Let me first start off by stating that this may apply to more than just eating disorders. Maybe you have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. Maybe you think you might have one. Or maybe you’re a chronic dieter who has spent years upon wasted years trying to beat the scale, only to give up one diet and start a new one. So let me just expand the definition of eating disorder. When I speak of an eating disorder, I am simply talking about disordered eating. Eating in a way that is not normal. Restricting the foods you eat because you’ve been “trained” to think they’re bad foods. Having episodes where you eating more than maybe you should (i.e. binge eating). Basically just living a life where you cannot eat whatever you feel like eating and still feel as though you are in control.
So now that that is out of the way, let’s have some real talk. Down to the nitty gritty. Why haven’t you let go of your disordered eating? What are you holding on to?
Disordered Eating is Comfortable
This is your security blanket. It has been for years. When you’re stressed out and going through some sort of rough patch in life, where do you turn? For me, I would consciously think, “You know what? My life is a mess, but I know one thing I can control. I can control my food. I’m going to go as long as I can without eating. Just one bagel a day. Then I will have control of my life again.” That was how I coped. For you, it may be just the opposite. You may numb yourself by eating all your guilty pleasures. I did that sometimes too. Eat, eat, and eat until you just can’t move. Until you’re bursting at the seams. Until you can’t move. Until You Can’t Feel…
As an eating disordered person, I didn’t know how to properly cope with life and all the hardships that come with it, and I think that is probably where many of us struggle. What are some ways we can cope?
* Keep a journal and write about your feelings.
* Have a hobby that will calm you and divert your attention.
* Talk to someone (a therapist or someone else you can trust)
* Find a stress outlet (working out, meditating, playing or listening to music, yoga, boxing, laughing, etc)
I found that eating (or not eating) was just such a quick fix. It solved the problem of being stressed or overwhelmed almost instantly. But I wasn’t healthy. I was on a slow but steady path to my death bed. Yes, these ideas take a little more work. They will change your life though. They will save your life!
You are Afraid of Gaining Weight
As a chronic dieter, or someone who restricts the foods that they eat in some way, the fear of gaining weight is very valid if they were to let go of all restrictions. I was terrified of letting go of my eating disorder for that exact reason. I had worked so hard to stay in control so I would be small and fit into all of these smaller clothes I had in my closet. What would happen if I started eating normally? How am I going to fit into these clothes if I’m eating more than one meal a day?
Let’s just get this straight real fast. This is not about the weight. Do not focus on your size. That can come later. Now, we just need to worry about how we are feeling. How we can become happy and stable people without the crutch of food? How can we rely on ourselves and the tools we were given as human beings to cope with life? That is number one.
As for the weight issue. For me, as an anorexic/restrictive-eater, I chose to use exercise as a stress-reliever. I didn’t get obsessed about it. I didn’t spend hours upon hours at the gym to balance out the food I was all of a sudden adding to my diet. Just an hour or so a day. Working out made me feel good. It diverted attention from the stress I potentially could have incurred from freaking out over all the new calories in my body.
There may be some weight gain. I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. But I am going to convince you that that is your choice and your choice alone. That is the key to all of this. You have the power to choose. Do you choose to gain weight when you start eating “normally”? Or do you choose to work a little harder, incorporate some exercise in your life, and balance out the possible weight gain? It’s all on you.
I Don’t Know What to do Without It
I don’t know about you, but I spent so many minutes, hours, and days involved in my eating disorder. I would look at triggering blogs, “thinspiration” pictures of super skinny girls, and “tips & tricks” for how to continue restricting. I spent hours in bed because I was sick and weak, and just didn’t have the energy to do anything at all. Time was spent coming up with a new eating regime. Time and money was spent on the food I would binge on and then just spend hours trying to sleep off the pain of being so full. Without all of these things taking up my time, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do. What was going to fill the void? That was something I was seriously afraid of.
What are some diet/disordered eating-related things you do that take up your time? Coming up with a new meal plan that includes foods you can actually eat? Agonizing over restaurants you can go out to because you’re not sure if they will have anything on their menu you can eat. Do you spend hours not feeling well? Once you let go of your eating disorder, you are going to have some free time, and you are going to want to find things to fill up the time so you don’t fall back into your old “habits.”
It is now your turn. Your disordered eating has had enough time with you. It’s now time for you to find YOU! Did you know that I didn’t like cooking until I gave up this eating disorder? I had no idea that I had it in me. Food had been the enemy for so long. I had no idea of this passion inside of me. And now that I have let go of such hard feelings for food, I love it. I love it with such passion. And DIY home projects. I had no idea I had that in me either!
What is inside you waiting to be discovered? Maybe you don’t know what your hobbies or desires are. Take some community classes. Browse the library for books that may spark your interest. Maybe, like me, you want to help others to break free of the confines of disordered eating. You have been given a life. Please do not waste any more years of it with dieting and eating disorders. Your potential is sky-high, and I hate to see it wasted. Find your passion. You have all the time in the world. Conquer your life!
The Trifecta to Success
I am a firm believer that there is a trifecta when it comes to letting go of your eating disorder. You must balance these 3 things:
* free-eating: no dieting or restricting
* exercise: this will lower your stress and burn those extra calories you might be worried about
* a life outside the eating disorder: hobbies, hobbies, hobbies. What makes you YOU? What is your passion? Now is the time to live your life!