Am I Recovered from My Eating Disorder?

design (18)Dear Kimber,

How do you know if you ARE recovered from an ED [eating disorder]?

It’s hard for me to tell if I’m healthy or not. I eat three significant meals a day, with all the foods and no specific restrictions. I have snacks when I want and work out three times a week. I still weigh less than I probably should and I don’t want to worry about trying to “gain.” My weight is stable so I just leave it alone. I just don’t want to put a lot of sugary buttery junk in my body. I do eat cake but not very often. It’s hard for me to know if I am still disordered or not. I also LIKE being thin and I don’t really want to gain more. I guess that’s the catch.

Signed, Wondering

Dear Wondering,

It sounds like even though you’re not worried about anything specific and you feel like your eating is fine, you’re a little worried that you’re slightly underweight.

First off, that’s a normal and reasonable concern, and it’s good that you’re asking yourself about it. Some days I think about myself as recovered (Yay, my body and I get along great!) and other days my spidey senses remind me that recovery is a lifelong process and I’ll always have to be aware of my relationship to what’s on the plate in front of me and what I see in the mirror.

I have some questions for you to chew on (because eating puns):

Do you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full? Do you listen to what your body is hungry for? Do you respond generously to what your body needs? Do you let your body have ‘treats’ without guilt or repercussions? Make sure you’re listening closely to your body’s signals and not judging what it wants.

And check in with your body about the sugary, buttery treats thing. Does your body genuinely not like these things? Or does it like them in moderation?

I could be wrong but it sounds like your behaviors are recovered, but your thinking still has little shades of ED that come creeping in. Experiment with removing the labels “good” and “bad” from food. Let all food be judged solely on whether your body is interested in eating it right now or not. A cupcake isn’t good or bad, not “fattening” or anything else. It’s just something that sounds good to your body or not.

Whatever you DO eat, enjoy it!

Notice if any feelings of guilt or worry come up about something you’ve eaten and reassure yourself that you don’t have to do anything to counterbalance it. You’re fine. You’ve got this.

The other thing is to examine what it means that you “like being thin.” Does seeing a thin reflection in the mirror mean you’ve got it together? That you feel more attractive? That you get social approval? All of these things are definitely benefits of being thinner. So what would happen if by chance something happened where one week you gained 5 pounds, and another 5 the week after that, and so on for several weeks? Would you panic? What if you discovered that your body needed the extra weight in order to be healthy? Would you try to lose the weight anyway?

The answers to these questions will help you figure out how much fat phobia you are carrying around with you.

Personally, I found that until I could let go of the fear that I “might get fat,” I wasn’t fully recovered, because that fear lurked underneath everything I did, how I ate, exercised, and rested. Looking in the mirror I’d be checking to see if there was more cellulite than yesterday… it was crazy-making. I had to decide that my love for my body was no longer conditional on the size of my jeans, and I could give my constant vigilance a rest.

I think letting go of fat phobia might be the final frontier of eating disorder recovery.

Congratulations… you’ve made it this far. Why not take the last step? See if you can open yourself to love towards your body no matter what: thin, fat, and all the spots in between, young and old, abled and disabled. Invite in the possibility that a number on the scale has zero to do with whether your body deserves your caring and attention.

With love to you and your body, Kimber

Check out my disclaimer here: Hey, I’m not a doctor or therapist or nutritionist, so if you need professional help, I lovingly urge you to reach out for more than the few paragraphs of radical compassion I have to offer. There are thousands of amazing beings out there who go to sleep at night thinking about how to help people find peace in their bodies, who wake up committed to using all of their resources to support their patients, and then go off on their long day of service to help folks just like you find relief in how they relate to their bodies and food. Talk to them. Go see them. Love yourself enough to reach out your hand and let them show you the way.