The Dark Side of Eating Disorder Recovery

I started Sprinkles in Bed with a goal of inspiring and encouraging others, and to highlight the positive aspects of the eating disorder recovery process. If you have dealt with an E.D., however, you know it’s impossible to stay in a place of positivity on a regular basis. Sometimes the journey is downright hard. I’m trudging my way through one of those difficult times now, so I thought I’d keep it real and share the dark side of my own recovery from binge-eating disorder.

Repetitive Food Thoughts Shifted to Negative Body Thoughts
I’ve always been critical of my appearance, but I didn’t start truly hating my body until I started my recovery journey. Part of that hatred came from no longer “numbing out” with food, but my self-loathing was also a result of letting go of dieting.

I always held onto a thread of hope that the next diet would whip me into shape, so I tended to focus on what my body might look like one day instead of the realities of the body I was living in. It’s extremely difficult to give up on the hope of being “better” or “smaller” or “more beautiful” one day. When I gave up dieting, I also realized that most commercials and other marketing schemes are intentionally telling women to hate who they currently are and focus on the future.

Wising up and noticing these messages was a massive shift for me, and I am still navigating the lies society shoves down women’s throats each and every day. When I started really feeling my feelings again (because I wasn’t stuffing them down), I had an overwhelming flood of negative thoughts and anger. Unfortunately, my body got the brunt of my bitterness.

I Didn’t Know Who I Was
Every single personal goal I made for 15+ years was tied to weight loss. Every time I moved my body, it was to burn calories. The more my body ached the day after a workout, the better. “Good days” and “bad days” depended on my calorie intake, the step count on my Fitbit, and the number on the scale. When I stopped tracking, I realized I had no idea who I really was. My identity was tied up in numbers.

Of course, there is an upside to having more brain space and time after giving up dieting. Honestly, I wasn’t ready to tackle big life problems and I was in desperate need of a new outlet. I had quit running because exercise played a big part in my disorder, but running was a part of my identity as well as a stress reliever. I felt like I needed to start with a clean slate in order to get to know myself again.

I Felt Out of Control
When I gave up my Fitbit and the scale, I also quit tracking my food and stopped meal planning altogether. I was winging it, and food completely lost its appeal. Foods were no longer “good” or “bad,” and I was disappointed to find that food wasn’t fun for me at all anymore. With no cheat days or rules, the act of choosing meals or snacks just seemed like work. I felt no joy in it. I was sure that I would keep gaining weight forever. It was a strange mix of feeling blah and out of control.

I Let Other Things Go, Too
Because my life had always been very black and white, giving up dieting also led me to becoming lax with finances. It’s difficult to be strict in some areas and completely let go in others. Historically, I would swing from being on top of every dollar to saying “screw it, life’s too short for this shit.” I had no concept of balance. This is an area I continue to struggle with.

Not Everyone Appreciated My Newfound Voice
Thanks to author Anita Johnston, I learned that recovery would require me finding my voice. For years, I was a follower. I’d just go along with others’ opinion, claiming that I was open-minded. I truly believed that!

As it turns out, I do have my own opinions and when I started voicing them, it seemed like my loved ones started dropping like flies. It’s not that my views are over the top… My family and friends just weren’t used to me speaking up. Looking back, I needed those people to step out of my life for me to finally move forward.

I Felt Like I Was on Another Planet
One thing that becomes clear quickly during eating disorder recovery is that a disordered frame of mind is completely normal in our society. It has become abnormal not to be on a diet or to be content with one’s body. We’re taught to rely on external factors to help us decide whether we’re “okay.”

I found so many Facebook and Instagram posts triggering in the beginning stages of recovery, and once again I felt like I had no voice because the battle was just too big to take on.

I cleaned house on social media and started following fellow body positive folks. A huge part of my healing, also, was unplugging completely from Facebook for several weeks. Whether it’s advertisements or acquaintances’ posts, it’s impossible to stay in a positive frame of mind while scrolling through triggering images and messages.

I Gained Weight
My worst fear came true, and I live to tell about it! I’ve always teetered on that line between “plus sizes” and “normal sizes,” and I always hated that I wasn’t one of those women who could shop in the juniors section. When I started recovery, I had gained a significant amount of weight, and throughout the intuitive eating process, I gained more weight. I wasn’t one of those people who lost weight in recovery, and I’ll be honest… I hated that more than anything. I thought the weight gain would never stop, but sure enough, it did.

Coming to terms with being a plus size woman and learning to be okay with my appearance has been the most difficult part of my journey. I remember a time when I felt amazing in my clothes, but I also recall the torture I put myself through to fit into a size I’m just not meant to be in. My husband and kids love me, I have great friends and a thriving career doing what I always dreamed of. I’m thankful for all I have, and I have to believe that one day my body will be on that list.

Despite the Heartaches, Recovery Is Worth It
Yes, recovery has chewed me up and spit me out. It has been exhausting and scary. But it has also let me grow into the real me. I’m still getting to know the person I was meant to be, and little by little, I’m growing to like her. Maybe one day I’ll love her.


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