In an addicts world, at some point, you hear the phrase, 'change your playground, change your playmates". It's exactly what it sounds like. Usually the people and places an addict surrounds himself or herself with encourage the addiction. It's hard to keep doing anything that is contrary to those around us. Even the worst behavior feels normal when it surrounds us. So, as someone in recovery from an eating disorder I've done this throughout my life. Obviously different from not going in a bar or hanging out with a sketchy crowd, what does that mean for someone in recovery from an eating disorder.
I've worked hard to be able to ignore the magazines at the checkout stand and their thousands of taglines about losing weight and the perfect body. I can quickly delete the email from Runners World claiming to have the magical (and necessary according to them) lose ten pounds. I don't listen to idle chat around the office that has gone from a relatively body talk free zone to a gaggle of body dissatisfaction and wedding weight loss efforts. I've learned to walk away. I've learned I can't let those things surround me as normal- especially when some of those dissatisfied have nothing tot worry about (most of them),
And them came facebook, where the walk away is much more complicated. This is because, in part, you just don't notice. The 'friend' count grew to include high school and college folks. What this really meant was I was losing more and more control over my feed. These were people I no longer really knew. In my small little world of those days I was the only one obsessed with starving myself and changing my body. Everyone else was happy; which furthered my fear that something was wrong with me and it had to be fixed.
Those nearly twenty years later, post babies, our twenties, and whatever else later, I was finding that i had grown to appreciate my body, but seemingly everyone on my feed hadn't. I noticed the beach body posts spoke a little louder, the shakeology posts I lingered on. Until I got mad at where all these other people's dissatisfaction was taking me. They were taking me out of a place I fought for. I fought through a pain I never want to redo
For me shakeology, and these other variety of 'nutritional' shakes mean you are sick. They mean you have to use them because your stomach just can't take eating any more food that has bulk. I have real issue with suggesting that drinking a shake has any place in normalized healthy eating, unless you are in a position to need a dose of extra calories that you just can;t stomach to eat. Because a normal, healthy life with food involves eating all colors, all tastes, all consistencies.
I can't tell you how many people I've unfollowed. There's always one that slips through like happened tonight. And she will be unfollowed too. I wish the best for people. I'm sorry I won't get to see the pictures of her baby as she grows. But, I have to protect my playground by keeping an eye on who my playmates are.
What if we could just say no. What if you could just tell you mind that you weren't interested in what it's selling. That's what the alcoholics do isn't it. They learn to just walk past the bar. They learn to change their playground. They learn to change their playmates. They learn to just say no. The argument has always been that you can't say no to food. It's not the same as alcohol. We need to eat. But, what if we could just say no.
You can't say no to food. For some, saying no to food is what got this whole thing so screwy in the first place. You can say no to your eating disorder. Your eating disorder is just a system of predictable thoughts that have learned to have a system of predictable behaviors. An alcoholic learns that walking in to a bar produces a system of predictable results. On the other end of the bottle are blackouts, fights with family, possibly domestic altercations, losses of jobs, etc.. What's on the other end of the predictable behaviors of your eating disorder?
Follow your thoughts for a minute. I sign up to believe I'm not perfect- let's pretend this is purely a body image comment (even though we know this type of thought is triggered from a real life interpretation of not being perfect at something unrelated to body image). What quickly follows is restriction- an effort to perfect the body. Think about how this done. Manipulation. Isolation. Shrinking life down- or likely there isn't much life going on already. Signing up to listen to the messages of not being perfect lead to what is on the other end.
Saying no isn't easy. It's hard when your mind is yelling at you to not eat that one more bite. It's hard when that one more bite says you won't be perfect. It's what eating that one more bite might also mean. It might mean the end of isolation. It might mean no longer participating in manipulation. It might mean living life. It might mean choices and strength. It might mean a life without fear. Say no.
Don't say no to food. It's not toxic like alcohol. Say no to your eating disorder. Say no to letting your life be controlled by something that no longer has your best interest. Say no to not believing in your own power. Say no to letting someone else tell you how you need to be and hiding behind it. Say yes to yourself. Say yes to your choices. Say yes to believing in your own power. Being empowered is beautiful. Don't let your eating disorder rob you of the opportunity to show the world your power. Be your own superhero.
Children eat up life. They run towards things. They eat them up. Young children aren't typically afraid of saying it like it is. It's the way they talk to each other. It's the way they interact with themselves. They act out what they've learn from their environment with their toys. My daughter will mimic activities I have done with her with her dolls. Almost everything is an experience to be had- even when she says no to something, she's got something else lined up to do instead. While she can lose her voice and be shy in her asking sometimes, she tends to tackle life without restriction.
How interesting that the words used to describe her behavior will describe our interaction with food. We have an insatiable appetite or will choose to restrict our food intake. How significant is it that restricting our food intake is the same as restricting our 'selves'. Those childlike insatiable appetite 'selves' that are hungry for life- love, friends, compassion, empathy. Restricting our 'selves' keeps us from being hungry for life. We show the symptoms by restricting food- a basic human need just as necessary as love, friends, compassion, and empathy.
A client relatively new to recovery came in expressing fear over the process of re-feeding, where all she finds herself doing is thinking about food. She described this insatiable appetite. I was quick to point out that anorexia is also a life of thinking about food all the time, in a much different way. The quest to live in absence of food creates a relationship that is constantly about food- the avoidance of. It can be a romantic relationship of yearning and longing. As the re-feeding begins and continues it isn't uncommon to constantly think about food. Removing the idea of restriction returns the mind to ideas of discovering wants aside from food.
The depths of the eating disorder shrink down one's world piece by piece until the relationship with it is all that matters. Friends drift away. Social engagements drift away. Hobbies drift away. Life essentially drifts away. When the eating disorder is asked to leave through no longer agreeing to restrict life through the restriction of food it opens up that insatiable appetite. It isn't for food, but for life. For friends. For social engagements. For hobbies. For the self and it's opinions, wants, loves, joys, and pains. It's the insatiable appetite seen only through food that is scary. It's critical to see that the eating disorder teaches us to avoid feelings entirely through communicating strictly through rules around food. Crucial to healing is replacing the communication about food with communication about our feelings.
The insatiable appetite my client described could be traced through her day to numerous interactions with loneliness, but feelings are so far away from how she has learned to communicate with herself that she had no idea the interactions of her day had caused her any pain. They had only caused an insatiable appetite that wouldn't go away and all day she wanted more. She needed more connection, more care, more compassion, more interest, more love. It's the depth of how big the fear of appetite is that can keep someone from recovering. Appetite isn't always about food. It's about learning to live. It's about turning the light back on in the soul and responding to it's needs for emotional nourishment. It's there that recovery can be found.