My eating disorder may have affected years of my life but recovery taught me to eat. Though I know perfectly well how tough it is to sit down to a plate of food when your thoughts are racing, I also know how freeing it can be to defy those thoughts and get better. You don’t need to be defined by your eating disorder. These reasons to eat when your eating disorder tells you not to were what I kept in mind on those harder days.
Early on in my recovery from my eating disorder, I was talking to my therapist about my fears with food and eating. I confided I didn’t feel like I was truly ‘sick enough’ to need to get better. She told me she’d have me interview all the successful anorexics to get their accounts, but sadly they were all dead. The power in the statement shocked me. You need food to live and engaging in any eating disorder behavior whether restricting or purging, only leads to death. It’s a slow form of suicide that no one deserves to suffer.
Just like a car needs fuel, so does your body. I saw a photo-set on Tumblr during my recovery and it had a man moving his arm and then crediting that movement to the spaghetti he had eaten. That post is both funny and true. Your body uses the calories in food to function. You wouldn’t starve your car because it’s unworthy of gas. In the same way, your body needs food to be able to work to its fullest potential.
This was one of the toughest lessons I had to learn. To eat regardless of the day I had. On good days it’s not hard, but it’s oh-so-important on bad ones. Food is a constant that should not be determined by the type of day you had. If you challenge yourself to eat regardless, it pulls the emphasis away from food and onto your emotions, creating a healthier pattern to get in. I promise you won’t explode, even though it may feel that way. But I promise you, it hasn’t happened yet.
Food is not the enemy, your eating disorder is. It’s trying to convince you that you are unworthy of food. My therapist asked me why I, an intelligent girl, so willingly subscribed to disordered thoughts. I couldn’t fully explain it, but I tried to express that I just had to. The thing is, you don’t. Your eating disorder makes it seem that way but by pulling the attention off food, you’re actually able to live easier than your disorder makes it seem.
When your brain is starved for energy, it’s hard to focus. I can remember struggling in classes not because I wasn’t smart enough to learn the information, but because I couldn’t focus. Eating helps give your brain the nutrients it needs to focus on what’s important in life: your relationships, your passions, and your life. Try moving the magnifying glass from what you eat to the fulfilling parts of your life and you will see the difference.
To regulate your emotions, you need to eat. There is a quote that I love that goes, “If you do what you did, you get what you got.” By continuing to restrict, you are only going to stay stuck in your eating disorder. But if you take the steps to get healthy, to eat, and to take ownership of your life, then things will be better than you could’ve ever imagined. My emotions are still strong and overwhelming at times, but they are not sharpened by starvation. I can deal with them healthily and let them go. That type of release is better than anything.
I know that eating disorders are more than what the scale says, but I feel it’s important to highlight this when you're struggling to eat. The scale can’t tell you the curves of your smile, nor the weight of your words on a friend’s heart. The scale does nothing but tell you your body’s relationship to gravity in that given moment. It doesn’t tell you how thoughtful or authentic or sincere you are. You are far more than a number.
Recovering from an eating disorder may not be easy but it is worth it. And the only way to be able to live your life is to eat on days when your eating disorder tells you not to. It’s time to shut that monster up. What are some other reasons to eat? What helps you get through on days when you want to give up?
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