Tonight, the Bachelorette starts and I am pumped. I also am grateful. For the past few weeks, every time I turned on the Bachelor in Paradise (lol), I legitimately felt gratitude stirring in my heart. Which sounds ridiculous if you have ever seen BIP, but it’s where I am at. Every week day, I sit across from my awesome, brave clients that are in the trenches battling disordered eating. Turning on BIP is a small reminder of just how wonderful recovery is and the hope I have for my each and every single client of mine.
The words “eating disorder recovery” or “food freedom” can feel really big. Maybe unattainable..like, what a nice concept but that will never happen for me. Recovery is such a long, hard process we expect there to be this finish line moment – “whew, I finally made it.”
That wasn’t my experience. And it’s why I hate the word “recovered.” I first went through eating disorder treatment in 8th grade (I think??). I remember seeing my RD and therapist regularly with some wins and struggles and then I remember being in a good enough place it stopped. Then came senior year of high school, I felt a good bit of shame that I was “recovered” so this couldn’t possibly be an eating disorder, it’s fine. It continued through the first bit of college when my mom encouraged me to see my dietitian again. Recovered is past tense, implying the work has already been done, it’s over. It’s a term that brought a great deal of shame and prevented me from seeking help when I needed it again. So that’s why when I talk about recovery, I shy away from the word recovered.
Recovery isn’t a crossing the finish line feeling. It’s a “wow, this is so much better” feeling coupled with intentionality, gratitude, reflection, and awareness. Recovery is the quietness of going through a whole day of meals, snacks, and desserts and waking up the next day realizing you didn’t experience a single ED thought or feeling. Recovery is the nonchalance of a rest day. Recovery is releasing a deep sigh, acknowledging the hard, making room for it, and taking care of yourself regardless. Recovery is the neutrality felt toward trying a new restaurant or going to a potluck.
Recovery for me looks like watching most shows in the Bachelor franchise, reading non-fiction, non-work-related books, going to pumpkin patches, playing with new eyeshadow palettes, planning trips, buying Christmas gifts for loved ones. All things that seemingly don’t add a whole lot of value to my life are also things that I now feel so much gratitude around. Life with food rules is all-consuming. Between the compulsive exercise or calculating what-to-and-what-not-to eat took up all my time – I didn’t have time for “stupid” things that wasted it.
Now I realize, the Bachelor (while it is problematic re: no body diversity on the show at all, and only just recently racial diversity is prioritized) and time with my Kindle aren’t wasted time. Decorating for the holidays or stalking Google Flights are both reminders that I don’t live for my eating disorder anymore. They are little, small joys. They are times for rest. They are times for me to exist without a goal in mind.
Here’s a journal prompt for you: Where in my life with an eating disorder is there room for seemingly meaningless, small joys? In what ways does my eating disorder withhold life’s little moments of rest, relaxation, and contentment? What things do I wish I had more time for- big or small? What are small signs of recovery and can I welcome them into my life?