I am not an eating disorder.
It has taken me a while to come to that conclusion.
Our family has officially been on winter break/Christmas break for the past week and a half, and during these past ten days, I’ve had a lot of quiet time to think and pray. I would start off my day asking God to speak to me, to show me His plans for my life in this upcoming new year.
And when God speaks, He speaks.
And what He said, He said very loud and clear:
You are not an eating disorder.
I am not an eating disorder?
I am not an eating disorder…
I am not an eating disorder.
When I first started writing about my recovery and posting on social media about the food challenges and such that I was doing (I’m going to eat scary food! I’m going to let my kids pick out what I’m going to eat! I’m going to eat a hamburger!), it felt GOOD. Breaking out of the regimented rules and regulations surrounding diet and exercise felt freeing. I felt like there was a world of possibilities open to me.
But the more and more I continued down the road to full recovery, I realized that my relationship with food and movement also needed to be mended. Ironically, even making videos and posts about eating ALL THE FOOD and being so happy to do so, got me stuck in another type of food prison–if I wasn’t ALWAYS testing and challenging myself and eating until I felt physically ill, then I wasn’t doing recovery “right.”
And so, I revised my recovery efforts. I started thinking, “What do I REALLY want to eat? What makes my body feel good and healthy and energetic?” And truth be told, it wasn’t always cookies and ice cream and fried fritters. Sometimes, I really craved salmon. Just salmon. That’s it. Other days, I wanted chicken and roasted potatoes. So that was what I ate. And you know what? I felt GOOD. Yes, I still had the occasional cookie and ice cream cone, but I didn’t feel like I HAD to. I ate them because I WANTED to. I started eating like a normal human being who loved food. And I felt energized and unfettered and free.
And then, I added training back in to the mix–not exercise (aka movement that is done just to burn calories) and not mindless cardio. Because in reality, I have never just been totally absent of movement and will probably always be moving my body in some way for the rest of my life. As a little kid, I played soccer every day. Every. Day. And then, there was a time when I was six years old and I used to race all the boys on the playground because I loved the feeling my feet pounding on the dirt, sweat dripping off my brow, the wind strong against my face. I felt strong and powerful during those moments and I moved because I liked to, not because I HAD to. And I missed that–being able to use my body because it was strong and powerful and capable. And so midway through this recovery journey, I added weightlifting back into the mix. And not random “Let’s just do a bunch of squats” kind of lifting. It was purposeful and planned. It was movement designed by a weightlifting coach who competed in the Olympics (I know, cool, right?!) and has a ton of experience in the field. Many people asked me, why go back to weightlifting and not take up another activity or hobby? Aren’t you scared that you’ll relapse? Well, I actually can’t see myself doing any of the other types of “recovery” movement that most others do (i.e. hiking, yoga). I’ve gone down the yoga road and already take the parts of yoga I find beneficial (breathing, meditation) and apply them to my current lifestyle. I tried hiking, but in all honesty, being under the hot sun trekking up mountains felt more like work and labor than relaxation. What I really do love is weightlifting. I love that it’s just as much of a mental sport as it is physical. I love how one has to have a balance of strength and power and explosiveness and grace to do a snatch or clean. And quite frankly, it’s just beautiful. And so, when I decided to get back into weightlifting after my short hiatus, I started slowly, thinking about the technique of the lifts, the integrity of the movement, the explosiveness I was regaining. And there was joy there. I left training sessions feeling rejuvenated and motivated and unfettered and free.
And in the midst of all this recovery process, in the midst of all the food and training changes, I realized a lot of other things.
Previously, I was drawing a picture of myself via social media and these posts that was linked solely to an eating disorder. I was “the girl that was recovering from anorexia” or “the girl that was gaining weight in recovery” or “the girl that had an eating disorder for the past twenty-one years of her life.” But in reality, that picture of me was not the picture of me that God wants me to see now. Back then, yes, I needed to embrace the fact that I was in dire need of IMMEDIATE CHANGE. But now, the picture has evolved.
He wants me to see that I am more than an eating disorder.
I am a conqueror and a fighter. I am a daughter who feels overwhelmed at times because her dad has dementia and can easily get lost or confused or depressed. During these past ten days, I spent a few mornings with my dad, taking him to lunch or the mall, and quite honestly, it was pretty overwhelming. The physical part of ensuring that he was ok and wouldn’t get lost was taxing, but even more stressful was seeing a man I knew to be a certain way throughout my childhood totally different now. There were some moments when I’d pray about my dad and start to cry–cry for the energetic man that I once knew, and cry for the person he was evolving in to. And then I realized that I am an adult. As years pass and dementia takes over more and more of his mind and body, I will take on more responsibility in helping care for him. In many ways, I will become the parent and he will become the child. It’s a hard and overwhelming and humbling experience and realization, but this picture is one that will eventually happen.
Besides slowly evolving into a parent for my dad, I am also a mother to two children, one of whom just turned nine years old. Nine. NINE. She is not a baby anymore. She is growing into a young woman, and I think about all of the experiences she will have to go through…dating, college, marriage. Right now she is only in the third grade, but it didn’t seem like too long ago when she was a toddler trying to crawl around the living room. Time is passing by so quickly, and there are moments when I have to stop and catch my breath because I see her smile at me with her sparkling eyes, and I realize that in a blink of an eye, she will be giving me that same smile as she graduates high school…as she walks down the aisle…as she has children of her own. I want to give her all the opportunities and love and joy in the world, but I am only a human mother, and eventually, she will have a family of her own and her own children to care for. It’s a hard and overwhelming and humbling experience and realization, but this picture is one that will eventually happen.
My role as daughter and mother are constantly changing, and in the same way, my sense of self is also evolving. And this is why God spoke to me these words:
You are not an eating disorder.
I am not going to be an eating disorder for the rest of my life. I have faith that Jesus can bring total and perfect healing to my body and spirit and mind. So what then? If I only identify as being “sick”, I would be remised in seeing the true picture of myself He wants me to see–in the end, I would be limiting Jesus.
These past ten days showed me that the picture I showed the world via my social media profile (the girl who started eating pizza and ice cream because I wanted to be fully recovered) is only one snap shot of ME. I don’t want to only be known as “the girl with the eating disorder” any more than I want to be known as “the girl with the father who has dementia” or “the girl whose daughter is nine years old.” I am not going to be the same type of daughter and mother for the rest of my life. Instead, I want to be known as the girl that is always seeking after God and reflecting God’s picture of me to others.
And what exactly is His picture of me? It is one of strength. It is one of resilience and joy and peace. It is one that I am placing in a frame and putting on display for all to see because His picture is so much more detailed and lovely and breathtaking than I could ever imagine or create on my own. It is a picture that may not be what I dreamed it would look like, but I trust and take rest in the fact that the artist and Creator who made the heavens and earth can surely design me to be just as exquisite and bold and magnificent.