I know firsthand how impossible everything can feel when you’re tangled up in an eating disorder. No matter how hard you try, nothing changes. It might feel that way, but to show you it is possible, here are 10 Ways I’ve Improved Through Eating Disorder Recovery.
It amazes me how much things can change with the right kind of guidance (and a whole lot of courage). From feeling like I just have to accept things as they are, that nothing will ever work, to suddenly being able to put together a whole list of ways I’ve improved through eating disorder recovery. These changes may seem simple, or perhaps even insignificant, but I guarantee it has taken a huge amount of courage and trust to get to where I am right now.
I recently posted this photo on Instagram. This was my outfit on New Years Eve, and it’s an outfit I wouldn’t have even considered wearing just a couple of months ago because it shows my stomach (and belly rolls when I sit down as seen in the left photo). I decided this year was the perfect opportunity to challenge myself and wear it.
10 Ways I’ve Improved Through Eating Disorder Recovery
1. I eat regularly
I used to go for hours without eating, ignoring my hunger cues and considering it a victory the longer I managed to go without succumbing to my hunger. Through my recovery, I have learned the importance of eating regularly to keep my metabolism going and my body nourished. It hasn’t been easy and continues to be a struggle some days, but I eat regularly, including snacks between my meals.
2. I work out less
It took all the courage and strength I had in me to take a couple of weeks off from exercising. Now that I’ve done it, I know that a break won’t kill me. These past couple of months I have toned down my exercising significantly. I go to the gym a couple of times a week and am better at listening to my body and skipping a workout if I am sore, feel tired, or just don’t feel like going to the gym.
3. I’ve thrown out my “goal” clothes
A couple of months ago I did a “spring cleaning” of my wardrobe. I’ve done this many times throughout the years, but the difference this time was that I actually – finally – threw out all those clothes that no longer fit me. I’ve been holding on to jeans and dresses that used to fit when I weighed several pounds less than I do now. Keeping those clothes served no purpose, other than giving me anxiety and causing me to feel like a failure because they didn’t fit. So why was I saving them? Because in my mind those were the clothes I should fit into, and I was going to fit into them again. When I decided to give recovery and honest chance, I knew those clothes had to go.
4. I have candy and bread at home without eating it all in one go
Carbs. I thought they were the devil coming to make me fat, so I avoided them at every meal. Which only caused my body to be starving for carbs twenty-four-seven. Not so strange then that whenever we had sweets or bread in the house, my mind would be so fixated on it that I finally caved and ate way too much of it. Try as I might (and trust me, I put all my energy into it), those urges just wouldn’t go away. I thought it was because I was weak, had no willpower, and was a complete and utter failure. Now I’ve learned that lack of willpower is not (and was not) my problem. Malnutrition was. We cannot survive without carbs, our brain and bodies need carbs to survive and will go to great lengths to make sure we get the carbs and fuel we need. Once I started feeding my body enough food overall (including carbs), those insane cravings and moments of feeling like I couldn’t control myself around food subsided. Now I have bread at home all the time without it causing me to feel obsessed and stressed about it. I eat bread for breakfast almost every day, and I’ve got a whole stash of chocolate and other sweets at home that I have little nibbles of when I feel like it, without wanting to eat it all at once. This would have been impossible for me just six months ago. I never understood how other people were able to have chocolate bars at home for weeks, eating a little piece now and then. But now that’s exactly what I do!
5. I don’t think about food all the time
Similar to the above, I used to constantly be thinking about food. I would worry about what I should and shouldn’t eat or contemplate and run tallies in my head of how much and what I’d eaten. In addition to this, I would obsess and think about the things I wanted to eat, but shouldn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t. Welcome to the mind of a starving person. It’s like candy land. Now that I’m not starving, I don’t think about food nearly as much and I also don’t get close to as many cravings. It’s stupidly simple and logical, yet tremendously difficult when you’re tangled up in an eating disorder. But once you get help and really give recovery a chance, you get a taste of how small (albeit challenging) changes can make a huge difference.
6. I allow myself to try new foods
About those cravings, I used to spend weeks or months obsessing about some new product or particular food I wanted to eat, but wouldn’t allow myself to have. I would keep talking myself out of eating whatever it was I wanted. Now, I don’t get as many cravings, but I also answer to my cravings when I do get them. If there’s some new product on the market I’m curious to try, then I do. Because I know I won’t go overboard with it. Now that my body is nourished, I can also properly taste things. When my mind and body was starving for carbs and sugar, anything sweet would taste amazing. A couple of weeks ago I tried Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte because it was one of those things that had got stuck in my mind after I’d seen it all over social media. I was expecting it to be delicious, so I was surprised to find I pretty much hated it. Yuck. Not my cup of latte. It was way too sweet. But because I allowed myself to try it, I now know I don’t like it and therefore can put it out of my mind.
7. I’m getting better at moving on after a “bad day”
Things aren’t going to be peachy every single day. I still have bad days, and I struggle tremendously with accepting my body. I still worry I’ve eaten too much sometimes or panic and think that I’ve gained weight from eating a particular type of food. But, these feelings used to stay with me for days. One “forbidden” meal would put me in a loop of negative thoughts and anxiety. Now these thoughts and feelings are more like a little nagging in the back of my head instead of something that ruins my week.
8. I don’t summarise my food intake every day
I used to summarise my food intake every single day, often doing it multiple times a day. I would contemplate what I had eaten, and then judge whether it was good or bad, healthy or not healthy, too much or an acceptable amount. This is a habit I have had for so many years that it’s hard to kick, but I’ve definitely managed to tone it down.
9. I am better at relaxing
I used to struggle so much with doing anything relaxing, like reading a book or watching a movie. I couldn’t calm my mind enough to focus on the storyline. I’ve always been super efficient and have this “go go go”-mentality. I still rarely sit through a whole movie without doing something else at the same time, and I feel restless most of the time, but this behaviour is no longer due to lack of nutrition or feeling like I have to move. It’s just a personality thing, I feel more at ease when my hands are busy.
10. I’m better at listening to my body and my needs
I think the best example of this one is that I’ve opted out of going to the gym in favour of something else I want to do. It used to be that nothing took higher priority than getting a workout in. Now I’ve found myself itching to bake something, or I get into my flow with my writing, or I get stuck reading something and suddenly it’s too late to go to the gym. So, I don’t go. Sure, I still feel pangs of guilt about it, but I’m so much better at shifting my focus now and really feeling what it is I want to do – do I want to go to the gym, or do I feel like curling up on the sofa and reading a book?