This year, National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is hitting at a time when I need the reminder of all the support available. The perfect week for that nudge to take a look at what has helped me get to where I am, and to remind me of all the reasons I have to continue pursuing recovery. Sometimes, internal factors cause this kind of slump in my brain and make me reach for old coping mechanisms. But often, it’s external. It’s hard not to look around and see everyone employing the very tactics that lead me to an eating disorder. That’s what I want to share this week.
The theme this year is “Come as you are,” which speaks to the fact that far too many people refrain from pursuing treatment for fear they are not “sick enough”. I believe that this is in large part due to the fact that our society has normalized disordered behavior to such an extent that even those struggling believe that their struggle is insignificant, unavoidable. But while it may be common to have disordered behaviors around food, it should not be discounted. It should not be normalized. It does not have to become standard to struggle.
So here are some things to think about as you navigate a disordered society, some behaviors that society may have told you are “normal.”
- Drinking coffee instead of eating or to repress hunger
- Always thinking about what the next thing you eat will be
- Feeling axious about food events in the future
- Eating very little in the days leading up to a big food event to save up calories
- Compensating for eating a big meal by exercising in excess the next day
- Eating foods you hate because you think they are your only “healthy” option
- Skipping events in order to exercise
- Rarely taking a day off from exercise
- Never taking more than a couple days off from exercise at a time
- Feeling intense guilt for taking a day off
- Feeling as though you can’t have certain foods around without “overeating” them
- Feeling intense shame after eating something you don’t consider “healthy”
- Seeing a certain number on the scale and it making or breaking your whole day
- Weighing yourself several times a day
- Feel the need to constantly distract yourself from food
- Trying to fill yourself up with diet soda or other zero-calorie foods
- Counting calories or macros all the time and/or stopping eating when you’ve reached your “maximum” even if you are still hungry
Maybe you’re looking at this list and thinking “but everyone does these.” Remember that common and normal are not synonymous. Normal here means having a healthy relationship with food, which, sadly, many people lack.
Don’t write these off. You don’t have to jump full force into treatment, but question these thoughts and behaviors, see what’s there. And know, always, that this does not have to become your normal.