Today, I’m pleased to share this guest post about how one blogger chose to seek recovery from her eating disorder. Jen struggled with anorexia throughout her teens and early 20s. Her recovery from an eating disorder and journey into a life as a well-rounded woman inspired her to write her own blog, MsMorphosis, “Fearless Thinking For the Modern Miss,” which encourages young women to develop themselves as authentic individuals rather than relying on the status quo.
Remember that eating disorders are complicated and serious illnesses. People don’t choose to have an eating disorder any more than they choose to have cancer or epilepsy. But you can choose to seek recovery. Jen’s post speaks to making this choice and slowly working to chip away at the eating disorder thoughts and diet mentality. These often manifest into a fervent focus on food and weight and an obsession with perfection.
Looking back at my descent into, and out of, anorexia, I feel that there were a few key realizations that, together, were enough to shift my paradigm out of the eating disorder mentality and into one that fostered recovery. I credit these realizations with my healthy life today, and I hope they’re as meaningful for you as they were for me.
1. I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s easy to fall into the eating disorder trap by focusing on one “diet” after another. I always thought that the next diet, or the next 5 pounds, would be the solution that would lead to “happiness” and “then” I could start living.
Well, guess what? That light at the end of the tunnel never came. It was always another 5 pounds, another diet, another imperfection to conquer. I began looking back at my life and realized how many things I had missed out on — special dinners, a nice glass of wine at night, sleeping in and lazy mornings — and wondered if I was going to spend this whole precious life focusing on how I looked.
Suddenly, I realized that the eating disorder was never going to go away. It was a game that I was never going to win, and it was stripping away thousands of irreplaceable experiences along with it.
I truly believe that it took recognizing what I was giving up, and then accepting that it’s alright to want some of those luxuries in my life, that set the wheels in motion for my recovery.
Suddenly I was able to honestly question my investments and returns in this endless battle with my body that I had embarked on.
2. My body, for all of the work and attention it was demanding, looked surprisingly awkward.
We can prod, pinch, and starve, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to look like Adriana Lima. Why would we want to? Sometimes I think we can focus on a superficial, aesthetic goal without taking the time to question whether or not it’s as relevant to our personal bodies and success as we believe it is.
Eating disorders, although not voluntary, are often supported and fueled by messages sent by the media and our surroundings that the thinner we are, the happier and more successful we will be. The images in magazines, movies, and television seem to often imply that slender is equated with sexy, lovable, or powerful – when often it’s quite the contrary. Health and energy are incredibly powerful in relationships, the workforce, and our own happiness.
The truth of the matter is, a healthy weight helps our bodies look the way they’re designed to look — which is far more balanced and, in my opinion, more attractive, than their starved counterparts.
Once I took the time to nourish my body and let it fill out naturally, I was astounded at how unique my figure is for me. There really is a reason that it’s my body, and I have started to learn that I have my own unique beauty — and that’s a very exciting, and authentic, feeling.
3. The chance for a future.
You’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again: an eating disorder is an incredibly dangerous thing. Now, as someone that’s been there, I’m aware that saying this to someone with an eating disorder is like telling a smoker that cigarettes cause cancer.
Nonetheless, I don’t do well with boundaries, and I will continue to bring this point into play until the cows come home. I truly believe that once these dangers are fully realized and internalized they will have the power to make a difference. The human mind has an astounding ability to dissociate what we know rationally from what we can accept, especially when we’re addicted to or otherwise dependent on something harmful to us.
At the time of my eating disorder I was smack dab in the threshold of adolescence, a time notorious for the infamous invincibility fallacy and, as a result, far too much self-abuse.
At a certain point, I grew up a bit and began to recognize that I am not invincible and that these things could happen to me. I began to regret the damage I had already done. As life began to surprise me with wonderful things I had never anticipated, I began accepting the power and potential of the unknown.
I realized that I might fall in love one day and wish I hadn’t destroyed my bones and longevity, or even worse, that I might be infertile the day that that man and I want to have a baby. I realized I couldn’t undo the damage I had already done, but I began to fight back to protect the health, time, and future that I still had before me.
4. I was socially isolated and, well, downright boring to be around.
There’s no way around it — an eating disorder will cramp your style when it comes to quality of life. Over time, living on the routines and neurosis required to maintain overly strict eating and exercise habits, one will become increasingly uninteresting. Vapid. Dull. Insipid.
The truth of the matter is, people eventually become tired of it. My family became tired of going to a fancy dinner on vacation with me when all I would order is a diet coke and steamed veggies (and then would become bloated and agitated from pure fiber, caffeine, and bubbles).
Friends became tired of me canceling on evening plans because I was too tired (eating disorders are exhausting), or too anxious about how I looked, or what food I would be faced with if we went out, or how late I’d be up and if I’d be able to make my workout in the morning.
Slowly I became incredibly lonely, and I also became boring. I realized that when I was on a date, or meeting a new person, I hadn’t had the energy or time for the humor, experiences, and hobbies that make a person someone you want to spend time with.
The truth of the matter is that I was downright boring. And, over time, I was alone.
5. I had insurmountable barriers to intimacy.
One of the things that suffers most during the course of an eating disorder is that individual’s capacity for intimate relationships. It wasn’t just that I was always bloated and uncomfortable from subsisting on vegetables, or that I was energy-less and depressed from avoiding carbs for 10 years, or that no sane man would tolerate my aforementioned regimes and schedules, no — it was that the longer I starved the more I distanced myself from my physical being, creating a chasm where there should be unity between my mind, body, and heart.
The deeper I went into anorexia, the more I physically rejected my body and any sort of physical experience. Further, over time, being so hard on my body and myself made me increasingly hard on others.
It was hard to be patient and forgiving with another person (a fundamental part of a healthy, loving relationship) when I was spending huge amounts of time and energy repressing my true, healthy, imperfect self.
At a certain point, I wanted kindness. I wanted to learn to flow with the imperfections of myself, others, and life. I wanted to eat cake at my wedding.
At a certain point, I wanted to fight. And once I sat down and looked at these reasons, and truly understood them and their implications, for the first time I saw a way out.
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Last reviewed: 13 Jan 2012