Ella’s story on ‘recovery’

Hopefully you will already be aware that this week has been national Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and if you follow the blog, you’ll already have read Laura’s inspirational article about her recovery and eating disorders with regards to body competitors.

I want to talk about the words ‘recovered’ and ‘recovery’. They’re used a lot by people who think that they have started their health journey after having suffered from eat ED, or think that they are fully rid of it, but what I have personally recently experienced is a classic example of how there is no such definitive status. How do you know when someone has truly recovered? Because they have reached a goal weight prescribed to them by a doctor, or because they are able to eat chocolate without throwing it up after? It’s a very subjective grey area. Because when someone has recovered, we suppose they are back to ‘normal’… but what is ‘normal’? Well there’s no such thing. Everybody’s diet is unique. Which then leads to the question, if there’s no norm, how do you know if someone has recovered?

Unfortunately, as soon as someone suffering from an ED has reached a weight deemed healthy enough they are crossed off the list and that’s that. Job done, she’s OK now. Yet ED’s are mental disorders, and it’s not quite so easy to change the mind as it is to funnel some calories down someone.

In all honesty, I think that the mental side of anorexia will always have a presence with me. The difference is though that now I know how to handle the negative thoughts and voices and block them out, not letting myself act upon them, telling them that they’re wrong. You have to be able to distinguish between what is your thought, and what the anorexia is saying, because you are not your anorexia. You are a happy positive and bubbly person who your anorexia overtook. So when I reached by goal weight of 50kg, I was in reality far from ‘recovered’. I was still scared by certain foods and my body changing. After I slowly began to accept these foods and my body getting bigger, I later entered a stage of binging. It was a horrible part of my illness (because binging is an ED) and something which I still find difficult to talk about. Because you feel ashamed from once having had the control to eat absolutely nothing, to the total opposite. You go from total control to zero. From skinny to chubby. But you can’t talk to anyone about it- you’ve ‘recovered’, you’re ‘fine’. Deep inside however, you’re just as emotionally weak and struggling as when you were anorexic.

After a few years the binges lessened and I established a healthier relationship with food, however I was still struggling with my reflection in the mirror. Constantly critiquing my body, wanting to improve it, still not totally ready to accept the ‘bigger’ me. Even when I really got into weight lifting and enjoyed being strong and fit, a part of me was still scared I was carrying too much muscle, and I worried that other people thought the same as well. You always see people checking themselves out in the gym mirrors, whereas I would rather not look at my own reflection. I was always on the mission of ‘get leaner’, but I didn’t really know what I wanted by that. I didn’t want to be skinny because that was the worst time of my life, I didn’t want to be too muscley because it made me feel big. I couldn’t win. I tried macro tracking, calorie counting, different training methods, but they all still left me feeling like I was using it as a form of control and still not 100% comfortable with my body.

It’s only been in the last few months, even weeks, where I feel I’ve finally reached a state of peace with my body. Not because of the way it looks, but they way that I look at it. I love my body, the good bits and the bits I’d rather have more toned or defined. I love my lifestyle. I love training hard to be strong, mentally and physically. And I love the curves that come with it. I’m over what other people think of me, that type of mentality  is what made me anorexic in the first place. I love that I respect my body and nourish it properly. I don’t fixate on what I ‘should or shouldn’t’ have eaten, but on what makes me happy and healthy. I’m on a mission to show girls out there that they can eat all the foods they thought they couldn’t and still have an amazing body. My goal isn’t anything to do with the size of my body but how healthy it is, so that I can function at my best day in day out and basically just smash my life goals. I actually thank my anorexia for teaching me all of the above, because without the negative experience, I probably wouldn’t be the strong positive person I am now.