Happy National Eating Disorder Awareness Week
Society today is the hardest possible environment to recover from an eating disorder in. Social media is covered in advertisements for the Keto Diet, intermittent fasting, Arbonne 30 Days, and so on. These are all rooted in food rules that for some can turn deadly. Cutting out entire food groups, restricting your intake, and intermittent food deprivation send your body into a tailspin. While these diets, and the new term “lifestyle change,” may inherently lead you into disordered eating, certain predisposed individuals will find themselves being led into the depths of an eating disorder.
Many will argue that fad diets, “healthy” eating, daily cardio, and as one article I read recently said “not eating the cookie” is about learning self-discipline. Self-discipline is sitting in an eating disorder treatment facility with that same cookie in front of you and choosing to listen to your voice instead of your eating disorder. It is eating the cookie no matter how loud that voice is telling you to stop. One day I hope society will stop sending the same messages as my eating disorder. Because labeling foods and teaching people that discipline is restricting and cutting out foods in order to achieve a certain body type is disordered.
Recovering from an eating disorder and finding food freedom is going against the social norm, and it requires not only an internal battle with yourself, but a constant battle to remind yourself that the messages being plastered on social media to “eat healthy” and “be fit” will send you into full blown relapse.
While my eating disorder was something that got really serious over the last year, I have now come to realize that my relationship with food was never normal, and especially being involved in athletics, I forgot that regardless of my activity level, I still had to eat. Your organs need calories each day just to survive and continue functioning properly. In a world that preaches surface level “beauty,” we forget about the function of our body and what it requires to do its job.
I remember being in third grade and sitting at the end of my bed at my beach condo and sobbing because I felt uncomfortable going down to the beach “with my rolls” showing in my two piece. I was eight. At eight years old I held the belief that my body was not good enough, not beautiful, and something to be fixed. I vividly remember asking my dad, “What can I do to make my fat go away?”
I wish I could go back and give that little girl a hug knowing how deeply the hatred and shame for her body ran.
I was born into a larger body than that of my two sisters and seeing those differences and the emphasis and power that was put on thinness, I always wanted to find a “solution” to the “problem” my body size posed. I tried intermittent fasting, I tried different workout regimens, I tried crossfit, I tried the grapefruit diet, I cut out bread, I cut out ice cream, I cut out candy, I cut out soda. I tried it all in hopes of seeing a change. However, I never did.
Back then, I viewed my body as annoying and unchanging no matter how much “hard work” I put in. After this last year, that perspective has completely shifted. I now realize that the unchanging state of my body for all those years was pure resiliency. My body was and is powerful, and regardless of how much I tried to change it, it knew that the size it was was the size it NEEDED to be. Your body doesn’t have wants, it has needs, and your wants and desires to adhere to society’s version of beauty is blatantly ignoring the self-care and nurturing your body requires.
We need to stop normalizing diets, stop praising excessive exercise, stop complimenting weight loss, and stop posing our bodies as “problems” that require a “solution.” Beauty lies not in appearance but in being unapologetically you.
I pray our beauty standards and the emphasis on thinness can shift in hopes that one day my daughter will never look at her body with the hatred and disgust that I once did. Our beliefs can be broken down and food freedom can once again be found. I want my children to experience this and know that they don’t have to say or do or look any certain way to deserve food, love, and nurturing. I would much rather know their soul than praise their body.