1. The importance of creating a tribe
A tribe is going to be fundamental to your recovery. My own tribe consists of a handful of incredible women my age, a few people 20 years my senior and a sprinkling of people in between. My tribe is full of people from different backgrounds. Let the members of your tribe surprise you with their variety. Let all these different perspectives of outlooks on life glitter your life contribute to your recovery. Honesty and authenticity will engage you with your tribe. Without my own willingness to be both honest and authentic, I would not have created this network of unconditional support. If you want to get better, you are going to need at least one other human on this planet who you can text for distraction when you’re thinking about relapsing. You’re going to need people who encourage you, with or without them knowingly doing so, to eat the cinnamon bun. The worst moments of my eating disorder happened when I made a conscious effort to keep it all a secret. The minute I started talking about my eating disorder, I stopped giving it so much power and received the gift of flourishing friendships in return.
2. Accept that your weight will change with life changes
Weight is not static. Weight is a fluid concept. We cannot expect our weight to remain remain constant. When you began food restriction, you began life restriction. You’re getting your life back. You’re going to do the normal stuff you once loved. You are going to eat brunch with your friends. You are going to drink wine. You are going to eat meals cooked for you by other people. You are going to eat the foods you once mistakenly labelled ‘bad’. Your weight is going to alter as you alter your life. Eating one slice of cake isn’t going to immediately cause a five pound weight gain. Make a conscious effort to let go of the fear of weight gain. Your self-worth isn’t synonymous with your weight. Remember that there are a lot worse things in the world then having to buy a pair of bigger jeans. Practice acceptance and stop waging war with your body.
3. Understand that there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ recovery
You have to understand that recovery is not linear. That there is no perfect way to recover. It may take months for one person and years for another person. Do not shame yourself for the amount of time it is taking you to get through this. Do not shame yourself for how difficult or easy you are finding getting through this. Do not shame yourself for relapsing into old habits and behaviours. Eating disorders thrive in shameful environments. You feed your eating disorder by being ashamed. Treat yourself like a child. Take walks in the fresh air. Sleep enough. Dink lots of water. Do not put pressure on yourself. Remember not all recovery is physical. Do not belittle the strength it takes to recover from negatively reinforcing safety behaviours. Do not belittle the power it takes to consciously stop indulging in a body-shaming mind-set. Be proud in your own personal story of deliverance. Recover however the fuck you have to.
4. Pay attention to what triggers you
You’ve got to pull yourself together enough to realize that you are responsible for the stimuli that you are exposing to your brain. It is so important to make a conscious effort to avoid exposing yourself to things that make you want to indulge in negative behaviors. Unfollow the people who make you feel bad about yourself on Instagram and other social media platforms. Stop hanging out with the friend who makes you question your worth. Leave the job that makes you feel out of control. Don’t sleep with boys who inadvertently make you feel less than you are. Surround yourself with confident and strong people. Read more literature. Go outside more. Pinterest positive quotes. Read the amazing stories of people behind recovery blogs. Learn a new skill. Find out what makes you light up and put all the energy your eating disorder took from you and pour into all of these new things. Watch your life become magic before your eyes. Don’t forget that you are in control of what you react to your surroundings.
5. Understand that it is not your mind and not your body that is the problem
If you are unhappy with yourself when you are a size sixteen, then there is very little chance you will be happy with yourself when you are a size eight. Self-love doesn’t magically blossom when you hit a societally desirable clothing size. Stop telling yourself you will not be happier if you gain five or fifteen pounds. Stop telling yourself that people will love you less if you gain five or fifteen pounds. Say good riddance to the idea that your life will begin once you manage to lose another five pounds. Life is already happening and the good news is you don’t need to constantly focus on attaining a socially desirable body type to live it. Your life calling isn’t going to be losing weight. Your path in life is not attaining and maintain a tiny body. Realise that becoming all inclusively comfortable and in love with your raw and true self will make you feel more fulfilled, empowered and beautiful than starvation, purging and thinness ever could. It begins and ends in your mind. Take comfort in this.
6. Remember to be brave
We live in a society where our outward appearances are celebrated more than our personal achievements. We are members of a culture that often overlooks kindness, intelligence and personality for the size of the gap between a pair of thighs or the flatness of a stomach. There is something inherently wrong with this cultural message. The bad news? This attitude is deeply ingrained into our culture and is hard to avoid. The good news? You have the ability to practice bravery. You have the power to say fuck you to these toxic ideas. You have to remember to be brave. Live life without fear of how people perceive your body to look like. Stop wishing that you were smaller. Take up more space. Be brave enough to ignore the idea that you should exist in the way the world tells you that you should. Be whoever the fuck you want to be if that’s what constitutes the concept of healthy to you. Be brave to say fuck it to anything or anyone that makes you think otherwise.
7. Never doubt the importance of self-care
Be gentle with yourself. You are reconciling with parts of your mind you have been at war with for months, for years. This is not an easy feat. Self-care is so important. Set personal boundaries. Take time for yourself. Indulge in doing things that make you feel good. It’s not all about face masks, warm cups of tea and candle lit baths. It’s about saying exactly what you mean. It’s not being afraid to say no. It’s not being afraid to say yes. It’s trusting your instincts. It’s letting go of what you can’t control. It’s doing what feels right. It’s being kind to yourself. And it’s going to be central to you moving on with your life.