What I Wish I Knew During My Eating Disorder
My days as a chronic dieter, emotional/binge/over-eater and person with bulimia were more than half a lifetime ago. At 73, that’s more than three decades gone by and it seems like it. The eating patterns I have now are chosen consciously and with an eye toward health and well-being. I’m both a “normal” eater and a nutritious eater.
Some background. A chubby child, I had to finish all the food on my plate as per my father’s edicts and snuck food whenever I could. I dieted and binged my way through adolescence and my 20s. After discovering purging, I did that for about 18 months. In my early 30s I discovered that I could, with effort, become a “normal” eater.
Here’s what I wish I’d known when I was in the throws of my food and body struggles.
- No therapy or therapist or program would do the work for me. I actually went to only one therapist about my food problems (and others earlier and later for other issues). I wish I’d known that all the things she set out for me then would remain what I had to do to recover. I could do them then (improve my self-talk, raise my self-esteem, manage my thoughts) or later on, but one way or the other what she pointed out was what I eventually had to do to get healthy. And so will you have to do these things.
- I should have focused on my food problems in earlier therapy. I was so busy working through issues with my parents like separation and individuation that I kept putting off talking about food. Everything else seemed more important (like boyfriends). Maybe these things were important, but maybe I wasn’t ready to tackle eating problems because then I’d have to give up my dysfunctional relationship with food.
- The difference between choosing to be with healthy and unhealthy people was huge. I wished I’d moved on earlier from binge-buddies and people I hung out with who were equally unhealthy. You can’t move forward if your friends are dragging you back. You need to break free of friendship shackles and find people you aspire to be like, then practice being like them by being with them.
- I had to expect more from myself but not perfection. Sadly, some of my clients think that a crummy relationship with food and their bodies is all they deserve. I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but I wish I’d pushed a bit harder back in the day rather than thinking I had all the time in the world to change. Looking back, my eating disorder took up too much of my life and too big a toll on my self-esteem. I wish I’d recovered earlier, but know that wasn’t possible.
My hope is that someday you’ll look back and give others your best advice to recover from an eating disorder from your vantage point of full recovery.