Sometimes (read: the majority of the time), I feel like a hypocrite.
I say one thing and do another. Or, even if I don’t engage in opposite action, I definitely have contradicting thoughts. This applies to many areas in my life.
I preach body positivity and yet I hate my body and don’t try to fight the negative thoughts.
I preach food freedom while either actively restricting or avoiding bad/unhealthy/scary foods.
I tell other people to not pursue perfection, yet I continue to chase it myself (in school and life in general).
When I look at the way I am living my life and the way I want to live my life, they are two completely different things. While my specific life path is unclear, I know what my over-reaching values are. I value kindness, openness (to experiences, differences, all of it), hard work, creativity, and family.
My eating disorder (and society in general), on the hand, values a thin body above all else. When I am in the thick (no pun intended) of my eating disorder, when my hunger is all-consuming and my only goal is to make it through the day, nothing else matters. There is no room for creativity in a starving brain and kindness matters less than getting in a good workout and burning as many calories as possible.
Right now, I can feel myself buying into that same eating disorder lie once again. The one that tells me the only way to feel happy, calm, and in control is to lose more weight, get lower than ever before. There is no denying that with every drop of the number on the scale, no matter how small, I do feel calmer. Elated, almost.
But there’s a cost. There is always a cost.
When I accept my eating disorder’s plan for my life, I am giving up so much to gain a (temporary) feeling of relief. I no longer have to worry about what I am going to do with my life, but I also lose the ability to make my own decisions. Instead of worrying about college, a career, and future relationships, I go mindlessly through my day counting calories, tracking workouts, and crying over the number on god damn scale.
Tick for tack. Trading one worry for another. And before I know it, I am back where I started.
The thought of letting go of my eating disorder-completely, absolutely, forever-is scary. It is terrifying. I don’t know where to begin.
There are the obvious steps: Don’t restrict, eat enough calories (which is an entire post in itself), and learn to rest (AKA don’t exercise compulsively….also another post).
Those are the “easy” parts of recovery, at least in theory.
But how do I fight the thoughts? They are so ingrained at this point, so natural, so normal, that most of the time, they don’t feel like eating disorder thoughts at all. How do you fight your own thoughts and still come out mostly sane?
Perhaps that is where those good ole over-reaching values come in. Suddenly, those seemingly normal thoughts are exposed for what they are: disordered.
Just walk one more mile….(to make up for what you ate, what you will eat, and what all that food is doing to your body).
You can’t eat a bagel, it doesn’t fit into your exchanges (and it has too many carbs and is like x amount of calories more than regular bread and you know what that will do to your body).
Check your stomach in the mirror, it will make you feel better (about the fact that you have nothing planned for your life and you have no control in your life and you are not perfect…you are a failure. But hey, at least you have a flat stomach!)
Walking one more mile when I don’t feel like walking because it is “healthy” is just a way for me to feel like I “deserve” to eat. There is just one problem; I don’t need to earn the right to eat or even to eat more than usual. I am human and I need to eat to live (and for enjoyment!!)
Which brings us to the bagel (or insert x food that is higher in calories/sugar/carbs/whatever). I make excuses all the time about why I don’t want to or can’t eat a certain food. “It doesn’t fit into my exchanges,” I tell myself, as if an extra starch or two would be the end of the world…or as if my eating disorder really cares about following my meal card to begin with. There’s the classic, “I’m just not in the mood.” A legitimate statement except when it exists only as a coverup for the fear I feel.
Body-checking is another thing I do that I tell myself is only a way to help my anxiety. After all, if I could only make sure that my body hasn’t drastically changed overnight, I will feel better about eating or moving less that day.
Sometimes, that is true. I’ll wake up, go through the routine of checking various body parts, and once they pass inspection, I can breathe a little easier. But later, I will have to check again and again and again…just to make sure. That I am still small enough, still okay enough.
And then there are days where my appearance most definitely doesn’t pass inspection, for whatever reason (or for no reason at all). In those moments, I am left feeling worse than I did to begin with and anything but calm.
All of these thoughts, which lead to actions, stem from a deep-rooted belief that my eating disorder feeds me day in and day out: As long as you are thin, you are in control. You are happy and in control. As long as you have the perfect body, nothing else matters.
Reading that out loud just now, it sounds insane even to me. But why else would I engage in exercise I don’t enjoy, avoid foods I do enjoy, or constantly obsess over the daily fluctuations of my body?
My eating disorder values thinness above all else and tells me that as long as I listen to it, I don’t have to face the real-life struggles and anxieties.
Looks like a pretty sweet deal at first glance. Never having to worry or make difficult decisions? Sign me up!
But by signing up, I am giving up all of my values.
Kindness and making a difference has no place in a world where only physical appearance matters. Being open to new experiences and individual differences is impossible when there is only one ultimate goal: to be as small as possible. And creativity? Nope…unless that means finding a new way to burn more calories. Family and friends don’t fit into the eating disorder equation at all. Nobody wants to be around someone who can only talk about food and their body.
As I feel myself falling back into to old ways, I know I have to come back to my core values. I have to put my values first….and that means getting honest and letting going of all of Ed’s bullshit.
It’s pretty simple and so complicated: Ed has one value (being thin), I have many. Being thin isn’t one of them.
What values do I want to manifest in my life?