NEDA Week: 50 Reasons to Recover

We are in Day 2 of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week! I decided this week to post a tool I used in recovery every day. I often get the question, “What did you actually do in order to recover?” and I am going to try my best to answer it through these posts. Recovery is absolutely different for everyone, and no one tool works the same among different people. I do urge you to try these techniques if you are struggling to recover from an eating disorder. I made this list at the end of my eating disorder days before I chose recovery. I ask that if you are considering recovery, please sit down and really think about why you want to recover. Until you really want recovery, it will not be attainable. If you are struggling, feel free to contact me and check out the resources I posted using the links on the top of my page.

With that being said, here are MY 50 Reasons to Recover:

  1. To be at optimal health
  2. To be able to fit into clothes properly
  3. To not feel ashamed when I can’t buy work pants because the sizes aren’t small enough
  4. To be able to sit down in hard chairs without being in pain
  5. To not be cold all the time
  6. To be able to think about other things besides food
  7. To be able to spontaneously go out to eat with friends
  8. To not be afraid of foods that others cook
  9. To be able to go to social events without having to pre-plan what I will eat
  10. Because life shouldn’t be spent trying to make myself eat less
  11. Because only drinking water isn’t always fun
  12. To enjoy holidays (and desserts that go with them)
  13. To treat myself after a long day or reward myself for hard work
  14. To not feel chained to MyFitnessPal
  15. To have the most energy possible
  16. To have a womanly body again
  17. To not have to constantly calculate how many calories I’ve eaten
  18. Because people won’t stare or make comments
  19. I won’t have to lie
  20. Because being lectured or fighting with my parents is painful
  21. Because feeling dizzy or faint while exercising or standing up in the morning is scary
  22. Because I want to feel strong
  23. Because I like sweets and junk food
  24. So that I no longer have to feel guilty for breaking my promises
  25. So that at meals I can have a conversation without my mind drifting to food and how much I should eat
  26. Because life should not be about getting to the next meal
  27. So that I can feel comfortable shopping for clothes
  28. Because my friends should not be afraid to approach me
  29. Because pancakes taste better with butter
  30. Because it’s nice waking up thinking about God rather than what I am going to eat that day
  31. Because texting friends is more important than looking up food-related Instagram accounts
  32. So that my stomach will no longer growl in the middle of an exam
  33. To be able to relax at night and not worry about what I will eat the next day
  34. To not wake up in the night with hunger pains
  35. To not be scared of going to the doctor and getting weighed
  36. Because I want to grocery shop without staring at food labels
  37. Because the disordered thoughts only feed my anxiety
  38. To be able to help others through the same issues someday
  39. To buy clothes that will fit me for more than a few months at a time
  40. To put on a swimsuit and not worry that everyone is staring at bones
  41. To not have blue fingernails
  42. So that I can bake and not have to give it all away
  43. To be able to accept free food or take samples
  44. Because I should be able to enjoy a night out without it being stressful
  45. To be able to deviate from my meal plan
  46. Because bones are not attractive
  47. So that I can feel alive, instead of just existing
  48. Because I can do hard things
  49. Because I want to be free
  50. Because I am fearfully and wonderfully made
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Ending negative food talk

Just take a minute and think… when was the last time you were out to eat with friends and nobody justified what they were getting to eat? It seems as though every time I go out, someone is justifying ordering a burger because they worked out that day. Or someone is debating whether to get pizza or a salad because they are trying to lose weight. Or someone says that they don’t really “need” dessert because they are restricting sugar.

Even my dietitian friends and I admit that we are sometimes guilty of this same rhetoric. Recently in the office another dietitian offered us pieces of chocolate. Between a few laughs and jokes about how we don’t “eat like dietitians,” we decided to indulge in the chocolate. What seemed like an innocent moment resonated with me all day long. Why did this minute-long conversation bother me so much? It was the fact that DIETITIANS (read: food and nutrition experts) had to debate and then justify eating one piece of chocolate. We all knew that this chocolate would not hurt us. It would not cause weight gain. It would not cause heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. But we treated it like it would. We felt as though we didn’t deserve it because we hadn’t eaten perfectly that week. We felt as though we couldn’t indulge in a normal, small treat because we are supposed to eat some perfect “dietitian diet.” We felt as though we could not eat something without needing to discuss it among ourselves. While these comments may seem harmless and we often don’t think twice before saying them, they lead all of us into a very dangerous trap.

Saying those things does not necessarily mean that you have an eating disorder; however, your comments can hugely affect somebody who does. You never know who around you has suffered an ED in the past, is on the track to developing one, or is actively suffering from one. Not all people who suffer from an ED fit the skin and bones body type we often associate with EDs. The overweight friend sitting next to you is just as likely to have an ED as the paper-thin friend you would think of. Your words have the power to further an ED. Just think: You’re out to lunch with your friends. One friend seems to always order a salad or plain chicken and veggies. You comment, “I wish I could be more like you. I want to order salad, but really want a burger. I wish I had your willpower.” Your seemingly kindhearted compliment was actually eating disorder validation in disguise. Your comments can also cause those in ED recovery to become hyper-aware of their food and set them off the track towards normal eating that they’ve worked so hard to stay on.

