Just over 10 years ago I said quietly and desperately to a close friend of mine, “I just can’t seem to stop.” I was referring to eating. She didn’t have an reply. And I never mentioned it again.
Back then, eating disorders were never spoken about.#Bopo wasn’t a thing.
There were literally no “curvy’”, “fat activist” or “plus size” women anywhere in the media. Except maybe in comedy acting as the butt-end of a joke.
Women like me were completely and utterly isolated. Alone with our disorders and dysmorphia. Or at least that was my solitary, lonely and stigma-shamed experience.
How did I survive my eating disorder?
Well, I rode a merry-go-round of dieting fads, weight loss and gain, pride and shame and self-loathing.
I was awful, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But I survived.
I’m here. And I’m happier than I’ve ever been – but not because I’ve, “finally shed those pounds”.
Little by little I began to pull at the threads of of social constructs intended to confine and control my experience of life and my very own body.
How did I do it?
It was a relationship actually. We started out as friends. And over nearly 20 years of conscious and intentional communion, it has become the most meaningful, complex, honest, raw and powerful loves I have ever encountered.
And – being completely honest – there are times that I walked away from that relationship.
I’ve fought with, abused and even despised it. But I have always come back to it. No matter magnitude of the hurt and the depth of the heartbreak.
And who was this relationship with? Well, it was with me.
Me – my whole self. Heart, mind and body.
In truth, it has taken nearly 20 years to deeply and unconditionally love myself. But from where I stand, I wouldn’t change any of it.
It has – despite all-the-things – been the biggest accomplishment of my life. And I’m proud to stand tall (or medium height to be accurate!), in my beautiful body with the full and intimate knowledge of all of its flaws, scars, and still-healing-wounds.
3 Actionable Tips for Supporting Yourself in Eating Disorder Recovery
The road to recovery (ie. self-love), was for me not simple, nor easy. But I’m going to list the three most actionable steps I’ve learned for supporting yourself, no matter where you are on your journey.
1. Repeat this affirmation every day…
I deeply love and respect myself exactly as I am.
This is honestly a grade-a game changer.
Start by saying the phrase ten times upon waking every single day. Try saying it in bed, in front of the mirror, in the car to school or work.
It will feel unnatural at first. That’s OK. Keep doing it anyway and your mind will eventually catch up and it will roll off your tongue.
Initially you will likely notice an constriction, tension or unease physically as you recite the affirmation – and this is completely normal. As you increase and commit to this practice you will also notice your body resists this statement less and less.
Rather than feeding the frustration or criticizing, allow yourself to observe your experience. Remember that any resistance will eventually fade as your mind and body become familiar with your intention setting. Eventually, the practice will feel both natural and nourishing.
2. Take up a gentle, body-positive physical practice
As a long time yoga student (and now teacher), I strongly believe that the most loving, nourishing and healing action for my recovery was to find a soft and gentle movement practice.
This could be Tai Chi, 5 Rhythms or another gentle, low impact movement practice.
But I speak specifically from the knowledge of how my twenty-year yoga journey deeply supported by recovery.
While the most popular yoga trends are active, energetic, high intensity classes like Vinyasa Flow, Rocket, Ashtanga, or Hot Yoga – all wonderful ways to experience your body – my personal experience is that you must provide a yin balance to the yang of recovery.
By this I mean that the recovery process is often fought in the mind which is imposing rules, restrictions and regimes on the body in order to control it and cope.
The most effective way to heal and find refuge from the harshness (yang) is by allowing for relaxation, connection and eventually surrender to your body (yin).
Again it’s not easy, but an experienced, trauma sensitive, body-positive yoga teacher (face-to-face or online) will be your most loved ally.
3. Forgive yourself
Now, how you do this can be multilayered and take time.
But forgiveness will be the critical link to healing and overcoming the years of suffering, shame and guilt.
A professional therapist, support meeting or online community, paired with good quality self-help and autobiographical literature will be your cushioning as you navigate the memories and deep-seeded pain.
As you remember the pivotal moments in your life that set your on this course, kindness and compassion must be present.
One last offering to you…
And finally, my last offering to you dear one, is to remember that recovery is not a straight line, with a one size fits all solution.
In fact it’s often a series of circles, turning back on themselves. Until one day you try something different and your mind’s eye is open just enough to glimpse the truth. You are perfect and loved.
Never forget that eating disorder recovery is possible. And that I and so many others believe in you.