The other day at work, I noticed that there were blue and green balloons that were tied to some of the chairs. Attached to them were laminated cards that said either “Someone dies from an eating disorder every 62 minutes” or “Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate out of any mental illnesses” for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
While yes, spreading awareness is always a good thing, I felt like there was so much more information that could’ve been put on these cards. I’ve never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, but in high school I struggled with a negative relationship with food. I lost a lot of weight and developed unhealthy habits. It was one of the most miserable times in my life. I was stuck in an endless cycle of going to school, doing homework, and going to work.
I felt like I couldn’t get anything right. I had tried out for a volleyball team the previous summer, and as I was a junior with no experience, I didn’t make it even though I attended every single workout and the couch would use me as an example for drills. I was in advanced math/science classes, but I was with younger students. My parents were always arguing, and my brother wouldn’t talk to me unless he was making fun of me. My ‘friends’ stopped inviting me out, so I would sit at home on Facebook scrolling through all the fun things they’d done without me. I stopped eating healthily and exercised like crazy, and while my parents were worried, all of my coworkers and classmates simply thought I should be a model.
But I didn’t want to simply be a ‘pretty face’ (not saying that models are, but that’s how I felt when all I cared about was food and exercising and how I looked). I wanted to help other people, but I couldn’t do that when all I did was destroy myself. While I was able to get better, I know it’s a difficult journey for anyone who experiences it.
But that’s enough about me. I’m not a psychologist or anything, but as someone who went through it a little bit, I wanted to share a few things that helped. These are a bit vague and can probably be applied to a variety of mental health topics, but I hope they help you!
You are more than a number
Whether it’s a statistic, the weight on the scale, a grade in your class, etc., you are so much more than a number. You are a human being who deserves to be happy. Everyone has different body types and talents, and nobody’s perfect. Everyone is unique, and even if you can’t see it, there’s something beautiful about everyone.
Only you have the power to save yourself
People can offer all the help that they can, but you’re not going to get any better if you’re not on board with it. Recovery is going to make you do things that you won’t enjoy doing, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own (getting help is a good thing!), but you do have to have the right mindset.
Don’t push people away
Your family and friends only want to help you, and some might not understand exactly what you’re going through. I’ve been on both ends of this, and it can be frustrating both ways. It’s important not to push people away. You need people to support you, and it’s really nice to have people to talk to when you’re going through a rough time.
You have to get better physically AND emotionally
While yes, you have to eat healthily to get better, you’ll also have to identify why you developed an eating disorder in the first place. Otherwise you’ll keep resorting back to it.
Find a hobby
Find something that makes you feel alive. Painting, writing, music, anything. Since I’ve always been athletic, I started playing sports again after I had been recovering. It really helped me stay on track because in order to play well, I had to eat the nutrients I need. It prevented me from relapsing.
You are going to have bad days. Certain things will trigger you. You’ll feel like recovering is a waste of time, but you have to stay strong. You’ve been relying on unhealthy habits for a while, and you’ll miss it. You’ll slip up and make mistakes. But you’re doing what’s best for you. There’s so much more to life than counting calories.
“Get off the scale! I have yet to see a scale that can tell you how enchanting your eyes are. I have yet to see a scale that can show you how wonderful your hair looks when the sun shines its glorious rays on it. I have yet to see a scale that can thank you for your compassion, sense of humor, and contagious smile. Get off the scale because I have yet to see one that can admire you for your perseverance when challenged in life.” -Steve Maraboli
Also, if you ever need anyone to talk to, please contact me! Whether it be email, twitter, a comment, I’m there for you. You can also check out NEDA’s (National Eating Disorders Association) website for some more resources.