How to recover from an eating disorder.
It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness week.
Every year this week rolls around the week before my birthday. I am always prone to reflection when February turns to March, because holy SHIT I survived another year and that’s AMAZING considering everything. This year it feels particularly poignant because I am just about to turn 30.
All the time people ask me how I recovered from my eating disorder, which is funny because what is recovery really? It can be dangerous to talk about eating disorders like they are things of the past, because let’s be real—once your brain goes there it can certainly always go there again. That being said, I feel really, really good about my choices around food, body image, and exercise right now, and that feels like nothing short of a miracle.
I’m thinking a lot about how to recover this week and this is what I have to say.
- A lot of people around you have eating disorders. A lot of diets are eating disorders. A lot of people will validate weight loss because they live in a culture of eating disorders. If you know that, and really disagree with that on principal, you are a step closer to recovering. Congratulations.
- If you can find a way to fill your time with things you love and that inspire you, you can eventually be okay. Maybe you’re obsessive compulsive like I was, maybe you spend your time counting calories or watching the number on the scale. That is fucking boring and a waste of your brain. Funnel that shit! Knit or sew or write or become obsessed with some form of creativity instead. You will have more for your efforts, and your obsession with creativity will not kill you. Use that voice of evil for good.
- Go outside. The world is fucking vast, my dudes. The sky is beautiful and will envelope you, the ocean will freak your shit with its enormity. Let yourself be small in comparison to how big the world is and know that that’s all the small you need to be. It doesn’t matter how big you feel, the sky is bigger.
- Find someone you love and have them tell you what they love about you, all the time. My partner now tells me the things he likes about me and my body as soon as I get sad, because I have spent years asking him to tell me that I am pretty as soon as tears started to well. People will tell you to concentrate on features besides your physical beauty, but I think that’s bullshit. You can be smart, funny, motivated, giving, whatever. But you still have the right to know you’re hot. If you can’t think that for yourself, find others who can. I know it’s not all about the body, but be real. Everyone wants to hear they look good.
- Be sad. Like, really fucking sad. Just cry a bunch and then get mad at how societal pressure is making you cry. Get so, so mad. Listen to Bikini Kill. Maybe start a band to funnel all your sad and mad into. Sad and mad can be great. They have power.
- Tell everyone about your eating disorder and your recovery. Because shame keeps people sick and because the world needs good examples. Recovering from an eating disorder is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I want to tell everyone all about it. It’s more important than my Master’s degree, more important than my job. Recovering from an eating disorder is my personal Mt. Everest. I will shout it from the roof top. I DON’T PUKE ANYMORE, PEOPLE. Go me.
- Make food and exercise choices that you would want little girls to make. I lift heavy weights and run fast and bike up hills and eat vegan. I would tell any little girl to do the same. I would never tell a little girl to eat in ways that leave her hungry or spend hours on an elliptical machine if she didn’t like to do that. I wouldn’t tell a girl that she needs to do anything to make up for foods she ate. I wouldn’t tell a little girl to throw up or say terrible mean things to herself or skip her next meal because she ate a cupcake. I would hug that little girl, because little girls are fucking golden.
And guess what. You’re golden too. Even if you have eating disorder behaviors forever, you’re probably still great. Just try one or two of those things I suggested. They might help you be greater.