2. You have to start loving yourself as you are. No trying to mold, shape or conform your body to societies or ED’s ideals.
3. You have to stop punishing yourself with exercise. Exercise can be fun and freeing but not if your soul purpose is to be thinner or burn calories.
4. You have to lose control. Ed is all about control. The only way to be free is to let go and realize that everything will be ok.
5. You have to stop telling your body what to do and let it tell you what to do. The body knows what it needs and wants better than we ever will so Its time we start listing to it instead of ignoring it.
6. It’s ok to rest. You don’t have to be doing something 24/7. You can read a book or take a nap. There is nothing wrong with taking time for yourself.
7. You should not fear food. Fear foods are fears because we have made them that way. If we start to realize that all food is equal and that our body needs a variety of foods to be healthy than there is no reason to fear it anymore.
"You don't have to be underweight to have anorexia."
Actually, yes you do. Right now, diagnostically, you do. And it doesn’t matter where you stand on that. I actually disagree with the criteria personally, but the fact that I disagree with it doesn’t make it disappear.
If we could learn to say that not all EDs are anorexia, but all EDs ARE serious, we may actually make progress in validating (and subsequently treating) all EDs.
This whole ‘recovery thing’ is so confusing. It’s like I’m learning how to swim but the only way to learn is to throw myself into the water and start drowning. To get over my anxiety is to feel it and I find myself running towards what’s safe (my eating disorder). You see recovery isn’t safe–it’s scary but that’s okay because at least I’m feeling something. At least I’m learning how to swim even if I feel like I’m drowning.
For those of you in recovery who feel they need permission…Here it is.
You have permission to eat . You have permission to be happy. You have permission to be healthy. You have permission to be bigger. You have permission to love yourself no matter what. You have permission to be free.
( Now it’s time for you to give yourself permission because it has always been available to you all you have to do is believe)
Remembering portion sizes, what time to eat, how much to eat, when to stop eating, when to eat more, when to eat less, to not over exercise, to feel comfortable when you don’t exercise, to order the item you want instead of the item with the lowest calories, to allow yourself food which isn’t considered ‘healthy’, to not just eat something because someone else is, to know that drinks with calories in are okay to have, to eat even if you’re alone or feel sad, to not look up calorie contents, to not weigh yourself everyday…to remember how you lived before your eating disorder.
DON’T hold onto clothes that fit your sick body but no longer fit your healthy body. That’s like holding onto your tricycle and periodically trying to switch back to it from the bike you ride every day. If you think it won’t trigger you, trust me - in a moment of weakness, it will and it’s just a matter of time so don’t even risk it.
DON’T hold onto friendships that are can potentially be triggering or toxic to you in any way. Unfortunately, this often includes people you’ve befriended in treatment but isn’t limited to it. This is a very important albeit difficult step to take but it’s time for you to think about YOUR health and wellbeing here. If it’s not part of the solution, then it’s a part of the problem. It’s not you being mean or cruel, it’s you making sure that you can live the ed-free and full life that you deserve.
DON’T hold onto your scale - food scales included! Your weight will fluctuate from day to day (as will the amount of food you eat) depending on a variety of factors and let’s face it - whether you’re just starting to recover or are almost there, having an ED-past and owning a scale just doesn’t add up to anything productive and can potentially be a trigger for a downward spiral in the future. I haven’t owned a scale in 5 years and my life hasn’t been negatively affected in the least - toss it and forget about it guys!
DON’T hold onto ED mementos (photos, diaries etc.) if they’ve ever served as a trigger for you in the past. If you have days when you’re feeling off balance and you tend to reach for your thigh gap pics from way back when to motivate unhealthy behavior - you need to get rid of them NOW. If when you feel sad you tend to re-read journal entries outlining your minuscule intake of ED-past and dwell on eating like a normal human being now - you need to toss out these journals and not look back. Clinging to the past is a direct link to potentially ending up right where you started so don’t go there.
It’s been over a year since you’ve gone. I really wish all our pictures together weren’t skeletal and tubed and half-alive. I don’t have interest in showing people myself in that time, and it wouldn’t be fair to you without consent that you can’t give.
