How Anorexia Recovery Can Feel Like Figure Skating

There’s a lot to admire about the figure skaters competing in this year’s Winter Olympics. Their grace, speed and poise are what obviously stand out, but what I notice is their control — the mental and physical discipline it takes to deliberately move through the air and stop at a precise point. Under unforgiving spotlights they look so confident and unafraid when a single millimeter out of place could lead to a complete crash.

As someone who will always fight with anorexia, I sometimes feel like my days are a figure skating performance. I am consciously aware of all pieces of food in front of me, as if I am judged on each meal I eat. Every piece of food is carefully measured to avoid feeling like I have lost my balance. Other people only see a girl eating a snack, and they do not see the painstaking counting and packing into Ziplock bags so I can eat the “right” amount of food throughout the day and feel good enough about myself to take a bow and smile brightly to the outside world.

People do not realize the incredible amount of strength it takes to complete the flips, spins, turns or whatever other obstacles society wants you to jump though. That reaching for a second slice of pizza or drinking whole milk can be scarier that a double pirouette. I must keep telling myself that having an extra handful of pretzels does not make me a bad person, just like a corny pep talk before taking the Olympic stage.

There are days when I feel as great as I imagine having a gold medal around your neck feels. At other times I feel like I’ve wiped out and have disgraced the world. In the grand scheme of things, there are many other more important struggles and joys than the ones that revolve around food. I must embrace the feeling of flying free instead of feeling trapped. To shine under the lights as the person I am without hiding my flaws. Most importantly, no matter whether you’re an Olympic athlete or a beginner, you must always get back up after a fall.

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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