Ask Alexandra – July 2007
The fact that you conquered your eating disorder is so admirable and inspiring. What was the turning point for you in your disease, and do you have any recovery stratgies for those of us still struggling after many years (or decades) with this disorder? Thank you very much for your advice and insight on this very difficult issue.
My heart goes out to you and everyone else struggling with an eating disorder. It is by far the most painful challenge I have had in my life. From 16 to 28 years old, I was bulimic, caught in a cycle of bingeing and purging. I am so proud to say that I am now 16 years abstinent, which means I have not thrown up since 1991. It is an accomplishment I never believed was attainable when I was in the midst of my disease, but if I can do it, so can you.
From the beginning, I was in talk therapy, and that definitely made me aware of why I used food to handle stress and to cover up what I thought were unacceptable feelings. But even with awareness, I continued my bulimic habits. There were weeks when I didn’t throw up at all, and then I would have a bout when I did it 3 times a day. When I got it down to a couple bad days a month, I thought that was the best it was ever going to be, until my friend Jocelyn said, “Is that good enough?” I realized it wasn’t, and with her support and the support of my boyfriend at the time, I started going to the twelve step program modeled after AA that is for eating disorders: Overeaters Anonymous. Within a month, I stopped bingeing and purging, worked the Twelve Steps (which are amazing to do even if you are not an addict), and got a sponsor whom I called every day for 10 years.
My advice is to never give up. Go to therapy and get into a 12 Step program (www.oa.org). It isnt about the food. The food is an external manifestation of your inner turmoil, so you must have the courage to look inside yourself and see how you are giving your power away and when you are stifling your true feelings. It took me 12 years to stop, but I am forever grateful that in the end I prevailed. My weight immediately stabilized, and my life is better than it has ever been. I no longer have those overwhelming urges to binge, and therefore do not have a need to throw up. But it wont happen without diligence and it rarely happens without outside help.
Best of luck to you, and thank you for writing.
Thank you for all that you do in encouraging people to become more conscience of their surroundings and how even little changes can and do make a difference. I recently started a recycling program at my work place and am so proud of how my coworkers have really taken to the idea. I met with a (very) little resistance in the beginning but people really seem to enjoy feeling as though they are making a difference.
Several years back I watched a special on you about how you generate almost no garbage and are truly “green”. My question to you is to ask if you are aware of a place where this special could be viewed again. I really appreciated the tips that I got from that program and would love to be able to share it with family and friends.
Again, thanks for all you do.
Congratulations on starting a recycling program at work! That is awesome!
I am sorry that I don’t know the program you saw, as I have been interviewed often about my concern for the environment. Unfortunately, I am not yet “truly green”, as I still live a lifestyle that is too consumptive to be sustainable. In other words, if all 6.5 billion people on the planet lived like I do, Earth still wouldn’t be able to support us. That is one of the reasons I am so serious about the human population issue, and why I believe that 2 billion people is the max number that should be on this planet. That way everyone is able to have a nice standard of living (but not as high as we Americans currently live, which is wasteful and may not be that “high” if you consider quality of life instead of just possessions) without raping Nature. For this reason, I believe that families should be no larger than 2 children per couple.
Even though I drive an electric car powered by green power (81% wind), am a vegetarian who chooses organic foods and is discerning about packaging and shopping, I still have too heavy footprint on the planet. It is pretty inherent in living in a First World country, especially the United States. I recycle, save water, don’t use toxins in my home and fix things when they break instead of buying something new. But I still live in an 2,000 sq foot condominium with my husband and we co-own a country house. Ian and I still each have our own cars and own computers and our own telephones and our own office space and we have a closet of over 30 shoes. We have toilets that flush probably 14 gallons of water a day into the sewage system. That may not sound like much (they are low-flow toilets and we don’t flush every time we pee), but we live in LA which is a desert and that kind of water usage doesn’t work in a desert. I fly in an airplane at least 5 times a year. All this adds up to a lifestyle that pulls too many resources from the earth. So even though I am greener than the average American, I feel I am not green enough. Every day, I try to lighten my footprint on the earth, and maybe one day I will be “truly green”.
Meanwhile, you and I and everyone else must do more than what we are currently doing. We cannot rest on our laurels.
As an actor, you are able to sway public opinion. Do you feel you have to be more cautious than the average person about what and who you support? As a person who seems to have an appetite for life and freedom, does this make you feel confined in anyway?
I think anyone in the public eye has to be more cautious: when someone talks publicly about what they believe in, it is always important to have an understanding of why. Not only because other people are influenced by what you say, but also because it is embarrassing when you don’t have the facts straight! I don’t feel confined by this, I actually think this is helpful to encourage me to be more informed, because sometimes it is tempting to just spout off on something. There is responsibility for all of us to speak with thoughtfulness, and we all need to educate ourselves on issues – that is how a democracy works best, with an informed and involved citizenry. It is not easy, and it means a commitment to get information from all sides in an open-minded fashion.
My friend Max once said to me (when I was probably talking in circles on some subject), “Alexandra, it’s OK to just say, ‘I don’t know’”. He was so right and I try to follow his advice, although it is often not my first instinct. I also have learned that I don’t need to put my 2 cents in all the time, that most of the time it is best to be quiet and just listen. That has never been easy for me, but it is nice when I give myself permission to do this.
I don’t engage in debates on issues anymore, with friends or anyone, because it just raises my blood pressure and leaves me agitated. There are so many folks who don’t have an opinion on an issue, that discussing the topic with them if they want to be educated, rather than having an agenda to change someone’s mind, is really so much more productive and less combative.
Good to hear from you,