How to Protect Your Recovery from Other People (Eating Disorder Recovery)
I think recovery is a two-part process: recovering yourself and then recovering those around you.
& what I mean by the second part of the process is this:
“Your family, friends, and close acquaintances probably knew who you were and how you were when you struggled with food.”
As a recovered anorexic and binge eater myself, I know how hard it is to work on YOU and your food fears, the worry of gaining weight, the pain that can come from letting go of the perfectionism and control you may have also had around food. Recovery is a long process that is filled with ups and downs, but every step along the path is necessary *I promise you* to get from Point A to Point B when it comes to you & food.
I knew that.
I knew that recovery was scary and that it would be filled with a lot of self-development and mindset work. I knew I was going to be tested and go through trials and tribulations along the way. I knew I was scared, yet the idea of living the rest of my life with my disorder was still more terrifying to me than the ladder and finally, I knew I had to want it for myself for my recovery to stick.
I didn’t know how much work would come with how to protect that long list above from other people.
I didn’t know how much time and energy was going to also have to be given to helping others through my recovery, as well.
That’s what I want to share with you all today:)
How to protect your recovery from other people.
In my experience, I was blessed to never have others intentionally hurt me or my recovery. I never had people who weren’t on my team when it came to me healing my relationship to food, however, I think there were definitely things that came up that I had to work through even when those around me were doing their best to support and love me.
This one is a MAJOR one! In our world today, it seems that everyone is either on a diet, cleanse, detox, or full-body transformation. Conversing around what they can and cannot eat, how many grams of salt they are allowed per day, the ounces they have to drink before noon, and how many miles a minute they have to move. This sort of talk at first can be VERY triggering during your recovery. Even if it’s not pointed or directed at you, it can still feel like a direct line of fire. I remember hearing at a 4th of July party one girl exclaim, “No! I don’t eat carbs!” as she was offered a sandwich from my boyfriend's mom.
I felt a slight pull in my chest >> should I also not be eating carbs? In these situations, you have to remember two key points: You cannot control other people all the time. You can control you all the time. For me, it was not the time or place to ask this girl to not talk about diet culture around me, however, it was the time and place for me to have a supportive moment with myself. “MY recovery is mine. I am doing what’s best for me. I do not have to do what others think may be best for them.” I ate the sandwich and it was delicious:)
“You never used to eat that!”
My family especially would exclaim over meals how I USED to not eat this or that or eat this much or that much. Now, they meant it out of love! They were ecstatic that I was eating ice cream with my brother or that I ordered a burger off the menu instead of the salad with no dressing! Still, these comments could get to me sometimes. What I needed to do in these situations was either speak up and ask them to please stop making these comments around my food even though they were from good intention OR shift my mindset around these comments all together! I started to see these comments as BIG WINS:) It meant I was making huge changes and positive strides in my food recovery! I celebrated with them and reminded myself that no shame or guilt needs to be associated with enjoying or eating food, even food I once considered as ‘bad!’
“I think I’m full.”
My boyfriend said one night over dinner, however, I was NOT full at all! I caught myself feeling self-conscious that I was still eating and probably about to eat more than he had for dinner. However, once again, I reminded myself of the YEARS where I under-ate, over-exercised, restricted only to the binge. The toll those years took on my body and my brain. The intense hunger I felt and needed to honor knowing that the faster and more truthful I was with leaning into my appetite >> the shorter my battle through recovery would be. I kept eating dinner and * this is also VERY important * did not make an EXCUSE for why I kept eating other than, “I’m still hungry.”
I think so often we tend to feel embarrassed for eating certain foods or eating large quantities of it and we think we need an EXCUSE for permission to keep eating that amount or type on our plate. For me, it was very important to not make reasons behind why I wanted this snack or why I wanted thirds at dinner other than, “I’m still hungry and I eat when I’m hungry.” That was good enough for me, which meant that was going to be good enough for other people. You do not need permission to eat >> so if you are hungry, you feed yourself.
“I don’t eat breakfast.”
Or “I had a big lunch, I don’t want anything for dinner.” Different people have different ways of eating and your job is not to change their way >> it’s to heal yours. Sometimes I would find myself surrounded by people at work or on holidays with people who would skip meals, skip snacks, intermittent fast, etc. and just like the other examples I gave >> you have to remember what’s best for YOU right now. They aren’t going to judge you for eating when you’re hungry if they are worth keeping through your recovery in the first place. I promise. In the beginning of my recovery, I ate ALL the time! Didn’t matter what hour, day of the week, whether I had left my bed or not >> I was hungry. If people around me weren’t hungry or were telling themselves that they weren’t hungry >> that did not concern me. I was concerned with healing my relationship to food and that was that.
“You’re eating a lot of sugar.”
One of my coworkers said this to me one day in the break-room. I had come in and snagged some coffee with cream and sugar and a donut from the assortment out for the Friday celebration at work. I didn’t even bat an eye. I said, “Yep! I love sugar.” And I walked out of the break-room. In that moment, I focused on two things >> she didn’t know that I hadn’t eaten sugar in eight years of my life and this was the first month I was enjoying it freely since seventh grade. She also didn’t know that I was recovering from an eating disorder.
People are going to say things to you that you don’t want to hear or that may hit you a little harder when it comes to your food or body during recovery, but truly during any time of your life. People don’t always know the full story of you and you need to remind yourself that. I’m sure in my life, I have said some things whether it be a comment about how, “I think I am going to die today I’m so tired,” where someone with a history of suicidal tendencies could have tensed up or, “Oh my gosh, I feel like I am going to lose it,” where someone with panic disorder could have felt a slight tinge in their chest.
Did I mean to cause them pain or discomfort or second guess themselves? OF COURSE NOT! People who make comments about food or their bodies do not mean you harm if they aren’t maliciously directed at you. Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in where people feel the need to get permission to eat from others, identity with a diet believing it makes them worth more, or call out the parts of their amazing body they feel insecure over >> none of this changes what you need to do>>
& that’s to heal.
& none of this changes how you’re going to do just that.
Stand up for yourself if someone comes at your about your food or your body, but for the random comments along your journey >> protect yourself, protect your recovery.