If you’d ask me a few months ago if I was in recovery from my eating disorder, I would have said yes.
But I was lying.
I had been claiming to be “in recovery” since 2012, but all the while I had continued to obsessively count calories, restrict, weigh myself multiple times a week (if not a day), exercise to justify or mitigate meals and have out of control binges.
Calorie counting was justified as “meal planning”. And I decided that the small number I limited my calories to was “healthy” despite multiple calorie calculators telling me otherwise. I weighed myself out of “habit” and exercise was “good for me”.
The binges? Well, they were just “cheat days”. Everyone has cheat days…right?
I was lying to myself. While I thought my roommates were all all watching TV, they were really watching me eat multiple pies without a care in the world. Sometimes friends would join me on trips to the supermarket to grab a particularly fancy chocolate bar, or a delicious dessert. But they never referred to these foods as “cheats”. They were simply eating.
I, on the other hand, was eating multipack after multipack of food, then frantically checking my weight the next morning while vowing to return to my calorie restriction immediately. This was my normal, until last week.
The truth was, I had never truly recovered. I had changed the way I defined my actions but I was far from changing my actions.
I was in massive recovery denial.
I had convinced myself that my behavior was completely normal. My eating disorder had been lying to me for so long that I was no longer capable of acknowledging the truth. So my boyfriend acknowledged it for me.
As I got more comfortable showing behaviors in front of him, he began pointing out how strange they were. Slowly, I started to see for myself that maybe they weren’t quite so normal. No one else around me seemed to be displaying them.
The girls I knew who did exercise, seemed to do so out of pure enjoyment. I questioned myself for a moment – then tried to put it to the back of my mind. But it was too late.
Once I started to see the lies my eating disorder told me, I couldn’t stop uncovering the truth.
My boyfriend suggested a dietitian. Real, professional help and a slow and steady approach to recovering healthy habits. But I had no healthy habits to recover. I never knew what normal eating was like.
I began binge eating around age eight and had bulimia by age twelve. I had no recollection of what healthy, normal meals looked like. So I Googled and looked on Instagram and on YouTube but nothing made sense to me. I couldn’t put it together.
One night I broke down crying. I was 22, nearly a university graduate, ready to start a job in the city but I couldn’t eat. All I knew how to do was restrict and binge. The idea of a normal eating was over my head.
So I called the dietitian.
It was tough for me, “the perfectionist”, to admit I needed help. Especially at something that appeared so easy to everyone else. People of all shapes and sizes seemed to just be eating normally and not blinking twice at it.
So I let the dietitian take over. I let myself panic when she explained how much more I needed to eat and how I needed a regular exercise routine that was not in direct reaction to how much I had or had not eaten the previous day.
I let myself be curious at how my sleep could be impacting my eating, and vice versa. I let my boyfriend comfort me when I panicked at the increased amount of food.
I started to let go. Properly. And finally started to embrace REAL recovery.
It wasn’t easy. It hurt. Some days I cried. Other days I wanted to cry but couldn’t. One day I desperately needed to be around other people. Then the next I had to be left alone for hours on end just to process what was going on with me.
But I let it all happen, as much as it pained me.
When the dietitian explained that it was likely I would slip up a few times, I let go of the idea that that meant that I could. I also let go of the guilt and self-hate when I did slip up.
Letting go made me stronger. It helped me see that there was more to life than I had ever known. I let go when it hurt. And I let go even when I didn’t want to.