It’s time to finally talk about the ugly, unglamorous parts of recovery. It can be all too easy to gloss over the real struggle of fighting for recovery.
The “before and afters” you see posted all over social media look glamorous, sure. Emaciated, brittle bodies suddenly cloaked in new flesh and muscle tone. Friends and family, all smiles, surround the recovered individual (who’s possibly showing off her new “bikini body” on the beach) with a caption about how she’s “forever thankful”.
But recovery doesn’t come with a beach vacation and happily ever after. Behind that smile and those sunglasses is probably still a bit of struggle.
My good friend, Moses Abare (look him up; he rules), once quoted: “Your first thought is what society tells you to think. Your second thought is your own.”
Let’s get real: Eating disorders don’t go away that easily.
Sure, we get “better” and look healthier and, well, are healthier. But it was an unglamorous road and not nearly as easy as that #transformationtuesday post makes it look.
What it’s really like
During the refeeding phase, you have to force your body and mind to fit a new mold, one that contradicts all your previous ideals. You have to overwrite your own goals and break your own rules — and that hurts.
It wasn’t glamorous to gorge on life-saving calories and watch my belly swell, overwhelmed with nutrients I made foreign to it.
I found nothing glamorous about not being able to button my jeans anymore. I hated myself every time I gave in to a craving and hated, even more, when I “accidentally” ate 10 times the recommended serving size.
The uncontrollable hunger and the feelings of loss of control were terribly scary. And there was nothing glamorous about crying myself to sleep with a (too) full stomach. Everything felt unreal; like an alien took over. And I believed I did all of it to myself.
Thankfully, I’m past those scary, awful early days of recovery. So, is the struggle completely over now that I can post an “after” picture?
I’ve been recovered and healthy for nearly three years now. I preach body positivity and self-love.
But in reality, even in my so called “after” photo, there are still hard days.
I’ve eaten a whole package of a number of snacks and hidden the evidence, from myself and others. Although I don’t follow through, I’ve made silent resolutions to go back to my old ways and cut out all my favorite foods so that I can get back to my old body.
Even in my recovery, I walk a fine line between self-discipline and obsession. So, what’s the difference between living in my eating disorder and choosing to live a life of recovery?
I can decide.
It all goes back to the quote I mentioned,
Your first thought is what society tells you to think. Your second thought is your own.
I’ve learned to give myself a chance to think that second thought – that’s the real thought.
When an eating disorder thought comes up, I can decide to think again.
A little pause, just a breath, can help bring my thoughts back to the ground and remind me of the sometimes invisible, unglamorous side of eating disorders.
So even though those old thoughts still linger sometimes, I can decide to think again. If I pause, and if I breathe, my second thoughts almost always clear away the first thoughts.