By Holly Fisher
You can’t always spot someone with an eating disorder. In fact, in 80 percent of people, it’s not even visible. It certainly wasn’t for Jayne Mattingly, who developed her eating disorder at age 9. As a dancer, it wasn’t unusual for her to exercise a lot. And she was eating – just not very much.
Eventually, she started abusing laxatives and her disorder developed into atypical anorexia with purging. It wasn’t until Jayne was in her early 20s that her boyfriend urged her to get help.
Jayne never saw her behavior as abnormal. As she continued to pursue dancing as a teenager, she was surrounded by girls who ended up hospitalized for eating disorders. Because she wasn’t that bad off, Jayne recalls thinking she was fine.
Her childhood growing up in Chicago was happy and her family was supportive. Her mom never talked about calories or spoke negatively about her own body, Jayne says. Research has found eating disorders can run in families, and Jayne later discovered other family members had a disorder but never spoke about it.
“My eating disorder was about my body, but it also was a way to cope,” she says. “I didn’t realize what I was doing.”
Today Jayne identifies as fully recovered from her eating disorder, and she’s devoted her career to helping others along a path of healing and recovery. With a master’s degree in mental health counseling, Jayne started Recovery Love and Care, initially a blog and means of awareness and advocacy that has morphed into individualized, virtual coaching for those with an eating disorder as well as those struggling with their body image.
Jayne also partners with the Riley Wellness Group, which has offices in Charleston and Greenville plus a network of virtual recovery coaches around the country, helping women find balance, wellness and self-compassion.
Jayne says eating disorders are the No. 1 killer of adolescent females as they suffer organ failure or commit suicide. People tend to think of eating disorders as impacting young white girls, but Jayne says it’s a global issue, and she’s trying to debunk the myths and stereotypes.
“Some people have an eating disorder until the day they die. That is not a way to live,” she says. “I read that the average age when a woman accepts her body is 72. I was like, ‘Hell no, that is not OK with me.’ I want to bring women back to the days of playing with our belly rolls in the bathtub. Accepting your body for what it is. Smiling in the mirror. I truly think that’s possible.”
Jayne’s work with her mostly female clients is in helping them develop healthy relationships with food and exercise while learning to value their bodies as a vessel that allows them to live a beautiful life.
Balance is the key, she says. It’s about exercising safely and being able to eat both the doughnut and the kale salad.
Recovered for six years, Jayne has found that balance in her own life. She focuses on her work and her relationship with her boyfriend. She takes yoga and barre classes.
“It doesn’t mean I wake up every day and look in the mirror and say, ‘Damn, you look good.’ But I don’t overcompensate for anything. My hunger cues and fullness cues are all honest now. If I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m full, I stop. I laugh when I’m happy, and I cry when I’m sad. I don’t force anything.”
Her body has found its comfort zone, and she wants others to find that same peaceful, balanced place that leads to recovery.
“If people come away with just one thing it’s that you do not choose your eating disorder, but you do choose recovery,” Jayne says. “You don’t choose your eating disorder, it eventually turns into something you just can’t control. If you could control it, it wouldn’t be a problem. You can, though, choose recovery.”
Learn more about Jayne Mattingly and Recovery Love and Care at recoveryloveandcare.com. Learn more about the Riley Wellness Group at rileywellnessgroup.com.