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Why We Should Describe Eating Disorder Recovery With This One Word

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 741741.

Now that it’s February and it’s almost National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) Week, it means that conversations about eating disorders will be more prevalent on your social media feeds.

As someone who grew up with “Skins,” “The Red Band Society” and Tumblr, I know how important it is that the conversation is conducive instead of making eating disorders seem alluring and appealing.

In the car, as I was driving back from one of my best dietitian appointments ever, it hit me that when eating disorders are brought up, they are surrounded by full-body transformation pictures, lowest weights and physical symptoms. It’s essentially celebrating how sick a person once was, like it’s an achievement to be near death. Even in the news, eating disorder articles are accompanied by weights and calorie consumption.

No one ever talks about the other side. By “the other side,” I mean recovery. As I was driving home, it hit me that recovery is just so magical.

It’s not fairytales and rainbows magical; it’s magical in a completely different kind of way. For instance, I never thought I would get here and then I did. To me, even though I know I put in so much work, it feels like a magical force is over my life and somehow everything is falling together. And that’s what we should be talking about and celebrating, not how sick a person with an eating disorder can get. Instead, celebrate and encourage resilience. Celebrate the resilience and badassness that someone in recovery has. Celebrate that it is hard work and those who show up to heal every day are demonstrating an incredible amount of strength. Because like I said, it’s not glamorous to almost die. It’s not cool to spend the rest of your life counting macros and calories. That’s not strength or willpower. That’s holding onto an eating disorder. It’s not necessary during this month to talk about your lowest to show that you “did it.” Save that for your treatment team.

You know what should be celebrated, though? Getting to call your family and tell them you’re doing genuinely well for the first time in years. That you can eat your grandmother’s meals again and have cake on your birthday. That you can go out to coffee with your friends and get the latte you’ve been eyeing but have not had the courage to get until now. Getting to go on a hike and think about nature instead of the number of steps you took. That you can talk about the benefits of recovery because you’ve experienced them firsthand on the day-to-day. That you have seen your life transform before your eyes is simply so magical. Recovery becoming your norm and not your eating disorder is cool as heck and should definitely be celebrated. Having the realization that choosing recovery day every day is badass. Hearing your dietitian saying “you’ve turned a corner” is amazing. Recovery is definitely ebbs and flows but it’s so much better than living the half-empty life of an eating disorder.

This is what the recovery conversation should look like: the celebration of life, not the glorification of near-death. Because like I said, I realized in the car today that what I am doing is so amazing. Getting here took a lot of hard work. The commitment I have shown is incredible because I want to find freedom. The desire to find freedom is truly magical because I know I deserve more to life outside of an eating disorder. I have realized that life is all about empowerment and growth and that should definitely be celebrated this month over how “sick” a person can get because the matter is my story is valuable regardless of my level of sickness.

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Originally published: February 21, 2020
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