Hey everyone! Happy #MentalHealthMonday :) For some that don't know, I struggled with eating disorders for about a decade of my life, but it wasn't until February that I opened up about it publicly FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.
Anything I could've done to my body to lose weight, I've done. When I was 11 I struggled with anorexia and then it transitioned into years of restricting, bingeing, and purging. Even though my ED was bad in college, I did learn a lot more about body positivity from some pretty cool chicks in my sorority, but, my ED habits never changed. It turned into an addiction, and I relied on my eating disorder to cope with different stresses.
Recovery is a PROCESS. It takes TIME - a lot of it! However, if you're even thinking about recovery, that's awesome and a BIG step. OK - I need to chill with the ALL CAPS. WOONANOO.
For more, learning more about body positivity was one of my first steps. It took me a lot longer to break my disordered eating habits. Though, once I finally got to the point where I wasn't engaging in my ED, I had a really strong foundation.
As always, everyone's mental health and recovery journey is unique, and it's a combination of a lot of things. The end goal is to be happy, healthy, and not to have an eating disorder so you have to find what's best for you.
Here are 10 things that helped me in recovery:
1. Answering, "Why do I want to recover?"
This answer has changed SO many times. Now, I want to be recovered because I know a recovered life is always going to better than one with an eating disorder. That's a guarantee. At first, when I was willing to recover, I was scared I was going to die. My habits were so unhealthy. Then, as I continued to miss out on social activities and things that I really wanted to do, I was angry. I really wasn't living the life I could be. My athletic performance plummeted because of my mental health, as did my grades, and of course, my social life.
Yet, along the way, I've learned how my body's worth is not the sum of all of its functions. Also, we all have different bodies, and no one's is better than the others. So, this was great. I really embraced the BoPo world, yet still couldn't shake my ED.
Ultimately, I just wanted a normal life. I wanted normal ways to cope with stresses. I wanted to be free.
I chose recovery because I know life is better without an eating disorder.
2. Understanding Health Risks + Medical Aid
It's obvious that eating disorders are a result of weak mental health. I, obviously, am a huge advocate of prioritizing mental health as much as possible. When, I was heavily purging (any form of "emptying" my system of food or overexercising), I began to really fear for my physical health. And, quite honestly, my life. You do not have to be underweight for an eating disorder to be fatal. You should communicate with your doctor about your ED so they can follow up. He/She will most likely order blood-work which is a good way to check on your elctrolite levels and malnutrition.
For more info:
3. No Food Rules
Ok, start with this slowly. Almost every food felt wrong to me at some people. There are still foods I struggle with now. However, it's really important just to give up this idea of weight loss. Once I week I would introduce a fear food. No, this wasn't a 'cheat day.' It was a day where I had prepared myself to eat this food. No matter what I ate the day before. By introducing one food/meal, then it felt like less of a binge.
4. Ditch the Scale
CYA, scale! That's right. Get rid of it. Probably your second worst enemy following your actual ED. Scales mean shit. Your weight fluctuates throughout a day. Nobody notices if you gain weight. My metabolism was a complete shit-show after 10 years of EDs. It had no idea how to function. I had to be patient. My cravings were off. Some days I ate a lot. Some days a little. Now I eat normally for the most part and really can understand my hunger cues.
5. Buy Clothes That Fit
Have you ever bought clothes that were a little too tight just because you thought, in time, you'd fit in them? Yeah, same. And I never ended up fitting in them. The clothes that don't fit or make you feel uncomfortable, put them in a bin. Maybe you will fit in them in recovery. Maybe you won't. I used to be so mad that I couldn't fit in clothes while I was deep in my ED. I was like, shit, at least when I had my ED I fit in this size. It took me THREE YEARS to associate those clothes with immense sickness.
So, wear clothes that fit you. No one knows what size you wear. NO ONE CARES. WOONANOO if they do.
6. Taking Some Time Off Exercise
Once I graduated college I took a lot of time off of exercise. My depression was pretty bad, and I was also learning how not to train like a college athlete. What? Normal people don't train 2 hours a day?! No, they don't. I took months off of intense training (something I love). I had to 1) heal my body and 2) figure out what I like to do. It's hard to reset your metabolism when you're throwing in exercise. Plus, I knew my body was tired. YOU WILL BE OKAY. Once I reintroduced training, I was doing it because I wanted to. I knew when to take days off. I also knew my weight wasn't going to skyrocket for taking a few days off.
7. Yoga/ Meditation
Yoga was a huge part of my recovery - it still is. And depending on the severity of your ED, you may not/ should not do certain yoga classes. In sanskrit, yoga means connection. It was a form of reconnecting my body + mind. I also recommend the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, Ph.D.
Yoga helped me cope with anxiety, it helped me clear space in my head, it kept my body active. I still practice yoga and meditation. I highly recommend yoga studios without mirrors (like, YogaWorks) - that's a requirement for me.
Nature is healing. There's science to back it! For me, making time to explore outside helped me in a variety of ways:
It got me out of the house. Even for just 10 minutes, that can make the difference from a binge or any type of self sabotage.
It made the world feel bigger, and I felt smaller (no, not skinnier). There were bigger things than me. I felt un-judged in nature. It helped me disconnect with all of society's pressures and standards and escape. You think squirrels feel self conscious, no? Neither should you.
It calmed my mind. Similar to yoga, nature is very serendipitous. The cooling breeze, the buzzing bugs.