a piece of chocolate cake on a plate

Please Don't Make Excuses for Eating That Extra Piece of Cake

It might be because I’m in recovery from an eating disorder that I’m suddenly very aware of the conversations that occur when you’re eating with others; especially the toxic comments and jokes I’ve noticed others make when it comes to desserts, cookies and other “unhealthy foods.”

The comments are usually exaggerations and jokes that might be meant to give others an excuse for having that extra slice of cake. Comments like, “Oh well I deserve it, I actually ran here,” “This is too tasty, I’ll take a second portion — no need for breakfast tomorrow,” or “I guess I’ll have to spend an hour or two extra at the gym after eating this.” Now, the majority of people that say these things don’t skip their breakfast, compensate with exercise the day after or spend their night questioning if they actually did or didn’t deserve that cookie — which is a good thing because they shouldn’t. However, if you rewind my life nine months, you would find me doing exactly those things, especially when somebody in my surroundings made a joke like that.

These casual everyday comments made me doubt if I had done enough to eat that cake. If my table neighbor had ran, did that mean I also had to run? I used to compensate all the time, and these comments fueled that compensation. If others are saying it, I justified that it meant it was OK for me to do them. Not only was it OK to do, but I should them. Today, I know that I shouldn’t, and I try my best not to act out those behaviors. But I don’t think I’m alone when I say that my eating disorder loves these comments, even if I don’t. They make me angry because they aren’t needed — you don’t have to make excuses to eat. Every human that’s alive eats and excuses are not needed. Recovery, however, is a choice you have to make every minute, and hearing comments like “I’ll have to run a few extra laps today in order to make up for these” makes it much harder to choose recovery.

So while these joke and excuses for eating may seem harmless to the majority of the population, for those struggling with an eating disorder, it can be an excuses for our eating disorders to take over — and that’s a potential death sentence. Eating disorders can kill people, but a slice of cake does not. Therefore, please think before you speak. If you want a piece of cake, get it. There’s no need for excuses because you don’t have to do anything to be worthy of having that piece of cake.

Enjoy your cake, and know that you always deserve it.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Toa Heftiba


College with an eating disorder

7 Things I Learned About Eating Disorder Recovery as a College Student

Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Tara DeAngelis for Eating Recovery Center.

College really is way better without your eating disorder. It will only hold you back during this really important and special time in your life. Here are seven ways your life can improve when you say “Goodbye!” to your eating disorder once and for all.   

1. Your grades may improve (or be easier to maintain).

My grades were always a priority to me. However, I had to work twice as hard to maintain my high academic standing while simultaneously battling my eating disorder.

Many people I know who have battled eating disorders in college reported their grades improved when their brain was healthy and they were no longer engaging in eating disordered behaviors.

So, when your eating disorder goes away, your grades can become better… seems like a fair trade to me!

2. You can meet more people.

Let’s face it: food is often the way to a college student’s soul (or so it seems).

At my school, everything is done over food… studying, planning, group projects, movie nights — most social events — are all enjoyed with a slice of pizza or a giant milkshake.

I used to be scared to do anything social because I was completely terrified of food. Now, I’m not afraid to get a bite to eat with friends while studying or doing other social activities.

3. Your friendships can deepen.

What is college without lasting friendships?

When you say “Goodbye” to your eating disorder and “Hello” to your authentic self, you gain many things. One of the best, in my opinion, is the ability to be a true, selfless and genuine friend.

And in turn, you may find your friends become better friends to you as they truly get to know your authentic self. Friendship is a two-way street — when you have more energy to give, it will likely be reciprocated.

4. You will have more energy (and a better memory).

When you commit to eating disorder recovery, your brain will become new again! It’s amazing what the body and brain can do when they are healthy and taken care of.

I was trapped in my eating disorder during my freshman year of college, spending most of my time in bed or in the library. I don’t have many memories of that first year, which was supposed to be one of the best years of my life.

That all changed when I committed to recovery and kicked my eating disorder to the curb! The rest of my college experience was chock-full of energy and filled to the brim with priceless memories.

5. The world becomes your oyster.

Without your eating disorder, the world truly does become your oyster and you will be free to explore every inch of it. You can volunteer, travel or study abroad, for example.

When I entered solid recovery, I was healthy enough to spend a semester studying abroad in London, England! I finally had the energy to explore the world because I was free from my demons. This freedom rendered me independent, strong and determined to live the life I always dreamed of.

