Love, Wellness

Take it from a survivor: you can beat your eating disorder this year

Every year I struggled with eating disorder(s) (ED), my goal was the same: lose X pounds.

New Year’s resolutions have always been difficult for me.

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Every year I struggled with eating disorder(s) (ED), my goal was the same: lose X pounds.

I’d create lists of workout plans and diet strategies, and I’d scourge pro-ana websites for “tips:” spitting your food into a napkin, chewing five times before swallowing, and drinking diet soda when you feel hunger pangs.

This year, I’ve resolved to pursue a healthier goal: to love my body. Our bodies do incredible things. Mine propelled me to climb Mt. Fiji in 2015 and dance for hours at Gratitude Migration this past summer. I’m learning to treat food as nourishment, rather than as a punishment or reward; I’m forcing myself to stare at myself naked in the mirror and think positive thoughts; I’m working to disentangle “Ed’s” voice from my own.

A helpful strategy for anyone struggling with ED is to name the beast: Meet “Ed.” I’ve read stories of women whose “Ed” is an abusive ex-lover or a bully. Your eating disorder doesn’t have to be named “Ed;” it can be female (Eddie) or something different altogether. For me, “Ed” works best. The important thing is to create distance from the person you are and the eating disorder. By disassociating myself from “Ed,” I learned to listen to myself again. I finally got the space and the closure I needed to move on.

[bctt tweet=”This year, I’ve resolved to pursue a healthier goal: to love my body. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

My relationship with “Ed,” from what I can remember, goes back to my fourteenth birthday. My family and three best friends from school had gathered at my house to celebrate. My older cousin, who I now recognize as having his own issues with self-esteem, wrote me a birthday card. “Happy birthday you fat pig!” it read. I remember running to my room, straight to the mirror, and crying in private. “You are a fat pig,” said Ed.

The mirror would soon become my object of torment, along with the scale. But it was really “Ed” who would torment me from that day forth.

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My “Ed” is different than yours, surely, but all of us have an “Ed” who speaks to us. Even those of us who don’t struggle with ED. With any sort of mental illness, from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and alcoholism, there’s a voice inside your head attempting to distort reality.

The voice is relentless. It’ll call you fat or stupid, tell you just one drink won’t hurt, or tell you your friends don’t like you. It’ll insist you’re incapable of change.

My “Ed” likes to tell me I’m nothing without him. When my ED was at its worst, “Ed” would ask me to evaluate every girl in any social situation I was in: if I wasn’t the skinniest one, he would admonish me, but when I was, he’d praise me for my beauty and resolve. I’d walk by shop fronts and in any reflecting surface, there was “Ed” staring back at me, assessing the size of my thighs.

[bctt tweet=”The pursuit of thinness isn’t unique to ED survivors. Weight loss is the most common New Year’s resolution. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

The pursuit of thinness isn’t unique to ED survivors. Weight loss is the most common New Year’s resolution. When we don’t achieve our goals- and only 20% of us do, by the way- we’re that much harder on ourselves. Anyone struggling with ED is no stranger to the cycle of shame it creates, and how hard it is to break.

Even if your resolution for 2017 is to lose weight, start small. Focus on attainable goals, for example:

1. Losing no more than 2 pounds per week

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Any more than this is not only unhealthy, it’s unsustainable. The weight will creep right back.

And if you struggle with ED, I recommend foregoing the scale altogether. It’s just another avenue “Ed” uses to get inside your head. At the end of the day, the number is arbitrary. Focus instead on how you feel in your clothes and in your skin.

2. Eating one piece of fruit per day

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Doctor’s orders, right? Little changes to your diet can have serious health benefits.

3. Doing some form of exercise daily

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Whether it’s walking while catching up with a friend or hitting up a local spin class, doing a little bit of exercise gets your endorphins flowing, meaning you’ll be healthier and happier in the New Year.

And if you’re still struggling with ED, I encourage you to start by naming and disassociating yourself from your ED in 2017, in whatever way works best for you.

This book, in particular, I found incredibly helpful in my recovery.

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I’ve learned to distinguish my voice from “Ed’s”, but that doesn’t mean my ED has suddenly stopped talking to me. On my best days, I tell “Ed” he’s wrong. On my worst, I still find myself running to the closest mirror, grabbing my skin and leaving harsh red marks on the parts I wish weren’t there. But then those marks remind me that “Ed” has never done anything but hurt me: physically and emotionally.

So I tell him to fuck off.