Over the last few weeks, as I approach my target weight, I have been getting frustrated with myself that things aren’t feeling easier.
In fact, in some ways they are feeling more difficult.
I’ve had some interesting conversations with my team over the last few days, one of which centred around my ED nurse finding an article that says evidence shows that anxiety peaks to it’s highest point in recovery when the patient reaches 90-95% of their weight target, which is pretty much where I am at now. My therapist today further validated this by saying I am actually probably now in the hardest point of my recovery, because up until now my focus has been on weight gain and eating on autopilot. Now I actually have to start addressing the thoughts and the feelings – and that shit is hard.
I feel like I’ve pushed myself to my limit. I’m eating more so I can stop now, right? I’m exercising less, so I can take my foot off the accelerator, can’t I? I’m technically now a ‘healthy’ weight, so there’s no need to keep gaining to my target, is there?
These are thoughts I have rushing around my head all day, every day. All of them are technically true. I am no longer dying. But am I living yet? No – not really. In amongst those thoughts are all the familiar anorexic negotiations that have ruled my life for so many years: “you can only eat X if you don’t eat Y later”, “you can eat a yoghurt as long as it has less than X calories”, “if you walk for X amount of time, you are allowed to eat Y for snack”. The constant chatter of a voice that I hate, yet continue to feel oddly comforted by. Evidence shows that if I continue to push on to my weight target, these thoughts will reduce, and my chances of relapse will minimise significantly.
So as much as I feel like I’m at my limit, I can’t allow myself to be. I am healthy enough to function now, physically and cognitively. I could live a long and healthy life fuelling myself as I am now, but what’s the point of living a healthy life if it is absent of happiness? Can I ever truly be happy if every bite I eat is a trade off somewhere else down the line, of if every step I take is still a punishment? Isn’t there more to life than a constant preoccupation with my body, and my weight, and the calories that enter and leave me? Yes, there is. Which is why I cannot live in this state of quasi-recovery, as I have done for so many years of my life before. Functioning at a healthy weight, but still depriving myself of true freedom.
Quasi-recovery is anorexia masquerading as recovery. It’s an illusion. And I – and everybody else out there struggling with an eating disorder – deserve more than that. Recovery is too hard to only get half way. Why put all this effort in just to stop before the finish line and continue to be tortured by the same thoughts and feelings that led me into anorexia in the first place? The idea of spending forever battling with it is torturous, and sometimes that silent battle, hidden under rigid but sufficient nutrition and a healthy weight, is even harder than the one where our struggles are visible. People know we are having those horrible thoughts, because we are thin. That somehow makes it easier to understand. Surely I can’t still be scared of ice cream, I’m a healthy weight now?
So, moving on past this point is hard, and means letting go of a lot of rules that are keeping me stuck – and if you’re finding yourself in a state of semi-recovered, this is for you too.
- You don’t have to divide meals and snacks into set numbers of calories – intuitive eating is the goal
- You are allowed to eat even if other people aren’t eating – we don’t all work on the same hunger schedule
- Eating isn’t optional
- You don’t always have to pick the ‘diet’ versions of different foods
- You can do difficult things, and you have proved that over and over again
- Eating something once doesn’t mean you’ve conquered it – repeat it to beat it
- You are so much more than your body
- Your weight is the least interesting thing about you
- You can trust your body – it knows what it’s doing
- You can’t gain weight from eating one thing on one day
- Laxatives won’t make you thin
- Carbs are not the enemy
- Diet culture sucks and you do not need to buy into it
- No food group should be off limits
- Anorexia is a liar – you were not happier when you were thinner, nor were you more interesting or likeable
- All bodies are good bodies and all bodies are individual – it’s okay if you don’t look like somebody else
- Exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it
- It’s okay to enjoy food – it doesn’t make you greedy
- Emotions aren’t dangerous and they are not going to kill you, even when it feels like they might
- There is so, so much more to life than numbers
- It doesn’t matter what your body looks like – think about all the amazing things it does
- You’re not going to look back in a years time and think about how glad you are you skipped a meal, but you will regret all the experiences you missed out on
- You are enough, always – exactly as you are
There is life outside of anorexia. Don’t let it rob you of the freedom you have worked so hard for. The final hurdle is the hardest, but the most worthwhile of them all.
We’ve got this.