“Are you really recovered enough to tell people how to eat?”
A few weeks ago I got an email from a far away friend that asked a very plain and honest question:
“Do you really think you’re recovered enough to tell people how to eat?”
There was no malice in the question, but quickly my friend tried to tell me in a million different ways that she didn’t mean it to come off as mean, offensive, or off-putting. I wasn’t offended in any way, though.
A) I am not that sensitive
B) I don’t have a lot of reason to feel defensive about the topic and
C) I’m sure other people have wondered the same thing. I think it makes perfect sense to discuss this, considering where I’ve been, and where I am now.
So. I have had eating disorders, all of them. I have emotionally eaten, stress eaten, restricted. I have compulsively exercised. I have been decidedly anorexic and completely bulimic. Negative food, exercise, and body image obsession completely ran my life. It took me just as many years as I was in my eating disorder to claw my way out of it. I have made absolutely no secret about the battle.
In a sense, I am absolutely still obsessed with my eating and my exercise. I highly prioritize the consumption of high quality foods and make really damn sure I am eating enough food to support my activity levels. It is extremely important to me to not ignore hunger signals or live by food rules that make my actual life no fucking fun.
Unfortunately, no fucking fun isn’t cut and dry. It can mean a lot of things. It means I don’t turn down restaurant invites from far away friends just because the food isn’t ideal, but it also means I don’t eat things that are going to make me feel physically bad. Fried shit makes me feel bad. Gluten makes me feel bad. A lot of sugar makes me feel bad. We are talking about my body here, not my brain.
I don’t tell people how to eat that don’t ask me to. I am often asked what I eat, and I share because I think it is valuable. I am a woman who exercises hard, and eats a lot of nutrient dense food. I don’t count macronutrients. I don’t weigh or measure my food. I eat enough. I don’t let myself go hungry. Once a client asked me how many calories I eat per day, and I counted and the number was about 2400. That’s right, – I eat double what those women’s magazines say is appropriate to consume. I think it is VITAL that more people offer alternative perspectives. (And no, I don’t regularly count calories. I counted once.)
I will always be an obsessor. I am obsessed with my creative practice. I am obsessed with feminist art. I am obsessed with writing, and reading, and my friends, and rollercoasters, and my partner. I am absolutely 100% enthralled and obsessed with my business. And yeah, I am obsessed with my food, my body, and my strength. I am PROUD of what I’ve done with what I was given, because at a point I let the obsession turn dark, and it almost killed me. My obsession these days is an example of me thriving WITH my OCD brain, (yep! That’s my official diagnosis) not in spite of it.
I think my eating disorder is exactly what makes me qualified to set an example of how to eat. Because I know, really intimately, what it’s like to restrict, and I know I’m not doing it. I know what it’s like to skip out on plans because I feel I have to eat at a certain time that doesn’t fit in that schedule, or exercise in a certain way. I know what it’s like to make myself exercise when I’m sick. I am willing to bet that these things that I mention will always be my instinct, in fact. But every single day, time and time and time again, I watch unhealthy thoughts arise, and I choose to do something different.
My consistent daily choice to be well does not come without work. I think someone who’s never known this struggle couldn’t possibly tell you how wonderful it is to defeat it.
I consider the entirety of my content on Super Strength Health to be a love letter to my audience and my recovery. I am still obsessed with food, but now because it fuels me. I am obsessed with exercise, because it strengthens me. Every chance I get, I let myself be publicly astonished and on-my-knees grateful for my positive body image. Because, THAT, my friend, is hope.
And really, if you don’t like how I eat, that’s okay. How I eat is for me and my fuel. How you eat will be for you and yours.
Illustration by the amazing Joanna S. Quigley