I am coming up on my 27th year of life and am trying to think of what I would tell younger me. Looking back, I was told a lot of important and helpful recovery tips and had profound conversations with friends. I could have been told so many beautiful and true statements, and I was, but I would never embrace them for myself. I often felt like a hypocrite for all the recovery advice, recommendations, and support I gave to others but would not accept and embrace for myself. I suffered with my eating disorder for all of my teen years and early twenties. My story is for another post. For this post I want to share what helped me embrace recovery—things I wished younger me embraced sooner rather than 12 years later.
Delete all thinspiration and replace with pro-recovery content. I used to have folders of photos and quotes saved that were all about being less and being skinny. I spent hours scrolling through them, numbing myself to be nothing. I had a secret folder on Pinterest. Luckily, Pinterest has since censored the posts on the website and does not allow for these types of posts. Pinterest even offers support if they notice that you search for terms that are not permitted. It took a lot for me to work up the courage to delete all I had collected. But I knew deep down, it was keeping me stuck. I deleted them all and shifted towards pro-recovery posts and mental health support.
Cleanse your social media—the only cleanse you’ll ever need. I found myself scrolling through social media and constantly comparing myself to my peers, athletes, and other media influences. It’s no secret how detrimental social media can be on mental health, especially eating disorders. When I was first on social media, there weren’t a lot of options of mental health and eating disorder recovery to follow. If anything, it was mostly pro-eating disorder information. Diet culture was rampant and unfiltered. In my twenties I could evaluate the impact these accounts had on me. So, I unfollowed friends, athletes, and any accounts that left me defeated and shameful. I started to seek out accounts that were specifically anti-diet, pro-recovery, or informational on mental health.
I read books that were anti-diet and pro-recovery. As a young person I constantly read books that were detailed accounts of girls with eating disorder—it consumed my brain. When I started my recovery journey, I constantly asked for book recommendations. I read some memoirs, but I also read books on the science of eating disorders. I read books about diet culture and how its seeped into and influenced so much of our world.
I focused my consumption of all media to be recovery based. I found the world of podcasts and fell in love. Every time I was in the car, which was often, I listened to podcast to continue unlearning and learning new perspectives in eating disorder recovery.
I took a solid three-ish years off of running and working out. I know this is something that can be so hard, especially as people who were athletes. But it was a huge part of my recovery. I grew up a competitive figure skater for 12 years and then transition to running. I ran for three years of high school and on-and-off for four years in college. My college running was inconsistent because my brain was too sick to run often with my team. Post college, my mind and body were burnt out from years of abuse. I was too depleted mentally and physically to keep training. It was that time off that my body was able to heal and recover in ways it had longed and fought for, for years. I was able to start of find out who I was outside of being an athlete.
I started to get involved in the recovery community before I felt ready to. I remember going to my first NEDA walk and feeling like an imposter. I looked around and saw all of these people who I assumed were all recovered and living happy free lives. I thought it was all a lie and not possible for me. And yet that event really helped to kick start my commitment to recovery. The speeches and community were on my mind for weeks after. I remember one day driving from work, thinking about the NEDA walk, and I cried. It was on that drive that I decided to surrender to recovery. I realized how much I had suffered and missed out on because of my illness. I did not want to miss out any longer—which led me to number 7.
I started to share posts of my story. I always found some common ground and understanding in the recovery posts I read. I started to value my own story and experiences and thought that someone else might find connection and understanding in my truth too. I thought if one person can find an ounce of connection in my story, then it would be worth it. And it was worth it. I had past friends and acquittances reach out to say thanks, share their story, or ask for help for themselves or someone they care about. Even if no on reaches out, know that speaking your truth for yourself is just as important as sharing it for someone else. I found a new sense of lightness and relief after I shared parts of my story. Sharing my story helped me to shed all the secrets I kept and the loneliness I lived in. All stories and experiences help break the stigma and humanize the mental health experience.
Find out who you are outside of your eating disorder. For a long time, I could not dream about the future. I was too sick and numb to believe I was going to live to see the futures my friends always talked about. When I graduated college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do or who I really was. In the time I stopped running and surrendered to recovery, I was able to start exploring my dreams and who I really am as a person. I was well enough to believe in a future for myself and dream big. I was able to sit with myself and begin to learn and grow. I rediscovered old passions like environmentalism and new passions like the law. I found new hobbies like quilting and embroidery. I am now able to go out in the world; to travel and experience new things with less reservations and more excitement for what’s next.
Identity as it relates to athletes. Eating disorder or not, competitive athlete or social athlete, D1 athlete or D3 athlete—life after being a student athlete is a hard transition. It is hard to lose the routine, friends, teammates, coaches, and support. It is hard to transition from having constant goals and competitions to figure out what you really want to do. I say, find beauty in the transition and be there for one another. I was lucky to have teammates as roommates after college and I am still close with some of them today. I’ve heard from athletes from different sports, level of competition, gender, race, and ethnicity, and they have strikingly similar experiences post-college. Share what you’re thinking and going through—odds are you’re not alone.
Don’t forget to stop and look around. I often have days where I forget what the depths of my eating disorder were like. Every now and again something will remind me of that time, and I will be filled with gratitude to still be here. I get to try again. I can keep learning, growing, and exploring. Those moments always prompt me to write and to say thank you to all of those who helped me get to this point. I had to do a lot the recovery work by myself, but it was never something I could have done on my own. So don’t forget to say thank you to those who stuck by your side and helped you to be who you are today.
So, there you have a list of ten things I wish younger me would have embraced and done sooner. I wanted so much more for younger me. I want that for you too—whoever you are. I hope this helps.
Untamed & Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle
The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner
Body Respect by Linda Bacon & Lucy Aphramor
Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer
Sick Enough by Jennifer Gaudiani
Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
Bravey by Alexi Pappas
Good Enough by Jen Petro-Roy
Break Your Glass Slippers, The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One, To Make Monsters Out of Girls, & The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
Milk and Honey, The Sun and Her Flowers, & Home Body by Rupi Kaur
Books I Haven’t Read Yet, but are on My List
The Inside Scoop on Eating Disorder Recovery by Colleen Reichmann, Jennifer Rollin
Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison
Fulfilled: Let Go of Shame, Embrace Your Body, and Eat the Food You Love by Alexandra MacKillop
Just Eat It: How Intuitive Eating Can Help You Get your Fist Together Around Food by Laura Thomas
You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar
Empty Inside, Jannette McCurdy
Quitters Podcast, Chad Sanders & Julie Bowen
Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, Mayim Bialik
Food Psych Podcast with Christy Harrison, Christy Harrison
Podcasts On My List
Mary’s Cup of Tea, Mary Jelkovsky
I Weigh, Jameela Jamil
We Can Do Hard Things, Glennon Doyle & Cadence13
Impowered, Imogen Barnes