Recently, I finally got around to reading the book, "It's Not About the Food" by Esther Kane. Esther was kind enough to personally mail me a copy months ago and being pregnant and then having a newborn, it has sat in my living room calling out to me every few days. I wanted to touch on one thing she writes while telling her own story of disordered eating because it jumped out at me at a perfect time. She writes:
Recovery has not come quickly or easily; eating problems are complex and difficult to overcome. After all of this time in recovery (approximately eighteen years) and through my years of work as an eating disorders therapist, I no longer believe that one can completely recover from a severe eating disorder. Even after all these years of recovery, I still have a little voice inside my head that tells me life would be perfect if only I was thinner or that I would be more successful in every area of my life if, somehow, I could change the way I look.
I read this and thought, "Thank GOD I'm not the only one!" I write a lot about body image and eating disorders and have been pretty open about my own struggles. I've come a tremendous way in recent years, but every once in a while....I slip. I do love my body and do my best to stop negative talk but every once in a while I find myself wishing something was different in hopes that it would make me happier. I am quick to recognize it and usually laugh it off. But, I wonder how others feel- other women (and men) who find their passion in helping others free themselves from body loathing and/or an eating disorder. I've met some amazing people on Twitter and Facebook who share my passion and I wonder if they feel the same way.
A few months ago I went to see Jenni Shaefer speak here in San Diego. She was promoting her new book, "Goodbye Ed, Hello Me". It's her second book and while I haven't got around to reading either of them (yes, it's on my long list of books to read!), I do look forward to it. I recently came across a review of the book and it got me thinking about recovery from eating disorders. Jenni talks about fully recovering and that it is possible. When I heard her speak I remember wondering if she ever slips. Ever? I know, I should read the book before I assume anything, but I have a hard time understanding how people that have struggled with disordered eating and/or exercise can 100% recover from it. I'm not just talking about people that have full blown eating disorders, I'm talking about the average woman who perhaps has outgrown these behaviors either on her own or with therapy.
Mental disorders are so difficult to paint as black and white. If someone has diabetes, a simple blood test tells them how they are doing. With high blood pressure, another simple test will give you measurable numbers. But any mental disorder is many times difficult to diagnose and treat. I, myself have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Luckily I have been able to manage it without medication, but I never know when it will unexpectedly creep up on me. Sort of like a very unwelcome house guest. I believe the same is true with eating disorders.
I'll share with you a personal example. (big deep breath)
I have been thinking lately about cleaning up my diet. And when I say "clean up" I mean basically just cut out the junk. My background is fitness and I know what I should be eating to feel better, sleep better and all that good stuff. But I continue to covet tater tots galore. And I consume enough sugar to make Willy Wonka blush. I listen to my body and she's telling me I need to at least cut back some on the sugar. So, here I am, eleven weeks postpartum, not thinking strait and carrying an extra 12 or so extra pounds. Perfectly normal at this stage, especially since I am breast feeding. However, with the holidays coming, along with it comes phone book size Victoria's Secret catalogs, and a bazillion magazines at the checkout stand screaming at me about how to lose weight this time of year. Then I hear about a 30 day sugar detox. Absolutely no sugar for 30 days. Or anything that acts like sugar (i.e. carbs) Now, I know better. I even know the physiology about why carbs are good for our bodies. But..........that little voice whispers, "It's only 30 days. You'll feel better AND (wait for it...) you'll lose weight".
At first this all sounds appealing, feel better (ha!) because of no sugar and I'll lose those pesky few pounds so I can fit into my regular clothes again. I mean, how long can I get away with wearing my maternity clothes? Then the voice in my other ear freaks out! "Wait!! No!! Don't do it! You know you can't stop at 10 pounds! 10 becomes 15, then the scale comes back out every day, then old jeans come back out to play...."
It's still a battle. And sometimes it makes me sad. Like the kid with the broken leg that can't play with the other kids in the sprinklers. But, I am grateful I can recognize that something as simple as a 30 day no sugar fiesta is like swimming in shark infested waters. At least for me. And I'm sure for a lot of other people too.
So, I don't know if we can ever be fully recovered. But I would love to know your thoughts.
Photo courtesy of ashley_rose via Flickr.com. Please visit the link to read more about the story and inspiration of to write love on her arms.