By Julia vickers, ALMFT
Dear Eating Disorder,
I’ve been thinking about how we met and built our relationship. I am starting to realize how I needed you, how I felt like you could help me solve my problems. I really thought this could work, but I think we need to redefine our relationship. I am realizing something else, I think you may be covering up for some bigger, scarier issues. Can you please be quiet for a minute so I can hear what’s going on inside me?
That particular night, after uncountable nights filled with emotional and physical pain due to an eating disorder, I heard a strong, gentle voice say, “You will never win with hate, only love”. I tried to process what it would take to make a real change after being confronted with this startling truth. I realized making progress would require me to stop hating myself. I was afraid that if I stopped hating myself that this would mean accepting someone other than my imagined ideal self. Without the hate, I would have nothing to help me put the brakes on eating or force me to go exercise… but this story is about more than food and thinness isn’t it? I began to recognize that my fixation with my body and food had started long before binging began.
Begin to Believe Change is Possible
I went to a university where all the girls seemed like they could be on the cover of Surfer magazine. I had not really struggled with comparing my appearance until then. It felt horrible. I knew how to eat healthy and would spend time exercising. This helped me feel in control and manage my negative self-talk. Despite my “efforts” I would still look in the mirror aghast at how “fat” I was. I had been thin growing up and didn’t understand curves. I hated them and worked tirelessly to get back to my pre-puberty size. I was not aware of how unhealthy my mindset was at this point. Occasionally I would wonder if it was normal to think this much about food (careful meal planning, counting calories, timed exercising, etc.). Can you relate to this endless game of comparison that leaves you feeling drained?
I had a reality check when I took a nutritional therapy class my junior year. I read Intuitive Eating (Tribole & Resch, 1995) and they explained the mindset of someone with disordered eating. I was equally ashamed and relieved to see my hidden world in print. This book proposed that my body craves certain foods for a reason and to interpret and respect these cravings was important to nurture my body. Oh, and to ditch dieting completely.
The authors encouraged readers that eating this way would eventually lead to a more balanced appetite versus the survival one I had been inflicting on myself with excessive exercise and restricting calories. Over the next several semesters I began to test reality and recognize healthy thoughts and patterns versus unhealthy ones. I tried to begin eating intuitively and stopped worrying so much about hitting a certain number of calories a day and focused on having foods I craved (which sometimes meant chocolate for breakfast-guilt free!). Exercising was important but I listened more closely to my body to determine the duration of activity. During this time, I still struggled, but was able to accept myself a little more in the messy middle. I had begun to deal with it on the surface and a step forward was a step forward.
In my next journal entry, I will share more about my experience with the cycle of recovery and relapse and how this process is normal and important to move towards a healthier relationship with food and my body.
If you need the support of a licensed therapist for disordered eating, or a difficult relationship with food - call julia today at 630-480-0060 x 704 or fill out the “Get In Touch” form on our contact page.
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