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My Eating Disorder Is Not an Issue of Vanity

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Growing up, I thought eating disorders were an issue of vanity. Who doesn’t like food? My mother is an amazing cook, and despite her own body image issues, I do believe I grew up with a somewhat positive body image. I would have never imagined I would be fighting myself and fighting for myself in hopes of overcoming my eating disorder.

This is a battle I am still not always sure I will win. Upon opening up to friends, I discovered a strong bias, one I too held when I was younger. It affects my recovery to this day.

I have met several people who claim to know what eating disorders are all about: vanity. I cannot speak for everyone struggling with this illness, but I do know my eating disorder was not caused by vanity or wanting to be thin. It was purely about controlling the chaos that had become my life because I knew no other way to function. My eating disorder was about losing weight, not so I could be thin — but so I could disappear completely.

I knew, on some level, that I was, and still am, thin. Yet, I also know I will never be “thin enough” for my eating disorder. There will be no finding satisfaction upon reaching my goal weight. The chaos enveloping my life will not go away.

Despite my weight loss and seemingly perfect control of every calorie I put into my mouth, the chaos didn’t change. I was at first disappointed because my eating disorder fed me promises of perfection, stability and happiness in exchange for my refusal to feed myself. I could not understand why I was no more “OK” now than I was at a healthy weight.

Now, being at a semi-stable place in recovery and having experienced many relapses and disappointments, I have realized my eating disorder is not about being thin. It is not about food. My eating disorder has nothing to do with my appearance at all. Shocker!

This realization has made my recovery not only infinitely more challenging, but also much more attainable. Once I can move past the thoughts and ignore people who believe, “I just dislike food,” or “I just want to be pretty,” I can begin to work on the real reasons behind my eating disorder. I can begin to address these issues and, with that, grow mentally and physically. Yes, there are still days when I run into the thoughts in my head wishing for me to be “thin” again, but I must remind myself that thinness is not going to solve any of my problems and will in all likelihood create more.

Each day, I work on my recovery, walking the delicate balance between recovery and relapse. I have noticed I am now fighting for myself more frequently than I am fighting against myself. This brings me unexplainable joy, but also fear. Since I am no longer underweight and no longer look like the “stereotypical anorexic,” I have to deal with people believing I am better. While I am measurably better, I still have a long way to go.

Through my recovery and life, I hope to be a voice that helps inspire people toward recovery. I hope I am able to one day help people realize eating disorders have nothing to do with being thin and everything to do with escaping the monster that can lurk inside your head.

Image via Thinkstock.

 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.

Originally published: September 26, 2016
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