It’s been only seven months since I reached a healthy weight after an almost three year struggle with anorexia. I plummeted and stayed in weight and for the majority of those three years, my weight mediated between a scarily low weight of 80-92 pounds. For a 5’ 4 ½” teen girl, I was a walking stick, my ribs sticking out, my wrist and elbow and ankle bones protruding out, my cheeks sunken in with dark, hollow circles around my eyes. I was pale and exhausted constantly, I hated myself and my body and the more weight I lost, the better I felt—for a time. After losing another pound, the satisfaction was still never enough, and I was prepared to run myself into the ground to feel okay and content with myself for once.

Then in March 2016, I decided it was time to gain weight. I was supposed to be hospitalized by then on about three occasions, I’d been threatened to be sent off to a recovery center out of state many times, and I was on the verge of always passing out and my teeth and bones decaying. Of course, there were many many more consequences and problems that were happening, but I decided that after 2 ½ years and now almost nineteen years old, I needed to gain weight.

At first, weight gain was a struggle because I naturally have a higher metabolism, but I was also scared to gain weight. Just because I logically decided to gain weight doesn’t mean I actually wanted to. Even after finally reaching a healthy weight of at least 110 pounds six months later, I wasn’t happy with my new body, and I wasn’t accepting of having to gain it, too.

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I finally almost completely accepted that my eating disorder is something to be left in the past, and that I am beautiful as I am, that there is no need to fear food or fear my own body. I realized that I was content, that I had beat my eating disorder, and that I had a life to begin reliving in this new, healthy, and happy body. And the lessons I learned by recovering and accepting recovery are going to always stick with me, so when that little voice telling me to count calories, over-exercise, not eat, etc etc. creeps back up (as it sometimes does), I can tell it confidently: no.

1. My body and weight do not define my beauty and worth.

This one is hard to remind myself of sometimes, but I’ve finally realized it’s true. Personality makes or breaks a person, no matter how attractive he or she is, and yes, physical attraction is a huge bonus, but it’s the soul and mind that make an individual so beautiful. It’s not weight, whether extremely low or high or perfectly healthy that make a person so wonderful, it’s the spirit. And no person has the exact same body type and shape and weight, which is what makes each of us so unique and beautiful in our own way. A number on a scale or measuring tape in a certain place does not define worth or beauty on its own.

2. Food isn't scary.

Actually, food is great. Food is exciting and delicious; it sparks my taste buds and makes my tummy and head happy, after all, “hangry” is a thing. Not to mention, there are so many restaurants everywhere that are so fun and unique, and going out with people to these places and guiltlessly eating up various cuisines not only tastes good, but makes for good memories. Plus, there’s the aphrodisiac foods that make time with a significant other much more special (and I mean, candlelit dinner and not being afraid to eat the food makes for a great night). Plus, cooking is so much fun, and it’s even better when you actually get to eat what you make and not be worried about it.

3. Being healthy feels good.

At a healthy weight, I actually have more energy and stamina to do things. Before, I couldn’t do certain activities because doctors would not allow me for many reasons, so I couldn’t run, do Pilates or dance groups, play contact sports, etc. otherwise I literally could break in two or pass out in a few minutes. That doesn’t mean it didn’t stop me because I had such a drive to burn calories, but it does mean that if I did try, I’d face horrible consequences either during, right after, or for several days, even when I wasn’t working as hard as a regular person might. So now, I jog again and I can play sports and have more energy and fun. No more walking from one room to the other and feeling shaky and out of breath.

4. I get more compliments now.

When I was anorexic, yeah, I would get compliments that I was cute or something, but most compliments were things that probably weren’t always meant as one, but I took as a compliment, and that was, “You’re so skinny!” Now, people tell me more often compliments on my body and how curvaceous or beautiful it is, and rather than taking them to heart to fulfill some worth in me, I just say thanks and smile and let it slide off. And it helps that I have more energy, because my personality can shine through more and brighter, which also gets a lot of compliments. Plus, when you don’t look like you’re on the verge of death each minute, you look more alive which makes people notice you more.

5. I am much less selfish.

The whole thing about an eating disorder is self-absorption and an obsession with food that goes into your body. You focus all of your energy 24/7 on your body and how you look and how much you degrade and despise yourself. You compare yourself to others and put yourself first, such as avoiding meals with people, or cancelling plans because you know food is involved. You go out of your way to convenience yourself when it comes to food and your weight. You don’t think about others and how they feel as they watch you slowly kill yourself. You just want to be thinner, thinner, thinner. Recovering and beating my eating disorder as made me substantially less selfish. Now, I put other first, I listen and act accordingly, I realize that I can’t make the world cater to my wishes and sometimes I have to give up something to help someone else. I have more sympathy and compassion for others, and I love to help when someone is in need, or just to make someone happy. Plus, when I notice someone light up in joy from something I’ve done for them, it makes my own soul happy and makes me feel I have a purpose, more than just being an extremely low weight to feel I have a purpose.

6. I have more care, support, and love than I ever realized.

Eating disorders exclude an individual from the people they care about and who care about them. It utterly crushed my parents, my brother, extended family, and my friends and teachers who would see me so thin and lifeless and consistently doing everything in my power to stay that way. They would reach out, try to help and express their concerns, but I wouldn’t listen or pay attention because in my head, my eating disorder was clouding my thoughts with negativity, hopelessness, and worthlessness. So many times I would get into arguments with people who cared about me and wanted me to get better, all because I couldn’t see that I had worth and notice that they really cared about me. So, instead I wouldn’t listen and I’d do more in my power to make sure I wouldn’t get better. I would literally isolate myself from the people that cared about me, I wouldn’t respond to things either, and I wasn’t lively when I had to be around or talk to the people who cared about me. Recovering made me finally realize all the support I had while deep in my anorexia and while getting out of it. I had no idea how much people cared and supported me, which did, in some cases, make me lose friends. Now, I openly acknowledge that people care about me, and I try my best to show my appreciation when they do. If I didn’t have all the care and support and love behind me, I honestly don’t think I would’ve recovered or I could be dead by now. I originally recovered for someone who, at the time, cared about me, and if he hadn’t come into my life and cared, I easily and more than likely would not be recovered by now.

***If you or a loved one has an eating disorder or is suspected of having one, please do your research on eating disorders and how to approach them, particularly if you are educating yourself for or because of someone else you know with one. There are many resources online and in books to learn the complexity and approaches to eating disorders. Keep in mind, that eating disorders are warped and sinister things, so you must give it time to help and make an impact to recover. Also keep in mind that recovery is possible and everyone recovers in his or her own way. Offer love, support, care, and compassion, and look for any life-threatening signs and decide the best course of action. The important thing is to educate yourself on eating disorders before any further action to help!