But here we are–you’re fully dead and I’m fully alive and while I cannot seem to comprehend your death entirely, I saw it coming nine months before it happened in St. Louis. I saw it in your indifference to reaching your weight goal; I saw it in your eyes, the night on your bed when I asked you, flat out, if you planned to die from this. You told me yes, that you hoped one day you wouldn’t want to, but you figured you would. We made fun of staff that I have come to deeply resent for your passing. I braided your tube into your hair. You held your stuffed pig.
You had a boy over, once, to visit you. I covered my face in a book because he clearly had NO idea where he was or why, and you neglected to mention you met him at the gym. He spoke very little English and asked when you would be returning to the Y. Despite your gaunt frame speaking for you, you gently told him probably not in a little bit, that you needed to gain more weight. He nodded, and I curled up in silent laughter for the first time since my admission. When he left as we were called for night snack and vitals, we burst out laughing and I escorted you by the elbow because you had a funny habit of fainting when you stood.
One time, in the van ride to the residential house, you began to vomit involuntarily. You did so silently and calmly; no one heard you, so I held my hands under your hands and we caught the pure stomach acid, saying nothing…not wanting to cause a scene. When we got to the residential house, another girl turned and saw us and yelled “ZANE PUKED,” and in moments a frantic nurse came scrambling with paper towels. She jumped into the van, though you had long since stopped vomiting. We cleaned up in our shared bathroom, laughing again.
It is because of you that I learned I can continue to grow despite deep grief.
Nine months later, I had relapsed and ended up in Denver. You weren’t doing well, and toward the end of my stay, I learned you were on hospice back home in Missouri. It was in those days; those awful, endless days, that I realized that the literal worst way to honor you would be to use behaviors.
One particular community group, I was overcome with grief and particularly disruptive. After the group, I walked with a staff member to the bathroom.
“I’m sorry for being so difficult,” I said as we stepped into the spa.
“You’re grieving,” she stated simply, staring directly into my eyes.
That broke me. I slid to the floor as if I had been punched in the gut, “I don’t want her to die.” Incoherent sobbing. Her soothing tones and therapeutic words. Ten minutes or so passed, “Okay, you ready to go to snack?” She tacked onto the end of what I am sure was kind and therapeutic.
“WHAT!? How can I be expected to EAT?? I’m SAD!” I heard the flawed logic the second I said it, and this ridiculousness proved to be a turning point for me.
“Sarah,” she said, briskly, “You cannot restrict every time you are sad.” She held the door open for me, grabbed me a small paper cup of water, and we walked to snack, where I drank a large milkshake. They gave me extra time. Something broke in me that day; it felt wrong to eat when I knew Zane was home starving to death. But therein lies the rub; you cannot restrict every time you are sad.
Too many people have died from this. Some were shocking, some expected. I hate eating disorders. I hate that they take the brightest and most brilliant, and whether they die or not, they are starved into submission and silence. Their brains functioning at far less than optimal levels as their hearts do their best to stay alive. It’s wrong.
“Start your morning off right with 115 nourishing calories!”
What. Tha. fuCK??
That’s not even enough for a snack. It makes me sick hearing these diet commercials promoting their extremely low-cal products and posing them as “nutritious” or “healthy”. It’s absolute bullshit. Calories are the energy you use to walk, talk, read, go to school, do your job etc etc. I say the more calories the better! Fuck Special K and their breakfast for ants
Being in remission, when you’re not at the beginning but you’re not “recovered” either, feels exceptionally nebulous.
I remember Marya Hornbacher detailing it in Wasted–the boring aftermath. Sometimes, I feel that way.
But mostly, it’s just strange. I’m no longer driven by a negative energy balance. I’m no longer frenetic and obsessive–traits I’d attributed to my temperament that proved to be malnutrition-induced. I’m less numerical and more fluid. I am not a perfectionist by nature, so my non-specific anxiety has mostly dissipated, and can more clearly identify trauma-related anxiety. I don’t wake up in hunger and wander to the gym at odd hours of the night. I sometimes find myself missing that discipline, though I recognize now it was compulsion.