6. Your confidence will grow.

The biggest gift I gained from recovery was confidence. I am more confident now than I have ever been in my life. I’m not afraid to try new things — I take healthy risks. I don’t put value in comparing myself to others and I don’t pay much attention to what others think of me.

I can tell you from personal experience that college is so much better with confidence. I believe you too, can find this life-changing confidence when you choose recovery!

Hint: your confidence will impress your professors and might help you get that letter of recommendation you dearly want!

7. You will be happier.

This one doesn’t even need much explaining. I promise you I am so much happier at my university without my eating disorder trying to sabotage me.

You won’t be in college forever, so now is your chance to make the most of it. You deserve your dream college experience!

With an eating disorder in your head, it will be impossible to achieve that dream, but if you give it the boot, you just might find what you’ve been looking for all along.

Tara DeAngelis is an eating disorder recovery blogger with a passion for creating honest discussions about mental health. She uses her recovery story to inspire others to seek help for their own recovery, and to encourage loved ones to understand eating disorders on a deeper level.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via contributor.

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How It Feels to Move On From an Eating Disorder

The last two weeks have been, well, good. It’s challenging for me to say that because I don’t always believe I deserve to actually make progress in my recovery. My inner critic believes I have to be sick in order to be good — a seemingly backwards statement that doesn’t really make sense, but often feels true.

I have had many monumental “recovery moments” in the past two weeks. New things I’ve been challenging myself to implement into each day. I feel like I am doing this thing, I am recovering.

Yes, I’ve been recovering this entire time, but there’s something different about what’s been happening lately. I feel myself taking charge instead of prioritizing my eating disorder over everything else. I’ve realized it’s quite possible to be both in recovery and in eating disorder la la land. But la la land is the exact place I’ve been breaking myself from lately. I am making different, and sometimes difficult choices. I am being social even though that means unplanned events occuring. I am eating things simply because they are my favorite food. I am not just “following the meal plan” — barely, by the skin of my teeth. I am making a conscious choices to move on.

But does it feel great? Honestly, not really. There are moments it feels good, but most of the time it feels hard. I feel guilty and I so badly want to go back. But the glimpses of freedom from my eating disorder push me onwards toward the future. They keep me going. They pick me up when I start to fall. They propel me away from the mirror when I find myself only seeing the change.

The glimpses keep me hanging on — even when I feel tired, exhausted, worn out and weak.

Moving on doesn’t always feel powerful. It’s not the crowd shouting, “Hoorah!” at the end of the game. It’s giving up certain things, to an extent. I’m choosing to say, “Eating disorder, you don’t work,” after six years of believing that eventually, it would. And it’s hard to admit being wrong.

Sometimes I can’t even believe that I’m in recovery. How could I let all of those rules go? How could I let myself change? How could I give up my holy grail, my soulmate, my eating disorder?

But then there are the times I feel the light shining in through the window, I hug my puppy like it’s the first time I’ve ever seen her, or I laugh until my stomach aches. These are the times I feel alive. And I know these are things recovery is giving me.

It’s a difficult process, and feelings of weakness and failure are very much real, but they are not the reality. The reality is, you are strong by moving on from your eating disorder. Emotions and reality do not always coincide, but I am here to tell you that no matter how you feel, you can and you must keep going.

Because I am here, telling myself the same thing.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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I Used My Eating Disorder to Get Attention

Let me first say I did not choose to have an eating disorder. I never consciously decided I wanted an eating disorder. Like any other mental illness, an eating disorder is a disorder no one chooses to develop.

When I say my eating disorder was for attention, I mean a strong desire for attention was one of the things that contributed to my development of an eating disorder. Until I was years into my recovery, I never admitted to myself that many of my self-destructive behaviors were attention-seeking by nature. I never admitted it because I felt like needing attention made me a bad person. I now realize it doesn’t make me any less worthy of recovery and it doesn’t make my struggles any less valid. In fact, it makes sense that I wanted attention.

Like many other people struggling with an eating disorder, I had a dysfunctional childhood. It wasn’t terrible, exactly. I was happy for the most part. But it was chaotic, and because of that, I would often act out to gain the attention of my parents, my peers and everyone else around me. I made myself cry, I hit my brothers and I was the pre-school bully. It makes sense that pattern of behavior would carry into adolescence.

