Note: This post was heavily inspired by this piece by the fabulous Rachel W. Cole. I hope you’ll read them both.
It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. As one who lived in the vice grip of anorexia and bulimia for over a decade, I’m sometimes amazed that I don’t burst into song every morning at the sheer joy of being free from those chains.
It would be difficult to overstate the torture of addiction, the way it suffocates from within, noxious weed tentacles strangling light, air, joy.
On good days, my best hope was that I could just stop binging and throwing up, stop being insane about food. I didn’t know freedom was even an option. I needed to hear it.
If you or someone you love is suffering, I’m here to tell you that real freedom is possible. 100%.
It will likely require a hundred times more courage and a thousand times more support than you wish it did AND it is available. It is yours to claim.
Recovery is the central miracle of my life. And though I only break out in musical theater occasionally, I am very, very grateful.
In sharing my experience with lots and lots of people, I can say for sure that eating disorders exist on a continuum. You don’t need to be diagnosable in order to suffer and struggle around food and your body.
I’m sad to say that among the women I’ve spoken to, those that have a healthy and whole concept of themselves in relationship to food and weight (so called “normal” eaters) are the exception, not the rule.
I know I don’t need to tell you that eating disorders have a HUGE cultural component. That means that we can be part of the problem or part of the solution.
We are in desperate need of women (and men) who model a different way of being. Inspired by Rachel’s post, I’ve made you a list of ways to practice:
1) How you talk to and about yourself matters. A lot. Stop making comments about your body and about what you are and are not eating. First, it is boring and you have more interesting things to say. Second, complaining discharges just enough energy that you never get to the root of what is bugging you. Hint: what is bugging you in not the size of your ass.
2) Related: STOP making comments about other people’s bodies. “You’re soooo skinny” is a fucked up compliment for at least six reasons. When I lost a dramatic amount of weight through starvation and compulsive exercise, I got more positive attention than I did when I gave birth. That’s wacked.
Let’s start appreciating the things that really matter in our friends and family.
“You are so powerful.” “You are the bravest person I know.”
3) Eat. It is a radical act to be a woman who eats with pleasure and without apology. Abstain from guilt with your meals. This includes saying things like “I really shouldn’t.” and “I’ve been so bad.” Choose mindfully and eat with full permission.
4) Keep away from junk media. I know that it’s ubiquitous but we do have a choice. Studies have shown that the impact to self esteem and body image is detrimental even if you know intellectually that all the images you see are photoshopped like crazy.
5) Fix your eyeballs. You have been brainwashed with an insane standard of beauty that is based on fake images. Start to notice what is beautiful in every face, in every body that you see. Break the trance of comparison, there is no shortage of lush.
5) Move your body/exercise first for mental health. Research is bearing out that this is the primary benefit, anyway. Find a way to move that feels like self-love rather than punishment.
6) If you use the scale as a weapon (be honest), get rid of it. I haven’t owned a scale….ever. Doing just fine.
7) You have to want to trust yourself more than you want to loose weight. Arriving at a healthy weight is the natural consequence of self-trust and awareness.
If you or someone you love are deep in the trenches of an eating disorder, know that you are going to need some help. These folks can help point you in the right direction.
If you are struggling with the more culturally accepted forms of disordered eating (obsessive thinking and preoccupation with food and weight or generally being crazy with food), I would love to help you find peace.
Remember, we are the people. We are the culture. Let’s be the change.