, in the workplace. I think that’s the only way to build awareness. As well as articles like these.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have helped you with your struggle? Can you explain why you like them?
Because I had my food disorder BEFORE the internet, I actually didn’t use any resources. The resource was my clinic.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Those who have faith can wait, and wait without anxiety” — I use this one all the time, whenever I’m freaking out or trying to control an outcome I can’t actually control (wanting control when feeling out of control is a huge reason why women develop food disorders, by the way!).
Nowadays I’m launching my online programs, and there are ZERO guarantees anyone will buy when I put my stuff out there. That’s terrifying! AND… this quote helps me relax and have faith!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! Everything in my business is female empowerment through money (and financial power). That’s why I’m really excited to bring my Clients Anytime Academy to a larger audience. The mission is to get as many women as possible to a place in their business where they can earn thousands of dollars a day, doing what they absolutely love. We’ve been test-driving this baby for the last year, and the emotional testimonials don’t lie: women have set themselves free financially and that is what’s going to change the world. Fast!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the largest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It would be to get as much money in the hands of women (and give them the self-confidence to spend it in ways that create positive change in the world). It’s time we stop hoping the establishment will advocate for us, and instead… have the money and time to a) get ourselves elected and change policy and b) stop allowing things to happen to us that we don’t want because we don’t have the money to support ourselves.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m @merelkriegsman on Instagram, or you can join my free FB group called “Create Your Money Vortex” for daily tips on making more money in your business and, if you’re interested in working with me, visit www.merelkriegsman.com.