Tattoo reads: Feed your brain.

28 Beautiful Tattoos That Represent Eating Disorder Recovery

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Eating disorder recovery — like recovery from many mental illnesses — if often spoken of like a life-long journey. Although you can recover from an eating disorder, it’s an ongoing process and one that can stick with you for a lifetime.

To capture this journey of recovery, the National Eating Disorder Association asked its community to share tattoos inspired by living with an eating disorder.

Here are some of our favorites:

1.

tattoo of eating disorder symbol
source: NEDA

2.

Tattoo reads: I am enough
source: NEDA
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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

3.

Tattoo of bird jumping out of its cage.
source: NEDA

4.

Tattoo of eating disorder recovery symbol
source: NEDA

5.

Tattoo reads: Be kind to yourself.
source: NEDA

6.

tattoo reads: Stay Strong
source: NEDA

7. 

Tattoo says: Feed you head
source: NEDA

8.

eating disorder recovery symbol
source: NEDA

9.

Tattoo reads "Freedom"
source: NEDA

10. 

tattoo of a bird
source: NEDA

11.

tattoos of three birds
source: NEDA

12.

Tattoos says: With her broken wings she carried her dreams.
source: NEDA

13.

Tattoo reads: To body with love.
source: NEDA

14.

Tattoo reads: "Let me see redemption win Let me know the struggle ends"
source: NEDA

15.

tattoo reads "deserving"
source: NEDA

16.

Tattoo reads: Destroy what destroys you.
source: NEDA

17.

tattoo reads welcome
source: NEDA

18.

Tattoo reads Freedome
source: NEDA

19.

Tattoo reads: Choice
source: NEDA

20.

Tattoo says, strive for progress, not perfection
source: NEDA

21.

Tattoo of a feather
source: NEDA

22.

Tattoo reads: "Just for today..."
source: NEDA

23.

tattoo of a sunflower
source: NEDA

24.

tattoo reads "stronger" with eating disorder recovery symbol
source: NEDA

25.

Tattoo reads: Don't let it win.
source: NEDA

26.

Tattoo reads: beautiful
source: NEDA

27.

Tattoo reads: No one heals without a struggle.
source: NEDA

28.

three girls with eating disorder recovery symbol tattoos
source: NEDA

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Having an Eating Disorder in the Summer

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“Woo!”

It’s officially summer break, and warmer weather and beach days are finally upon us.

While summer has always been my favorite season (I’m in love with heat), it has also always been the hardest to get through. You may think I’m absurd for saying that, but it’s unfortunately true.

Anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder, any eating disorder, can understand. In the summer time you can’t cover up. You cannot hide in a hoodie and sweatpants or baggy long-sleeved shirts any longer. You have to wear shorts, tank tops and the ever-so-dreaded bathing suit.

Although I’m in my third year of recovery (*snaps*), putting on shorts and crop tops and wearing the B-word have yet to get easier.

I still stare in the mirror looking shamefully at my own body, wondering if I should just forget about my fun summer day and stay in.

But not this summer.

This summer I vow to have fun.

I vow to wear whatever bathing suit I want or even that one cute crop top that goes great with those perfect high-wasted shorts.

I vow to not let my eating disorder dictate my summer.

Now everyone, if you can, go into your bathroom, look into your mirror and tell yourself you are damn beautiful.

Because you are.

Remember, the sun will always rise above the shadows.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about you or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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The Truth About Eating Disorder Recovery (From Someone in Recovery)

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Recovery from an eating disorder is not synonymous with y = 2x+1. It’s not a linear equation. Speaking realistically, it’s closer to a sine graph — constant waves representing peaks and troughs. If you are someone who is wondering whether or not recovery is truly something you are “cut out” for, keep reading. 

As cliche as it may sound, nothing worth having comes easy. This is a phrase that just about defines the entirety of recovery. I used to think recovery would be a straight shot to healthy once I had the motivation and resources I needed to get the work done. However, recovery was not my own personal y = 2x+1, and it’s not something that would ever be defined by a simple linear equation. 

