10 Reminders When Overcoming an Eating Disorder
You used to be that innocent girl who would twirl in the living room, laughing as you became dizzy. You used to be that kind girl who would hold the door open for the elderly and wave to strangers as you passed by them in the grocery aisles. You used to be that brave girl who would climb trees and jump fences just to keep up with the boys. You used to be that confident girl who would belt out songs and choreograph dances for the school talent show. You used to be that silly, affectionate, empathetic, and friendly girl too, but then… something changed.
How Does an Eating Disorder Start?
It wasn’t so obvious in the beginning, just a bit of self-doubt here and there, some diffidence and a lot of heartache. Maybe these thoughts came on as a result of dwelling on a rude comment about your appearance or increased awareness of your clothing becoming a bit more snug than usual. After a while though, it progressed to a more in depth examination of your body in the mirror after showering, checking for evidence of any trace amounts of fat on your body by pinching your hips, thighs, and arms. Weekly weigh-ins turned in to daily weigh-ins and then multiple times a day as you try to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of insecurity and self-disgust. It begins to feel that there is no hope in stopping it while at the same time, you couldn’t imagine giving up on it altogether either.
Your eating disorder is what speaks to you and tells you, “You’re too fat! Too dumb! Too ugly!” Though these thoughts may have crept in slowly at first, they have gained magnitude and momentum with time becoming louder and more unbearable. You stop socializing to compensate and begin to isolate. You stop applying yourself and begin to give up. You stop being truthful and begin to manipulate. You do everything to hold on to the eating disorder, despite the fact that loved ones and professionals are telling you to let go of it and move on to a better future.
Remind Yourself Who You Are – You Are Not Your Disorder
You don’t have to stay this way. An eating disorder can become just an obstacle that you surpass in life, making you a stronger and more resilient person in the future. For this to happen though, you have to first remind yourself who you are. Here are several characteristics for those of you who may have forgotten:
- You are more than a diagnosis. Your name is not, and will never be, Anorexia, Bulimia, or Ed (Eating Disorder). Do not let a diagnosis become your identity. Don’t give it that power. You are also a mother, daughter, brother, son, and friend just to name a few and these are the attributes that really matters.
- You are not defined by a number (including BMI, weight, or clothing size). These numbers merely exist around you. They are not within you and do not determine your worth as a person. You are very much priceless.
- You are worthy of recovery. Though you may feel insignificant and small most times, you most definitely are not. You are a powerful person and have so much more to live for than an eating disorder.
- You are a valuable member of your community. You have an important role to fill, a role that no one else is quite prepared to take on. Be who you are and find the place that you are meant to be. You will experience so much more fulfillment as a person when you use your time and talents more effectively.
- You are smart enough, kind enough, brave enough. You are enough. You do not have to earn your status through diets and weight loss. To the inner voices that tell you differently, they are lying. You do not have to listen to these words. Focus on the truth of who you are and move on to something more fulfilling.
- You are beautiful. Being beautiful is defined by confidence in one’s abilities. Know that you are living a life filled with purpose and determination. Do not let a magazine photograph tell you that you are not pretty for they are imposters and set standards for beauty that are unattainable.
- You are not beyond saving. Though you may feel beat down and broken, everything needed to repair yourself is there. Start picking up the pieces and put yourself back together one step at a time. And if you need help in the process, speak up. There are always caring loved ones or professionals willing to help.
- You are loved. You are a child to someone and your parents are proud of the person you are and more importantly the person you will one day become. Remember when you don’t feel loved, it doesn’t mean love doesn’t exist for you; it just means that in that moment, you are unable to embrace it.
- You are perfectly imperfect. Although you may have flaws, these are just characteristics that make you you. Appreciate all the things that make you unique and be confident in your identity.
- You are an overcomer. You have the ability to put the eating disorder behind you. To live in recovery and not reside in treatment. Make the eating disorder a memory and move on to achieving your dreams.
This is not an all-encompassing list. You are all these things and so much more. Remind yourself of them often. Write them on your mirror. Save them in your phone. Post them on the refrigerator. Do anything you can to make these statements more powerful than the insults that exist in your head. This eating disorder may have you now, but with strength and determination, you can become the person that you desire. Dream big. Fight hard. Be YOU.
Tracy Glantz, MS, is an Educational Therapist at CHI Health.