My need for validation only grew stronger as I got older. I needed to feel unique and important and good enough. As a result, one of the functions of my eating disorder was to get attention. I secretly loved when my friends asked why I wasn’t eating. I loved when people commented that I’d lost weight. I loved when people expressed concern. It was a way for me to feel special. I viewed my eating disorder as a defining characteristic. I was proud of it.

Of course, that was just one factor, but it was a huge one I was always ashamed to admit. I thought because I liked the attention I got when I was sick, it somehow meant I was less than other people with eating disorders. Our society views wanting attention as something to be ashamed of, but I believe it is only natural. Everyone wants to be recognized at times. Everyone wants to stand out. It’s OK to want that.

Now I get my share of attention from positive things. I’m recognized for my ability to work well with children. I’m praised for my academic abilities. My articles are read and shared by strangers. This kind of attention feels a whole lot better than the kind I used to seek.

If your eating disorder or other mental illness is or was a way to get attention, it’s OK. It makes sense. You do not need to feel ashamed about it. Instead, I encourage you to talk to someone about it to try to figure out where this need comes from and what you can do to fulfill it in a healthy way. You’ll feel a whole lot better once you figure that out.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Dreya Novak.

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9 Things I Wish I Had Known About Eating Disorder Recovery

Many of my favorite posts on The Mighty and other blogs start with a number. Such as “36 Things People With Anxiety Want Their Friends to Know” Or “40 Things People With Eating Disorders Wish Others Understood” I love them because with a simple copy and paste of the link, I can often communicate things to people in my support system that I previously hadn’t had the words for. What’s ironic though, is that one the hallmarks of an eating disorder can be a lack of insight about your own condition, and I am no exception to that. Sometimes it’s easy for me to see how something applies to someone else, but I struggle to see  how it applies to me.

So this is a piece for me and for all of you out there fighting the same battle. While that lack of insight can look different for all of us, here are nine things I wish I had known about my own eating disorders.

1. Eating disorders are serious. 

They are not something to mess around with. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Every day I engage in eating disorder behavior, I am doing harm to my body and I never know what harm will be irreparable. Despite what I may occasionally think, I am not the exception to the rule. There are real, potentially fatal consequences to continuing to deprive my body of the fuel it needs.

2. I do not need my eating disorder to be OK. 

There was life before the eating disorder (a life that was much more vibrant than life with my eating disorder) and there will be life after it. My eating disorder is not the glue that holds the pieces of my shattered life together. It’s the hammer that’s trying to break those pieces in my life into even smaller pieces.

3. I cannot hold onto a “little bit” of my eating disorder. 

Sometime I have this illusion that I can just give up my “worst” behaviors and still use my “smaller” behaviors and everything will be fine and dandy. However, that is far from the truth.  If I want to be out of my eating disorder, I have to commit to being all out. As one friend told me, “The thing is,  you cannot have a little bit of an eating disorder and reach full recovery. That little bit will always be a hot coal waiting for something to light a match and reignite the inferno.” While it’s not going to happen overnight, I have to be all out.

4. I am not my eating disorder. 

While it’s part of my story, it is not who I am. While sometimes the thoughts, the behaviors and the anxiety may feel all consuming, I am more than this disorder. I am more than my copays, my quirky eating habits, my myriad of regular appointments. I am a person with hopes and dreams. I have people in my life I love and who love me. Remembering I am more than this disorder is a small victory in and of itself. The eating disorder tries to make you forget who you really are.

5. Engaging in my eating disorder behaviors makes me less rational.

My eating disorder also makes me less myself. I know this. My treatment team certainly knows this. When I start using my behaviors, my body starts to panic and go into survival mode. This impacts the way I think, the way I communicate and makes my anxiety skyrocket. This means I’m physically less able to make good decisions.

6. There are times others have more insight into my eating disorder than I do. 

When someone on my team tells me I’m starting to slip in my recovery, they’re probably right. If I immediately become defensive, they’re definitely right. Eating disorders can be sneaky, and sometimes I don’t even realize how much control mine currently has. There is no reason people who care about me would tell me I’m getting more sucked into my eating disorder if that’s not what they’re seeing.

7. My eating disorder is not my fault.

It’s an illness and I did not bring it on myself or choose to have it.

8. My eating disorder is not my fault, but I have to make an active effort to engage in treatment. 

While my eating disorder did just sort of happen, recovery will not just magically happen. It takes willingness and hard work every single day. Any day I do not follow my team’s recommendation is an opportunity for my illness to get worse.  

