A year ago, this week, I wrote an incredibly vulnerable piece. I said, “There will be days of denial, avoidance, and anxiety. I will probably exhaust myself with many perpetual, problematic Google searches before I am satisfied. However, there will also be days of triumph and gains. I’m excited to feel liberated from being shackled to my 0% fat Greek yogurt and training plans.”
I won’t document all the gains I’ve made in the last year, but here are some of the highlights:
- I agreed to work with a sports dietitian and slowly I am adding different foods to my day.
- I went on vacation and tried lots of different and fun foods!
- I became more aware of recognizing when my disordered part of my brain is talking to me and gained skills to override those thoughts.
- I am training for a marathon and feeling stronger than ever!
My eating disorder didn’t start with me wanting to be skinnier. It evolved because I was attempting to ascertain control wherever I could. In a lot of ways, my ED narrative doesn’t feel “typical”, but as I’m learning there’s no single story about EDs and how they manifest. Mainstream culture has an image about what eating disorders “look like”, but they’re way more complex than that! I’m also learning that eating disorders are practically, never actually about the food or weight! In a lot of ways, my story is more mainstream than I realized. It’s not that interesting or unique.
If you’re a thin, white woman who doesn’t feel represented by the push for eating disorder advocacy to center more marginalized bodies, IMAGINE HOW EVERYONE ELSE HAS FELT FOR DECADES OMG.
— Melissa A. Fabello (@fyeahmfabello) February 26, 2018
It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. At @HuffPost Opinion and @HuffPost Personal, we’re spotlighting people who defy the stereotypes about who has eating disorders – people who aren’t straight young white women. First up: https://t.co/rQ9x2cgLVp #NEDAwarenessWeek
— Chloe Angyal (@ChloeAngyal) February 26, 2018
Finally, the narrative about eating disorders is changing, and that is so necessary! However, in this space, I’m just finding my voice and my bravery to own this aspect of my story.
So, it’s #NEDAwareness week, and putting semantics aside (I personally dislike the phrases “eating disorder” and “recovery” for my own story), I can relate to the tweets and posts I’m seeing everywhere and I’m connecting with people’s stories.
In the spirit of this year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week’s theme “Let’s Get Real” – whose goal is to “expand the conversation and highlight stories we don’t often hear” – I’m going to share a real, messy, depiction of my experience on this journey!
There’s not much about choosing to make a change that’s cute or insightful (yet!). I know there’s not one “right way” to jump into this journey. In fact, what works for someone won’t necessarily work for me!
- Realizing. I realized that going to therapy and nutrition sessions was a good start, but it was not the real starting point. The real starting point was when I give in to the fear and vulnerability and committed to doing the work. This took a long time!
- Talking. I talk about food and spend more mental energy thinking about food than practically anything else I do during a typical day. (Here’s a secret: this only got more intense when I started making changes) Also, talking to my friends about any of this is super hard. They don’t get it at all. It’s mutually exhausting because I don’t know what to say to them, and they don’t know what to say to me either.
- Metaphors! Lots of them! Here are two of my favorites: Riding the Wave of Emotions & The Beach Ball
- Feeling. There are so many feelings! On an emotional awareness level, this work is exhausting! On a logical level, I am getting used to feeling okay with the fact that I often want to eat at times when other people aren’t eating.
- Reasons. My reasons are everything. My reasons to eat should be elevated, reasons not to eat should be silenced. If I can find a reason, I can work through the next steps. So, I make lists.
- Choices! Everything, all day, every day is a choice!
- Huger. I wake up feeling hungry and go to bed feeling hungry. This is new. My body is starting to give me hunger signals again and that’s super confusing and overwhelming.
- Learning. I am learning, mostly via social media , that lots of people are having these same experiences! (Psst. Joanna’s Instagram is @the.middle.ground! – follow her!) I’m also learning a lot about myself!
- Planning. This is so obvious, it feels like I don’t even have to say it, but I can’t eat if there’s no food available. So, I have to plan to have enough food in my house or to go grocery shopping, pack food for the entire day, and anticipate challenges when I can so I can mentally prepare.
- Acknowledging that most days, I want to quit, and never giving up!
- Knowing. I know this will be worth it. I know this is important. I know I deserve this next phase of my journey!