Having a body is a struggle. There, I said it. I know I should feel grateful to live in my physically healthy body. But, you have to learn to look at things from a different angle while in recovery from an eating disorder. It’s not as black and white anymore. You have to learn that living in a healthy body is just as valuable, if not more valuable, than living in a sick body. I’m not here to tell you that you have to shun your past—that would be counterintuitive to your potential mental growth. I am telling you, that you are allowed to love your new body while mourning your old one.
We live in a world that idealizes a slender body. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being thin. However, what we need to learn in recovery is that there is nothing wrong with being something other than thin, as well. I know you’re probably like me. You want to support all bodies and find the human form to be beautiful, so ask yourself the following question…
Why does your body have to be confined to one size?
What did you do better when you were ill? I know that I could barely keep afloat. My brain was constantly swirling with useless numbers and hungry thoughts. I wanted my hunger to be knowledge and for it to burn ferociously, but it was stifled with green tea and cucumber water.
The things your body (and mind) can do in recovery will endlessly surpass what you do at your lowest point. I promise you this.
When I was 15, I deprived myself. I was, and still am, a figure skater. Hence, I need to nourish my body to perform at my best ability. Sure, maybe I was lithe and elegant with an empty stomach that didn’t bunch up when I bent over. But who says that is more beautiful than my capable 21-year-old soft curves, creating rolls as I hit different heights on the ice? I’m not running on empty anymore. Isn’t this better?
Now, I’m not cold in a warm room. If anything, I can warm up a cold room with a smile; a smile that I didn’t show anyone for fear of my baby face creating round cheeks. Finally, I can be proud of my rosy face with my chubby cheeks, keeping my now rose-colored glasses securely up on my nose in this dim world. My smile doesn’t just make me happy, it also makes my loved ones happy.
In my healthy body, I can run without being out of breath. I can take late-night study sessions without falling asleep at the desk. When my cat begs me to play, I can sit on the ground with her without the cold floor chilling my bones. I can rekindle my love for ballet in a no-longer frail body, with ankles that won’t buckle from sheer exhaustion. My arms are strong enough to wrap around my boyfriend and still be a comfortable and soft shoulder to cry on. I can be a positive influence for other young girls by carrying myself with dignity in whatever body I have.
However, I still don’t love my body. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to love my body… but that’s okay. I have time.
I have to remember, though, that I wasn’t any more content when I was smaller. No one loved me more than they do now, either. I wasn’t referred to as “the girl with the razor-sharp collar bones” as a cute term of endearment. No one was lusting after me because they could count my ribs. I was the sad, sick girl. The lonely girl. Pitied.
But I grew older. I grew wiser. I grew wider. That’s okay. Growing up doesn’t mean you stay the same forever.
Radical acceptance is a skill taught in therapy. It is a therapeutic method of distress tolerance. Instead of sitting and stewing in self-hatred, you can simply learn to accept that nothing is changing so you might as well move forward. So what if I don’t look like a 15-year-old girl anymore? I’m a woman. I am powerful and strong. I’m not the same naive little girl anymore.
No one is demanding self-love and personal body positivity from you. I’m not ready for that and you don’t have to be either. Baby steps are important and they cushion us in the recovery process. So, I implore you to learn how to practice Body Neutrality instead.
Be neutral with yourself. Celebrate the things you can do while learning to accept flaws as they are instead of trying to change them. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and body love doesn’t develop overnight. It is easier said than done, but the mirror doesn’t need to dictate your life anymore. The enemy was never the reflection, it was the voice in your head trying to shrink you down.
Fill your world with the positivity of others. Let their affirmations fertilize the garden that is you. Extend your roots in communities that value all bodies. You can be healthy wherever your body decides to grow.
The world doesn’t need more women who cave in on themselves at will, decaying from the inside out. Don’t strive to be small. Be big, metaphorically, or literally. The world needs women who open themselves up and spread across the globe with their thoughts. The greatest women are remembered for their reach, not their image.
Your brain is your beauty. Living undernourished will never let you access the true potential of your intelligence, your morality, and your kindness. The gnawing hunger in your stomach is equivalent to the foggy haze in your head. It serves no purpose.
Now ask yourself this new question. What do you want your head to be filled with 10 years from now, a year from now, or even tomorrow? Do you want it to be what size your jeans are? Do you want it to be a worry over the way your skin dimples on the backs of your thighs? The meal you’re going to have to choke down to stay conscious behind the wheel? Still deciding if recovery is really for you?
Or do you want it to be about your career? Your education? The excitement about sharing a milkshake because it tastes good? Maybe even the fact that you don’t have to think about the milkshake until it is passing your lips?
This is attainable. I promise. So mourn your old body in whatever way you feel is necessary. Strip yourself of the painful memories, accept that they happened, but don’t let them anchor you down forever. Never lose sight of the vessel that is your current home while you honor the past versions. She carries you and holds you and keeps you safe. Keep striving to treat her the same. You only get one chance, so why spend forever changing yourself, when you can change the world instead?
I’m not there yet. It’s okay if you aren’t either. Recovery is a process. You have time.