This is not always a bad thing. For some, it might serve as motivation for them to step up and kick things into gear and make a plan to live healthier.
But for others, it can be destructive.
For people like me who have lived through an eating disorder, it might make us feel like a failure and trigger old habits. We may want to restrict, or purge, or start compulsively overexercising. There’s an urge to start obsessive behavior again. We may get depressed. Depression or anxiety almost always accompanies an eating disorder. When I’d look into the mirror and see my problem areas, I would feel low, ugly, and disappointed in myself.
But in an eating disordered person’s mind, What we see in the mirror is not reality. When I was in high school and overweight, I never understood how skinny girls would look at themselves and say they were fat.
Until I was that skinny girl.
So how did I get to a point where I looked into the mirror and it wasn’t a self-destructive process?
Everyone is different. For me, it took years of therapy and two hospital stays to realize that the solution lay within myself.
No one could make me feel the way I did. Sure, there are certain things along the way that people said or did that affected me, but it was my choice to react the way I did. I could have chosen to brush certain comments off my shoulders and think to hell with them. But instead, I took everything as a personal and true insult insult to myself, and I’d beat myself up over it.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. -Eleanor Roosevelt
Instead of loving myself for the person I was and working hard and healthily towards that image, I belittled myself and felt awful about myself, because in my mind those girls in the magazines were so much better than me. I didn’t measure up. So I punished myself by being way too strict in my eating and exercising habits, to the point of hospitalization.
After many years and lots of struggles, I finally realized that I was responsible for my own happiness. No one else, just me. It was up to me to choose happiness over depression. It was up to me to “look on the bright side,” or “count my blessings” instead of counting all the reasons why my life sucked, why I was inadequate, and constantly beating myself up because I didn’t measure up to an unrealistic image. It seemed so simple, that I almost felt ashamed that I chose the wrong path for so many years. I thought back to my time in the hospital, and the way I felt all those years, and how I dealt with it, and how dramatic everything was… And I realized that I could have made things much easier on myself. If I could go back with the knowledge I have now, I would have had a much happier time and would not have wasted my years barely living and feeling sorry for myself. But, had I not got through it, I wouldn’t have the knowledge I have now. Everyone learns things in different ways at different paces.
It wasn’t until I chose happiness and I began to accept myself for all my flaws, and love myself for my talents and uniqueness that the image in the mirror began to change.
Now, I’m not going to lie and everything was perfect after that. I would still wonder from time to time whether the image I see in the mirror is real or not. I would still turn and inspect my problem areas and feel a little disappointed if there are a little more of these areas than I’d like.
But nowadays, instead of becoming depressed or turning to compulsive behaviors, it motivates me to get off my butt and do something. To work towards my goal, in a healthy and safe way. I see pictures of fit, athletic women and that is what I strive for. But, instead of looking at those photos and thinking low of myself because I don’t compare, I admire those women–because it’s hard work to acquire that physique, and it inspires me to stay active and not to give up on my goals. Results do not come overnight, or in a few weeks. It takes time and effort to reach a fitness goal. I was always a very impatient person and wanted to see results immediately, which was why I kept resorting to unhealthy habits to lose weight time and time again when it was taking too long for me to see any results. It was difficult, because ten years of eating disordered behavior very negatively affected my metabolism, and it took a lot of time and hard work and gained weight until my body finally adjusted and my metabolism stabilized–and gaining the weight (all in my belly) made me think often of going back to old habits. But I kept reminding myself of how miserable I was then, and how great I feel eating enough food, and that things take time and I will see results. And it has been worth it. I feel so much better than I have in years. I have more energy, I no longer get sick every two weeks, and although I don’t have the perfect physique or look like a fitness model, I have finally started to see and feel results of my hard work, and I get excited about eating healthy and working towards my goals. I can honestly say now that I believe myself to be recovered. This year I have been so excited and motivated about being healthy that I have not once wanted to binge/purge/restrict. It took almost half of my life so far to get here, but now that I am here I wouldn’t ever want to go back.
For those who are struggling with eating disorders, my heart goes out to you.. I know how difficult it is and how it seems to become your identity–I didn’t want to give mine up for the longest time because I truly believed that it was who I was. But it’s not who you are. You are much more precious and worth it. And recovery may be a hard and really frustrating process, but trust me–from someone who has been on both sides–it is so worth it.