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Why This Plate of Chinese Food Helped Me Realize I Had an 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 “NEDA” to 741741.

During National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) Week, I have been reflecting on my journey with an eating disorder like so many have as we fight this journey together.

For so long, I thought everything I was doing was “normal” — good, even. I watched what I ate and I worked out. I began to lose the weight I had gained from being on a certain medication after being taken off of it. Then came the bad part. I got addicted to losing weight. I was praised by those around me for how I looked when, in reality, I was pretty sick.

I remember my therapist’s words exactly, and that I was very confused. He said, “Becca, I think you’re flirting with an eating disorder.” How could I have an eating disorder when everything I was doing was right?

As a perfectionist though, I took all of the “right” things and followed them to the letter. There was no room for error, and I was obsessed. I counted everything from input to output. I still didn’t think I had a problem.

My moment of realization came a month after that conversation with my therapist, and just a few weeks before I entered treatment for the first time. This happened as I was sitting at my grandparent’s house with a bunch of relatives, eating Chinese food after my grandpa’s funeral. At that moment, I was more concerned with the plate of Chinese food than the fact my grandpa had just died.

How messed up is that? Right then, my head felt that the food in front of me was more important, required more headspace, than thoughts and memories of my grandpa. With food so much at the forefront of my mind, I felt as though I was disrespecting my grandpa, and I’m not OK with that.

Eating disorders are like black holes that suck all your energy and attention away from everything else. As I sat at that table staring at my food, the sweet-and-sour chicken stared back at me, daring me to forget about my grandpa. Instead, I recognized I had a problem. Was I really going to make food have more value than the people around me? Was I really going to say that food held more importance than the lives of the people around me? Was I really going to say that the number of calories in the piece of chicken staring back at me was more important than my grandpa’s whole life? I had to realign my priorities.

I’m not about to say that, after that moment, everything was fine. It wasn’t. It isn’t. I still struggle, but this question of “what’s more important – food or people?” comes back to mind often. It’s a reminder of the value and love I have of the people around me and where to focus my energy.

Where does my eating disorder want me to focus my energy? Food. Where do I want to focus my energy? People. People will always be more important to me than any plate of Chinese food set in front of me.

Getty Images photo via Jason Zhang

Originally published: February 26, 2020
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