Eating Disorders

What Gardening Taught Me About Eating Disorder Recovery

What Gardening Taught Me About Eating Disorder Recovery | Libero Magazine 2
Eventually, my new roots became stronger, and I was able to stay firmly planted in my new eating disorder recovery soil. Now I'm thriving.

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Recently, the succulent in my window started to look a little sad. I hadn’t quite worked out its watering schedule, and the dark Canadian winter left it straining for the light. I thought back to my elementary school horticulture club–yes, I was that kid–and decided to try to save its life.

You see, when certain plants start to wither they can be propagated–you can cut a piece of the original plant and allow it to grow new roots. That’s what I did with my succulent, and now it’s thriving. It’s also what I did to myself, in a manner of speaking, many years ago.

When I was early in the early stages of eating disorder recovery, I was having a hard time letting go of all the rules and restrictions I’d built for myself.

Some of these rules seemed to have come out of nowhere. They were the things my genetic wiring told me would keep me safe and secure.

Some of the rules, however, I could trace to specific people or events. The TV show telling me I’d have to exercise a certain amount each day. The family member who told me what foods I should eat and which to avoid. This book told me what numbers to strive for, in relation to weight and calories. That babysitter taught me to hide my tears, for fear of repercussions.

If I was going to live a new life, one without my eating disorder, I would have to learn what was right for me and my body. So, I propagated myself. I mentally cut myself off from the rotting roots, the ones keeping me sick.

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I planted myself in fresh soil and put down new roots. And I started to grow.

I decided to start at the very beginning, like a new baby plant.

How would I feed myself? Would I feed a baby diet soda and limited-calorie foods? Not on your life. I challenged myself to include food with actual nutrients in it–foreign territory for me! This was my new soil, my new life.

How would I teach a child to move? Would it involve punishing exercise or playful pursuits? Would I chastise it for not working hard enough, for not looking right, or would I celebrate the person inside? What people would I allow access to my new baby self? Was there room for those who put me down, or only for those interested in lifting me up?

These were big questions to answer and even bigger changes to make. The patterns of my old life weren’t so easily undone. It took a lot of work, a lot of help, and a lot of cha-cha-ing from new soil to old soil, and back again.

Eventually, my new roots became stronger, and I was able to stay firmly planted in my new soil. Now I’m thriving, just like my succulent.

It’s not easy to make changes, and help can be difficult to come by for so many reasons. However, you can start thinking about your new life at any time. What would you bring with you to your new soil, and what would you leave behind? Are there rules and restrictions keeping you in your old planter? Who is welcome in your new life?

While there are many people who can help you tend to your new plant, only you decide what goes in your garden.

Your garden, your rules. They may grow and change over time, but those new roots are all yours. Plant deep, grow tall–you’re worth it.

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Kelly Boaz

After winning her 17-year battle with anorexia, Kelly Boaz turned her life’s focus to helping others do the same. Kelly is a Toronto-based Holistic Nutritionist (CNP), specialising in eating disorder recovery and food freedom. She is also a writer and speaker (TEDx, TDSB), raising eating disorder awareness, and helping people heal their relationship with food and their bodies. You can find out more about Kelly, or get in touch via her website,