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When I chose to part ways with my eating disorder in 2013, my treatment team helped me begin to see the dangerous blind spots that existed within my mind. With their help, I began the best and most challenging work of my life. Through process groups and challenge meals, they did their best to prepare me for the winding road ahead. One year later back in the “real world,” I realized that somewhere along the way the enemy was no longer my plate — it was the mirror. The freedom I had initially gained by legalizing all foods was swiftly revoked by the dramatic change of my body.
Restoring weight and receiving proper nutrition had many benefits.
My ability to think returned, my hair stopped falling out, and I was able to sit down to meals with other people with little anxiety. Yet every time I passed by a mirror, all of those small wins quickly faded — leaving only painful thoughts about the size of my thighs.
Familiar warning signs returned, so I started to search for a bit more support at a nearby center. I walked in genuinely curious to learn how I could safely lose weight given my history of disordered eating, to which they replied that perhaps a second round of treatment wouldn’t hurt.
This time, my group therapist matter-of-factly informed me that negative body image is the last thing to go.
I felt frustrated and alone. “What do you mean that it’s the “last thing to go?!” As if having my heart break every time I saw a photo of myself was somehow akin to a lingering cough after the flu. This didn’t feel like “negative body image,” it felt like an actual problem that needed an actual solution ASAP.
Returning to treatment did not help me shed the weight I had initially sought to lose. It gave me something more important — the understanding that changing my body was not a solution for an internal conflict.
Dosomething.org reports that 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. That ideal body shape, the one that is portrayed by American media, is only naturally possessed by 5% of women. Those are staggering statistics.
Despite my powerfully misguided thoughts, I‘ve had to come to terms with the fact that “fixing” my body is never the solution. I’ve been down the thinness rabbit hole and must remind myself that it leads absolutely nowhere.
My only goal now is to watch my thoughts as closely as I used to watch my weight.
It is our thoughts — not our bodies — that create feelings of acceptance and love.
Some days, the battle between my thoughts and my reflection in the mirror wages on. However, those days are fewer as I grow stronger. My brain may still not recognize the familiar, healthier girl smiling back in the mirror and in photos, but I strive to see the sparkle in her eyes instead of the size of her hips.
ED uses these moments as an opportunity to convince me that I need him back. I kindly decline his invitation and remind myself that the girl in the mirror is me.
Is having my life back, being with people that I love, and developing passions beyond the realm of food and exercise really worth it? Absolutely. Is the color in my cheeks and the strength in my legs worth letting go of my eating disorder? Definitely.
This evolution doesn’t mean that my mind has forever stopped calling me to the darkness. The difference is that I can now withstand the taunts and gently reply,
“I hear you. I love you. But I choose life.”
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