If you’ve read about me on my “about” page, you know that I aspire to become a health professional, specializing in eating disorder recovery and Health At Every Size®.
Like so many people who pursue a career treating individuals with eating disorders, my life has been plagued with food issues and mental struggles. I’ve lived with anorexia, generalized anxiety disorder and depression for several years, and I’ve fought one hell of a bloody, gory battle to get to the place where I am today.
Although I am not fully recovered, I am not merely “existing” either. I am no longer the deadpan, starving, irrational food-obsessed zombie that my eating disorder had transformed me into.
I am no longer defined by my eating disorder and feel that it is part of my identity, for I know that I am worth so much more than my eating disorder and my body. As a human being, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but also valuable and unique.
I am proud to be able to say that even though I struggle with anorexia, GAD, and depression, I live and I blossom every. single. day.
I would never have reached this place had it not been for the grueling work that I put in throughout the past eight years of recovery. My journey has inspired me to help others conquer their eating disorders because I want people to know that with the right amount of grit and effort, recovery IS possible and in your reach! And I know this because I continue to get closer and closer to recovery!
However, because I am not fully recovered, I sometimes feel such immense pressure to “get my shi** together” and recover already.
I am fully and 100% aware that I cannot help people who suffer from eating disorders if I am still sick. My recovery is essential for the safety of my future clients.
From personal experience, I know how triggering it is to work with a dietitian or therapist who still has an active eating disorder. I know that I will never be perfect and that I will make mistakes as a professional, but I hope that I can avoid some of those harmful blunders that clinicians have made with me.
That’s the beautiful thing about bad experiences: I can learn from them… and I have. Because I was told that my eating disorder could be cured by eating coconut cream pie at Luby’s, I now know that I should never say that to one of my clients. Because I have felt the negative impact of having my weight suppressed by my treatment team, I know that I never want to give my clients the impression that I am “watching” their weight in a fatphobic manner.
Because my experiences have increased my awareness, I am confident that when I recover from my beastly eating disorder that I will make a badass addition to someone’s recovery team! But achieving recovery isn’t easy and I can’t just “wish” my eating disorder away in order to pursue my professional goals.
If you are going through or have been through eating disorder recovery, you know that recovery can be SO difficult, SO painful and SO scary. Not only are we forced to confront uncomfortable emotions, memories and fears during recovery, but we are also forced to face ACTUAL biological and chemical changes in our bodies, which make recovery feel so awful:
From Beating Eating Disorders:
“Increasing food intake may in fact increase your levels of anxiety because of the increased serotonin your body will produce.
For a long time, recovery will absolutely suck because biologically, we are not getting enough endorphins and we are getting too much serotonin. And therefore, as we begin recovery, we may experience lower moods and increased anxiety.
It makes sense why people so often relapse especially during the infancy of recovery! This can happen for so many reasons, but specifically, due to the biologic changes that occur during this time, it’s clear why those of us with eating disorders would think ‘I feel worse emotionally in recovery than I do in my eating disorder, so why should I even try?’
So let me just reiterate again, it will take time for your body to adapt to these changes. But also, remember that it is okay if recovery feels awful; for myself as a scientist, it was helpful to know the science of why that is, and why it felt so terrible. When I couldn’t find a tangible reason as to why I was anxious or feeling down, I could look at the science and think to myself ‘my body still has healing to do.’
Someday, I promise, recovery won’t suck so much if you continue to let yourself heal.”
Read the entire article to understand the science behind why recovery “sucks!”
Not only does recovery feel terrible (it can also feel awesome, but I’ll get to that in a minute), but it also takes a long time and it’s anything but a linear journey.
This is an overused metaphor, but no person has ever been on a roller coaster that only goes up! Similarly, recovery rarely ever goes in just one direction.
I want you to know that recovery is characterized not only by the progress, the triumphs and the gains, but also by the slip ups, the falls, the losses and most importantly, the courage to pick yourself back up and keep fighting.
This is why I want to extend compassion to myself and to everyone out there who is battling against their eating disorder and striving to destroy it. I want you to know that it’s okay for you to fail and be imperfect. It’s okay for you to have bad days. This doesn’t mean that you need to use self-criticism and beat yourself up in order to get back on track! Be gentle with yourself as you are confronted with difficult experiences and potential triggers. Don’t get angry at yourself when your recovery falls short of your ideals. Accept your suffering and your struggles with sympathy and kindness, and then clench your fists and get back to fighting!
Sometimes I get so caught up in having the smoothest recovery and becoming an eating disorder professional, that I forget that I am on my own difficult journey. Yes, I have come so far, but I still have a long way to go. I still need to learn to accept my feelings of fullness during meals. I still need to work on accepting my body unconditionally. I still need to fully dissociate my feelings of worth from my appearance.
Knowing how much work I have left to do stings sometimes, but it also ignites a fire in me to keep pushing harder in my recovery. From the glimpses I have seen and the crumbs that I have tasted, I know that a life without an eating disorder feels incredible. A life without an eating disorder means actually LIVING! It means being fully present during interactions with others, thinking clearly, feeling vibrant, enjoying food, experiencing passions, falling in love, feeling sexy, learning new things, appreciating small things, desiring to help others, being in tune with oneself, honoring one’s body, appreciating one’s mind, pursuing one’s dreams, ACHIEVING one’s dreams, being spontaneous, being free…
Recovery may be exhausting, terrifying, frustrating and painful, but more than anything, it is invigorating, dazzling, empowering and liberating.
Recovery looks different for everyone and it’s influenced by factors that are outside of our control, including our identities (race, age, gender, sexuality, ability, etc.) and our past experiences. As a result, I can neither tell you nor show you what recovery looks like, but I can tell you that it IS possible and someday I (and you) will achieve it.
Don’t you dare give up.