Everything about recovering from an eating disorder is counter cultural. While the world is screaming at us to exercise more and eat less, we’re trying to tell ourselves to put more on our plates and quit it with the obsessive working out.
This is something that lately has been really hard for me. I think it may be because we’re coming into summer weather here in Australia and everyone seems to be talking about the latest diet they’re on or that they’ve kicked up their exercise intensity to get that “bikini body”. Every time I hear someone telling me about their new exercise regime I immediately become jealous that I can’t join them – in the conversation and in their action. With my perfectionist tendencies and natural discipline, it would be so easy for me to jump into some form of “summer body challenge” and do well…but at the same time I know that’s exactly my problem. I would do it, but I wouldn’t stop – no matter what.
Anyone recovering from an ED knows what I’m talking about. We know that as soon as we start a new so called “health kick” we’re in trouble, because it’s a very slippery slope. And at the bottom we ironically find ourselves back where we started: in a very, very unhealthy place.
Whenever I hear about weight loss from my friends or on TV, or even overhear strangers’ talking about it, I immediately think back to that disgustingly good feeling I used to get in the darkest stages of my ED. The feeling I got as I watched my weight drop lower and lower. I had such a sense of control and power and to be honest, in the midst of the often emasculating journey that is recovery, I sometimes long for that feeling again (especially when the topic of weight loss comes up).
In my experience, trying to avoid weight loss talk during recovery is one of the hardest things to do. Our culture is obsessed with it; we measure worth by it, celebrate it and look down on those who don’t aspire to it. I do my very best to steer clear of the subject, but it’s proving nearly impossible! I’ve even told friends I don’t want to hear about their weight loss, the foods they’ve cut out or how many hours they spent in the gym this week, but unless you understand life with ED it can be hard to really get where I’m coming from. Engaging in this kind of talk is unbelievably unhealthy for me. Trust me, anyone who’s had an ED does not need your help in this domain. We are the experts. We know all the tricks. There’s no diet or workout you can imagine that we haven’t already thought of and fantastised about trying.
So, what are we supposed to do (assuming that moving to the mountains and cutting off all ties with society is out of the question)? Well, I can only speak to what works for me. When I am exposed to weight loss, exercise and diet talk, I try to remember how far I’ve come in recovery and why I decided to recover in the first place. I think back to where I was at the beginning of my journey (a sad, lonely place, full of fear), contrast that with where I am now (a much happier, more flexible and healthy place), and finally look ahead to where I want to be (a place of complete freedom, with food and exercise just one small part of my life and certainly not a controlling factor).
If you have any tactics for dealing with weight talk I’d love to hear them. Share your ideas in the comments below!