“You sure eat a lot.”
“Didn’t you just eat?”
“You’re eating AGAIN?”
These were the kind of comments I heard often—not just in my mind during the eating disorder, but also from those around me as I was recovering.
Granted, not everyone knew I had an eating disorder. Many may have thought they were “helping” me–a young runner who had gained a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time. The misconceptions about eating disorders probably made many people think I was “cured” with the weight gain, but now I might have to watch how much I was eating. What they saw before them was no longer a “sick” underweight runner. Now, I was someone who seemed to not know how much she was eating or what she looked like.
Believe me, I knew exactly what I looked like. I knew exactly how much weight I had gained.
“Fixing” the Eating Disorder
Even though I believe most of these words from family and friends were those of concern, they were difficult to handle. They are a reflection of our society as a whole–that there is a perfect portion size to eat and that we have to fight against and control our bodies.
These words echoed over and over in my mind. I snuck food after eating what others would deem the “correct” amount. I did this to avoid the comments about how much I was eating. This need to eat more, I believed, further proved how “out of control” I really was. But my body fought for me in the moments I returned home and continued to eat.
I still had an eating disorder. And if anything, with the comments, it worsened.
Friends and family seemed to worry when I appeared “too thin” or didn’t allow myself to eat dessert or treat myself. But when I was bingeing? That was “wrong” to them. Suddenly eating that much showed a lack of “discipline” and “control.”
Society feeds the eating disorders so many people struggle with. Recovery is not just fighting back against a personal eating disorder, but also against a society that believes there is an absolute “right” and “wrong” way to eat, or that there’s a certain amount of each food everyone should eat—that it’s the same across the board.
Working With a Dietitian
When I began working with my dietitian, she did give me certain portions to follow. But what was helpful about her is that she emphasized how it was a guide, a place to work from. From there we would figure out what hunger was, and listen.
Through this work with her—fully expressing my fears, and figuring out that hunger was actually happening a lot more than I originally thought—I was able to trust my body again and see that allowing myself to eat more created a much more satisfied, whole person. What I thought was an “obsession” with food that needed particular portion sizes to “control,” was actually true hunger.
All of the times I wanted to eat, I realized, were valid. My dietitian helped me to see that I was not “broken” for wanting more food. My body was telling me something, and it was okay to listen.
The more I listened to my body and ate, I found that I could concentrate on life. I could move on with my day and no longer think so much about food. It was then that I came to this wonderful conclusion: My body is the only one that knows its own “correct” portion sizes each day. And even that changes day to day.
In recovery now, I confidently eat as much as I want. I’m no longer bothered by other people’s comments. I fully trust my body. Where before I thought I would go out of control on a certain food, thinking my body wouldn’t know how to stop, bingeing has taught me that my body DID know when to stop—it just happened to stop outside of my comfort zone based on the rules and regulations I had seen in society.
I still get occasional comments about how much I eat. I’ve learned that this was a trigger for me, but I’ve also learned how to overcome the trigger—mostly by learning to trust my body with the help of my dietitian. And even though many people suspected the bingeing was damaging, it actually helped my body to get back to where it needed to be.
I believe our society has a long way to go. My hope is that we begin to see that our bodies are not as “out of control” as many of us think them to be. More often than not, it’s the rules and restraints we put on our bodies that make them feel we have something to “contain.”