Every Good Thing Eating Disorder Recovery Has Done For Me
Hi! I’m Lou. This is me:
I don’t have a scale anymore, for sanity reasons, but I can tell you that, over the last few months, I’ve put on Some Weight. Whenever I say this, I feel the need to jump in and assure the person I’m talking to that it’s not that bad, not that much, that I still work out and eat healthy and all of that – but, hey, even if I wasn’t, even if none of that was true, it’s still fine. I’ve gained weight – it’s a fact.
But, instead of hand-wringing over it, I want to discuss everything good that gaining weight has brought to me the last few months. Because I’m going to be honest – there have been times when I have been just gutted by the shape of my body now. They’re getting fewer and further between as time passes, as I get used to the way I feel now and to the fact that the people I care about won’t abandon me for having stomach rolls (do I actually, truly believe that? Of course not, but a bitch is trying, okay?).
But sometimes, it’s useful to reflect on everything that weight gain (and, in general, eating more and moving less) has brought to my life – and hell, why not share it here, the corner of the internet where I dump all my feelings on anyone unlucky enough to stumble across them? In no particular order: all the reasons why recovery from an eating disorder has made my life better.
Firstly, and most foremostly, let me say this: not starving all the time has allowed me interests other than food. There’s some really interesting studies on how starvation affects the brain with regards to rumination over and obsession with food in even otherwise healthy brains, and anyone who’s dealt with an eating disorder that involves heavy restriction will tell you that’s true.
The internet has made this even easier to pull off, and I cannot tell you the number of hours I sent down the rabbithole of watching recipe videos, reading cooking vlogs, looking at food pictures, constructing lists of everything that I was going to make for myself, trying to come up with the perfect days of eating – there was a point in time where the best part of my day was going on a meal-planning app and precisely working out, down to the calorie, exactly what I was going to eat the next day. When you starve the body, your brain spends all its time trying to stuff itself full of food – when you won’t actually let yourself do that in a physical sense, you do it in a mental one, and that basically constitutes getting a degree in perky nutritionist videos. I genuinely forgot that I had other interests for a long time, but, now that I am feeding myself a reasonable amount, my brain has allowed me a life outside food porn.
The changes that have come physically have honestly been kind of a revelation. I’ve been sick for such a long time that I had genuinely forgotten what it felt like not to be. My normal became constant tiredness, insomnia, muscle aches, hair falling out, vague nausea, digestive excitement at both ends of the spectrum.
The biggest shift has come in the improvement in my insomnia – eating enough, it turns out, means you’re not lying awake in bed all night thinking about food and starving angrily. It’s also been awesome to work out because I actually enjoy it again, and to see improvements in my running, my weightlifting, and my yoga – to start doing them for fun and to challenge myself instead of an endless calorie-burning self-inflicted Saw trap. I have energy to do shit, instead of just dragging my ass through the bare minimum so that people won’t start asking questions as to why I can’t stand up too quickly without having to grab a wall to stay upright. Also, and this is far too much information, but it turns out that stopping my abuse of laxatives has also stopped my bowels’ need to surprise me at the worst times possible. Who’d have thunk it?
I have no doubt, either, that it’s regular eating and regular rest that has helped my brain start to get a handle on all that nonsense for a change. The fog that was usually there between “rational thoughts” and “DEATH ANXIETY” has started to clear, and I feel like I can actually manage my emotions with a little more clarity than the “I have not eaten in days and I am too hungry to handle myself AT ALL right now” chaos of my worst. You know what else, too? A hungry Lou is a bitchy Lou. My patience and (relative, I still have an anxiety disorder) sense of calm has improved to degrees that I had forgotten existed. I don’t rage-cry when I stub my toe any more! Much!
If you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, I’d love to hear all the good things that it’s brought into your life. Drop them in the comments below (or share your own post on it, too!). And most of all, if you’re in recovery – I know it sucks sometimes. A lot of the time, even. But, as you’ve heard a million times before to the point where this probably seems like nothing more than a platitude – it’s worth it. I promise. I forgot all the good things that could come with a life where I wasn’t obsessed with losing weight, controlling my food intake or my exercise, but now that I’m slowly getting it back, I can’t believe I let it slip through my fingers for so long.