Hello! Who are you?
My name is Jade Pruett. I currently live in Columbia, South Carolina with my husband and corgi, Loaf. We moved here from Atlanta during the pandemic and are loving the slower-paced life.
I am very passionate about my work and how I’m able to help other business owners. It’s the best way to make lifelong friends. I consider myself to be a practicing happy person. I truly love my life despite continuing to deal with anxiety. I have the coolest husband ever who also happens to be a therapist, so he keeps me in check and is always there to help me process my feelings.
Our household loves to talk about feelings. I struggled with an eating disorder through my teens and 20s that I didn’t even realize was going on until I began recovering. Now on the other side of it, I feel so much freer to be myself and pursue happiness in my life.
What is your struggle and when did it start?
I am not sure when my eating disorder (anorexia) began. I can remember even back to third grade when I’d decide to go vegetarian just to restrict food. At that point in my life, it wasn’t about losing weight or looking a certain way; it was about control.
I was always an anxious kid who many wrote off as “shy,” and there was something about controlling food that felt good to me. As I got into my teen years in the early 2000s, diet culture was everywhere. My body type (like almost everyone’s) wasn’t like the super slender celebrities I saw on TV.
And it seemed like a rite of passage as a woman to start dieting. It was what every adult woman was talking about constantly, and I was seen as mature and relatable when I pulled out a Slim Fast bar in front of a friend’s mom. No one ever thought to be concerned. I never looked physically ill or underweight, so I wasn’t raising red flags.
From age 14 to 18 I experimented with just about every diet under the sun. My mom and I bonded over dieting, and I could tell how proud of me she was when I’d stick to a diet. I don’t blame my mom for my eating disorder at all, I think we were just operating off the information we had.
But there’s no denying my dieting took to a moralistic turn. She was happy with me when I dieted correctly. I was getting positive validation. I was seen as “good.” For an over-achieving perfectionist, and that positive feedback was addicting.
Throughout this time, I had been dealing with scary low-blood spells. I had no idea why it would happen, but every few weeks, I would get extremely dizzy, almost pass out, and in extra scary situations, start hallucinating.
I finally went to the doctor worried I might be diabetic. The doctor did her normal routine of weighing and measuring me, and decided that since my BMI was a little high, I must be dealing with these low blood sugar issues because of my weight. Her advice was to lose weight.
I distinctly remember her saying “It’s funny because you don’t look overweight!” Of course, now I know the low blood sugar issues were because I wasn’t eating nearly enough food.
I feel like this trip to the doctor officially sealed my fate. I started restricting my diet even more, desperately trying to “fix” my low blood sugar by eating even less. I was constantly dizzy, weak, and couldn’t think clearly.
How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?
Moving into my 20s, my desperation to lose weight consumed so much of my life. I was constantly anxious, especially in social situations. While I had a few close friends, I was also worried about what to say and what people thought of me.
I found a lot of validation in relationships with men, which was another driver to be as thin as possible. I thought no one could possibly like me if I wasn’t small and perfect. I did diet after diet throughout college, having found a roommate who was thrilled to drink nothing but juice with me for months on end.
I did my final diet after I graduated college. Even though we lived a few hours apart, my mom and I decided to try one of the most intense diets we had ever done together. I won’t name the diet, but it involves eating between 500-800 calories a day. We had done it once before and both lost an incredibly unhealthy amount of weight just to gain it back (and then some) the moment we stopped the diet.
The first time we did the diet was one of my darkest memories of dieting. I could hardly walk upstairs. I was holding onto the counter to walk across the kitchen in our home. I was running a small coffee shop and going to school full time, and being on my feet all day and having to retain information in class were impossible tasks. I even pulled into the wrong driveway one day.
For some reason, we thought it was a great idea to do this diet again. We were going to “take it easy” and eat around 800 to 1200 calories a day to get started. That did not work for me. I wanted to be “the best” at this diet. I would start at 800 calories a day, then think “well, why not 500? Why not 400? Why not 300?” until I was eating nothing every day.
