6 Things I Learned From Recovering From Anorexia

6 Things I Learned From Recovering From Anorexia

After three years of battling anorexia and several following months of recovery, I can finally say I am happy.

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!

Cover Image Credit: Ren Bishop

Popular Right Now

To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

In Real Life, 'Plus Size' Means A Size 16 And Up, Not Just Women Who Are Size 8's With Big Breasts

The media needs to understand this, and give recognition to actual plus-size women.


Recently, a British reality dating TV show called "Love Island" introduced that a plus-sized model would be in the season five lineup of contestants. This decision was made after the show was called out for not having enough diversity in its contestants. However, the internet was quick to point out that this "plus-size model" is not an accurate representation of the plus-size community.

@abidickson01 on twitter.com

Anna Vakili, plus-size model and "Love Island "Season 5 Contestant Yahoo UK News

It is so frustrating that the media picks and chooses women that are the "ideal" version of plus sized. In the fashion world, plus-size starts at size 8. EIGHT. In real life, plus-size women are women who are size 16 and up. Plunkett Research, a marketing research company, estimated in 2018 that 68% of women in America wear a size 16 to 18. This is a vast difference to what we are being told by the media. Just because a woman is curvy and has big breasts, does NOT mean that they are plus size. Marketing teams for television shows, magazines, and other forms of media need to realize that the industry's idea of plus size is not proportionate to reality.

I am all for inclusion, but I also recognize that in order for inclusion to actually happen, it needs to be accurate.

"Love Island" is not the only culprit of being unrealistic in woman's sizes, and I don't fully blame them for this choice. I think this is a perfect example of the unrealistic expectations that our society puts on women. When the media tells the world that expectations are vastly different from reality, it causes women to internalize that message and compare themselves to these unrealistic standards.

By bringing the truth to the public, it allows women to know that they should not compare themselves and feel bad about themselves. Everyone is beautiful. Picking and choosing the "ideal" woman or the "ideal" plus-size woman is completely deceitful. We as a society need to do better.

Related Content

Facebook Comments