This draft was started just a few months ago. It’s like recovery inception, which kept getting too wordy for my inner perfectionist. So, this is fair warning, I’m not editing this post once it’s finished and it might get rambly. 😉
I’ve been aware of the meek 5-10% success rate of long term weight-loss for a pretty long time. Unsurprisingly, given the belligerent messaging from the diet industry, that didn’t keep me from believing that trying just a little harder, cracking some mysterious code, would allow me to be one of those illusive success stories. However, if you read a lot of these stories, they tend to have one thing in common: a hook, something powerful enough to justify even the most restrictive or abusive rules around food in the long term (although, spoiler alert, this does not necessarily guarantee long term, 5+ years, success or better health either). It might be a medical diagnosis, the threat of death, having/wanting to live for/be able to play with and chase after children, the love of someone other than yourself, etc.
Realizing that a hook was imperative to the possibility of success was frustrating for me, because I hated my life and my self so much that I regularly fantasized about some tragic, life shortening diagnosis or spontaneous death, I didn’t have children (still don’t), and I always thought I was a burden to the people I loved and they would be better off without me. I was hookless. There was never a consequence so severe that I wasn’t willing to act out and risk it.
Through eating disorder treatment and recovery, I learned to love myself and care for my life. I learned to love my body and I learned to want to protect and nurture it. I was never able to force myself not to binge for fear of consequences. I was never able to stay on one of the many restrictive diets I went on to atone for my most recent failure. Binges lead to diets, which lead to binges, which lead to more diets. I never had a compelling enough reason not to make “bad” choices…
…until I learned to love myself.
Self care became a worthy enough cause. A purpose in and of itself. And once I started to take care of myself, instead of punishing and abusing myself, I felt less compelled to use my eating disorder for that end (of abuse). Circular reasoning finally makes itself useful. Learning to love myself through recovery and finding purpose and satisfaction in caring for myself has helped me put some space between me and my ED behaviors.
And then, through the strength and joy I found in recovering from those ED behaviors, I found purpose (and a new career) in paying it forward and supporting others in their recovery, which, in turn, filled more of the emptiness in my heart and made the bingeing that much more redundant and unnecessary. Recovery begets recovery. The better I get, the better I get.
Recovery –> purpose –> more recovery –> more purpose.
I do want to be very clear though, that recovery does not equal weight-loss. While I have ultimately lost some weight and not gained it back after more than a year without any kind of dieting, that has NOT been the purpose of recovery for me. Recovery has been about accepting my body for what it does, not what it looks like or what other people think of it. Recovery has been about learning that I am not wrong or bad or unlovable, simply because our society is obsessed with a certain body type. Recovery has been about not obsessing about food or weight and letting go of behaviors, regardless of whether that has any effect on my body. And purpose. Recovery has been about finding meaning and purpose in my life.