Having helped herself, today Lesley Wirth is now able to help others.
A Cardiff resident, Wirth works as a life coach and counselor and recently released a self-help book called “Own Your Worth: A Spiritual Journey Through Food Compulsion to Self-Love.” Every word is inspired by her 13-year battle with anorexia, bulimia, compulsive eating and exercise addiction.
“I can hear what they’re saying, because I understand it so well inside of myself,” Wirth said. “I’ve been living it and breathing it since I was 14 years old.”
Growing up in rural Minnesota, Wirth said she never learned about eating disorders. At 14, however, she found herself restricting food and obsessing about her weight.
“It didn’t really start for me as a conscious way to diet and get skinny,” she explained. “It was more like something switched off in me and I started restricting. I think a lot of it had to do with being in junior high and feeling unworthy and insecure.”
Wirth ate about 300 calories a day. She exercised about five hours a day.
At the start of the school year, she weighed 110 pounds. By Christmas, she weighed 79 pounds.
“They didn’t think I was going to live,” she said. “I went down pretty fast. It just took over.”
Wirth was admitted to a hospital and received treatment at an eating disorder treatment center. But because she was only there because of her parents, the treatment didn’t work.
“I got out as fast as I could,” she recalled. “I didn’t want help. At that point, I would have rather been dead than weigh more.”
Within months after being discharged from the treatment center, Wirth continued to battle anorexia. When she finally decided she wanted help, she returned for more treatment and to learn how to maintain a healthy weight.
“The guilt that I was experiencing through eating was too severe for me to handle at that time,” she recalled. “But that time was a totally different experience, because I wanted it. I worked really hard.”
Wirth maintained a healthy lifestyle for about a year, but her struggles resurfaced when she began high school.
“I still felt so unworthy and insecure,” she said. “I wasn’t willing to starve myself, but I couldn’t allow myself to eat normally.”
Wirth battled bulimia for the next 11 years.
But during that time, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Minnesota, continued her studies at UC Berkeley and worked as a stylist.
She also received therapy. Nothing quite helped, however, until she began attending Overeaters Anonymous, a 12-step program for people with problems related to food.
“That was my first stepping stone, and it was a huge one,” she said. “I’m forever grateful.”
Through the program, Wirth was able to stop the behavior, but not able to find peace. She found that when she went on to earn her master’s in spiritual psychology.
“I found freedom inside myself — joy, happiness, pleasure — all those things I had lost for so many years,” Wirth said.
“It’s an ongoing process,” she added. “As long as I’m in the human body, I’m going to always be dealing with judgments and pain — all the things that come with being human. The difference now is that I have the ability to recognize that that’s just part of the human condition.”
Wanting to help others, Wirth has worked as a coach and counselor for more than three years. Using her education and years of study under naturopathic doctors and healers, she developed a three-month program designed to teach women how to take control and stop unhealthy behaviors.
“I just can’t fathom or imagine doing anything else,” said Wirth, who has lived in Cardiff since 2014. “Nothing lights me up more than to get to meet people in their pain and help them find their way out.”
Wirth works with clients locally, but also across the country and around the world. Her work is being implemented in recovery centers, spiritual communities and yoga studios.
To expand her reach, she wrote “Own Your Worth: A Spiritual Journey Through Food Compulsion to Self-Love.” Published in December, the book acts as a guide to help readers discover self-love and self-worth.
“I want people to learn how to help themselves,” Wirth said.
“The message and the processes are so powerful and helpful, I wanted to get it in as many hands as possible. This was the easiest way to do it.”
The book is available on Amazon and on Wirth’s website.
Wirth is also hosting a free conference call at 6 p.m. Monday, April 13, to talk with readers about the book and answer questions. The conference call line is 310-971-9950. A recording of the call will be available for those who are interested but unable to join the conference. To receive the recording, contact Wirth via her website, www.lesleywirth.com.