In my own recovery, I found that negative food-talk hindered me and left me spiraling towards relapse. I had worked so hard to destroy my own negative thoughts towards food and weight, not realizing how easily other comments could undo my progress. I clearly remember eating out at a restaurant with friends and deciding to order a fried chicken sandwich and queso fries on the side. I did not feel the need to discuss my order with everyone else at the table. However, after I ordered someone commented, “Oh wow I didn’t realize dietitians eat fried food. Doesn’t that make you fat?” Between laughs, my other friends blew off the comment as the joke that it was probably intended to be. I, on the other hand, immediately felt a surge of guilt. When the food came out and I realized that everyone else had grilled chicken and salads, I felt as though I was judged. All eyes seemed to be on me. Would I actually eat this “forbidden” food I had ordered? Of course I would because I wanted it. But everything else in me told me no. My head told me, “Remember what she said? Fried food makes you fat.” My ED told me, “You’re a bad dietitian. I knew you would never be good at this.” But luckily, my heart told me, “You’ve worked so hard to get to this point. Keep your relationship with food healthy.”

The person who made this comment meant it in the best way. She did not see how it could affect me. She did not see how it could affect herself. Even if you do not think these types of comments will trigger you to develop an eating disorder, these thoughts and comments put you on the track to disordered thinking, which can easily turn into disordered eating. Commenting on food leads to fixation on food, which leads to obsession over food, which leads to dysfunctional relationships with food.

So how do we fix it?

The best place to begin is to come from a state of gratefulness instead of fixation. Be absolutely thankful for the food that is in front of you, no matter what it is. Discuss how delicious the food tastes, instead of how many calories are in it. Talk about how happy you are that you have finally gotten together with your friends, instead of the newest diet trend each one of them is trying. Be present in the moment, instead of becoming distant and distracted, fixating on the calories in food.

During my recovery, positive mealtime talk meant everything. True laughter, deep conversations, heart-to-hearts over pasta and garlic bread meant everything. Making mealtime about more than just the food meant everything. It meant recovery. It meant relapse prevention. It meant true happiness.

Each one of us has decisions to make – vital decisions. We can decide whether we will perpetuate food talk or destroy it at its roots. We can decide whether we will intentionally engage in food-less conversation or be the person who mindlessly starts talking about calories, diets, and food trends. We can decide whether we will order food without a comment or objection because we want it or if we will discuss the options endlessly with our company, in order to find justification to eat the food we want.

The decisions you personally make about food talk can cause, advance, or end an eating disorder. Sound dramatic? Re-read this post.

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The 10 Commandments of Recovery

Recovery from anything, especially an eating disorder, is a difficult, testing process. I found that during my own recovery, I developed 10 “commandments” that helped me to stay grounded and level-headed. I hope that these commandments speak to you and fill you with a sense of hope, as recovery is so possible and so worth it.

  1. I will choose to forgive myself because I am worthy of life and love.

I feel that recovery begins with forgiving yourself and realizing that your past does not have to dictate your present. Recovery is a choice that you must make on your own. It requires you to forgive yourself and know that you are worth more than your weight, the number of calories you consume, and the clothing size you wear. Your body deserves love. Your body deserves life in the fullest.

  1. I will not envy the bodies of others because I am uniquely and wonderfully made.

You are allowed to admire the bodies of others without questioning the beauty and strength of your own.

  1. I will honor my body with rest.

You must give your body rest. This means days completely off. No exercise. It’s okay to take a break. Your body absolutely requires rest and will thank you.

  1. Food is food. I will put it in an appropriate place in my life.

Food is simply food. It is carbohydrate, protein, and fat. It is energy. It is not meant to be obsessed over or idolized. Eating is a part of your day. It is not the center of your day. Separate your life from the food you eat. You were surely meant for much more than counting calories and planning meals.

  1. I will base my health on how I feel, not how I look.

Remember that health is not quantified by weight, measurements, or size. It is measured by how you feel and how much love you show yourself.

  1. I will not feel guilty for eating what I want, knowing that no food is inherently good or bad.

Learning to eat a wide variety of foods and listening to your cravings is essential. Your body knows what it needs and is inherently smarter than you. Know that no one food is off limits and you can eat what you want without a need for compensation. Balance is key.

  1. My mind was meant to do more than count calories. I will put it to better use.

This one speaks for itself.

  1. I will not base my morality on the foods I eat, or how often I exercise.

You are not good for eating a salad, just like you are not bad for eating a donut. You are not good for going on a run, just like you are not bad for sitting on the couch and watching Netflix. Food does not define your morality. Exercise does not define your morality. Your body does not define your morality.

  1. I will not let today’s decisions become tomorrow’s regrets.

Today’s choices do not dictate your mood, emotions, and feelings about yourself tomorrow. Each day is a blank slate; its own separate entity. Do not carry burdens from the past with you. Do what’s best for your body and health each and every day, and give yourself grace for the days when you do not.

  1. I will choose recovery every single day.

This one is the most important of them all. Choose recovery. Actively engage in recovery. Own recovery.

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