Before Reading: Trigger Warning.
While recovery from an eating disorder can be a beautiful thing, it’s not just yoga and coffee and loving your body and eating bakery treats at Panera. It’s not easy and it doesn’t go away. Recovery is an active process that requires work and commitment and support from others. Would it be easier to just fall into sickness sometimes? Yes. Do I miss the body I once had, the power I felt in that, and what it symbolized to me, whatever that was? Absolutely. Is it hard for me to eat intuitively and not compare myself to others? Without a doubt.
I remember one Thanksgiving, I was close to my lowest weight. Every Thanksgiving after that has been a comparison. It’s hard to be thankful for something (food and recovery) that keeps me from what I want (being skinnier). It’s easy to be jealous of others who are still struggling because they’re succeeding at what I’m losing at and have a body I wish I did. It’s hard to be thankful for recovery when it goes against everything you’ve wanted for years. When it was your coping mechanism for emotions, your security blanket, your means of controlling the world. It’s like when you’re little and your parents force you to apologize to someone—do you really mean it? Or when you get a present that’s not at all you, but you have to emphatically say thank you anyways.
The Thanksgiving when I had just started recovery, I remember my therapist suggesting to me to focus more on how good the food tastes and the family around me. I worked my hardest to do so and more or less found success. I tried to not worry about others judging my weight gain or amount of food. I tried to be happy with where I was, reminding myself of the goal and what I would gain from recovery that wasn’t weight.
While it doesn’t feel as good as it has before, I feel like I’m in recovery still now. Recently, I’ve been struggling with body image, weight gain from antidepressants, and feeling less powerful and in control. Between this, comparing my body to others’, and being surrounded with eating disorder stories, I’ve been feeling very triggered lately. So, during this holiday season, I’m going to try to focus on why I’m thankful for recovery.
Because I remember how much time I wasted on calorie counts and crying over how I couldn’t eat but wanted to
Because I’ve learned how to see food rather than a number, something I never thought would come happen
Because I’ve been able to build stronger relationships with people because outings often times involve food
Because I have good body image days despite the number on the scale
Because I don’t have to worry about the guilt and pain from binging and purging
Because I’m not having to weigh down my pockets with coins or my stomach with foods and drinks in fear of my closeted eating disorder becoming more glaringly obvious to someone who may force me into recovery or acknowledge my issues
Because I’m not afraid to drink juice or eat PopTarts anymore
Because I don’t have to worry about the annoyance of a growling stomach or weak muscles
Because my clothes actually fit me without having to layer them
Because I don’t have to lie about how much or what I’ve eaten
Because my days and thoughts are about so much more than food and hunger, and because I have a life to live
Because college is about ordering pizza and Insomnia Cookies at midnight and so am I
Because a number on the scale doesn’t dictate how my day’s going to go
Because I’m able to encourage others with my story, and maybe become a psychologist specializing in eating disorders one day
Because I can eat what I want, when I want
Because recovery can make me feel invincible and happy and strong
Because I put less pressure on myself
Because of the people I’ve met through getting involved in eating disorder organizations
Because Chick Fil A. That is all.
Because I’m free to enjoy as many mashed potatoes and scoops of stuffing as I want
Because I don’t have to endure awkward questions about my weight loss
Because I’m learning to be okay with the fact my old jeans may not fit me anymore
Because I am so much more than my weight or shape
Because I can better focus on what really matters and how I can impact the world
Because art therapy is more fun as a coping mechanism than not eating or overeating are
Because I don’t have to worry about my body falling apart
Because I’m finally acknowledging that I was and am “sick enough”
Because I allow myself to eat at any restaurant I want, not just the ones with “safe foods”
Because I no longer punish myself
Because “my worst day in recovery is better than my best day in relapse” and I’m trying to learn that every day