“When you’re young, you don’t want to be different from your peers,” said now-37-year-old Jane Block. “I tried everything I could to appear as the American girl.”
A native of Ukraine, Jane and her family immigrated to the United States in 1989 to escape “communism and anti-semitism,” uprooting her life at the age of four. Young Jane did the best she could to navigate the change in scenery, mimicking the behavior of her classmates as she attempted to fit into a completely foreign world. Her attempts to create a good first impression came with a suppression of her Slavic roots, denying the persona built through the early development of her character.
“My mom packed me ethnic food for lunch and no one was trading their Gushers for my meat patties,” Jane laughed, noting a family palate heavily reliant on meats, fish and onions. “The only thing I could control was my food intake, so I began to say no to all the Russian food. Refusing ethnic foods led me to refusing most foods – even as American as a burger.”
Years of outpatient therapy has since taught Jane that the seeds for her Bulimia Nervosa and OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders) were planted at these early ages, later growing into a life-threatening obsession that would severely impact her physical and mental wellbeing.
“Not living authentically creates so many internal and external problems,” she said.
In middle school, Jane became overly self-conscious of her body. By 16, she began purging through the misuse of over-the-counter laxatives. Three years later, a deadly car accident involving her best friend tested Jane’s threshold for coping. She began severely restricting her diet and consuming copious amounts of alcohol to numb the pain. Overwhelmed, Jane was forced to drop out of Towson University after her freshman year. However, campus life ultimately proved the chronic to be her tonic: Jane learned Cannabis could stimulate hunger, allowing her to regain the hunger and fullness cues she lost as a consequence of disordered eating.
“I always had a large uneasiness around the dining halls,” Jane said. “But I’d go back to my dorm room, smoke and all that would go away. I would eat and I wouldn’t feel too full. It was like all the anxiety would leave my body after I medicated.”
In addition to outpatient therapy, Jane had a pair of in-patient hospitalizations at St Joseph’s Hospital and Johns Hopkins – the latter jump-starting her recovery. However, her team of doctors initially didn’t see eye-to-eye with Jane’s newfound passion for Cannabis-induced consumption. They wanted her to seek addiction counseling while also treating her eating disorder. She objected, and eventually, won out.
“I told them [Cannabis] was non-addictive and it was the only thing pushing me to eat,” she said. “We went back and forth about the treatment between my main medical doctor, a therapist and a dietician. We all agreed I should use my time to treat my eating disorder.”
Nearly two decades later, Jane finds that concept laughable, citing scientific studies on Cannabis and its terpenes – and above all, her personal experience – as evidence for an increase in appetite. Today, she glows with 16 years of recovery and a healthy relationship with food.
“Our bodies are a vessel that do a lot for us,” said Jane, who bounced back to receive a BS in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University in 2008. “There are so many things your body does for you other than show your looks. I used to hate the size of my thighs, but I’ve learned to appreciate that they help me walk every day. It’s things like these I’ve learned to focus on.”
She awakens each morning with a double espresso and a quick meet-and-greet with her bong to ensure she has an appetite for breakfast, kick-starting her metabolism for the day. Jane is a full-time student at a private institute that offers eating disorder coach training, where she’s on pace to graduate in 2022 and become a full-time coach, armed with the experience of her struggles.
“I used to ask myself, ‘Why me? Why was I given this illness? Why do I have to struggle for so long?’’’ Jane said. “And it’s because I was meant to help other people. That’s why I was put on this earth. And I’m going to do everything in my power to save as many lives as possible.”
Eating disorder recovery, she insists, isn’t one-size-fits-all. In fact, that’s a big misconception Jane wants to correct.
“I was never underweight,” she said. “And when you don’t look the part of an eating disorder, you can get overlooked by [doctors]. But eating orders don’t discriminate. They don’t care if you’re underweight or overweight. They don’t care about your ethnicity, your gender, your sexual orientation or your social status. Every kind of person can be impacted by this.”
Cannabis, she suggests, is just part of the process in recovery. Seeking therapy is also vital to securing a healthier future.
“Eating disorders are one of the most complicated recoveries out there,” she said. “You have to eat to live. You have to confront your illness every day. It’s been an extremely bumpy road. I didn’t believe I could ever be somebody that could fully recover, but today, I am confident and thriving in my recovered state.”
Staying away from her triggers and having a healthy support system has been crucial to her success.
“It fuels me to teach the world about eating disorders and what we can do to help these young people value their internal qualities more than they value their external qualities,” Jane said.