TW/CW – disordered eating, eating disorder talk, intentional weight loss.
These two pictures popped up on my Timehop recently, and they prompted some serious inner reflection about my eating disorder recovery. In these pictures, I was shopping for my wedding dress and had found “the dress,” but the process was, in a word, terrible. I was so engrossed in my eating disorder that it quite literally took the joy out of everything. Mind you; I did not realize how sick I was at this point.
Here I am, during what should have been an exciting day…I found my freaking wedding dress, and instead, I am angry and disgusted. Why? Because I was not “thin enough.” I was starving myself, over-exercising, banning foods, abusing laxatives, over-hydrating, and restricting my intake. My mom took these pictures of me in the Bridal shop, and I was so discouraged. I could not even fake a smile. Look at my face. I am not even looking at the camera. I refused to show them to anyone afterward. Ironic that I am posting them on the internet now, huh? Life is funny.
I vividly remember this day and those feelings. I was beside myself that I was not at my “goal.” I was miserable. I had put off dress shopping for as long as I could. After this day, I would like to tell you that I stopped the craziness and sought help for the deeply rooted struggles I was experiencing around feeding my body, but I did not. I actually turned the screws even tighter as I only had about 6 months to my big day and I was determined. It would take another year or so before I sought and received the help I needed, which was not an easy road (thanks to medical bias and pervasive fatphobia), but I will save that story for another blog post.
In some twisted way, I guess I achieved my “goal” of being a “thin bride,” but what did I lose in the process? Spoiler alert – it was more than weight, which was temporary at best. I lost myself. I was so laser-focused on my weight that I missed the joy of planning a wedding and of life. I constantly feared what my actions would mean to my caloric intake for the day or my ability to over-exercise. I developed new rules for what “healthy” was and exercised beyond the point of healthy movement by any definition. I was a mess.
Shortly after the wedding, my body began to fight me back as it had done in the past, but this time was different. This was an all-out revolt against my destructive behavior. My body waged war on me, and you know what, it won. I surrendered. I knew I was in too deep with my eating disorder. My body was more intelligent than I was, and knew that I could not sustain my developed habits. So my body went into survival mode. Since I was a teenager, I had been battling my undiagnosed eating disorder, and the cycling became more extreme with every new diet. Finally, it was time to stop the madness.
Unfortunately, with my family history, these struggles are encoded in my DNA and generational, so naturally, I would struggle with this as well. Still, I am damn proud that the cycle breaks with me, and I am doing the healing work. I identify as being “in recovery” as this is still an evolving journey, but I am happy and healthy now.
The wildest thing is that the depths of my destructive behavior flew under the radar, and I was praised for my efforts as I did not look “sick.” I was never the stereotypical “look” of someone with an eating disorder, so how could I be doing anything wrong? From the outside, I appeared dedicated and driven. I was an example of “weight loss success.” How messed up is that? Thanks, diet culture!
Anyway, back to the pics. When these popped up recently, I felt sad for the girl in the pictures. I know how much pain she was in, the inner turmoil consuming her, and the shame that she felt. But I also feel relief and gratitude when I look at these pictures as I had the support and the self-advocacy skills to get the help I needed. As they say, this was my rock bottom, and I was ready for a new way of life.
I am relieved to be out of the diet culture chaos and embracing my body for the amazing things it does for me every day. It took a long time to get to this point, and I don’t ever mean to imply that healing from an eating disorder is easy. My whole existence and belief systems were challenged in the process, and truthfully I was shattered to my core, but I was ready for change. I went through a grieving process and had to mourn the loss of my thin body. I felt defeated. I felt like my body failed me. It took a long time to understand that my body actually saved me.
Reconnecting with my body, learning to practice Intuitive Eating as part of my eating disorder recovery, and just being ok with being me was an incredible process. But, first, I had to redefine my world to recognize that I am beautiful. I am worthy. I am loved, and I am enough. And none of that is related to the scale. I could not have achieved this without the support system of my husband, mom, and my eating disorder dietician, Anna Sweeney who held space for me pointing me in the right direction and showing me that it was ok to let go. And you know what, that was freeing AF.
If you are struggling with your relationship with food or eating disorder recovery and are looking for advice, please reach out. I would welcome the opportunity to share resources with you, support you on your journey, and help you take control of your health & well-being. And be sure to check out the Dr. MC Self-Care Cabaret podcast and my recently launched swag shop.