Some serious #RealTalk here. And I hope to delicately approach some aspects of recovery by speaking the truth in love.
So without further ado:
ED recovery accounts on Instagram and other social media are a relatively new phenomena. (Shameless plug: my accounts are: Twitter @anarevealed and IG @anorexiarevealed2.) But this type of global engagement (literally) with other girls in recovery is something that just wasn’t around when I first adopted recovery. Now, I know that makes me sound ancient, but come on, it was only 2007! (Although I will say this…at the 2007 MTV VMA’s, Fergie beat Beyònce for best female artist, so just let that sink in.) But in 2007, Facebook was really all there was in terms of social media after I left inpatient. Twitter was only just catching on with the hipsters, and IG was nonexistent. So it’s been really interesting to see how young EDwarriors have been using these prorecovery accounts as accountability for their intake, as well as a vehicle of encouragement and support for/from others. I’d say 99.9% of the images posted are of meals and snacks along with captions with how the day is going and a “feelings check.” One of the most “hallowed” hashtags for these recovery accounts is “PintParty,” which accompanies the picture of the pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that you eat by yourself in one sitting. #yesiateitall. This is a “#RecoveryWin” because you face a fear food, and celebrate it with your IG followers. Other hashtags are “FearFoodFriday,” “ChunkPorn” (for the much-loved chunks of chocolate in the highly revered Quest nutrition bars), or “FoodIsFuel,” etcetera, etcetera. You get the picture.
But I’ve noticed something. And this is where the #RealTalk comes in. And remember this is coming from a place of love, not judgement. The good Lord above knows that my road of recovery has not been paved in gold. But I’ve noticed that for the most part, there are really only two categories of ED recovery accounts.
#1. There’s the accounts where there are #PintParties, and snaps of McDonald’s, and pizza, and candy, etc. Accounts where – at least from what is being broadcast – she has really dove head first into recovery and is tackling weight restoration head on. That’s the first group.
Or #2. Then there are the accounts where the meals are of rice cakes with just a scraping of peanut butter, or carrot sticks and exactly 2 Tbsp of hummus, or “Arctic Zero” nearly-calorie-free ice cream, or plain chicken with steamed vegetables and dry toast. Every serving size precisely measured to the gram. Nothing more. Nothing less. This category of sweet girls is trying. They want recovery, but they’re still being gripped with and controlled by fear. They’re unable to break out and fully adopt the foods that will actually make them restore their bodies.
Well, this post specifically goes out to that second group of ED fighters. Because if I’m being really honest with myself, I was a part of that second group for a long, long time, until my dad helped me fall in love with food again. (Which is coming up in a future post.)
I was taking a walk this afternoon at the park, (because I’ve learned how to exercise non-obsessively for enjoyment and not for punishment), and earlier this morning, there was a 5K race held there. So all along the racecourse, people had written messages in chalk for the runners. There were arrows pointing the directions for the course, how many miles to go, and little encouragements for the runners. One “encouragement” in particular hit me: it said, “FASTER!”
And it stuck with me. I kept thinking about it as I was walking along, and I realized that I had a knee-jerk negative response to that message. And it’s because of this: The people reading that “FASTER” message were running in a race. And whether they were running it to get their fastest time, or simply just to finish, they were being pushed by others to go faster. As though, the pace they are going doesn’t meet expectations, or that the person who wrote that message believed that the racer could do better. And maybe I’m being a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins and reading too much into this…but hey, I was on a walk by myself and had time to reflect. But I just put myself in the racer’s shoes. Here I was, running the race, pushing myself, going as fast as I could, and I kept getting the message to GO FASTER. And that just didn’t sit quite well.
You see, recovery is like a race. It is not a sprint – it is a marathon. It is an every-day-for-the-rest-of-your-life commitment to choosing life and to nourishing your body, soul and spirit. And it is hard. It’s an endurance test. I mentioned in a previous post that recovery is more like a Tough Mudder. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of these extreme endurance challenges, but the Tough Mudder is a team-oriented, 12-mile obstacle course. When people finish up these insane tests of strength and perseverance, they’re covered head to toe in mud, soaking wet with sweat, physically exhausted and worn down…Yeah it’s more like that. Recovery is the hardest battle you’ll ever have to fight in your life. But you do it. Every day. So the thought that someone would be telling you to do recovery faster, or to do recovery better got me kinda wound up inside.
Just like every girl’s eating disorder and every girl’s “capital-L” Lie is different, so is her journey of recovery. Every girl’s road of recovery is different. The ultimate goal – the ultimate finish line – is the same, but the race will be run differently by all.
For some girls, yes, recovery is #PintParties and Big Macs, Frosty’s and chocolate. And that’s awesome. Truly. It makes me so genuinely excited and happy that some girls can tackle those fear foods right away and do that. So kudos to you. You’re an inspiration. Keep it up!
But for other girls, a #RecoveryWin is choosing to make her oatmeal in the morning with milk instead of water. Or a recovery win is choosing full fat yogurt over fat free. It’s choosing to eat 10 more almonds than yesterday. Having cheese on her sandwich. To her, those choices could be astronomical in significance. Or perhaps she had a little less guilt and anxiety sitting with the food in her stomach after a meal. Or she mindfully sat through the intense urge to exercise or purge, and didn’t. Perhaps she didn’t “body check” that day, or have as negative thoughts as the day before. These little things have great significance, and should be celebrated. And so for her, those little wins could be just as meaningful as eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s, maybe even more.
For her, these are the little things that should be celebrated – rejoiced in, even. Because here’s why: Even though the progress is slow, she is choosing life. She is consciously fighting back against ED and making the decision to choose recovery. She’s just still full of fear. Because it is scary. Recovery’s a bit like jumping out of an airplane and praying that the parachute will open. But the fact that she’s decided to take the journey should be celebrated and rejoiced in.
So for the girls reading this, I’ll just leave you with this one final thought: never compare your recovery with anyone else’s. Just because you’re not posting #PintParty pictures, or fast food porn, doesn’t mean that you’re failing or that you’re not good enough. Do I hope that one day you can enjoy a pint of ice cream and be at that point in recovery? Absolutely. But never discredit the tremendous strength and courage it took to say “yes” to recovery and to break the ED cycle and decide to nourish your body and fight back against the voice of ED.
When you hear the voice of ED tell you that you’re not worth recovery, that you’re not good enough, that you’re destined to fail, that you’re recovery should be going FASTER, or that it’s not as good as so-and-so’s recovery, remember: those are lies. You’re a warrior. And I want to cheer from the mountain tops for you when you choose to add a yolk to your egg scramble, or cheese to your sandwich, because I know how scary that seems, and how big of a deal it was to do that. So keep going. Keep fighting.
And here’s the last thing. Fighting back against ED is a muscle. And every time you have a “recovery win,” no matter how big or small, you’re strengthening that muscle. And the more you strengthen it, the easier fighting ED gets. And it will keep getting easier, until one day, a #PintParty will become a reality, and you can celebrate with your fellow EDwarriors on IG.
Recovery is a long journey, and although Instagram can sometimes make it feel like a race, or competition, remember: you’re doing the best you can. And that’s good enough. You’re good enough. And you don’t have to cross the finish line first – you just have to cross it. So when you receive messages along the racetrack telling you to go FASTER, just keep your eye on the finish line, and do the best you can. Do the next right thing. It’s not a race. It’s an endurance test. Some days you’ll sprint, others you’ll crawl, but the important thing is to finish the race. Don’t worry about how fast others are going around you. Focus on you. On your recovery. One day at a time. And don’t forget to celebrate and rejoice in the little recovery wins.