Perfectionism and the need for control are things that I have struggled with for years. I’m learning to live in that “grey” area of life as I’m more used to the “all or nothing” type of living which is, frankly, quite unrealistic.
Two years ago when I checked into an outpatient program at an eating disorder treatment facility; I told myself that I would be the perfect patient. I would learn the tools that I needed to learn to get rid of this monster and finally get better. Easy peasy. .
It took me a while to even accept that I needed help. In my mind, I was never sick enough. I wasn’t skinny enough to where people were worried, I was a functional person with a life that wasn’t falling to pieces (clearly on the way though). I always thought there were sicker people, that I didn’t even deserve to go to a place like a recovery center as it wasn’t that bad for me. I was so sick and out of love with myself that I didn’t even think that I deserved to get help.
So, like at school, I quickly became the perfect student during therapy. I did all of the exercises, I read all of the material. Easy peasy.
When I finished treatment it was definitely an adjustment. I left this place where everyone understood what I was talking about, a place where my meals were portioned (they promised me I wouldn’t gain weight if I just learned to eat my portions), a place where I didn’t feel alone in my madness. And although I had all the support in the world from my loved ones, deep down I still felt so ashamed. I always thought that I had an amazing life, so why did I even get sick? Why couldn’t I just be grateful for what I had and stopped doing all these stupid things to myself? Shame is the worst feeling.
Because I felt so bad about this still, I wanted to have a perfect recovery. I can’t afford to need help again – I would think. I can’t afford to hurt my family again. So I of course pretended like I was 100% cured and was doing perfectly fine again.
Recovery is not a straight line. It’s hard and it sucks. The eating disorder beast is hard to tame and if I’ve learned something this entire time is to just keep moving forward. Recovery from an eating disorder has a lot of definitions – it’s not like recovering from alcoholism where you completely go sober. You need food to live so you can’t “sober” yourself from it. So for some people recovery means simply eating, for others it means not eating compulsively, not weighing themselves… but it never means that you will automatically abstain from all disordered food behaviors because that is impossible. This was very hard for me to accept as any time I had a behavior (ie. overeating, restricting or using food to numb feelings) after being at the treatment center I felt SO guilty. I’ve always been hard with myself so I got so angry every time I had a “slip”… why can’t you just be RECOVERED? You know what to do, why don’t you just do it.?
I think that after all of the life changes that I’ve had recently with having a baby and such, I finally arrived at my own definition of recovery and I am at peace with it.
Recovery to me means working each day on listening to my body. It means recognizing those patterns in my behavior when I am more prone to engage in an eating disorder conduct and why I react in a certain way. There is always a feeling behind that eating disorder impulse – and my goal is to identify it so that I learn how to deal with it instead of numbing it. Recovery means forgiving yourself after having a bad day in which you overate due to anxiety… it means knowing that although it happened, you are still walking in the right direction. Recovery means listening to the voice inside my head that tells me to -restrict because I am not good enough- and telling it to shut up instead of making it my “truth”. Recovery means living in that grey area, being patient, eating that ice cream cone. Recovery means telling myself out loud that I love myself so that my baby daughter can hear it.
Recovery to me means Eating Intuitively, this takes times and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! I’ve been trying to abide to these principles (sharing them with you below as I think they’re a good reminder to everyone) as much as possible and although I am not 100% there yet, I know I’m on the way. After all, slow and steady wins the race 🙂
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating via intuitiveeating.com
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police (crazy voice in your mind telling you food is “bad”)
- Respect Your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
- Respect Your Body
- Exercise (not obsessively but just being active vs sedentary)
- Honor Your Health
PS: Since this post is about food and fueling our bodies, I wanted to end this post by sharing this with you guys: The Definite Guide To Healthy Eating. I love Sarah’s blog and this made me laugh.