What eating disorder recovery was really like

I didn’t know I was so far along in recovery until I heard someone use the term “eating disordered” last week and began wondering if that is a term that even describes me anymore.

I’m not free of behaviors/symptoms 100% of the time…but I’d say about 80-85% of the time I am completely symptom-free. I don’t obsess about food as much. I don’t plan out my binges in advance, and hide the packaging and trash from my husband. When I’m stressed, I am able to remind myself that eating to the point of physical pain is not going to make me feel any better.

I am finally at the point where I can focus on making healthy choices, and eating things that will make my body feel good, without entering the cycle of restricting, binging, then restricting to compensate for the binge, and so on.

The weird thing is I can’t pinpoint anything specific I did to move myself so far along in recovery. Rather, I think I’m in the place I am today because of what I STOPPED doing.

I stopped thinking about food as the enemy. I pretty much stopped thinking about food entirely – or at least, I only think about food in a normal way now (when I’m hungry).

I stopped making my entire life about my recovery. I tried to focus more on doing things that made me happy, and less on recovery/food/weight.

I stopped telling myself that I could only be happy once my eating disorder was gone.

Basically, the more and more I lived my life to the fullest- despite my struggles with food, despite being overweight, despite being “un-recovered”…the easier recovery became. For me, finding life — and an identity — outside of and apart from my eating disorder was the most crucial step in my recovery.

I used to have a blog about food, fitness, weight loss…and later, about my eating disorder. Now I have a blog about my life…and I only write about the aforementioned topics when I feel like it. I don’t think of myself as a person with an eating disorder before I think of myself as a student, a wife, a friend, a writer, a teacher, etc.

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Life post-Whole30: Part II

Grocery shopping now sends me into a tailspin of anxiety. My choices feel unlimited once more, which is kind of terrifying after a month of eliminating lots of the foods I used to eat. Although I can now technically eat whatever I want, I don’t want to do that. Instead, I find myself still gravitating toward many of the foods I ate during my Whole30 (sweet potatoes, coconut oil, more fruit, kale) and not wanting some of the things I ate pre-Whole30 (granola bars, shredded cheese, fruit snacks, sparkling water containing artificial sweeteners, etc.).

Any kind of restrictive manner of eating is dangerous for someone recovering from an eating disorder. Someone like me. Last week, I did overindulge a bit: chocolate chip cookies and tortilla chips were the primary culprit. I definitely attribute at least some of the cause to being sick, but I know that part of it was due to that feeling of deprivation that is particularly problematic if you suffer from binge eating disorder like I do.

However…those urges have not come back at all. I’m a lot more focused on how food makes me feel physically instead of how it makes me feel emotionally. This focus is something I was never able to achieve through other diets I’ve tried: veganism, vegetarianism, the Atkins diet, and flat-out caloric restriction.

I suppose this change in mindset is due to the drastic nature of the Whole30 challenge. I cut out so many things from my diet, and now as I begin to reintroduce some of them, I am made acutely aware of how downright awful some foods make me feel. After a month of feeling on top of the world physically (and pretty damn good mentally, too), the awful indigestion I experience after eating dairy and fried foods doesn’t seem worth it. I want to continue eating in a way that makes me feel great, and when I want to eat something that won’t make me feel so great, I want to make a very informed and intentional decision to do so (That last statement is actually one of the goals the founders of Whole30 have for participants!)

I’m proud that through a lot of hard work, reflection, and change, I’ve moved one step closer to a balanced, healthy, and peaceful relationship with food. I never thought completing a month-long challenge that entailed eliminating many different foods from my diet would help my eating disorder in such a meaningful way– in fact, at times, I thought it would backfire and destroy some of the progress I’ve made this year. I’m so glad I proved myself wrong.