At this point, I knew I had a problem. I didn’t know I had an eating disorder, but I knew I couldn’t keep dieting.
I had also just moved in with my now husband, which made hiding how little I ate impossible. He would never want me eating so little and didn’t even understand why I was trying to lose weight. I finally gave the diet up and started just trying to eat “healthy.”
Little did I know that stopping the “diets” would not fix what was truly going on.
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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?
When I was 25, I had just landed my first job at a startup as an SEO. We worked out of a WeWork in Atlanta, and I thought I was living the dream.
The anxiety I felt on a daily basis just felt like a part of who I was. Looking back on my behaviors, there were so many red flags. I ate a protein bar for breakfast just to curb my low blood sugar. I rode my bike to the train to go to work.
I ate a tupperware of carrots for lunch, usually not even able to finish it before feeling “full.” I was so anxious about eating in front of other people. I would be starving at my desk after my long bike ride, but I was worried someone would judge me if I ate a granola bar or a banana.
Three weeks into my job, one of my friends told me about this amazing book she had just read called Body Positivity Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe. I downloaded the audiobook that day to give it a listen. The book explained the history of diet culture, how eating disorders could look in different individuals, how BMI is not the be-all-end-all of health, and most importantly, it introduced me to intuitive eating and joyful movement.
For those who don’t know, the idea of intuitive eating is simply eating whatever you want when you’re hungry. You have to get rid of all the food rules we’ve been taught (kale = good, cookies = bad) and put all foods on the same playing field.
When food doesn’t have power over you, you’ll be able to make balanced food choices and give your body the fuel it needs without restriction.
Joyful movement works in a similar way. Instead of using exercise as a chore or a punishment for eating, you discover what kinds of movements you enjoy doing.
These two concepts felt radical to me, but I was so excited to try them. I remember excitedly eating Lucky Charms for the first time since I was little and enjoying the free snacks in the office. I still rode my bike to the train every day, but it was because I liked riding my bike. Not because I needed to burn the calories.
The new ideas left me in a state of euphoria for a few days. I was so excited to tell everyone about what I had just discovered. It felt like an incredible new way to live.
That was until day 3 when the panic set in. I started to disassociate worse than I ever had. My anxiety was through the roof. Suddenly, I wasn’t using food to control my emotions anymore, and all the suppressed anxiety, stress, and trauma of my entire life was bubbling to the surface.
That was when I realized something was seriously wrong. I wasn’t someone who dieted occasionally or even someone who may have disordered eating, I had an eating disorder.
Thankfully, it was too late to go back. I had seen how much freer my life could be. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I had to get help and get through this.
What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?
I started off by seeing an eating disorder dietician. She validated that what I was doing was right, even if it was hard. Continue to eat food. Eat literally whatever I wanted. Just eat. Try to ignore all the food rules I had collected over the years.
She connected me to an incredible eating disorder therapist who I started seeing every single week. With her, we didn’t talk about the food. We started working through the trauma that made me want to restrict myself in the first place.
She taught me how to feel and identify feelings other than “anxious” or “stressed.” I felt silly looking through a feelings wheel to decide how I felt, but it was such a valuable experience. Getting better became a second full-time job for at least the first six months of recovery.
Here are a few things they don’t tell you about recovering from an eating disorder.
Your body and your brain are going to change dramatically, and it’s going to make you feel like you’re losing your mind. If you’ve been starving yourself for years, your metabolism will slow to a crawl and your hunger signals will shut off. Your body is designed to do this to help you survive famines… even if you are causing your own famine.
When you start eating again, you’ll have hot flashes as your metabolism speeds back up. You’ll also start to feel hungry again for the first time maybe since you were a kid.
Then food insecurity kicks in. It’s like your brain thinks that there is finally food available, and you become terrified of feeling hungry. I remember becoming worried I’d starve to death during a one-hour work meeting. I start packing snacks to have even on the shortest drives, just in case I got hungry.
