December 1, 2017 | Lex Daddio
Let’s talk eating disorders. If you’ve been following me for awhile now, you may know I struggled with a binge eating disorder for 7 years. Yes, SEVEN YEARS. If you want to know more about that, read the About Me section on my website (I share more there) or check out episode 22 of The Chasing Joy Podcast, where I talk all about it with Georgie.
For this post, I’m focusing on the recovery side of things. I’ve shared my story a lot, but I haven’t shared much of recovery. I think it’s because I feel like recovery looks different for everyone. It takes a different amount of time & different steps for everyone, because we all have different stories and journeys. That being said, there are certainly things I can share that I found super helpful. I hope and pray they will be helpful for you if you’re struggling or know someone who is!
So let’s start with the cold hard facts: eating disorders are just AWFUL. They just are. But I’m honestly thankful for mine. Is that crazy? I don’t think so, because if I didn’t go through what I went through then I wouldn’t be who I am today. Also, I want you to know, I didn’t just wake up one day and never binge again. It wasn’t an immediate shift for me. It was gradual, the binges started happening less and less. Sometimes they would happen again and be really bad, and then finally it got to the point when I forgot the last time I had a binge. That date started getting further and further until I realized, woah, I really don’t binge anymore. Every little victory during my journey is what led to the bigger victory.
Also, let’s get something straight. I am not perfect, nor do I want to be. I still eat too much sometimes. Now, instead of associating that with a binge in my head it’s more of a learning experience and I’m so much nicer to myself than I used to be. I used to be SO strict with myself. NO FUN. Anyway, all that being said there were a few things that really helped me on my journey, so let’s get to those!
I FINALLY STOPPED DIETING.
I was the girl growing up that was a bit rounder than my friends. Most of them were skinny string beans, but for some reason, my body seemed to be a little bigger. Even though my mom fed us almost all organic while my friends were eating all the unhealthy, fun stuff. This led me to be uncomfortable in my skin from a young age, which makes me sad to think about now. It made me try every diet. I mean every one, I even did the Special K diet in high school. You literally just eat cereal and granola bars, how can that even be good for you?
In college I became a vegan and trained for a half marathon, I lost a bunch of weight but I also lost my period, my energy, my sanity, and became super anemic. Being a vegan just didn’t work for my body. That being said, I pretty much always struggled with food. Later I learned, it was always about control. Whenever I felt out of control in another part of life, it was okay because I COULD control my food.
It took me a long time to truly believe that ditching the diets would work. I was very skeptical, because what if I gained a bunch of weight? Mind you, I had already gained 40 lbs in the 2nd half of college, after I lost all that weight in the beginning. I was petrified, because if I wasn’t on a diet then I’d feel out of control. Letting go of the diets might have been the best thing I’ve ever done. Yes, it was a struggle and I honestly did feel a little out of control to start. But whenever I restricted, it always led to a binge.
So when I finally let go, the binges started to stop. I learned I had to start eating more, but eating more of the good stuff and honoring what my body TRULY craved. When you nourish your body, it actually will tell you what it wants! That also doesn’t mean I live off of pizza, french fries, and ice cream. My body has leveled out to crave real food like fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, etc. and sometimes I crave a warm chocolate chip cookie or a really good pizza. It can take awhile to get here though, so have patience my friend!
I INCORPORATED MORE SELF-CARE.
This was hard at first, because I hated what I looked like. I hated my body and I had no desire to treat it well, because I couldn’t get it to look the way I wanted it to. However, once I started to incorporate more of this it really helped me appreciate my body and not to be so scared to look at myself in the mirror. There’s a lot you can do for self-care, so I’m going to include my favorites! Start slow & show your body, mind & soul some love.
Favorites: doing a face mask, taking a bubble bath (with candles & a glass of wine), going on a long walk, reading a book, taking a nap, dancing to your favorite music, getting a massage or facial, spending time with a loved one, praying, coloring or being crafty, decluttering one space of your home, listening to a podcast, baking something you love (either for yourself, someone else, or both), helping others, bringing yourself on a date, calling a friend or family member, enjoying a cup of coffee or tea, buying yourself flowers, disconnecting from your phone, and so many more but this is my go-to list!
I STEPPED OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE.
When you’re going through an eating disorder, you more than likely prefer to be in control of your food and well everything. For me, letting go of that, especially the food helped me A LOT. I had to get out of my comfort zone which was difficult. For example, going out to breakfast with a friend and getting what you actually WANT, not what you think you have to get to be healthy. This helps you to break free from controlling exactly what you’re eating at home. Plus you get face time with a real human being and experience connection.
Another example is going to that party you were invited too, but afraid to attend because you’re either afraid of the food around, you’re uncomfortable with your body, or both. Step out, go out, do something fun! Usually when you do this, you stop worrying about the things that really don’t matter: like what you look like and the food, and maybe you’ll experience some joy! Again, being okay with being out of your comfort zone takes time! So again, one step and one day at a time.
I FOUND MOVEMENT I TRULY ENJOYED.
This took me awhile, because as I said before, I abused my body and wasn’t very fond of it. So I’d force myself to try and workout everyday and do stuff I DID not like. I tried everything, and eventually I started allowing myself to choose what kind of movement my body was craving. That felt SO MUCH better. Oh, and sometimes, that meant straight up resting! I believe it’s important to move our bodies everyday in some ways, I’m saying like a 10 min walk if anything! But don’t beat yourself up, I just think it’s a practice of self-care and makes you feel good.
