Wow y’all–I am so humbled and overwhelmed by all the positive feedback I got from my previous post about my personal struggle with disordered eating and body image. As promised, I am back to share some self-care practices I engage in now to prevent relapse into old thought patterns and behaviors. I am completely in recovery now, but I know myself and my obsessive personality tendencies, so I take certain steps to protect myself. These two have been biggies for me over the years in my eating disorder recovery:
1. I don’t weigh myself.
I get weighed exactly once a year when I go to my doctor for my annual wellness exam. That is it. I don’t even own a bathroom scale, and my God’s grace I am never even tempted to step on a scale if I go to someplace where there happens to be one. I still remember so vividly my unhealthy obsession with what the number on the scale said, and I don’t ever want to go back there!
2. I don’t participate in any fad diets, i.e. Whole 30, Paleo, etc
I am not saying these diets are wrong if you want to participate in them, and I admire all my friends who have given them a try. I simply know for myself that it would not be healthy for me to eliminate any specific category of food, And I honestly don’t have any desire to do that anyways. Tbh I love chocolate, ice cream, candy, snack foods, chips & salsa, and Chick-fil-a too much! I am a firm believer in all foods being okay in moderation. I do still enjoy healthy foods like salad, grilled chicken, and fruit, but you can bet I’m finishing that off with a good dessert! The only foods that are off limits to me are foods that I don’t like the taste (like fish!). I don’t eliminate any one type of food because I worry too much that once again an innocent attempt to be healthier could spiral out of control.
Honorable Mention: I don’t have a super intense or competitive workout routine
I am very consistent in my workout routine, because exercise is good for my overall health. Participating in moderate-intesnisty physical activity most days of the week reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. I also feel better on the days I am physically active. My workout routine consists of a 25-30 minute run at least five days a week. I also take at least one day off from running a week. When I run, I am focused on the duration of my workout and listening to music on my iPod, NOT how many calories I have burned. In fact, I prefer running outside to running on a treadmill. Even when it’s really cold in the winter, I still bundle up and run outside as long as it’s not raining or snowing.
And if I miss a day of working out and don’t make it five days in a given week, I don’t sweat it. No pun intended! I am not training for any races (I might be open to doing another 5K at some point, but I don’t make that the focus of my exercising), and I don’t do other types of workouts that could potentially be competitive in nature, such as CrossFit. This is because I believe that my performance anxiety played a role in my eating disorder (I will do another post at some point where I share my struggles with performance anxiety in greater detail), and I want to abstain from anything that might trigger performance anxiety, which might then trigger relapse.
Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond thankful for my time as a competitive swimmer and it was an overall positive experience. I truly believe everyone should do competitive sports at some point because they teach so many life lessons, including but not limited to dedication and perseverance. I simply believe that at this point in my life, it is healthiest for me to to focus my physical activity on general fitness rather than competition. (And let’s be honest—I get more than enough competition through cheering on my favorite sports teams!)
A couple weeks ago, my current therapist was telling me that since eating disorders are addictive in nature, recovery presents a challenge because you can’t abstain from food. But she did point out that abstaining from weighing myself is a great way for me to take care of myself and remain in recovery, since the number on the scale did trigger addictive behaviors and responses for me back in the day. Now that I’ve share a few of the biggest self-care preventative measures I take to eliminate the probability of a relapse, I want to share a couple of my favorite resources for raising eating disorders awareness:
Perfectly Imperfect by Marion Reeves
I took a special interest in this book because in addition to being a memoir of an eating disorder journey, the author, Marion Reeves, is from Greenville, SC, and is a current student at Clemson. That’s right—how impressive is it that she published a book when she was a sophomore in college. I definitely can’t imagine publishing an entire book now, much less when I was in college!
Perfectly Imperfect is a quick read, but is jam-packed with honesty, vulnerability, and hope. Marion Reeves chronicles her struggle with an eating disorder and depression, which were prevalent throughout her adolescent years and as you read you feel like you are walking right next to her on this journey. Marion is very candid with the raw emotions and feelings she experienced during her years battling an eating disorder and depression, and she does not hesitate at all to describe when she hit rock bottom the fall of her senior year in high school. While she is extremely authentic in her writing, Marion also takes great care to make sure she tells her story in a way that won’t present triggers for someone who is currently in the middle of their battle with an eating disorder.
She also shares about the healing and recovery process—she sought professional help and had a great support system of family & friends, but she also attributes her recovery to the Lord, and how He provided her with true hope, healing, and freedom from the bondage of her eating disorder. Also, I love that Marion is majoring in psychology and going to grad school to pursue a career in counseling to help others who are struggling with eating disorders.
I truly believe that one of the reasons God allows hardships in our lives is because He redeems them for His glory by enabling us to walk alongside and encourage others experiencing similar issues. I resonated with so much of Marion’s journey and couldn’t put this down! You can find out more about Perfectly Imperfect here. It is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
The NEDA website is one of the most comprehensive and informative resources available online for eating disorders education, awareness, and support. They have various fact sheets on eating disorder signs & symptoms, statistics, prevention, and treatment; resources to help you seek treatment, including the phone number for an eating disorders helpline.
I highly recommend taking this free screening tool they offer. If you take this screening tool and it suggests that you seek professional help due to an unhealthy relationship with food and body image, PLEASE take action immediately! Remember, you do not need to meet all the clinical criteria for anorexia or bulimia to have a significant issue in need of professional intervention. The sooner you seek help, the better!
I hope that my self-care strategies and these resources can encourage and inspire someone who is currently struggling with an eating disorder. Recovery is so possible, and no struggle is ever wasted. God has is always at work and He has big plans for how He wants to use your unique story and struggles!