1. I didn’t stop at “recovery.”
Following a path to “recovery” out of necessity versus consciously pursuing a quest to “heal” are two very different things. The fact that I am finished with recovery is what has allowed my healing to finally begin! And, now that I am finished with recovery, for the sake of healing I do not walk around speaking of myself in terms of “recovery,” which makes me feel connected to the sickness I had to recover from and also suggests the possibility of relapse. I prefer to speak in terms of I “had”—in past tense—an “eating disorder.” Although society may never be able to get over its need to see me as having an “eating disorder,” my desire to break stereotypes surrounding anorexia nervosa such as “once an anorexic, always an anorexic” encourages me to continue sharing my own way of seeing things and, in doing so, to take healing to the next level!
2. I found freedom in loving my body, but also accepted that it’s OK to hate my body sometimes too!
For many, claiming to finally know how to “love my body” is a key component in recovering form an eating disorder. However, when it comes to healing, one must be willing to acknowledge that although claiming to “love my body” sounds good, it cannot always be the reality in an authentic process of self-growth. Perhaps, even, claiming to love one’s body at an unhealthy weight could result in denial that inhibits important action.
In recovering from my eating disorder, I decided I “loved” my body before my weight had stabilized and when I was still trapped by my exercise routine and eating regimen. In order to reach the next stage of recovery, I needed to go through a period of hating my body! Because, once I stepped back from the exercise routine and began experimenting more with my diet, I gained too much weight. The upside of this all; however, is that I began to recognize that freedom is possible. I returned to exercise when I felt ready, this time embarking on a totally different kind of journey. I also took risks, such as eating out.
In the end, losing the extra weight I gained did not become what was important. Feeling free is what made me “light.” I learned to use movement as a tool to facilitate the flow of my emotions, instead of to drive myself into the ground. Furthermore, following my curiosities to explore with new forms of exercise allowed me to move towards getting the shape I desired. If I had remained consumed in “loving my body” all along, I might not have been able to acknowledge the anger I felt towards myself for gaining too much weight, which ultimately pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and attempt exercise again, this time only taking a more compassionate mindset.
3. I owned up to my suffering, found other things to live for besides food, and learned to enjoy life.
Although eating mindfully is all the rage nowadays, for some people (like me) the idea of eating mindfully can be too much to bear. I, for example, am one of those people for whom eating mindfully comes pretty “naturally.” This is both a blessing and a curse. For such a long time, I obsessed over paying attention to my body’s signals to make sure I did not overeat. I obsessed over food. I obsessed over what I ate, how much I ate, what time of day I ate, when and how the food came out of my body, and more. Though it is useful and important to be sensitive and aware of all of these things, for me, paralysis ensued! In fact, I was almost unable to leave the house—or talk about the problem—at all! It took quite a bit of time to begin to get more comfortable taking risks and, most of all, opening up about my experiences. However, once I started sharing with others, I was surprised to learn how many people had been through similar situations.
Today, I am still very aware of food and how food makes me feel. The difference is, I have other things to live for besides food. I eat on my own terms. When I am hungry, I eat. When I want to move, I move. When I am tired, I sleep. I doubt sometimes, but not all the time, and have given myself permission to enjoy life more.