Kendra still remembers wanting to be like all the other kids growing up. She wanted to feel free to be herself; say what she was thinking, make a mess, get in trouble. She didn't let herself. She was the good kid. Her family valued hard work, faith and education, excelling and doing ones best. There were a lot of high expectations. Kendra was determined to achieve them.
Kendra thrived on keeping it together. She ran track in high school and college, got good grades, graduated from an Ivy League college, was a devoted Christian, had a great job and lived on the Upper East Side of New York City. On the outside everything looked perfect. She was living the life, right?
Something felt wrong. It was that nagging eating disorder. If she could just clear that up… When Kendra was in 9th grade and joined track, she became very body-conscious. Running was her solution and track kept her focused on her body.
In Sophomore year psychology, one of the topics they studied was eating disorders. She had never heard of bulimia or imagined purging to keep weight off. But it sounded like it was worth a try. After all she wouldn’t have to be hungry and stress about what she ate. She’d just ‘take care of it.’
She started binging and purging to enjoy food and the feelings of being full. And she’d run really hard. Just to be sure she wouldn’t gain weight she’d run an extra few miles after track practice was over. When she binged at her parents house, she’d be careful and reorganize the boxes so you couldn’t tell food was missing. She was great at covering her tracks.
Suddenly she realized she had been living and eating like this for 5 years. She knew there was a problem and that it wasn’t healthy. If she could just get rid of the bulimia. So she became increasingly conscious of her behavior and started to get it under control. Until she relapsed.
One pivotal day Kendra was with her boyfriend’s family. They commented on how perfect she was. Perfect education, perfect job, perfect… It was stifling. She felt like a fraud. Later that night, her boyfriend mentioned that he thought she was perfect. That was the last straw. Kendra completely broke down and through tears screamed. “I’m not perfect! I’m bulimic!” And with that a rush of calm swept over her. The truth was out and she could stop hiding behind a facade of perfection.
She knew in that moment she would stop living like this. Kendra thought maybe that was all she needed to do, that being honest about that problem was enough.
But deep inside the little girl who wanted to just be herself was still waiting. Kendra realized there was more work to do. Loving herself and letting herself experience life fully was complicated.
Kendra had been hiding her shame behind a wall of perfectionism her whole life. The church services she always slept through as a kid? That wasn’t the faith she wanted. There was so much shame in that church’s philosophy that it took her away from herself rather than enlightening her. And she wanted to understand her relationship with men and with money. She saw many ways we can lose touch with ourselves.
And so the layers peeled back one after the next. Her consciousness and responsibility for her life was expanding. And that felt good.
Today Kendra lives in Wales. She shares her message through a website called the True You Project. She runs retreats in the Welsh countryside and works with women one-on-one all over the world. When Kendra works with people she takes a holistic approach. For example, when clients first come to Kendra to work on eating disorders, she talks with them about their lives, desires, beliefs and what’s holding them back from living the life they want. They spend time getting to know who they really are. Kendra’s found that clarity alone resolves a lot. Often without discussing food, people's eating disorders disappear. Kendra knows first hand how important it is to have an honest relationship with ourselves. And helping people do that is her life mission.
Find her insights and stories at The True You Project