When I started this blog a year ago, I had no idea that one day I would be writing this post. But at the time, I was in denial, ashamed, and wasn’t truly being honest with myself. So I guess that makes sense.
As of today, I’ve rewritten this post 4 times, opened a brand new word document and started from scratch once again. Why is it so hard to be real and authentic sometimes? It’s downright scary is what it is. Maybe because people don’t expect real. We live in a world where “fine” is the appropriate answer to, “How are you?”, even if that’s not the case. And yet, we each have a story that makes us who we are.
Today, I’d like to start opening up about a piece of my own story. A huge piece actually.
For almost 15 years, I struggled with an eating disorder.
Phew. That wasn’t too scary, right? Ha, probably because I haven’t hit “publish” yet.
What’s funny is I never saw my struggle with food as part of my story. Um what? Yeah, that’s called denial.
You see, “ED” had ahold of me for a long time. He was so wrapped around my brain that I didn’t even recognize which thoughts were my own and which were his. He was so ingrained in me that I didn’t see his daily rules – the “don’t eat that”, “you must eat this”, and the “you better not eat more than her” – as anything other than normal. At that point, ED’s voice was one with my own and I was subconsciously following his every demand.
So you’re probably asking yourself, who the heck is ED? Through therapy and a book called, Life Without ED, I learned to separate myself from my eating disorder, “ED”, in the way you would with an abusive relationship. Recognizing that the eating disorder is not who I am, but something that is controlling me and preventing me from truly doing what I want to do! Like having my ice cream and eating it too. Yes please. Making this separation is what helped me learn how to fight back, and why you’ll hear me refer to ED like he’s an actual person – because for me, he might as well have been.
Recovery isn’t easy. Especially when you’re not even sure it is possible. When you’re held so tightly in the binds of an eating disorder, that you don’t even remember what life was like prior. When all you hear is ED’s voice.
Sitting across from my therapist for the first time, that’s exactly how I felt.
Now, I don’t claim to know how it is for others but in my head [at that time] it was a drug, an addiction, long before I ever saw my eating disorder as an illness. I let myself believe it was a choice. Something I wanted, and then couldn’t control. I think that’s what made it so scary to me. I “wished it on myself”; I wanted it and felt weak at the times I couldn’t follow through. Addicted to thinking about my body, my self-worth. A negative battle constantly being fought in my head, picking apart every ounce until nothing positive was left. An internal struggle I fought hard to hide.
What I didn’t realize, and what I hope you will see, is that a disorder like this is far from a choice. Most can understand feeling anxious around food and not feeling good enough or thin enough, but the voice of an eating disorder is relentless and terrible. ED sends insults and uses fear. Sometimes nonstop, to the point of not being able to concentrate on anything else. He tells you that you aren’t good enough, that you should stop eating, you must lose weight – and you must engage in eating-disordered behaviors. It is not a choice, but a state of mind that controls every ounce of your being.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. And by finally getting professional help, I now know that to be true.
Through my recovery from ED, I have learned so much about myself. The thing is, when ED is in your head, there isn’t much room for you. It makes the whole process scary; as soon as you start recognizing and separating ED’s voice from your own, it can feel like your own voice is nonexistent, like you don’t really know what you want because all you know are ED’s desires for you. Each rule and guideline dictates not only the food on your plate, but what you wear, when you wear it, when you see friends and where you can go, when you have to be home and what lies you have to tell.
“You’re not skinny enough to have an eating disorder.”
The lies. Probably one of the hardest parts of the process I had to work through. When you start separating ED’s voice from your own, the lies become clear. The lies ED made sure you believed, the lies that came out of your mouth in order to hide the truth.
I don’t know about you, but I was raised to always tell the truth. To be honest and open, and speak with integrity. And that’s exactly who I try hard to be. ED? Not so much. This is where the separation comes in. The reminder to myself that ED’s voice is not my own. Believe me, that part is definitely easier said than done.
A lot of it has been easier said than done, actually.
One of my biggest fears has always been drowning. I remember cliff jumping at Lake Powell in college. The second you hit the water everything turns upside down, the water dark, and you don’t know which way is up or down. Panic sets in, you’re all alone. The feeling of water pushing in on all sides, and yet you’re reaching toward the surface, unsure if it’s even within reach, only to feel the water caving in. Seconds later, your fingertips feel fresh air, then your head and your heart. You take the deepest breath you’ve ever taken.
That’s the best way I can explain the recovery process. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and at first, I wanted to retreat. Take it all back and go back to the way things were, when I didn’t know any different. But I knew that wasn’t possible, that I had to push through and fight to reach the surface. It’s scary though, you start uncovering more than you even knew was there, you get tangled up in the seaweed and muck long before you can feel the crystal clear water, and eventually fresh air. But in the moment that you finally do, you feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, peace and strength that you weren’t sure you even possessed.
Yes, ED had control for a long time. But today, I can honestly say I am free from his torture. It’s truly amazing to me to know where my head is at today compared to where it was even 6 months ago. The journey has not been easy, but it has been more worth it than I ever could have imagined.
Sometimes, we try so hard to take life and wrap it up with a pretty little bow. But life is messy, it’s hard, and it’s these things that truly make us who we are. While not everyone may agree with my choice to share, I know my intentions are honest and with love. I know that by sharing even a glimpse of my story it not only strengths the person God made me to be, but may also help you. My imperfections have made me the person I am today; the person who, unapologetically, hopes that God may use my story and voice to help others find the balance that we all so desperately search for.
While this writing may not be grammatically nor politically correct, written eloquently or with any such practical order – for the first time in my attempts of writing it, that is just fine with me. It is me. It is raw, and it is real.
Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. – Brené Brown
This is why… you’ll never hear me refer to a “cheat meal” or “diet”. For me, balance and moderation have been key. Which means, I’m going to have my ice cream and eat it, too. Every day? I don’t think so. But the key is being able to enjoy life while still following the healthier lifestyle that has provided me with peace for the first time, in a long time.
This is why… you’ll never hear me promote counting calories. Yes, if your goal is to lose weight you must have a calorie deficit. But, for most it’s just a matter of taking in proper nutrients. Our bodies react very differently to a 200 calorie donut vs 200 calories in veggies.
And this is why… you’ll hear me say, to focus on how you feel. If you are working on healthy weight loss, take pictures, take measurements, but most importantly listen to your body and recognize how you feel. The scale is very deceiving. And as much as you may know that, I believe we all have trouble not letting that number get to us.
Through Healthy A La Mode, I hope to convey just this – recognizing what proper nutrients and real balance can do, while truly living it.
There is no room for ED here anymore.