I have been getting a lot of requests lately to discuss how I got into recovery, and how I maintain my recovery from an eating disorder. Truthfully, I have been hesitant to speak openly about it – only because everyone’s recovery is different, and I am still very much in the midst of mine. Every day I wake up and I do the things I need to do to ensure that I remain healthy. It is a constant state of vigilance against my brain, because my knee jerk reaction is to not eat whenever I am struggling. However, whilst reflecting on my journey, I realized that there are lines in the sand that I refuse to cross. There are also a few daily habits that set me up for success, and these have kept me in recovery for two years now. For that I am eternally grateful, and am more than happy to share this with you all.
First off – I am not a medical doctor. I have no affiliations with any companies, or methods, and I do not pretend to be a licensed healthcare professional. I am a second year college nutrition student, and whilst my education has had a large impact on my food choices, it does not allow me precedent over any trained healthcare professional. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to a doctor/dietician/psychologist/therapist.
The core keys to my getting myself healthy (and staying there), are education, conversation and habit. When I was not eating, I always had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. The feeling told me that what I was doing was not healthy, I should not be consuming protein shakes with ingredients in it that I did not recognize, and that I needed to eat real food. I knew that I was skipping entire macronutrients, and I was aware that I did not feel the way a woman in her early 20’s should. When I began to study nutrition, these realizations were forced home. If I wanted to live a long life (and I do), I would need to change a lot about my eating habits.
A decade of starving myself has left me with some terrible lingering health problems. I have real problems with my hormones, as well as some body injuries that will never heal. I do not digest food well, nor do I tolerate certain foods at all. I have had to make peace with the fact that I brought this upon myself. There was no point tearing myself (or others) down for it – all I could do was adapt and try to live as best I can.
So I dove into the literature. I learned as much as I could about the functions of food components in the human body, and applied it to my plate. Where my intolerances meant I would miss out on key nutrients, I learned to supplement or get them elsewhere. I learned everything that I could on PMDD, and paid close attention to ways of eating that delivered me some level of ease from the suicidal ideations. And when I just couldn’t get better, I did as my doctor recommended, and I got on the correct medications.
The application of this in everyday life, means that I know what I need to eat. There are many days where I just don’t want to. These are the days when those evil voices get too loud and I just want to disappear with sadness. But having a strong educational base on what I need, means that I don’t give up - because I know why I am doing what I do. I get very uncomfortable with those voices, but I do not give in to them, and I get to show up to myself. Which brings me to conversation.
There are many days where I hurt. Where my insecurities are just too much for me to bear, and the mean voices get amplified. The only thing that gets me to a safe space, is opening my mouth, and telling others. I have had to be strong in my relationships with setting boundaries around conversation. I cannot tolerate conversation about bodies, or food, or body bashing. Nothing triggers me more, because it reminds me that my body is something that I can wage a war against. I spent so many years hating and fighting myself. I never want to go back there – and body talk is an express ticket back to starvation for me. My friends are a wonderful group of strong women (and wonderful men), and whenever I feel myself slipping, they are there to remind me of who I am.
A key relationship in all of this has been therapy. I had had therapy before, but felt so alienated to the person sitting across the room. I just couldn’t trust, or relate to them. But when I began seeing my current therapist (a Jungian analyst), something clicked. I trust them, and that allowed me to open up. Being free to speak openly, not judged, and guided gently into a place of self acceptance has been key to my recovery. I didn’t even realize how much I hurt until I began to talk about it. And learning that my eating disorder is rooted in older fears, has allowed me to be gentle and accepting with myself. I cannot speak highly enough about therapy.
We are made up of the little things we do every day, not the big things we do sometimes. In this vein, habit is us. Bad habits destroys us. So every day, there are a few things I do to keep myself on track. First off – I make sure I can get eight hours of sleep. Then I meditate. I make a note of anything that might be bothering me, recognize my part in it, and decide on action as needed. I try to speak to someone each day who might also be hurting. I take my medication and my supplements – even if I think I am better and don’t need to take them. I make the commitment to eating three well rounded meals a day. And if I feel like working out, I do. If I don’t, I don’t.
But most importantly, I make the decision to open my mouth and speak up if I am hurting too much. If that evil voice tells me to disappear, that everyone hates me and I don’t deserve to eat, then I choose to tell someone I trust about it. There are some people who can’t handle that – peoples who’s personal food troubles means that they cannot be there for me. This I do not take personally, but I do take note. It is incredibly important to know who to trust your health with.
Because in silence, pain festers and spreads. For so many years I chose to stay quiet about my life, and it hurt. The day I opened my mouth, was the day everything changed for me.
I would not trade a single day of my life in recovery to be a size 0 again.
I hope this helps,