Yesterday I was asked for some recovery advice from a gal who has been trapped in a life with ED for a little over a year.
Here is what I told her.
First and foremost, I am so proud of you for the progress you’ve made so far. It is not easy to talk about your journey, and it is especially hard to take steps in overcoming this battle. For years, I was terrified of what life without my eating disorder would be like. I simply couldn't fathom my existence without it. I used my eating disorder as a security blanket, and I was completely reliant on it to get me through each day. I struggled for about 5 years before any substantial progress was made in restoring my physical & mental health, but the reason I was able to reach a full recovery was because I got SO sick and tired of “living” my life that way. It was exhausting, painful and full of guilt. I got sick of it, and I fought like hell to defeat that demon living in my own head.
In terms of advice, it goes far beyond the food and exercise component of the disorder. So many people tend to think that recovery is solely the process of gaining weight, breaking through your fears of certain foods, and cutting back on exercise. That’s such a tiny fraction of what recovery truly is. Although restoring your body to a healthy weight is the first step, and is a vital step in order to continue making progress, it is not the only component to regaining your health and happiness. To explain why it is so crucial to nourish & restore your body to its natural weight, think about it this way - you have to restore your body’s weight in order to allow the brain to begin properly functioning again. Without adequate nutrition, the brain simply cannot think rationally. That’s where ED comes in and takes over. So by restoring your body to its healthy weight, you are moving in the right direction, and lessening ED’s power.
The most crucial part of recovery is discovering what the root of the disorder is - searching internally to find what it is that is causing this behavior. My eating disorder developed as a result of me trying to find a way to regulate my life when everything seemed to be spiraling out of control. I needed to regain peace of mind, so I did that by obsessing over my food, exercise and weight. I developed obsessive habits, insane rituals and countless “rules” in order to maintain this sense of control in terms of my food and exercise. After years and years of making this sick attempt to find even the tiniest bit of confidence through these obsessive habits, I realized that no matter how rigid I was in controlling this aspect of my life, I was still unhappy. No matter how many pounds I lost, or how many hours I spent in the gym, I was still so heartbreakingly unhappy. It took a hospitalization for me to realize that losing my life to this disorder would not make me superior to anyone else, and that this competitive mindset I developed to be the skinniest girl in the world did nothing for me but send my anxiety, insecurity and fear through the roof. Weight loss was not the answer, so I needed to look elsewhere to solve the issues I had inside.
I learned to look at the bigger picture. I constantly reminded myself throughout my recovery process to take a step back and reflect on what is truly important to me in my life - my family, friends, passions, goals, relationships, and so so many more. Nowhere on that list do I hold my weight or size as a priority, because those aspects of my life are not the source of my happiness or the solution to any of my problems. Our bodies are our outer shells, but they do not have the ability to provide love, peace or happiness. Our brains, hearts and souls can do all of those things for us, but our bodies most certainly cannot. The obsessive mindset you’ve developed is sadly a result of the demon attempting to take control of your life, but this mindset does not need to become permanent. You have the ability to break through these thoughts at any moment, and by continually breaking through these thoughts, they will become less and less common.
The more you fight, the less power ED will have.
My biggest piece of advice is to make yourself uncomfortable. Remaining in your comfort zone will not lead to any type of progress. Do things that scare you, eat things that make you nervous, try new coping skills, skip a day at the gym, wear a new outfit you’ve been afraid to put on, be spontaneous. By doing these things and realizing that, although they may be terrifying in the moment, they did not hurt you and therefore do not need to be feared. These fears you have developed are irrational, but you have to prove that to yourself by doing them over and over and OVER again. Do not allow ED to dictate what is “good” or “bad” because those terms are so meaningless until we put meaning behind them. Work to discover what you love about yourself as a person, beyond your physical outer shell. That is where your true value lies.
I am praying for you and I will be sending all of my strength & positivity your way. You are a warrior, and I know you can win this battle. Keep fighting.