I also discovered, at least for me, that my appetite was directly connected to my social anxiety. I would be starving, sit down with my coworkers to eat lunch, start to feel anxious, and suddenly I felt so full I would feel nauseous. It was exhausting.
I was advised just to eat through the nausea. And anyone who has ever tried to eat while feeling sick knows how unpleasant that is.
I slowly started feeling better during my months of therapy. I became more confident, I started making new friends, and I stopped feeling constantly anxious and worried. One day after therapy, I ran into my therapist in the elevator, and she got to see firsthand just how awkward I was in social situations. She was trying to talk to me and I wouldn’t talk back to her. Finally, I said, “I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk to you outside of therapy.”
The next week, she brought it up and gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever received. She said, “Why don’t you enter social situations with your own boundaries instead of trying to figure out what everyone else’s boundaries are.”
It blew my mind. I could just talk to people like myself instead of trying to figure out who they wanted me to be. I remember leaving therapy feeling like a new person after getting that advice.
A few weeks later, HR reached out to my team at work and asked if anyone would be open to taking the new hire out to lunch on her first day. This was something I’d never dreamed of doing before I recovered. I ended up volunteering and taking the new girl out to a fun breakfast-for-lunch on the bottom floor of our office. She ended up becoming one of my best friends, and we still talk daily even now. It was one of the first examples of how different my life was now that I had gotten help.
The differences in my life only compounded from there. I was no longer dealing with daily low blood sugar, I wasn’t at risk of passing out, and my brain worked 1,000 times better. I was excelling at work, getting new opportunities at work, speaking up in meetings, and even applying for grad programs and getting promotions at work.
In 2020, during the pandemic, just a few months after I started recovery, I felt like my brain was firing on all cylinders for the first time in my life. I started multiple small side hustles, collected new creative hobbies, and felt like myself for the first time since I was little. It was like I had spent the past 15 years feeling stressed and anxious and weak, and suddenly I was a grown version of the creative, full-of-life kid I had once been.
At the end of 2020, I got my first freelance SEO client, a lawyer who had found me on LinkedIn. I had been doing SEO for a few years, but seeing how I could improve his business was a massive confidence boost for me. I decided then that I eventually wanted to strike out on my own and start my own agency. Three years later, I own a six-figure SEO agency and get to network with some of the coolest business owners and people I’ve ever met. I know without a single doubt that nothing I do now would be possible without recovery.
I am always telling people, “There is so much life to be lived after recovery.” And it’s so true. It is incredibly difficult to recover, but it is endlessly worth it.
Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?
I told just a few close friends about my eating disorder when I first started recovery. I also told the HR person at my office, which was an excellent idea in my case. I worked for a very supportive company, and they were able to offer some flexibility to me in the beginning, so I could always make it to therapy and appointments.
It took me over a year to finally tell my mom what was going on. My fear was that she would, well-meaningly, try to tell me that it wasn’t that bad. Or worse, she would think I blamed her for my eating disorder. When I finally did tell her, she did not fully understand what I went through, but she was supportive.
Sometimes I am hesitant to share my experience with others, but I am always happy when I do. So many people have dealt with similar struggles, and I often end up sharing a special bond that I would have otherwise missed.
When I first moved to Columbia, my co-working space had a cereal bar stocked with Lucky Charms. There was another woman in the room helping herself to some cereal, and I blurted out “Oh my god when I first recovered from my eating disorder, this was the first thing I wanted to eat!”
I started to regret being so open with someone I didn’t know, but then her eyes lit up, and she started telling me all about her own recovery. Needless to say, we are now best friends.
If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?
Don’t be afraid to make a change. It’s going to be challenging, but it was so worth the struggle. You owe it to yourself to conquer this and experience life on the other side.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?
- Body Positivity Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe: This book introduced me to the world of body positivity and intuitive eating. It’s such an easy and engaging read, and I learned so much.
Where can we go to learn more about you?
I’m an SEO Analyst and Founder of HelloSEO, a boutique SEO agency that helps small businesses and startups gain visibility in Google and connect to their target audience.
You can follow me on Instagram, or connect with me on LinkedIn!
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