Content Warning: eating disorders
Today’s post is anonymously submitted by a young boss SHE who is in recovery from an eating disorder. It’s estimated that at least 30 million people live with eating disorders in the U.S. alone, with women ages 15-24 being particularly affected. To find out more about eating disorders, visit the National Institute of Mental Health, and visit the National Eating Disorders Association if you’re worried that you or someone you know has an eating disorder. Finally, if you are struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating, know that you aren’t alone and that, while it’s a lifelong thing, it doesn’t have to control your life.
I can tell you the calorie count in a single M&M, a handful of cashews and a half an avocado. I know exactly how to navigate a basket of tortilla chips and how to drink just enough coffee to feel full, but not upset my stomach. I know the exact time between my meals and how many calories I can handle each time I eat, but I can’t always remember what I did this morning or where I’m supposed to be tomorrow night.
I know how much I have to push myself to “earn” tonight’s dinner or exactly how many French fries I can eat from my date’s plate before the guilt becomes too extreme, but it’s not uncommon to lose entire sections of time from my memory –chucks of hours and hours. Thanks to the brain fog that comes from starving your body, I’m more comfortable reconciling entire days of “I can’t exactly remember” than I am navigating the menu at a pizza joint where there’s no “good” choices.
I’m nearly 30, and I have an eating disorder. I’m successful by all accounts, I have good
relationships, a great job and an awesome family. And I have an eating disorder. But that’s not the end of the story. It doesn’t end there. It won’t end there.
Ed, the way we know and acknowledge the eating disorder in our house, is now a frequently addressed member of our family. Sadly, he’s always there – and likely always will be. I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily about getting rid of him or his unwelcome opinions – he’s a permanent resident in our home. Instead, it’s about teaching myself, my body, my brain, how to ignore the lies he spews and rest in the truths I know to be real.
I don’t have hunger cues anymore – at least for now. We’re working on teaching my body how to reignite those natural tendencies, but when you tell her to stop asking for food, that she shouldn’t be hungry and even worse, you actively punish her when she mentions her needs, she stops asking. Wouldn’t you?
So I’m working to re-teach her. And even more importantly, I’m working on answering her calls. I’m trying to rewire my brain to see movement (what you likely call working out) as an opportunity to honor my body, love her, treasure her, celebrate her, even. I can’t talk about “working out,” like most people do, because inherently the phrase implies something extreme. It’s work. It’s hard. And I can’t handle the balance. So I have to change the language. I CHOOSE to change the language.
She’s really incredible, ya know. Regardless of what Ed says, she’s really incredible. She’s strong, and whole, and real, and smart, and valuable, and worthy, and incredibly funny. She carries me through my work and impacts the lives of so many people in her wake. She’s really incredible, and I’m really, really proud of her.
So I CHOOSE to remind Ed, everyday (actually it’s more like every 10 minutes) that he’s wrong. And he loses. And the people who love me, those who are actively part of my recovery, remind me of that, too. But it’s hard, and it’s an exhausting process.
I know Ed’s been around for a long time – when I think back I can remember him in countless moments. Middle school, high school, college and beyond, he’s there. I might not rememberr the moments that many of my pictures depict, but I can remember the way I felt in an outfit and the way I practiced my poses in the mirror, ever fearing the camera.
That might be the saddest part for me, and the part I grieved the most when I began this
recovery process. As I pulled photos of myself over the years for homework given by my
therapist, it wasn’t the actual moments I remembered, or the vacations or conversations or parties or events – it was exactly how I felt in the outfit that most rang through. Regardless of the image, my memories were all the same. As If I could put myself back there and remember the anxiety that surrounded that top, dress or new pair of jeans. I don’t remember moments or memories, even. I remember anxiety surrounding my body and the clothes that covered it. What a loss.
Ed has a way of doing that. When he’s loudest and most confident, he has a way of clouding everything, stealing joy.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’m not sure what could have stopped Ed – honestly, I’m not sure I even believe there’s a way to stop him once he’s decided that he wants into your life. But I do think – I’m convinced, in fact – that there are things our world, each of us, can begin to do to slow his ability to take control of our lives, our homes, our friendships, our daughters, our schools, our girls nights, our minds and most importantly, our souls.
Your language matters. Be careful what you say. People are listening, and your words have power.
There is no such thing as bad or good food – unless you’re talking about something delicious! 🙂 Then it’s good, good, good!
Be careful of these diets – seriously. They’re a gateway to an unhealthy relationship with food – believe me, I’ve done them all (even the ones that are non-diets-diets). And once Ed is in – he’s IN. And he’s sticking about for Thanksgiving, Christmas, your birthday and next year’s festivities, too.
Honor your body – love her. She’s incredible, and I’m proud of her (and you).
Be careful what the little ears around you hear – how you talk, what you do and don’t do, how you love yourself. I’m convinced that Ed got his stronghold based on what I saw (and didn’t see). And if there’s anyway to keep him from inviting himself into the lives of our babies, I’ll lead the charge.
And for God’s sake – a body, in a bikini, is a bikini body. Please. Seriously. Stop. (And that means you, too, Ed).
So I’ll go to bed tonight resting in these truths, and I hope you do, too. And when Ed’s voice, his ever-present-always-in-my-ear-voice begins to creep up and make me want to sneak off to the bathroom in the darkness to examine the size of my waistline or whether my arms have gotten bigger since last week, I’ll find myself echoing these truths over and over again.
That this body is incredible. She wins, and Ed loses. Once and for all.
Will you join me?