Trigger warning: Eating disorders and mental illness
I hope you realize the amount of progress you made was worth every slice of cake or milkshake you have enjoyed since. I hope life feels a bit less anxious and anything regarding numbers around food and nutrition labels becomes less of a chore and more of a thing you ignore.
Around 30 million individuals in the United States alone suffer and live with an eating disorder. Many recover from this mental illness, but relapsing is a HUGE issue when going through the journey of normalizing what your brain has told you is wrong for years.
So what do you do when the anxiety of anything regarding weight loss or control of food comes back into your universe? How do you try to see your weight gain as a blessing and not something that should be shamed? How can you change the lens society shows you around “healthy” (restrictive) eating?
I am not going to say the so-called “tips” I give you will take control of the situation. Please seek professional help or contact the NEDA helpline at (800) 931-2237 immediately when wanting more guidance through this mental illness.
Here are a few things I keep in mind when old thoughts take over my brain regarding ED.
1. Journal about what makes you feel the need to fall back into old disordered habits.
These past few months have given everyone a roller coaster of emotions. Coronavirus hit, I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, family issues started rearing their ugly heads, and I couldn’t control anything apart from my body, mainly my food choices. Everything I had known was ripped out from under me, and I had no way of keeping my “perfect” routine.
Journaling helped me realize what was actually bothering me, whether it be missing my morning gym routine or going out to a bar with friends. I noticed food was not the thing I needed to control because I KNEW that would end in tears and halt my recovery.
2. Talk to someone.
Yes, this is very cliche. But I will admit after discussing how I was feeling with someone I am close to, I realized how far I have come. I am much happier now and life seems less bland. The individual I was talking to agreed with me and reassured me what I was doing (eating like a normal human being) was OKAY. Relationships I had prior to these past few months made me feel insecure about my body and the food I was eating. Talk to someone who does not judge or help you with phrases like “you’ll get back on track” or “don’t lose sight of the goal to be healthy.” This is toxic and NOT what you need to hear right now.
3. Make lists.
Make a damn list of everything you can do now you have sought out the road to recovery. Seems boring, pointless, and not very noteworthy, right? Last time I did this a couple of weeks ago, I actually cried because I was so excited about just being able to go out and drink a half-liter of cider with my roommates. I assure you this can do wonders for your mental health.
4. Try making another list of fear foods and conquering them.
I will tell you I was once afraid of putting a splash of almond milk in my black coffee (don’t worry, I added this to my list of what I would miss if my recovery stopped). I have a list on my phone I used before I started recovery, and I will say it helped when I was deciding to order the burger or the salad (side note: I ordered the burger).
5. Finally, ask someone you are close to or live with to watch out for you.
I wish I had confided in my roommates and mom when I started to realize I was having issues regarding food and weight loss. Letting someone you know and love about how you are feeling will let them know to keep an eye on how you are doing during this wrong turn of recovery. Trust they will help you and you are in a safe environment.
I will admit that recovery is a roller coaster. It’s something I have struggled with for almost two years now and still do daily. I would like to say the journey gets easier, because it does, but I will not lie and say the fear of food and eating doesn’t cross my mind daily. But the factor that keeps me going is how one day I won’t have to read articles on “low-calorie foods” or “how to hide an eating disorder.” One day you and I will NOT have to worry about nutrition labels.
Relapsing does not mean you failed. All of your journeys have not been thrown out the window—you are just halting for a minute, that is all!
I hope you keep going. That you realize you’re worthy of recovery and unconditional love is what your body actually deserves. You need to allow yourself to take control of your mind and the thoughts regarding body image and the food you consume. It’s hard, but isn’t everything in life at some point?
You deserve to live—you deserve recovery.