Choosing to start recovery is a leap. A big, big leap.
An I’m standing on the edge of dark, scary cliff and on the other side is rainbows, butterflies, and happiness that I know I’ll have if I just close my eyes, take a breath, kick out my legs… and possibly fall to my death on the sharp, pointing rocks below leap.
No one else can make that decision to move your feet from your “safe” ledge and trust that you’ll make it to the other side. That’s all up to you. However, once you start recovery, you need other people to support your journey. They can act as the wind under your wings, keeping you afloat until you make it.
It’s said time and time again, but recovery is worth it. It’s worth the setbacks, the struggles, the days of self-doubt. It’s worth the wait (and the weight). Choosing to get better means choosing life. It means choosing not to starve yourself, not to binge and purge, and not to overexercise–despite that voice telling you that you’ll be nothing without those parts of your identity.
That’s another beauty of recovery though. You learn to rediscover that identity. And, trust me, the new one leaves room for all the happiness, ice cream, and self-power you never had with the old one.
5 Things You Learn in Recovery:
- Foods aren’t as scary as they’re made out to be. Yes, they contain calories, proteins, fats, carbs, nutrients, etc. etc. But food can be so much more than that. Eating a chocolate chip cookie shouldn’t cause stress. Trying to figure out if that chicken breast is exactly 6 oz and baked without butter shouldn’t turn your evening out into a number-crunching fiasco.
The moment you can leave a meal without thinking whether you should have had the 35-calorie wheat bread instead of the 100-calorie wheat bread, or without the image of you eating an ice cream cone replaying over and over in your head, is the moment you realize food is just… food. It only has the power to control you that you give it.
2. No one knows your body quite like you. Reading all the nutrition books in the world isn’t going to give you the perfect diet. (Because, hey, that doesn’t exist.) Scanning the web for this exercise regimen or that weightlifting routine isn’t going to leave you with the perfect physique. (Because, hey, that doesn’t exist either.)
All of these articles are written by people, not magic gurus. They don’t know how eating raw vegetables leaves you bloated, or that you have a darling two year-old at home who makes doing three-times-a-day workouts completely unrealistic, or that even the thought of jogging makes your knee ache.
Learning to relove your body in recovery means becoming more in-tune with its needs and wants. You begin to know when you’re thirsting for a tall glass of chocolate milk or craving a run. You begin to know when all you want is a big bag of chips and salsa or when you’re actually not that hungry after all.
3. You are strong. Physical recovery from eating disorders is hard. What’s harder is retraining your mind.
Recovery means accepting vulnerability. It means drastically changing habits you’ve had for months, years, decades. The healing process takes time, and that time comes with trials.
But there will come a day when you look back and realize how far you’ve come. It might mean ordering a sandwich, and remembering how a month ago you would have cringed at the thought of bread. It might mean confronting someone who’s hurt you, and not feeling ashamed of yourself. It might mean recognizing the urge to exercise or purge, and not acting on it. No doubt about it; recovery makes you strong, even though…
4. Struggling is okay. Relapses are going to happen, and it’s not the end of the world. No one is perfect.
Gah, I hate when people say that, but it’s true. Someone comments that you’ve gained weight and thoughts of “Oh, no. I’m fat” start to come back. You knowingly opt for a salad when what you’re really craving is a steak. You overexercise after eating a doughnut to purge the calories. You have an anxiety attack when the dish you ordered comes smothered in sauce you weren’t expecting to eat.
Setbacks are part of the process, but they’re not the end of the process. Realize what triggered your old habits, and move on. Recovery teaches you to let go of perfectionism. To embrace your perfectly imperfect life.
5. Loving yourself makes loving others so much easier. Eating disorders consume your life. Literally and figuratively. They become your sole identity. When you’re struggling so much with your inner demons, trying to care about others is virtually impossible.
Letting go of your relationship with your disease leaves room for more loving and positive relationships to take its place. You become more aware of each moment, celebrating your time with others. Your heart opens to the world and people around you.
And that, my friends, is what life’s all about.
–> What’s the best thing about recovery? For me, it’s being able to enjoy the food and the laughter. I still remember the first time post-ED I truly laughed when my friends said something funny, and wasn’t just faking it.
–> What lessons has recovery taught you?
–> What’s the hardest part of recovery?