This post discusses eating disorders and some behaviors that may make it inappropriate for those still currently struggling. Please be kind to yourself. If you’re looking for super uplifting, empowering, nourish-our-bodies-well material, check out this post from Robyn!
A few weeks ago Lindsay, sort of just randomly in the middle of a post, wrote something that really struck me.
I had an epiphany the other day – I’m finding that the more and more distance I put between myself and my eating disordered past, the more OK I am with weighing myself. It doesn’t give me nearly as much anxiety. I don’t find myself falling back into disordered patterns and I am approaching these topics with a less jaded view (ex: I used to NEVER step on the scale because I was afraid that I’d fall back into that daily pattern). I think I had let myself be defined as “recovering” and I’m finding that I’m more “recoverED.” One can only play the victim for so long. Maybe that doesn’t make sense but it does to me and I feel powerful.
It totally hit home with me and where I am right now. I’ve mentioned before that I consider myself recovered from my eating disorder, and have gotten some questions and disagreements about that statement.
My eating disorder started when I was 17. That’s 10 years ago. That means for 10 years of my life – over 1/3 of my life – I’ve either been in the depths of, recovering from, half-assed recovered from, or thinking about being recovered from my eating disorder.
They are big beasts. Eating disorders are powerful, real mental diseases that take over and totally disrupt lives. But this isn’t about the seriousness of eating disorders, a topic I could certainly go on and on about. It’s about moving on from them and why I say I’m recovered from my eating disorder.
I am in such a great place right now. I’m happy and truly healthier than ever. About a year and half ago I gained more weight, got my hormones back in line, totally came to terms with my new (bigger) body, and started to feel AWESOME. It’s been a process and a struggle, but I’m so proud to be at this place that many people with eating disorders don’t think actually exists. I’m in the “I eat whatever I want and don’t count calories and don’t worry about my weight or what my body looks like every waking moment” place. It rocks here.
But in order to FULLY be here – to live 100% normally – I can’t keep thinking that I’m “in recovery.”
I think eating (or not eating) can become an engrained way of handling tough emotions or struggles for a lot of people, and therefore the possibility of future relapse is always there. I’m not naive to that. But I also think that a major part of recovery is learning to live with those anxieties and emotions. We have to find alternate methods for handling them, whether that be yoga or journaling or therapy or good friends or running or meditation or reading or medication.
I know I’m not immune to future troubles. In fact I’m almost certain it will happen at some stressful point in my life. Likely not a full blown eating disorder, but some sort of food-related coping mechanism. And if and when that happens, appropriate steps will be taken to get better.
But I can’t live like that. I can’t live in fear of my eating disorder creeping back in; totally on guard and careful all the time. That would not be living normally and NOT allowing myself to be recovered. As Lindsay said, that’s playing the victim and letting myself be defined by my eating disorder. By not trusting myself and having confidence in my power to handle emotions in a proper way, I let the eating disorder win.
So instead, I say that I am recovered from my eating disorder. I don’t have to tip toe around. I don’t have to constantly have snacks in case a meal accidentally has to get skipped. I don’t have to avoid the scale. I can speak honestly about my body and perhaps even wishing it were a little different. I don’t have to overthink ordering just a salad if it’s what I’m in the mood for, or try to decide if that night I ate too many cookies was a binge. If I’m not very hungry one day, I’ll make up for it the next. If I I’m I’m not in the mood for breakfast I’ll trust my body to want extra at lunch.
I’ve distanced myself from my eating disordered past so that things that used to bother or trigger me don’t anymore.
Normal living involves ups and downs, higher calories and lower calories, friends asking you to join them for moral support on some bizarre 5-day food plan, working out a ton one day or completely being a lazy bum for 3 weeks straight because you’re not in the mood. All that stuff is the normal ebb and flow of life – something I worked SO HARD to get back too – and it shouldn’t be ruined or ruled by a state of constant “recovery.”
This is going to be controversial because some people are firmly in the constant recovery camp. What I’m saying and where I am is certainly not right or even viable for everyone. Only YOU can know when you are just in the groove, in an awesome place, ready. Living the good life. Feeling 100% awesome about food and your body and quite honestly, just not caring anymore. Only you in your heart and mind can truly know that, so there is no point in making judgment about whether I (or anyone) am ready to be in this place.
Everyone is different. Maybe some people will never get here. That’s okay -it’s their recovery and their personal health that matters. I am so so passionate about eating disorders and proper treatment and recognition of them that I would never want to trivialize them or give improper advice. This is NOT advice for anyone else – I’m not part of your treatment team.
This is me finally realizing what I’ve been feeling lately. ME, personally, sharing my truth.
It is so important for my life and my future to be recovered not in recovery. To allow myself to make decisions as “Clare” and not as “Clare that used to have an eating disorder”. To just LIVE, be spontaneous, and be fully present and in community with friends and family. I can’t do that if my mind always goes back to my eating disorder. When I am “recovered” I am confident in myself and my ability to do what is best for my body, and I worked damn hard to earn that.
For more posts on my eating disorder and recovery, check out my RECOVERY page.
To learn more about eating disorders or get help, please visit the National Eating Disorders Association.