Starving in Search of Me by Marissa LaRocca
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3.5 out of 5 stars. Because most of my readers and I are Christians, I would recommend this guide with one caution: the eating disorder insights in Staving in Search of Me are helpful but know that LaRocca's perspective is counter to Christianity. She includes Buddhism, LGBTQ+ issues, and pantheistic principles, to name a few.
That's why I would recommend parts of Starving in Search of Me. I like the eating disorder insights LaRocca details, but I can't entirely agree with every idea in this book. I will stick to eating disorder advice and not comment on the political or social justice material.
The Root of an Eating Disorder
"And what are they [eating disorder patient] really hungry for?" pg. 16
"In the context of my eating disorder, this notion of feeling afraid to assert my desires manifested as a fear of my own appetite. I didn't want to be hungry for anything because I saw hunger as a weakness and as a vulnerability. To be able to say, "I'm hungry to be...treated with respect, taken care of, touched, desired, listened to," was petrifying, as I had come to believe that having an appetite for anything was something to be ashamed of." pg. 142
I love this metaphor because I believe that eating disorders have nothing to do with food. Eating, or not eating, is just a coping mechanism for more in-depth issues. Eating disorder sufferers hunger for something that isn't food but looks for fulfillment in food.
LaRocca explains why she developed an eating disorder: "I began to starve myself very strategically and deliberately and exercised as often as I possibly could. It was all I could think to do to diffuse my anxiety and push away the black cloud that was now looming over me. I hated myself for failing at socializing and for being incapable of relating to others. I hated myself for feeling paralyzed in the face of too many decisions about a future that felt uncertain." pg. 60
"I've accepted that the majority of my dysfunctional behaviors around food and exercise were rooted in the fact that I didn't know myself and I was afraid of everything." pg. 102
I developed an eating disorder as a way of dealing with my problems. I think this is the cause of many individuals' disordered eating, though it might manifest in different ways. In chapter 5, LaRocca describes all the reasons why she developed an eating disorder. The one I identified with most was, "I wanted to avoid dealing with my real problems," "I wanted to protect myself," and "I wanted to feel contained." I recommend you do a deep dive into these reasons!
Studies have shown that eating disorders develop in a person's teens or early twenties. These are the stages of life where we are trying to become an adult and when a person is most vulnerable.
"We can't deny the ways in which we are shaped by our upbringings...Our parents play an undeniably significant role in influencing our personalities, our temperaments, and the ways we come to view the world, especially when we are young. Also, we are shaped by more than our experiences - we're shaped by the meaning we assign to those experiences." Pg. 29
People become who they are because of both nature and nurture. My eating disorder was triggered by my circumstances, which included my mom, suggesting I lose weight. I don't blame her, but blame my stage of life.
"All the while I was experiencing this sense of overwhelm, I was also yearning, reaching, searching for something I could not quite put my finger on. And so I challenged everything - my sexuality, my metaphysical body, and my desires - essentially, my entire identity." pg. 41
When I had an eating disorder, I also felt like I was missing something. A big hole filled my life, and I couldn't shovel enough food, relationships, or work into the space to fill it. I felt trapped by my circumstances because I thought I couldn't grow up. I was about 18, and I couldn't take care of myself, mentally or financially. Enter an eating disorder.
"I was dieting as an opportunity to escape myself, to distract myself, and to gain some handle of control over the fast-approaching demands of adulthood. I just wanted to feel like I was moving toward something measurable and meaningful without having to actually deal with real life." pg. 43
I got my eating disorder my senior year before I went to college and before, I had to grow up. I wanted to be an adult, but I was scared of what that responsibility meant.
How to Heal
"I realize in hindsight that this was a real breakthrough point, and one of the most courageous things I have ever done. After running from my feelings for years, I made the conscious decision to try a different approach. It marked the beginning of my willingness to lower my guard and to be vulnerable, finally understanding that if I didn't face myself head-on, I'd be my own victim for the rest of my life." pg. 92 - 93
If I could tell my former self anything, I would say to them this: to heal, you need to feel. I ran away from my feelings because I felt so intensely. They ruled me, and I was afraid that my feelings would consume me if I let myself feel.
