1. Recovery has made me a nicer person
When I finally recovered, I began to realize just how harshly I used to judge others and how impatient and demanding I was capable of being in the throes of my illness. My experience was far from unusual because food restriction is actually linked with a whole host of negative mental changes – it is not your inherent personality, nor is it your fault, but it does happen.
Forgiving myself has been a whole other journey that I am still contending with. However, forgiveness is a mere growing pain on the path to being the person that you want to be. Do not let guilt or feelings that you don’t deserve to get better stand in the way, because staying sick will not allow this emotional growth to happen in the first place.
2. I gradually became less self-critical too
It wasn’t just my body that my eating disorder voice critiqued, but every single aspect of who I was and what I did. Contrary to what my eating disorder tried to tell me, however, perfectionism is not an effective motivator. It makes you unhappier, more likely to give up in the face of challenges, and prone to engaging in self-destructive behaviors.
Acknowledge that those unpleasant, self-critical feelings will temporarily increase when you start to challenge your illness, but this also means that you are already on your way to finding relief from them as well. Who wouldn’t want that as soon as possible?
3. I missed fewer opportunities for connections and other positive life experiences when I chose to get better
The entire duration of my illness seemed to hover in some thick, gray fog of dullness. This was because of my inability to remain emotionally present or even to care much about anything that didn’t involve my specific, disorder-driven worries and rituals. Even if I didn’t skip events altogether, I simply wasn’t THERE in any real sense.
The good news is that fueling my body sufficiently has drastically improved this situation. I am proud to say that I can now remember my conversations with friends and the details of vacations other than what I ate. I am also discovering new hobbies that I did not have the energy to bother with when I was sick.
Since we can’t undo the past, I suggest that these are goals worth working towards in the now.
4. Food is now enjoyable and guilt-free. (It always has been, but I just didn’t know it.)
Learning to trust my body was no easy task in a world where so much value is placed on arbitrary numbers. When I finally took that leap of faith, though, I realized that my body communicates its needs very clearly and there is nothing to fear or apologize for by heeding it.
Now, just imagine what it would be like to walk into your favorite restaurant and order exactly what you want without any anxiety. Well, recovery makes this possible. Afterward, you will wonder why it didn’t feel that way all along.
5. I became wise to the toxic lies of diet culture
To put it simply, recovery equips you with the skills to recognize and reject harmful messages about nutrition, exercise, and beauty standards that many people never get to learn. This ties in with point number five, above.
Not only will such an understanding make you happier, but it will also help you to reduce your personal role in spreading unhelpful/hurtful messages. You may even find yourself vocally challenging diet culture, but quietly leading by example goes a long way too.
The reason I wish I had been able to do this sooner is that I cringe at my own language around food/weight and the example I set for others, pre-recovery.
Please, please don’t repeat my mistakes.