Recovery is hard; there are no if, ands or buts about it. This is a truth that is seemingly difficult to accept. So many of the social media platforms, including tumblr and Instagram, can place a filter on recovery, making it seem simpler and significantly easier to obtain. I’ve scrolled through my feeds, looking at the recovery hashtag, hoping to find someone who speaks the truth about the recovery I’m feeling. But as you may imagine, I haven’t found it yet. 

Cyberspace often paints a picture of recovery as a smiling girl who is happily weight restored, body positive and posting photos of every meal, perfectly arranged as if it was only for show, and not for eating. There’s nothing wrong with this picture, as I have hope that one day that’s what recovery could mean for some of us. But it’s become so taboo to even talk about eating disorders, that we feel pressured to place that Valencia filter on our recovery process, often out of fear of what the rest of society will think of us. 

I want to tell you about recovery — the unfiltered, messy, roller coaster that it is, in its harsh entirety. 

Recovery is waking up in the morning, and not being hungry. It’s having to convince yourself to eat the breakfast your mom has begged you to consume, and keeping it down after she leaves for work. Recovery is having to restructure your life — whether that means work or school — completely around eating. It’s setting reminders on your phone to say it’s time to have a snack. It’s eating your entire lunch and immediately regretting it, because you live with the fear every day you take up too much space, and can’t bear the thought of getting any bigger. It’s crying, lots of crying. Crying at your food, at your friends, at your weight. It’s listening to the voices in your head, but actually hearing them. It’s not about drowning them out anymore because you have to hear them and decide to disobey them. It’s listening to and often agreeing with them, but refusing to let that be the reason you act on the symptoms that almost stopped your heart, killed your electrolytes and made you so weak you didn’t know who you were.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

I started to self-harm; it’s a way of symptom substituting so you can continue to take out your pain on yourself, but convince your friends, teachers and parents that you are thriving as a weight-restored or nutritionally-sound individual. Recovery is trying on the clothes you’ve been wearing since your freshman year, begging the question as to why you can’t get them to fit anymore, even though you truly know the answer. Recovery can seem just as brutal as your eating disorder. It’s the pain of the refeeding process, constant blood drawls and becoming someone you have probably never been before. Recovery can feel like you’re dying, but it’s really just the fear of truly living for the first time in your entire life. 

There’s nothing wrong with living for the happiness that recovery will bring. It’s withholding the details that make us think it’s a straight-shot deal that presents a problem.

Recovery can be sunflowers, but it is remembering that first flowers must grow through dirt. 

sunflower with a butterfly on it.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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The First Rule of an Eating Disorder Is...

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The first rule of eating disorders is: you do not talk about eating disorders. The second rule of eating disorders is: you do not talk about eating disorders. The third rule of eatin — you get the idea. I got the title for this post from one of my favorite movies, “Fight Club.” In the movie, there’s this thing, this secret, that I can’t talk about because that’s the first rule. And that reminded me of the first rule of eating disorders.

A rule I am breaking and am going to continue to break. Every. Single. Day.

Why? Because I have to keep the channels open. The thoughts and feelings must continue to flow because if they don’t, then I start to regress. I become this person who has so many secrets, she almost isn’t a genuine person anymore. People begin to hate me, and stop wanting to hang out with me. OK, maybe not so much anymore (I don’t hang out with anyone, haha!), but when I was younger I didn’t talk to anyone except therapists and my parents about my eating disorder, anxiety or depression. My problems were this huge secret to me… ones that everyone knew about but that I was so ashamed of, so scared of revealing, that I would just push people away.

