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7 Things I Wish My Loved Ones Knew About Eating Disorder Recovery

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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.

Here are seven things I wish my family and friends knew about eating disorder recovery.

1. It’s not “a shame” that I gained the weight back.

Being in a bigger body is nothing to be ashamed of. Saying that it is would be like telling someone to be ashamed of their height. Like height, a person’s weight is genetically predetermined, and your body will fight to keep you at that number no matter what weight loss techniques you try. I am not less-than because I exist in a bigger body. I am defined, not by the number on the scale, but by who I am and what I contribute to this world. I believe I am a good person, a person who wants to inspire and help others. If you’re proud of me for looking a certain way more than you are proud of me for acting like a decent human being, then maybe you need to get your priorities straight.

2. I didn’t “think” I needed treatment, I simply needed it.

I remember my grandma pulling me aside before I entered residential treatment for my eating disorder. “I want to know why you THINK you need to do this program.” Excuse me? I thought. Are you implying that whether or not I need treatment is a matter of opinion? I was SICK. Very, very sick. Not despite, but BECAUSE of the fact that I was in a smaller body than I am meant to be in. BECAUSE of the fact that I was only eating society’s definition of “healthy” foods and depriving myself of key nutrients. BECAUSE of the fact that I was obsessed with looking a certain way. BECAUSE of the fact that I experienced extreme anxiety for eating an extra strawberry. Treatment wasn’t an option. It was necessary for my survival.

3. I can’t just go back on my “diet” now that I’m better.

Dieting is not an option for me. Not now, not ever. I am genetically susceptible to falling back into an eating disorder, even if I diet with the best of intentions. Even if I say, “It will be different this time.” It won’t. I promise you.

4. I’m healthier now than I was at my lowest weight.

I’m sure you’ve heard of BMI or body mass index. Did you know it doesn’t take into account body frame or fat/muscle composition? Did you know that in 1998, 25 million Americans became “overweight” overnight simply because the definition of BMI changed? All of a sudden, people were considered at-risk for diabetes and heart disease, even though nothing about their bodies changed. Body mass index? More like bullshit mass index. Even though I was considered “healthy” according to the BMI formula when I was at my lowest weight, I was not healthy mentally, nor physically. I was tortured every day by food anxiety and bad body image as well as deprived of key nutrients necessary for my survival. Now I nourish myself consistently and I am comfortable in my own skin. So would you rather me go back to being a “normal” weight but sick? Yeah, didn’t think so.

5. I didn’t fail at losing weight.

Like I mentioned earlier, weight is like height. Is it genetically predetermined. When your body experiences a calorie deficit, it thinks you are in an environment that lacks a sufficient and consistent source of food and it will fight to keep weight on. This includes sending hormones to your brain that increase appetite, among others. So the next time someone tries to convince you that losing weight is just a matter of will power, know that your body is way more powerful than your desire to lose weight will ever be.

6. My weight isn’t the result of a lack of control around food.

There is this idea that people who are fat are “pigs” and just eat piles and piles of fun foods (the phrase I use instead of junk food). This is simply not true. People can be fat and eat an appropriate amount of food. We could all eat the same foods and exercise the same amount and we would all look different. Some people would be bigger, some people would be smaller. My current weight is the result of me feeding myself what I want, when I want and stopping when I’m full. This is the healthy way to eat.

7. All food is good food.

Your body does not see food the way your eyes see food. Your eyes see a piece of bread and you think “unhealthy.” Then you see a banana and your eyes think, “Oooh, healthy!” If you put it into your body it will digest as a carb. If you put the bread into your body, it will digest is as — surprise — a carb, the same way it did with the banana. Yes, there may be vitamins in bananas that aren’t in bread. But that’s not the point. When it comes to your body’s need for carbs, it will digest a food for what it is, not for what society says about it.

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.

Header image via Timothy Paul Smith/Unsplash.

Originally published: February 18, 2019
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