Disclaimer: These are just my thoughts and opinions and there is no one right way for anyone when wading through the murky waters of eating disorder recovery.
Right now it’s just gone 8am on a Sunday morning. The mornings are getting lighter. I’m in a fab mood and am sipping on an overly hot salted caramel green tea in one of my best mates flat. The green tea is significant.
I have an eating disorder and over the last 14 years my eating disorder has taken many forms. I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at a young age and that proceeded to wreck the majority of my teenage years. I have also been a binge eater, and my eating disorder has morphed into bulimia on and off – primarily during attempts to weight restore. I’ve been “recovering” for over five years now which means to many I don’t look as if I have an eating disorder…my weight is pretty damn stable most of the time but my mind remains a difficult place where food is concerned.
Healthy eating is difficult when you suffer from disordered eating, or at least it is for me. I achieved weight restoration primarily via Milky Way Magic Stars, flavoured lattes and pizza. Other than vegetables hiding in pasta and soups I did not, and would not, eat anything healthy. In fact, until recently I tried my first piece of fruit having last had one six years ago. For me, “healthy eating” was a dangerous game. It meant that as well as willingly eating, I was agreeing to NOURISH my body. To give it some good stuff it could use to make me feel well. To look after it. And I was totally not cool with that idea.
In my early twenties I realised I needed to put some weight on and sort my head out a bit so I had enough emotional space to actually live. I did that and I am damn proud of that. I am happy, I am achieving. Objectively, I’m in a very decent place. Go me! However, if I was going to eat I was going to punish myself by eating “junk” and for five years to feel awful about it on a daily basis. The eating disorder logic is a tricky and nasty beast.
Recently I have had an overhaul. Go me, again. In the last two months I have developed an appreciation for hipster herbal teas. For fancy soups. For quinoa (which I can’t pronounce). I am eating cereal with various soya and nut milks and spending disgusting amounts on a weekly shop which now includes fresh fruit, veg and strange raw fruit cereal bars. My skin is clearer, I don’t get a massive sugar crash at 3pm and want to sob with tiredness. My terrible concentration is incrementally improving with each banana.
But don’t get the banners and balloons out yet because although this looks like the best ever stage in recovery I have ever achieved, I am also aware that my eating disorder remains in the driving seat with this one. And I know that because it wasn’t that I sat down and had a long hard think about loving my body and then made all these changes. No, I woke up one morning and impulsively and very decisively cut out all the “bad” food. I spent hours online looking at raw vegan blogs, started cooking again without the aid of a microwave and cried about how much I hate my body.
I’m working on using this place that I have found myself in to make actual healthy choices. I am trying to enjoy new foods. I am trying to like my body (or at least accept that it’s much more useful to me when weight restoration than when starving) and most of all I am trying to remind myself that eating cake or pizza is okay: it doesn’t mean I’ve failed. That all food is healthy when balanced and that healthy eating is not another form of restriction. I don’t need the 12300 calorie rule about food to get through a day and the sky won’t fall on my head if I purchase a snickers.
What I wanted to highlight in this blog post is that for some people what looks like “good” food choices can be tricky. I am fairly intelligent and thanks to years of therapy I can tell you pretty clearly at any point why my eating disordered logic is a little faulty and problematic. Making changes to that and challenging that logic is harder. It scares me that I can wake up one day and somehow my eating disorder alters all of my well established rules around food. When people congratulate me for the very obvious shift in my eating patterns I sort of feel proud, but a lot of the time I also feel frustrated. I am not that much in control of all this, and part of me feels like I am just waiting to see what happens next. That I’m merely a passenger in this ride. Of course, I grab the wheel occasionally to make sure I remain at a good weight. I make sure I eat enough during the day to do all the stuff I need and want to do, but mostly I feel a little bit apart from this and a little fearful.
Flexibility is okay. Only eating kale or only eating Mr Kipling cakes for a week is less conducive to a balanced head space and I am taking it step by step. Sometimes I berate myself for still being in this strange place five years on – but for me it is a process.
This has felt a bit like a Sunday morning vent that would be better off confined to a notebook rather than shared on a website but at the same time I wanted to give an honest account of what recovery is like, at least for me. You don’t need to look classically eating disordered to have an eating disorder. I’m no longer depressed or anxious and for that I am incredibly thankful, but I still struggle with living alongside my eating disorder.
I’m not giving up. And I do have hope that all this mental trickery will continue slowly fading and losing its light. That one day I will be able to live totally free from it. Right now though, I am going to finish my brew, eat a banana and some pecan nuts and then just go for it and arrange a night to eat pizza with friends this week. True recovery never feels comfortable, easy or safe. Actually challenging the eating disorder is hard and I need to remember that that’s okay.
(p.s. If you feel like you have an eating disorder then you might want to click here check out the work the b-eat offer)
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