It wasn’t worth it to me to look like a “freak” to people around me, so I just gave up. They didn’t really give up on me though. I had friends who would ask me to hang out with them; I’d usually blow them off. My sisters would ask me a bit timidly if I wanted to do such and such an activity with them. I usually said no, simply because I was pretty sure they hated me and wouldn’t want me around anyway. The funny thing is, I was only making things worse. The more I pushed people away, the more they started to realize something was wrong, that I wasn’t my usual self. And then they started to worry and talk about me behind my back with my mom (don’t get me wrong, this was a good thing mostly. If not for certain people in my life at that time, I probably would not be where I am today). Things started to get messy. All of the little rituals and rules I had established started to seem like something way beyond what they were to me. They became an illness, something afflicting and killing me. And I didn’t want to talk about it. Because the first rule of eating disorders is: (say it with me now) you do not talk about eating disorders.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

There is something about anorexia that is so foreign and scary. When I was 11 years old, I read a book that mentioned a girl intentionally starving herself. I thought, “How could a person even do that?” It seemed unnatural.

Even I think it’s a weird disease, and I have it. I didn’t stop it before it got so bad I couldn’t go back. I didn’t ask my mom what the hell was wrong with me. Why was I so sad, so tired, so mad at myself? Why didn’t I like to be around people anymore? Why was this sandwich so scary? Why did pizza make me want to bash my head against the wall? I didn’t ask for help. Even when I knew I needed it.

Thankfully, my mom was there to step in and try to take the reigns… I say “try,” because I wouldn’t let her help me. I saw her coming, and I jumped off that wagon seat and snapped those reigns right off. I ran and ran until I was so tired and defeated, that I cried and cried and held out those tattered pieces of leather to my mother. I showed her where they were cracked and worn, and she said she would help me repair those reigns so they weren’t so tight and restricting. But I didn’t trust her. Again, it comes back to me. Me, me, me. And sometimes I would talk about my eating disorder, when I felt like the listener was in my ultra secret “club.” But I cringed when I broke those rules. The first, second, third, fourth…

I’ve already said that the first rule is “you do not talk about eating disorders.” Thankfully, this rule seems to be getting broken by not only me, but by all kinds of professionals and individuals who see the benefits of speaking up. I never wanted to ask for help, because I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know where the hell to start, and I was such a mess. So find someone you trust, and bounce ideas off of them. Breaking the first rule won’t make you weak, or “bad.” In fact, just the opposite. Breaking these rules makes you strong, courageous and beautiful. You are worth it. Start the conversation. Speak up. The rules end with you.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about you or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When an Eating Disorder Is Triggered by Trauma

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The news came to me in September 2008. I was 10 years old and a fifth grader in elementary school. Old enough to understand what was happening, but too young to fully comprehend it.

At any age, having your parents file for a divorce is tough to swallow, but I think my age supported the development of the perfect storm.

I wasn’t young enough to never remember my parents together and reminisce about the times where my family was “perfect,” yet I wasn’t old enough to properly know how to deal with the situation. The coping mechanism I subconsciously decided on was manipulating my food intake. The year my parents separated, my grades dropped and I started binge eating.

Food, the only thing I could seemingly control, was my life-preserver and I held onto it for “survival.” Not realizing what I was doing, everyone around me ignored how much I ate for a long time.

In my family, sharing feelings and personal struggles wasn’t the norm. I never talked about how I felt so I turned to food to cope. My dad started to get concerned around seventh or eighth grade, urging me to start “exercising and eating right,” not realizing the full extent of what was going on. Can you blame him though? With shows on television like “The Biggest Loser,” society believes people who are “overweight” are somehow weak and unable to control themselves. Society’s solution then, is going on a diet.

My “diet” began. I ate “healthier” and walked/ran every single day. I was supported by both of my parents and everyone else in my life. I vowed I would show everyone who called me names and laughed at me in P.E. class. I would get my revenge by losing weight and looking “beautiful.” I would diet before I entered high school and look “amazing” and everyone would be jealous. That was exactly what I did.

