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The biggest barrier I had to overcome in recovery from my eating disorder was admitting to myself I had a problem.
For the longest time, I tried to convince myself my weight loss was an “accident” and a result of my increasing interest in cycling. I had been cycling for a while, but had recently began racing for a team, and riding quite a bit more often and longer mileage than before.
I convinced myself and others my food habits were healthy, and any weight loss was just coincidental.
It was only when I was encouraged to eat more to make up for my extra activity did it start to become clear that my weight loss wasn’t just a consequence of more cycling.
I was encouraged by my parents to increase my caloric intake in the normal ways, and although I didn’t think I was against gaining weight, I resisted these changes very strongly. I truly didn’t believe I was against a change in diet or gaining weight, but in fact I really did have very strong feelings against it.
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I wasn’t even aware of my resistance until I tried to implement the changes recommended to me.
It wasn’t until I went to a therapist specializing in eating disorders I was able to begin to accept I actually had an eating disorder and needed help. I still remember walking out of my first appointment with my mom. I was in tears as we got in the car and I asked my mom “Do I really have an eating disorder?” We both knew the answer.
Even after coming to this realization, it took awhile for it to really set in.
For awhile, I still considered people with eating disorders to be others, not myself. I also continued to convince myself part of what I was doing was healthy, even though I knew as a whole my behavior was disordered.
So why is it important to accept you have an eating disorder and need help?
For me, it was important to accept I had an eating disorder in order to motivate my recovery.
If I felt like nothing was wrong, I had no desire to change it, and I also had no reason to accept the help I was receiving from my family and therapist. When this was the case, I ended up depressed and frustrated because I was being forced to make what I saw as unnecessary changes to my diet simply because I was told to do so.
Until I was able to fully recognize my behaviors as part of the eating disorder, I wasn’t able to give my full effort towards recovery.
So how do we accept we have an eating disorder or other mental illness and need help? I think the most important part of this is to take a look at your everyday life and see if food, exercise, or anything else has overarching control over your actions for a given day. Anything that is keeping you from living your life freely is something you need to take a look at.
Also, if you have changed any routines recently, think critically about why you made the change.
For example, if you have changed your diet, or haven’t been going out with friends as much, think about why you have changed your behavior in this way. And don’t just brush it off, really think about this! If I had looked closer at my change in diet from a critical point of view, I would have very likely seen it wasn’t motivated by a desire to be healthy as I told myself it was.
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