WOW! Seven years ago today I returned to treatment. For the third time. I didn’t even know if recovery was possible for me. I was almost 42 years old and ashamed I couldn’t get my life and food “under control.” The only thing that scared me more than gaining weight was the idea of living the rest of my life in food/body hell. Having a full belly terrified me. Having a full life never even occurred to me.
The thought of sitting down to a meal and eating it paralyzed me. Having a bowl of ice cream- wasn’t even an option. Weighed down by shame, I scolded myself because, “I knew better.” Yet I’d reached an all time new low (both metaphorically and literally). While my body shrunk- my anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and self-loathing expanded exponentially.
A full life wasn’t even on my radar
As a stay-at-home mother with three small boys and a supportive husband-I had everything I’d ever dreamed of. Yet I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.
I lost the ability to simply feed myself and I needed help.
To say stepping back into treatment was humbling would be an understatement. It took massive amounts of courage and humility. If I could go back in time 7 years- there’s so much I’d want to tell myself.
10 Things I’d Tell My Former Self About My Full Life
1. It can and will get better – if you’re willing to do the work.
You don’t have to live the rest of your life focusing on shrinking your body. In fact,
You’re stuck in a cycle right now. And you don’t even realize it. But learning to disrupt this cycle is imperative for recovering a full life. As much as you wish someone else could fix this for you- healing requires you show up and do the work. Others can walk beside you, guiding you. But YOU must be willing to do the work of stepping into uncomfortable situations and tolerating discomfort.
2. The VERY first step in gaining your life back is simple and straightforward.
You must start to feed and nourish yourself. Your brain is literally starving and no amount of trying to think your way out of this hole you’ve found yourself in will work.
Sure, reading all the books, listening to the podcasts, and connecting with others is helpful. Journaling and talking in therapy are too. But bottom line is you cannot recover from an eating disorder with out consistently feeding yourself. And your definition of what is “enough” is very skewed. You need much more food than you think you do.
3. The more you prioritize having a full belly, the more you will have a full life.
It sounds simple but in reality it’s harder to put into action.
The magic of recovery is that as your plate expands, so does your life.
When you begin to allow in pleasure and satisfaction into your meals, it bleeds over into your life. And you deserve to lead a big juicy full life.
4. The lessons you learn in recovery will be a jumping off point for lessons you can apply to the rest of your life.
For the rest of your life. What you’re doing with food right now is a metaphor for how you’re living life. And it simply isn’t working. The steps forward you take in recovery from dieting and disordered eating will help your recovery. They will also help the rest of your life.
5. There will come a day when the size and shape of your body won’t determine your self-worth.
I know you can’t believe me right now because it seems impossible. But it’s true. It’ll take time, grueling hard work, rigorous and honest self exploration, and the support of other amazing souls. But it’s possible to reach a place where you understand in your heart and soul that you’re valuable just as you are. Any shape… any size… any weight.
6. You’re more courageous, more intuitive, and more powerful than you’ve ever given yourself credit for.
The choices and actions you’ve taken in the past served you at the time. You’ve always been doing the best that you can given the information you had at the time.
There is nothing inherently “broken” or “wrong” with you.
Buried underneath the insecurities and anxieties you’ve carried for decades is a connected, intuitive, and powerful soul. Recovery brings you back to your true self.
7. Recovery will bring you many unexpected gifts.
Like amazing friendships with other brilliant warriors. Who understand you in a way no one else has ever gotten. These beautiful connections will heal you in places you didn’t know needed to be healed. You’ll realize you’re not alone in this giant world. And the friendships you develop will sustain you.
8. Your knowledge and understanding about eating disorders, disordered eating, and diet culture will expand and grow.
This will ignite a passion within you to make a positive impact in this sometimes horrifying world. You’ll come to understand this work isn’t just healing your own food issues. But it is a social justice issue.
Everything you thought you knew about eating disorders and fat bodies will be turned upside down. And this is a good thing.
9. Recovery is a process that you’ll never stop participating in.
And recovery is a metaphor for life. It is painful, terrifying, and at times extremely difficult. It’s messy with unexpected twists and turns along the way. But it’s also filled with joy, beauty, and love. Being in recovery means having a full life.
10. Learning the art of surrender through recovery will become a spiritual practice for the rest of your full life.
And it truly is the greatest gift you will gain from this process. You will spend the rest of your life practicing the art of surrender.
My former self would be shocked to learn that recovery brings so many unexpected gifts.
The number of beautiful connections I’ve made with other warriors all over the world would stun her. She wouldn’t believe one day I’d write for Recovery Warriors– sharing and writing hundreds of articles that are read over 100,000 times. Or that I’d become certified as a coach and begin helping more amazing humans break free from diet culture and recover. But most of all- I think she’d be grateful. And proud of taking the steps to claim her full life back. For herself, for her family, for her marriage. And for the many others she hopes to continue helping.
So tonight I’ll be celebrating with some delicious ice cream with OUT any guilt or shame. Here’s to making the scary choice seven years ago. Here’s to the support I’ve been blessed to have. To the lessons. The ups and downs. To RECOVERY.
And to anyone out there reading this:
If you’re feeling stuck and overwhelmed in the cycle of food/body/weight obsession – please take it from me. Your life does not have to continue on a path of hating your body and hating yourself. Recovery from dieting and disordered eating is possible. And it is 100% worth the work, bringing amazing gifts you probably can’t even imagine.
To learn more about how I can help you with this work, check out this page.