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Why Christmas Is Hard Even Though I'm 'Recovered' From My Eating Disorder

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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 “START” to 741-741.

When you’ve had an eating disorder in the past and people are aware of this fact, you are no longer protected in that safety blanket of the unknown. People now have suspicions. They are more aware. They know you once suffered and are now tracking every move you make, every bite you consume. There’s no hiding it now. They know and you can’t take this back. This is the scariest thing about recovery. The raw revealing of yourself. Your entire thoughts and battles on show for everyone to stare at. This is what makes Christmas so hard as a person in eating disorder recovery.

You can no longer pass off not eating the cake because you’re a little full or you’ve already ate. You can’t make up a believable excuse as to why you’re exercising nonstop. It’s not to be healthy or to practice for a sports tryout. Refusing a meal is no longer simply overlooked, it’s scrutinized and studied.

But the thing is, when you’re “recovered” people expect you to reintegrate into the normal family unit. It isn’t about food anymore. Now you’re recovered, you must automatically love food. People expect you to eat everything on the plate and ask for seconds. That fear of food you had – that’s gone now. They want to forget about the past and have a “normal Christmas.” You’re recovered now, so your health and weight are no longer concerns. People expect you to fit into their shared experiences, including the overindulgence on Christmas day.

But I want to tell you something. A person who has “recovered” from an eating disorder may appear fine and healthy on the outside. They may eat without guilt or have a dessert after dinner. They may not exercise anymore and seem confident about their body. But the thing is – they’re likely not fully recovered. Eating disorders have a heavy hold on those who have them. “Recovered” may mean better, but it doesn’t mean the eating disorder has just completely disappeared off the face of the earth.

Eating disorders can build up their own identity. I could no longer tell the difference between who I was and who the eating disorder was. It felt like I wasn’t me anymore. The eating disorder invaded my mind and every single part of my body. It felt like I was no longer in control because the eating disorder was.

Recovered does not mean I now have a healthy and positive relationship with food.

So on Christmas Day, please remember the recovered. Remember an eating disorder used to be the only thing they lived for. Remember they struggled to look at food and eat it. Remember exercise was their life. Remember they struggled to eat during family gatherings and did not like social events that included food. Remember their eating disorder was valid and so is their recovery. Please remember recovery is a long and treacherous journey and relapses are 100 percent normal.

On Christmas, be forgiving. Be loving. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be open minded.

But most of all, remember.

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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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 22, 2016
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