For so long, my life was governed by anorexia, then controlled entirely by professionals. Now, I call the shots. I eat because I choose to, though it now feels non-negotiable like the eating disorder once did. It almost feels like I know too much, now. Like my desire to have an unrecognized, ineffectual eating disorder is so painfully unrealistic that even skipping a meal is so tinged with redundancy–I’ve gotten where it lead me before and it was never where I wanted it to lead, so why bother now?
It’s a complete paradigm shift so I’m trying not to over-analyze it, but I can’t help it. It’s so odd. My drive is my own, and the autonomy feels good between my fingers. Now I just have to learn to equate the autonomy with the fuller hips, the sturdier presence, and the body that clearly has been built up from its time of being torn down. I’ve been growing for so long; it’s time I learn to be grown.
The day I recovered, I went out with my friends without having to check out the menu or find a ‘safe’ restaurant nearby on my laptop the day before. I just went out: had ice cream, pasta and pizza just like my friends and I had an amazing time.
The day I recovered, I decided to workout with a smile across my face laughing at the challenges I met along the way. I felt the joy of being both mentally and physically stronger. There was no dizziness, sleepiness or tears of pain. I paused my workout video to rest and I was able to continue when I was ready again.
The day I recovered, I went out to restaurants and was not the last one to order because I did not have to spend more time ordering my meal: asking for alternatives because I did not ‘like’ it or because I had ‘restrictions’
The day I recovered, I didn’t need to bug my mom about calling the airline for a low-salt meal because I was able to, without being anxious, spontaneously decide on what to eat when the flight attendant asked me. I chose what I wanted and did not spend hours searching and guess what might be on my plate during the flight.
The day I recovered, I spend my money on the things I liked and not just on food: clothes, make up and others. I did not spend hundreds buying ‘clean’ ‘healthy’ food just because there were nutritional labels or because it was healthier or lower in calorie. I could buy local foods without knowing the calories and did not solely rely my cravings on the numbers on the nutrition label.
The day I recovered, I felt the pain of being a women again. The cramps and the change of pads. The joys of eating massive portions and laugh at myself after. My body was able to use the food and did not need to eat away my muscles to survive. I could join in conversations with other girls/women about periods without having to fake that I was going through the exact same problem.
The day I recovered, I did not have to go to the hospital for check-ups: ultrasounds, gynecologist, psychologist, blood testing and weigh-ins. I could use the time to enjoy doing my hobbies and spend time with family and friends.
The day I recovered, I was not embarrassed in ordering something healthier or something different to other people. Instead, I stood up to myself and told the world that,
“I’m a recovered anorexic. I climbed mountains and failed. I wanted to die but I decided not to. I starved myself, I was scared of food. I went through tremendous pain both physically and mentally. But I’m proud of myself because today, the food on my plate, was what I wanted and not the demon inside my head.”
Travelling was incredible, there were moments where I wanted to be home more than ever, but also moments where I never wanted to go home. It’s the first time in my life I’ve gone somewhere alone, something I really never thought I’d be able to do since having anorexia. I ate out for almost every meal for five weeks, and my body has stayed exactly the same - I haven’t gained 10kgs like my head said I would. Instead I have gained insight and experience, and faith that I can look after myself. I’ve never been prouder of myself for accomplishing this massive goal 👊🏽.
Your ED is likely the toughest hurdle you will face in your lifetime, it’s your own personal Mt. Everest. That’s not an easy or short climb by any means. Take your time and put one foot after the other - you’ll be at the top before you know it!
My roommate and I made black bean brownies! They turned out to be really good. The best part of making them was when this guy from the room next to the kitchen came in sniffing the air and asked us what we were making😆
Today was such a beautiful day! I spent the majority of the day on the beach, poodling around and drinking lots of coffee. The place that in staying is right on the beach which is so nice. My best friend and I shared a pizza in a fancy candle lit restaurant for dinner. I ordered two desserts to takeaway but grossly overestimated my appetite! Spare cake is never a bad thing though.
Tomorrow is my last full day in Australia before I fly home. I’m excited to go home to see my family and friends, and have my own space again, but will miss the freedom of travelling.