Sure enough, my freshman year I received compliments about the way I looked from the same peers that made fun of me. My dad was proud and my grandfather no longer pressured my dad telling him that his young daughter needed to lose weight.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

Sure, I looked good to everyone around me, but my problems were not solved. I was still unhappy.

During my first year of high school, I became extremely stressed and my anxiety skyrocketed. I started over-eating again. I gained all of the weight I had lost plus more. I was eating away my feelings again because that was just how I “solved” my problems.

One night before a party sophomore year, I could not fit in a dress I had worn just months earlier and no matter what we did it would not zip. My dad pushed me onto the scale. I read the number and began to cry. In that moment, I vowed to lose all of the weight and never ever look like that again.

This was the diet that became an eating disorder.

The summer of my Junior year, I was diagnosed with anorexia and began what I needed more than a diet — therapy.

In my first round of treatment, I had several epiphanies.

1.  I couldn’t talk about my feelings so I subconsciously used food to control them and push them away.

2. I developed my eating disorder long before I thought I had because over-eating accomplished the same thing for me as restricting.

3. I subconsciously used my eating disorder to force my parents “together” again.

4. I used my eating disorder to somehow “get back” at my parents for putting me through their divorce.

Everything began to make sense.

No, my eating disorder was not solely caused by the separation of my parents, but it was the triggered it to begin.

Many with eating disorders have experienced some type of trauma in their lives. Some more serious than others, but everyone’s trauma is significant to them no matter what the outside world believes. Mine happened to be a divorce.

If you have an eating disorder and haven’t already, I encourage you to look back in your life. What may not seem like a traumatic event just might have been what began your eating disorder. It may be something you have to work through with your therapist to recover from your eating disorder.

Although you will never be able to fix or change what happened, you can communicate how you felt about it and cope with it in a healthier way.

“Your past does not define your future!” Don’t let something that happened to you keep you stuck. You deserve recovery and that sometimes means talking about something that causes discomfort. That’s OK. You can cope with being uncomfortable. And recovery is all about being uncomfortable. I hate to break it to you, but it’s true. You can do this.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

What’s a misconception about your eating disorder you want to see busted? Tell us in the comments below. 

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To the People Who Watch Me Eat

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Call me fat, call me morbidly obese, but please keep your comments to yourself while I’m trying to eat. It’s absolutely terrifying eating in public alone, worried that you are judging me.

I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation, but I want to, for my own sake, and for others like me. Please know it wasn’t my choice to look this way. I didn’t wake up every day for years and say “today I am going to work toward weighing 400 pounds.” In fact, most mornings since I was 10 years old I would wake up and immediately wonder, am I going to starve myself or am I going to binge today? I still fight those thoughts most mornings, but something is different now.

I now know I deserve to eat because I deserve to live. 

For years, my life has been consumed by the power I allowed food to have over me. These behaviors would range from bingeing, over-eating, sneaking food, obsessing from the second I woke up about what I would be eating that day and when. As I got older, that fight turned into if I should eat anything at all or eat everything in sight. It could go either way depending on the day, the moment, the second. 

I now know I have choices. The choice I make is recovery — to stop using food as an unhealthy coping mechanism.

Recovery right now, for me, looks like eating a balanced meal every four to five hours whether my eating disorder wants to or not. Sometimes that means I have to eat in public. I’m allowed, just as much as you, to eat my lunch in the park. I can eat fast food from time to time. Just because I’m obese doesn’t mean I should be starving myself. 

So if you see me, or any obese person eating, remember how hard of a struggle it may be for them to be eating in public or eating at all, and your stares aren’t helping. I know you think your intentions are pure with side comments to friends about diets or even confronting me about what diet I should try, but it really does more harm than good. I already know what I need to do to have a healthy relationship with food and hopefully to lose weight in the future.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

I want you to know I’m trying my hardest despite what assumptions you want to make about me. Think before you speak. Counter the judgments your mind makes about obese people. You don’t know what battles they are facing.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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