While every ED recovery journey is unique, there are some things that are a part of almost every story. The fear, anxiety and distress we experience during weight restoration is one such thing. And it’s one I’ve been struggling a lot with lately.
Dissatisfaction with the way our bodies look is something most women (and increasingly, men) know all about. The relentless pressure to look a certain way can break down even the strongest will. Eventually it leads us to punish our bodies with exercise we hate, starve ourselves of the foods we love and miss out on our favourite activities.
It can affect anyone. We see it in mothers, brothers, neighbours and friends. We even see it in those “flawless super humans” we know as Hollywood celebrities. It’s incredibly sad to us that living like this isn’t even confined to people diagnosed with eating disorders. In fact, plenty of people today are proud of how good they are at “disciplining” themselves, and wear it as a badge of honour, or admire those who do.
For those who actually have been diagnosed with an eating disorder and are trying to recover, the battle is even harder. We’re still hearing the message that we need to lose weight—while we’re actively trying to do the opposite!
And it doesn’t matter how much you know you need to gain weight. As soon as the number on the scale starts to rise, and you get closer to the all-important “healthy” weight that your body craves, the ED pulls out all its tricks to put the brakes on your recovery. From what I’ve read and heard from others this is completely normal. But that doesn’t make it any easier. Most of the time it feels like I’m being buried under the pressure of it all.
For around two months now the ED has been persistent in its efforts to convince me that at my current weight no one would ever think I have an ED and that I’m not sick enough to continue with recovery steps. In fact, it’s been telling me I’ve put on too much weight and that, if anything, I should be considering losing weight, not gaining it.
Obviously, this is nothing more than another ED lie that’s only purpose is to keep me firmly in its grip. But as we all know, the fact that a lie is not true doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t believe it.
I tried to fight off these thoughts on my own for a few weeks, but I could see I wasn’t going to win this battle on my own. The thought of falling back into patterns of restriction and over-exercise to stop or reverse weight gain were never-ending, and starting to sound quite appealing. These days I have enough awareness of how the ED operates to know when that starts to happen it’s time to speak up.
So, I eventually opened up to Matt about how I was feeling, and as always talking to someone meant almost immediate relief. He reassured me we both knew this stage of recovery would happen sooner or later. He reminded me that the most important thing to remember is that because the ED is a liar, trusting it will never get me where I want to be (living a life of freedom). All it will achieve is re-tightening the chains I’ve work so hard to loosen.
Talking it out is great, but what we did next was so helpful that I feel obliged to share it with you all in the hope it might benefit you too.
We set some time aside (This is really important in itself. It’s so easy to let the busyness of life get in the way of recovery. This journey takes patience, effort and commitment—none of us will ever accidentally recover.) and we wrote out the ED’s lies, then answered them with the facts provided by my support team.
ED: You do not need to gain any more weight or you will be fat.
Me: My dietitian and doctor do not say this. They’ve told me I need to gain weight in order to be at my healthy weight range. They’ve made it clear I am currently underweight and as a result my body is not working at its best.
ED: If you keep eating more and exercising less as per your instructions, you will never stop gaining weight.
Me: My dietitian and doctor do not say this. They’ve said this is medically impossible and not how the human body works. Once my body reaches its healthy weight, and I continue to nourish and treat it correctly, I will stay within my set point (healthy weight range).
Challenging ED lies with evidence, scientific facts and advice from people who are qualified to give it has proven to be one of the most useful recovery tools I’ve used. I have a long way to go before I can truly say I have a healthy outlook on my body—I’ve never been overly confident in my appearance—but I know that at the end of all this I’ll have a better relationship with my body and a greater respect for what it’s capable of than ever before.
So yes, I’ve been struggling lately, but I’m not down for the count. So don’t put dirt on my grave just yet!
The story behind the title of this post
For those of you who don’t watch the TV series Nashville (seriously, you’re missing out) let me explain the meaning behind the title of this post. There’s a song performed by one of the main characters, Juliette Barnes, called “Don’t Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet”, written when she felt like the whole world was against her. This can be exactly how it feels to live with an eating disorder.
Something about this song really resonates with me. It’s become my little ED recovery anthem and such a support for me (so weird the things that turn out to be useful recovery tools but hey, if it works then why not?!).
Interesting side note: while we’re not sure about every choice Juliette makes on the show, the actor who plays her—Hayden Panettiere—has spoken openly about her own battle with body dysmorphic disorder as a teenager. After seeing a picture of herself at age 16 in a magazine, with the word cellulite next to her butt, she felt “moritifed.” She explained, “It gave me such body dysmorphia for so long. But I remember reminding myself that beauty is an opinion, not a fact. And it has always made me feel better.” We LOVE to see people being real about their struggles. Like we always say, the more open we are about our struggles the less they can “own” us.
PS. In case you want to sing along (and make it loud!) here are the lyrics:
I thought things couldn’t get much worse but guess what they did.
You hit my heart upside with a wrecking ball oh but that’s what I get.
But I’m not going nowhere. I can live on my prayers.
‘Cause I’m done playing nice, I’m done running for life cause you think that you got me scared.
This time it’s goodbye trouble.
I feel the light at the end of this tunnel.
I get stronger with every step.
Come hell, come high water, you push on me I’m gonna push back harder!
Got a whole lot more than little bit left.
So, don’t put dirt on my grave just yet.
No, don’t put dirt on my grave just yet.
Everyone can save their breath, they can spare me the change.
You can point your finger somewhere else if you’re looking to blame.
I’ll give you something to believe. Nothing on me says defeat.
No I’ll never look back, so you better think fast if you think you can cut me deep.
Well it’s gonna take more, gonna take more, gonna take more, to pull me under.
Gonna take more, gonna take more, gonna take more than that to pull me under!
Do you have any creative recovery tools? We’d love to hear about them. Leave us a comment below.