To tell where my eating disorder began would be difficult to pin point. Through my experiences of struggle and recovery, I have learned a lot.
Ever since I was little I felt bigger than the other girls. I hit puberty younger than most and was always taller and larger than my peers. To say my relationship with food was healthy would be an overstatement. As a kid, I ate fast and my parents urged me to slow down. It wasn’t my fault I was so hungry. At one point my mom told me to slow down or I would become fat. She said I was starting to look “too big” and had to be careful. I don’t think her intentions were to make me look like the other girls. But the comment was more out of concern.
In the beginning
I already felt insecure about my body and didn’t think there was any way to change it. So, I went on with life hating the way I looked and thinking this is the way I would be forever. I got used to crying after stepping on the scale and seeing the number higher each time. And I got used to always being a size bigger than my friends and weighing more than my sibling 2 years older than me.
Until one day I decided to track what I ate- making sure I did not exceed a certain limit. Initially it wasn’t even to lose weight, but to see how much I was eating. I started losing weight and after a few months I looked leaner and slim. My family complimented me and said I looked great. My mom did caution me to not lose anymore and stay where I was. I agreed with her. I had never been happier in my body; but my ED had other plans.
From tracking to obsessing
As I continued to track, eventually I started to obsess over exercise and calories. This began to scare me as I lost my period. I decided to stop tracking calories and just live my life and eat whatever I wanted. And then the worst happened…
If you’ve struggled with an eating disorder through this pandemic, you know exactly what this stay at home environment can do to your brain. The thought of being stuck inside with little activity and talk of everyone gaining weight scared the heck out of me. This fueled my obsessions which ultimately led me to weight loss, medical concerns, and a diagnosis of anorexia and anxiety due to malnutrition of my brain. Since that day my life had forever changed.
Starting Eating Disorder Recovery
They were going to admit me to the hospital but thought I would benefit from family based therapy. This meant my parents had to be present at every meal and I was required to eat three meals and three snacks a day. I also had to stop working out and it felt good to not have to get up at 4:30 am to do my workouts. I recommend that all those trying to recover stop working out. It is the only way to store all the energy your body is taking in. The quicker you stop working-out, the quicker you are on your way to allow it back in your life.
If there is one thing I learned from this whole experience, it’s that the body is very smart. And just like an animal, it will take care of its self if we let it be.
I know my weight will redistribute and I will reach my goals. Sometimes I find it hard to believe people who tell me this, and I doubt myself. But I have to trust it will happen.
That is my story about how I ended up here, and I can say that my story is not over yet. Neither is yours. Every story is unique but very much alike at the same time. Alike in the sense that ED’s are hard and no one in recovery has ever said they would do it again. We are also alike in that we CAN all get better and go back to our normal lives ED free!
Some Tips and Tricks that Helped Me Through Eating Disorder Recovery:
1. Put a name on it
When I first got diagnosed I thought it was only right to name the side of my eating disorder brain. I named her Britney (sorry to any Britney’s out there, I’m sure you are lovely but at this moment I am not a fan of my ED Britney). Anyways I named her Britney, and when I was in my dark state controlled by ED thoughts and behaviors Britney had control.
Some days Britney is stronger than most. But I just tell her to leave me alone and I allow myself to continue with whatever healing I am engaging in. Each day I can say I see Britney get a bit smaller and she doesn’t scare me anymore. So, I challenge you to name your ED side of your brain and feel free to yell at him or her when they are being extra annoying.
2) Make a pro and cons list for eating disorder recovery
I thought I should make a pros and cons list of all the things that come with an eating disorder to remind myself on days I feel like giving up. Things that remind me of what life will be like if I fall into my old habits.
Distractions are a great way to take your mind off eating disorder recovery. A lot of people in recovery are told we cannot exercise and feel so bored because the hours we spent exercising had taken so much of our time away. Make a list of things to do so when you feel like engaging in ED behaviors. Some examples of things on my list were Facetime or call a friend or family member, read a book, do a puzzle, style hair, do a craft etc.
4) Flash cards
Make flash cards that encourage you to keep fighting when your Britney is very strong. Bring them to school, to work, when you eat etc. I bring my flashcards where I can and they have cool stickers and quotes on them to remind me how awesome I am. Make it personal and have fun!
5) Reach out
I know it can be hard to be vulnerable and embarrassing to tell people what you’e going thorough. But I tell you it will be beneficial. You should not be ashamed of your ED. Remember you did not put it on yourself just like someone with cancer didn’t ask for their sickness. By having a support system, it can encourage a rapid recovery and help you feel empowered. No one will judge you or make fun of you. If anything they will be in awe at your bravery and strength.
6) Be gentle in eating disorder recovery
Some days will be harder than most. But remind yourself each day is a new day and that thing are always possible when you have faith. If you slip up one day, take a moment to acknowledge it and move on. Do not blame yourself for the position you are in and know that YOU DID NOT MAKE YOUR SELF THIS WAY ON PURPOSE.
7) Focus on the present
Do not think about what the future will look like for you. This only makes the process longer. Avoid wondering when you will be done in eating disorder recovery. When you can work out again? And when you can eat when and what you want? All these thoughts do not help you to get better. Trust me, the time will come when you will be completely ED free. Until then focus on each day and make the present beautiful.
Its ok to cry, eating disorders are not easy and it feels good to let those emotions out. Just remember it will get better. I feel things get worse before they can get better and know you will get through this warrior. I don’t even know you but I know that if I can do it so can you!
9) Never give up on your eating disorder recovery
It can be hard to be strong all the time but don’t give up. How badly do you want it? How bad do you want to be free from this terrible illness?
There is a light at the end of the tunnel and trust me, the future you will thank you for getting through it.
10) Make the bests of it
I think that no situation is ideal but you can make the best of any situation. So, for example, if you need to eat to gain weight then eat a rocking delicious meal. If you have to stop exercising, find a cool new hobby. If you need to buy new clothes to fit into, choose some funky outfits and rock it. There are so many ways to make the best of the situation so that when you look back it was not a bad recovery experience. My math teacher once told me “you can only make math as fun as you want it to be.” I believe in this situation “you can only make recovery as enjoyable and you want it to be.”
I hope this article helped and these tips and tricks may give you some peace of mind. Keep fighting warrior, it is not easy, trust me. A quote my friend told me when I told him about my ED was
God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiersHabeeb Akande
I truly believe that you are strong and because of that God has given you this ED to fight. Fight for your family, your friends, your community, your future.