“But you don't look overly skinny, you seem healthy!"
This is just about the worst thing you can say to an individual struggling with disordered eating.
No, I don't eat three pieces of celery and drink gallons upon gallons of water a day to suppress the hunger cravings we all experience. No, I don't go to the gym and sweat off every calorie I consume in order to cancel it all out. I'm not emaciated. I'm not even starving. But I'm definitely not nourishing my body.
Yes, I do spend every waking second worrying about my body.
Yes, I do have a disgusted voice in the back of my head yelling at me with each bite of food I eat.
Yes, I binge on a pint of Ben and Jerry's at 10 p.m. that I “deserve" to indulge in after not eating all day, only to later hate myself and feel overwhelmed with regret.
Yes, I go to the gym, but solely out of self-obligation to justify my unhealthy choices throughout the day. I stare at the number of calories burned on the treadmill rather than going as a stress reliever or to boost endorphins.
No, I do not have a healthy relationship with food.
So there's that.
However, the first step is acknowledging something isn't right. I consider that progress!
But why do I still have episodes where I feel I can eat whatever I choose with no remorse? Why do I feel the only way to lose those extra few pounds and ultimately feel comfortable in my own skin requires a caloric deficit that results in a lack of basic energy to go about my typical day? Why can't I just get a grip?
Disordered eating is an unhealthy lifestyle many don't even realize is a struggle of their own. It's not quite classified as an eating disorder, though it's definitely on the spectrum. But most just don't want to admit they're struggling because of the stigma and stereotypes that come with anorexia.
How awful does that sound, right? Because a "good" anorexic person would never opt to indulge in that piece of cake or that bag of chips in the first place.
But you, well, you let yourself indulge. You eat the cake. Then, of course, you're inevitably consumed with your own self-hatred. Hating yourself because you can't just bite the bullet and starve yourself. Hating yourself because you can't just flaunt your body on Instagram like those confident influencers promoting body positivity.
So where's the light at the end of the tunnel?
Based on personal experience, it isn't just the flip of a switch that allows you to “accept your body." Moreover, It isn't the flip of a switch that allows you to become a "good" anorexic, deciding to starve yourself with the result of accelerated weight loss. If that were the case, sure, I would lose weight.
But with my alarming weight loss, so would come many health risks. In addition, let's say I decide to let my body to recover and practice a normal diet again—I would trigger all the weight gain that I was always trying to avoid. My metabolism would literally send me a “WTF" text if it had a mind (and human capabilities) of its own.
Disordered eating involves extremes on both ends of the spectrum. Instant gratification and the need to look skinny immediately is the root of the disorder. But that's not the way it works. It's the perfect real-life example of the old folk tale The "Tortoise and the Hare."
Who knew our kindergarten lessons could be so applicable to adult-life situations?
I'm currently in the process of trying to balance out the spectrum for myself. Tt's no walk in the park. There's a lot of guilt, setbacks, etc. that come with any healthy-living journey. But it's imperative to remember it's not about instant gratification. I'm not going to look toned, healthy, and lean tomorrow. I may not even look that way in a few months. I need to nourish my body and give it a chance to reach a balance. I need to eat enough throughout the day to avoid late night cravings and regret. I need to learn exercise isn't just to lose weight, but it's to treat my body with the love and respect it deserves.
I know I need to do all these things. And I'm confident I will. But for right now? All I need to do is congratulate myself for recognizing that things needed to be done. And to always remember that I am a tortoise. Not a hare. Slow and steady wins the race, every darn time.