I don’t believe you have to work your butt off at the gym every single day to be healthy or happy. My body is so much happier now that I actually listen to what it needs. I always think about the European lifestyle and how they walk everywhere! That to me is GOALS. I love that, because not only are you exploring, getting fresh air, and experiencing life around you, but you’re also moving your body which is a bonus! I think walking is underrated.
Also, instead of exercise, I like to call it movement, because I think our bodies were made to move and I think it’s a kinder way of saying exercise. My favorite ways to move are: walking, pure barre, yoga videos, and 21 day fix (at home workout with a combo of weights, cardio, etc.) Find what feels good for you!
I LET GO OF ALL THE RULES.
And I mean all the rules, all the labels, all these ideas I had engrained in my mind. I pretty much had to reset my mind. I realized I had all these “unhealthy” rules in my life that I thought made me “healthy”. Like thinking I had to be paleo, I had to workout everyday, sugar, gluten & dairy were my worst enemy, I couldn’t get pizza and beer with my friends or I wouldn’t survive, I would get a stomachache if I didn’t eat at home, if I ate real ice cream I’d gain 10 pounds immediately, I had to eat at my designated times of day, I had to get up at 6am to be productive, I had to be sleeping by 10pm at the latest, I had drink lemon water first thing every morning, every meal had to have vegetables, I couldn’t eat more than 1 fruit a day, I wasn’t allowed to eat past 7am, I had to allow 12 hours between dinner and breakfast.
Do you see how disordered this thinking was? But these were honestly the things I would tell myself. Trust me, there were A LOT more, this is just the start. I was telling myself so many lies. I had created this “healthy” way of life in my head and I thought I was being healthy (whatever that is), but I was miserable, grumpy, annoyed, frustrated and so controlled by these rules that if something through me off, life was over. I know I sound extreme, but I mean it!
Maybe you’ve dealt with this too and you understand? If you do, know you aren’t alone! But also know, these “healthy” rules aren’t doing you any good. They’re actually causing you to live an unbalanced lifestyle. Or maybe you feel incredible and you’re like what the heck is she talking about? If that’s you, then keep doing your thing!
With the rules, this also meant I had to take ALL rules and restrictions off food. I used to not touch dairy, gluten, soy, alcohol, sugar, etc because I was petrified they’d kill me. Personally, I think the worrying will kill you more than the food. But really, I had to ALLOW myself to eat anything. I started a little at a time though, so have grace with yourself. It takes time, patience, and practice.
You want to know something crazy? We have four tubs of ice cream in my freezer right now and I haven’t touched them in probably a month, because I really haven’t craved them. I ate it every night for a couple days and then I was over it. This would have been unheard of in the past, I would have finished those cartons because they would have been SO tempting! You can get here too, I know it! Once I allowed those foods, they didn’t have a hold on my anymore like they used to. Instead of feeling crazy around them because they were off limits, I now feel calm around them and know I can enjoy them if I want to, and if I don’t, that’s cool too.
I FOUND PEACE WITH FOOD.
This one is about realizing food is just food. It doesn’t have a hold on you. It’s not the enemy. Usually, for an eating disorder, it’s really not about the food anyway. It’s about the control and using and abusing it to make you feel better or worse. But the food really has nothing to do with it.
So it’s realizing that food is meant to be enjoyed. God gave us food to eat around the table with other people as a celebration and SO MUCH MORE. The majority of the biggest events in the Bible happened around the table, now if you really think about that, that’s saying something! Food is essential. It’s part of culture. It’s tradition. It’s creativity. It’s fun! And it’s so delicious!
Some of my fondest memories of growing up are being in the kitchen with my mama, or the smell of her coffee cake in the morning. We don’t have to fear food, or even be scared of it. I think we should start trying to really see and recognize what food is. Yes, it’s fuel and I do believe that food has healing benefits. I think there’s a time and a place for that. As my friend, Victoria Myers said, you have to heal your relationship with food, before you can heal your body with food. But I think we worry about it too much, get it down to numbers and macros etc without truly enjoying what’s in front of you. We obsess over it and dream about it, without letting ourselves eat it. If we find peace with food, knowing it’s to help us not to harm us, it helps you be able to appreciate it!
That’s all for now! I hope this is encouraging and inspiring to anyone struggling or anyone who knows someone struggling (it’s hard on you too, trust me, I know)! I also hope it’s answered some of the questions you’ve asked me. I hope that through my journey and recovery that it gives you hope. Hope that you can be healed. To let you know you’re not alone. To remind you life doesn’t have to stay this way. Lastly, to let you know you don’t have to be perfect and you are supposed to be.
I will tell you though, you do have to fight for yourself. It isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it. You know why? BECAUSE YOU ARE WORTH IT. You were created for a reason. God has a plan and a purpose for you. So don’t give up. Have hope and know you are loved. Even if you don’t feel loved, know God loves you unconditionally, EXACTLY THE WAY YOU ARE, and no matter what you’re going through.
Remember, recovery takes time. It takes patience. It takes screwing up and starting over. But you will get there if you want to get there, I believe it!
If you made it this far, THANK YOU FOR READING! It means more than I can being to explain. I’m honestly so grateful for you!