9. Recovery is possible. 

One of my biggest barriers to seeking treatment was my misconception that my eating disorder was a lifetime sentence. What I know now is not only that recovery is possible, it’s really likely if I’m honest and engaged in treatment. In the two years since I was first diagnosed and entered treatment, my life already has improved dramatically. I know recovery is possible because I’m experiencing a little more of it each day. There is hope.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.

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The Biggest Misconceptions About Eating Disorders

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

I received a lot of feedback on a post I made on my personal Facebook regarding eating disorders. In my status, I explored the fact that they are so easily well hidden as eating disorders take on many different forms. I delved into the harsh reality of living with an eating disorder and shed some light on the horrific nature of them. Today, in this blog post, I would like to edit, extend and further examine this topic.

Eating disorders are not glamorous.

They are not a choice or something to be desired. Living with an eating disorder is like living with a demon that plagues every aspect of your life. These demons are vicious and will stop at nothing to tear apart your family, your relationships, your work, your study and everything else you have ever cared about. These demons do not have feelings and they do not know what it’s like to love something and truly appreciate beauty. Because of this, they do not understand the terror of being torn apart from something so precious. Eating disorders are also widely misunderstood.

Firstly, the biggest misconception is that you have to be skeletal thin to have an eating disorder.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Over the years, I have met many people, of all different shapes and sizes who have been diagnosed with some form of an eating disorder. I do not believe we can categorize people into “sick” and “not sick” depending on their weight. Believe it or not, some of the “sickest people” I have met, actually haven’t been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. I believe what makes us “sick” are the thoughts that whirl around in our minds — not the number of times you have been admitted into hospital, not by how “bad” your blood test results are, not by how little you are eating, not by the amount of times you purge or binge, not by the hours of exercise you undertake and certainly not by your weight. What makes us “sick,” “abnormal,” “disordered” and “unhealthy” is the lack of control we have over our lives.

Another mistaken belief is only girls can struggle with an eating disorder.

Whilst the statistics do show more females experience eating disorders than men, but this does not mean men are any less worthy of receiving treatment. It also does not mean men need to be more ashamed in asking for help. Unfortunately, the mental health stigma in society is something that is stopping people from speaking up about their illnesses. It really is a shame that, over time, mental illnesses have gathered such an attached stigma. As a result, many people who would benefit from mental health services often do not seek treatment for fear that they will be viewed in a negative way. Though evidence-based research has shown us that mental illnesses are indeed a very real medical disorder, the stigma associated to them is on the rise instead of on the decline.

We all have a role in creating a mentally healthy community that supports recovery and social inclusion and reduces discrimination (i.e. gender discrimination). It may take years, decades and/or centuries for such a stigma to be disbanded, but every little thing each individual does to help overcome this, will only speed up this process.

Last but certainly not least, a prevalent misunderstanding is “all eating disorder’s share very similar traits.”

This again, couldn’t be more wrong (to put it simply). Eating disorders are often actually very well hidden and there are many different “warning signs” and “symptoms” that no one knows about. With increased awareness, prevention is more likely.

These are just some of the symptoms I have experienced personally.

It is shaking in the middle of the night because my body is frozen. It is losing hair in massive clumps every time I brush it. It is dizziness and fainting because my body is severely malnourished. It is growing a downy layer of hair in an attempt to stay warm. It is sitting on the toilet for hours because my bowels can’t cope. It is lying in bed on a Saturday night, when all of my friends are out. It is screaming and yelling with everyone I care about because “no one understands.” It is standing in front of a mirror and crying because I hate every little inch of my body and myself. It is walking and running for hours because I had “one too many.” It is feeling ashamed and embarrassed to leave the house because everyone is staring at me and judging me. It is wearing baggy clothes constantly because I would rather be invisible than alive. It is saying “no” to every opportunity that presents itself: study opportunities, job opportunities, social opportunities… It is lying to everyone because I have become a secretive and deceptive person. It is pretending I have the flu so I can avoid eating at the dinner table. It is bingeing on copious amounts of “fear foods” because I have starved myself for so long. It is regretting every piece of food that touches my lips. It is becoming depressed because I have lost myself to this disease. It is a growling stomach that makes me scared of quiet places.

It is a constant battle. It is not glamorous. It is not a choice or something to be desired. It is like living with a demon that plagues every aspect of your life.

Eating disorders are not always visible. They are not always as striking and apparent as society seems to think. In fact they are very secretive.

Therefore, I implore you to keep this in mind.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via sSplajn.

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