The struggles of having an eating disorder, or a dysfunctional relationship with food is very real. In my therapeutic work with teens and adults, I have been an intimate observer, supporter, challenger, educator, advocate, and firm believer in the ability to regain a positive sense of self and true appreciation for the human body. I never cease to be excited (and relieved) when one of my clients reaches a point in their recovery when they “get and accept” themselves for who they are, as they are. When they embrace the understanding of food as fuel to sustain a healthy body, nourishment becomes an integral part of their everyday life. Certainly, in the beginning stage of recovery, it feels like a fleeting acceptance, but when nurtured, it grows into a lifestyle change.
I have had the privilege of working with a wonderful young woman, Jennifer, for the past several months who wrote a beautiful story of her “Journey to Love My Body”. I have her permission to share some of what she has learned while in recovery.
- Recovery isn’t linear. It’s a journey. I still have good days and bad days, but the bad days become few and far between.
- Recovery doesn’t have a timeline either. For some people it takes months and for others it takes years. Being patient and doing the work will be rewarding in the end.
- Eating disorders don’t have a look. Anyone can have one.
- I removed food tracking apps, stopped using a food scale, and stopped measuring/portioning out my food.
- When grocery shopping, I don’t look at food labels.
- I ate all the foods I once didn’t allow myself to. Now I rarely binge, and I rarely crave sweets. This is something I was known for.
- I walked away from the gym. At first, I didn’t believe I had a bad relationship with it, but after some self-reflection, I now know I did. I am still figuring out what exercise looks like for me post eating disorder.
- No food is inherently good or bad. Food is food and food is better than no food.
- I move my body in ways that feels good to me and when it feels good to me. I used to hate walking because it wouldn’t burn enough calories. I now enjoy walking.
- I honor my cravings no matter when or how frequent.
- I listen to my body when it is full and recognize when I am hungry.
- I removed guilt from eating foods at restaurants and now I enjoy spontaneous ice cream dates.
- Accepted that my body needs to be this size to be able to function properly. My mood is more stable, my migraines reduced in frequency, my digestion issues went away, I sleep better, and my brain no longer feels foggy.
- I stopped comparing myself to others. I know this is easier said than done. If we all weighed the same, we still would all look different.
- I removed/muted anyone on social media that was posting things that were triggering to me or made me feel like shit.
- I followed influencers on social media that promote body diversity and body acceptance. I can share a few of my favorites.
- I deleted any pictures of myself in a smaller body. This is not including any pictures I had with others. As I did this, I mourned the body I once lived in and that is ok. It served its purpose and now I can move on.
- I picked up journaling to process bad days and therapy sessions. I would use my eating disorder to deal with my anxiety and to have control. Journaling allows me to dump my thoughts and feelings out on paper and remove them from my mind. This has been a great coping mechanism and I highly recommend this.
- I removed any clothes that didn’t fit me or have a negative memory/experience attached to them regardless of if they fit or not. They served their purpose and now it’s time to move on.
- Buy clothes that fit regardless of the size or number on the tag. I have bought from the same store at the same time a shirt in a S, a shirt in a M, and a shirt in a L. Clothing companies gaslight you and I just learned that clothes are meant to fit us not us fit them.
- >I recognize my triggers and put boundaries in place to prevent myself from spiraling. I tell medical professionals I don’t want to know the number on the scale because I know this is a HUGE trigger for me.
- Celebrate wins no matter the size. From wearing a bikini to not spiraling when the doctor says your weight out loud.
Learning to love your body allows you to take care of it. It allows you to embrace the uniqueness and wonderment of being you. There is not another “you” on the planet. There is no need to try to replicate being someone else. It takes time and effort to learn how to quiet the inner critical voice and the strength and desire to become the best, healthiest version of you. It is worth it because you are worth it!