Image: @lensinkmitchelLabels: They’re everywhere. Why? Labels can come in very handy. Like when you’re shampooing your hair and you don’t want to use conditioner by mistake. Or when you want to make sure that you don’t accidentally give dog food to your cat.
Unfortunately, there are some labels in our everyday lives that aren’t helpful to someone in recovery from an eating disorder.
Eating disorders LOVE labels! They thrive on telling you that you’re not good enough the way you are. They love to tell you exactly how you don’t fit in and what you need to do to change that. My ED’s personal favorites were, “Lose a few more pounds, then you can call yourself skinny!”, “You’d better buy a really expensive Christmas present if you want to be considered a good girlfriend”, and “You know you’re worthless unless you fit into THAT size”.
With pressure from society, the media, and countless other sources to focus on labels, it’s no wonder it’s difficult to ignore them. Luckily, labels are made to be removed! Here are some of the ways that I have learned to look past the label and do what’s truly best for me.
1. Food Labels
We’ve all been there before: I’m talking about the yogurt aisle in the grocery store. There are thousands (well, close) of varieties of yogurts promising to be fat-free, low fat, non-dairy, packed with protein, full of antibiotics, low sugar, etc.
Add to that those number! The calories, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and all of the other numbers on those nutrition labels are a playground for your eating disorder.
It took a long time and a lot of practice for me to be able to think,
Who is grocery shopping right now, my eating disorder or me?
Your eating disorder wants to do lots of math with labels to make sure that you are buying just the ‘perfect’ brand of yogurt. I have played that game, and trust me, there’s nothing that wastes time more than playing games that your eating disorder.
I can finally say that I go grocery shopping by myself. Now, the choices I make throughout the store are based on my individual needs and preferences. They have nothing to do with the sticker on the back of a yogurt container.
2. Clothing Labels
For me, size labels, were one of the most difficult labels to look past in my recovery. For years, my shopping trips revolved around being a specific size. I will admit, my eating disorder took pride in that number, silently flaunting it whenever someone would mention that their clothes carried a higher number. If the clothing item in question didn’t come in “my” size, or if it didn’t fit, I simply would not bother to try on any other items. I had failed.
In reality, that size is JUST A NUMBER.
Sizes vary from store to store, brand to brand, and sometimes even from item to item! I can personally vary two to three sizes depending on where I shop. Now, when I buy an article of clothing (or nail polish or eye shadow) I ask myself, “Does this make me feel good, and does it express who I am?”
You vs. your eating disorder
One benefits of recovery is the ability to do daily tasks without your eating disorder making all of the rules for you. Gaining the courage to select food and clothing according you your preferences and not your eating disorder’s is an incredibly empowering feeling!
Warriors, encourage yourselves to re-discover what you like, want, and need without giving in to the rules of our eating disorders. Freedom will never come with a tag, size, or number.