Who Gets an Eating Disorder
"I've come to speculate that eating disorders may occur more frequently in people who are highly sensitive, hypervigilant, and exceptionally attuned with the feelings of the people around them to the point that they feel inclined to protect and nurture others before themselves." pg. 102
"I think eating disorders may also occur more frequently in people who are exceptionally driven, perfectionistic, and ambitious, perhaps especially in those who grow up in controlled environments where they are taught to follow many rules, as well as in people who are exceptionally open-minded and inclined toward philosophic thinking." pg. 103
"Well, the answer is that a lot of them aren't getting by. More people than ever before are suffering from anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive issues, and fatigue. More are dying from nutrition and stress-related diseases...Another factor contributing to what I'll refer to as "America's disorder" is that so many Americans have become segregated from nature in their modern-day lives. They rely on conflicting, disorienting, and illogical news and media sources to tell them what to do in terms of their own health." pg. 182
Forgive Former Self for Being Former Self
"Metaphorically speaking, I had to get down on my knees, look former versions of myself in the eye, and say, "What you went through was real. And it sucked. I see you, and I'm here for you." I had to provide the kind of nurturing to myself that I had been waiting for from other people." pg. 119
"If I could only transcend the barrier of time, I'd go back and kneel down beside this girl. I'd grab her cold hands and tell her she's already enough. I'd tell her that everything will get better, trust me." pg. 201
I am not good at forgiving myself, mostly my former self. I don't want to think about who I was ten years ago. I block that part of my life out, which I shouldn't. That person is still me, just at a different stage of life. She still deserves love, acceptance, and grace. Your former self does too.
"Today, the way I feel about my body is entirely different, my body is a part of me...I feel my own body to be something sacred and worth protecting." pg. 124
That's how you should see your body. It's a vessel to bring you through this life until you are ready for the next. It's the only one you get, so it should be sacred and worth protecting.
"I quit my job in New York City, I ended my dysfunctional relationship, and I moved to the suburbs where I'd be surrounded by more nature and less hustle and bustle. In deciding to take this leap of faith, everything I wanted lined up for me; I found a great apartment I could afford on my own, I got an opportunity to work from home, and I began dating someone I was genuinely excited about." pg. 152
People are too slow to change their circumstances, even when they aren't working for them. Make your environment work for you! If your job is depressing you, quit. If your living situation is causing you anxiety, move. Make every excuse to take care of yourself.
I know our current society preaches self-love and has the "do what is best for you" mantra. It's not lost on me that undertones of this philosophy are preached above. Even though I'm not an advocate of the self-love culture, I believe that serving means taking care of yourself so you can take care of others.
"The other part of making choices that make you happy is that you have to stop giving a fuck about what other people think. Because I've felt different from the people around me my whole life, I've struggled a lot with my own self-worth." pg. 154
You don't know the kind of freedom you will gain when you stop caring about what others think until you do it. I believe that is the key to finding yourself. When I stopped people-pleasing, I gave myself the room to discover who I was and what I wanted to be. It was vital in my recovery journey.
"Creating space in my life for the things that fulfill me is much less about making time for these things and much more about budgeting my energy." pg. 157
I love this concept. Everyone talks about time, what to do with time, or how to get more time. But people don't talk about budgeting their energy. Many activities, like crowds, drain my strength quicker than others. If I have an hour, I would rather spend it reading or chatting than weaving between people at the mall or a concert. I'm going to consider my energy level now when I'm making plans.
"I put as much time, energy, and money as I can afford into maintaining a healthy diet, but I don't let my diet cause me anxiety or rule my life...I don't let it steal my joy, compromise my freedom, or interfere with my relationships...The way I eat now does not require any willpower." pg. 185
I like this advice. It's a concise way to describe a healthy diet. Obviously, it's not perfect, but it's excellent as a general rule. Your eating habits shouldn't be stressful or rule your life.
Starving in Search of Me is incredibly relatable when it comes to eating disorders. I couldn't help but highlight whole chapters because I wanted to remember the pieces of wisdom spouted in them. I even underlined some parts just because they were beautifully written.
Again, I would recommend the eating-disorder-specific parts of this book. The other features that discuss LaRocca's world philosophy, I wouldn't recommend because they are counter to my own (and many of my readers) world view.
"I've decided to embrace the things that make me "odd" or eccentric, rather than judge and punish myself for my perceived limitations." pg. 99
I thought this was ironic because I experienced the opposite. I had to embrace my normalities. For the longest time, I wanted to be unique. Growing up in a small town in the midwest, everything about me seemed dull. Part of my healing journey was me accepting who I was and appreciate the cards I was handed.
Need another book? Maybe one of these will work:
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