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Read This on the Days Food Feels Like an Enemy

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Some days, even (and especially) in recovery, getting the voice of your eating disorder to shut up will feel impossible. It will target food and mutate the idea of consumption. It will convince you that nourishment is an adversary, and that you are undeserving of treating self-care as anything other than a battle. On these days, please know this: food is not your enemy.

Food is a friend. An ally.

Food is the consistently good news that has fallen into the background; a celebration that has grown old, but is just as important as the day when it began. It is an edible symbol of one of the first big steps in growing older and becoming stronger. It is your grandmother’s cookies, your mother’s muffins, your father’s famous casserole. It is the inspiration for hundreds of candle scents, the driving force behind the pots-and-pans industry and the most treasured noun behind the words “comfort” and “soul.” Food is a noun, and it powers all of your verbs: running, smiling, playing, laughing, singing, enjoying, working, thinking, creating, living. And, most importantly, it is vital. Food is vital, necessary and needed.

If meals feel like an enemy today, know this: no matter what your consciousness tries to convince you of, food is on your side. That slice of cake that looks amazing, or that soda your friend just offered or that bag of popcorn that smells like your first date — none of these things will ruin your body. That breakfast omelette, lunchtime burger, pasta dinner — they will give you energy. That afternoon snack will give you the power you need to ace your test, give a great presentation at work or walk around the park with your dog at sunset. The food you consume will make sure you have the energy to confront the real enemy: the thoughts armoring you against your own nourishment.

Don’t let those thoughts become truths. Listen to your being, instead. Be true to your cravings. If something sounds or looks good, try it. If you have no cravings, eat anyways, without judgment. Eat mechanically. Eat because you know that not eating is not an option — don’t let it be. You must eat to live. You must make living the only choice. Even when food feels like a fatal foe, know it’s only wish for you has been, and always will be, for you to survive.

Today, be grateful for every tummy grumble. Your body isn’t trying to get revenge on you for existing by giving you hunger; your body is telling you what it needs. Even on the days when it’s hard to want to fulfill these needs, carry them out anyways. When your eating disorder thoughts try to demonize food, your body knows its truth: that it requires food to run, to function, to flourish.

You deserve to flourish. You do not have to torture your taste; you do not have to deny providing yourself with the essential energy you require to live. Eating is the same as breathing and sleeping. You should never feel shame for filling your lungs, resting your mind and fueling your body. That’s what food is. Fuel. Sustenance. The force that keeps your presence propelling forward, even on overwhelming days. It is a gift, a friend, a figure in your daily support system. Trust in it. Let it lift you up. Curb your eating disorder for as long as it takes to nourish yourself, and realize how wrong such thoughts were all along, by discovering all of the beautiful things your body can do once it is healthy, energized and fueled.

Food is not your enemy; it does not have any hatred positioned against you. Food wants to help. Food wants nothing more than for you to live to see tomorrow. It’s OK if it’s still hard to eat. You do not have to be entirely in love with food today. It does not have to be a yoga-and-avocado-toast, best-friends-with-my-breakfast recovery day. It’s OK to have days where you only feel like you can tolerate eating, and, if this is one of those days, that is OK. Tolerate on. Fight on. Eat on. Because, at the end of it, you will have the energy that it takes to refocus your thoughts and feelings to better realities; to angle your energy towards the things that, on the best days, make you most want to be alive.

Today, food may feel like a foe, but it is not one.

Your breakfast is not a killer. Your lunch is not a villain. Your dinner is not a death sentence. And, your body is not target practice, or collateral, or debris. It is a temple, a home, a force to be reckoned with. Food is an ally, a partner, a need. And, even on the worst days, never, never your enemy.

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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Thinkstock photo via Jupiterimages

Originally published: October 26, 2017
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