It’s usually within the first couple months of the year that people start eating better and keeping up with their gym visits. Magazines and internet articles feature topics related to getting back into shape after the holiday season, and gym memberships increase because people are in the mood for change. I mean, hey, who doesn’t want to feel better about themselves physically? I’m all for positive change, especially because health and exercise are so important for us to maintain and remain committed to.
But when it comes to goals that involve food, there is one people don’t typically talk about: disordered eating disguised as a “resolution.” Whatever it is that drives us to complete something can come from a positive place of change and intention, or a toxic state of mind and reckless way of thinking. My disordered eating, though seasonal, has always stemmed from a toxic place. I began to learn, understand and accept this part of myself within the last two years of my recovery.
My Unhealthy Relationship with Food
My relationship with food has always been toxic, and from one extreme to the next. In the worst parts of my eating disorder, I became obsessed with numbers. The calories printed in the nutrition facts, my weight, the number of calories I burned in cardio that day, and how many calories I still needed to burn to achieve a calorie deficit. When that wasn’t enough, I sometimes worked out until I thought I did enough activity for the day.
There were also times when the number held little value, and I could justify putting anything I wanted into my body. There was very little I didn’t tell myself, just to get a fix of whatever I was craving at the time. When I wasn’t obsessing over numbers, I obsessed over taste, and I never truly reached a point that I felt satisfied. I lost count of the number of times I ate to the point of physical pain, but even when I was in that state, I was still able to talk myself into eating “just one more thing.”
Even in my recovery, I have found my relationship with food to be one of the toughest things to change. Food has always been a kind of game in my life, and removing the fears about it is something I still have to work on every day. I allow myself to live in the moment and eat what makes me happy, and I’m getting better at being honest with myself when I turn to food as a coping mechanism. The most important thing I do differently now that I am in recovery is to give myself permission to make mistakes, and I remind myself that my value is not based on a number on a scale.
The Importance of Being Honest
It can be easy to keep our thoughts to ourselves, especially when they become destructive, and we begin to feel shame about them. But whenever we hide something that causes us pain and find something that eases the discomfort, our pain manifests itself into other parts of our lives. In this case, whatever it is we’re trying to avoid forces us to cope in some other way, such as by eating — or not eating.
There are a handful of behaviors (listed below) I recognize in myself when I feel my disordered eating thoughts start to creep back in. When I exhibit these behaviors, I know there must be something I need to address, confront or abandon. When I notice myself falling into one of these categories, I don’t avoid it; I force myself to feel it so I can improve and heal.
My Negative Behaviors:
- My ability to restrict myself from eating anything, even when I’m starving
- My inability to control myself from eating more when emotionally coping with food
- My ability to calculate and keep track of everything I put in my mouth
- My inability to care about the repercussions I may face after binge eating
- My ability to justify my actions and live in denial of what I’m really doing, or avoiding
- My inability to admit that what I need most is help
Check Your Motives
It’s extremely important that we make healthy changes with pure motives, and that our intentions come from a place of good mental health. When we’re able to admit that we need help with how we approach food, we can begin to change the relationship we have with our bodies, and the food we put into it.
Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually should always be your No. 1 priority. Even if you have disordered thoughts today, that doesn’t mean you’ll have disordered thoughts forever. You can always choose to heal. It begins with being honest with yourself.