Recovering from an eating disorder is a long, arduous process. It involves years of treatment, the constant possibility for relapse, and lingering health consequences. I have watched myself, my friends, and my clients struggle through eating disorders over the last decade, always thinking to myself, couldn’t we have stopped this before it even started? And the answer is-yes! We could have, and you can, right now. Read on to find out how.
Positive Body Image!
Look in the mirror. Love your body. Remind yourself of all the things that your body can do: run up the stairs, reach for a high shelf, enjoy a hot bath, hug your best friend, play tag, tackle your puppy, do a cartwheel, ski down a hill, curl up for a nap in the sun, get a massage, comb your hair, hike up a hill, etc. Find pleasure in your body and appreciate that sensation regardless of what you look like.
Have a Healthy Relationship With Food!
Guilt will get you nowhere! In fact, guilt can lead to binge eating and Anorexia or Bulimia. Instead of living off of celery sticks until you’re so hungry you eat a whole pizza and a pint of ice cream, try listening to your body and satisfying your food desires.
Eating a combination fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein, including drinking plenty of water, will probably help you feel energized, fit, and in positive spirits. But there’s a time and a place for milkshakes, birthday cake, pizza, fries and bacon, too! It can be tricky to find the right balance, but if you learn to listen to your body, you can’t go wrong!
Bodies want to be healthy. They want to feel good. If you feel good after eating a yummy, home-cooked meal, then it probably gave you something you needed. And while we all love candy, soda, and popcorn at the movies, our bodies wouldn’t feel too good if that’s all we ate. Nourish yourself with nutritious, wholesome food, and find time for your favorite treats (guilt-free).
Exercise can help us build strong muscles, bones, and a healthy heart, but did you also know that it also helps you build inner-strength? Staying fit and active builds confidence and self-esteem in people of all ages. Whether you want to train for a race or join the soccer team, staying active helps you appreciate what your body can do, regardless of what you look like. There’s an endless supply of choices for physical activity: weight lifting, yoga, dance, running, sledding, sports teams, gymnastics, hiking, dog-walking, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, practicing hand-stands, etc. Find something you love, and dive in!
Being a part of a supportive community can help you feel secure, loved, and confident. It can also help remind you that life is about so much more than just how you look. Volunteering at a local non-profit, joining a book group, staying up with friends and family, all of this strengthens your social ties and reminds you that lots of people love you for who you are, not for how you look!
If you do think you need to lose weight for better health, why go it alone? There’s plenty of professionals out there trained just to help you get where you want to be, the healthy way.
I recommend that any of my clients wanting to lose weight or change their eating habits first seek the professional guidance of an RD (Registered Dietitian) to ensure that they are monitored during their weight loss process. A Dietitian can help you to understand how proteins, carbohydrates, and fats work together in your body to keep you healthy and energized. It’s crucial to have the right combination of nutrients
And, if you feel that your self-esteem is suffering and you worry constantly about how you look, there are many trained therapists who specialize in eating disorders, body-image, and self-esteem. They can help you build your confidence and trust in yourself (inside and out!) before an eating disorder develops.
Those celebrities in the magazines, the girl next door with the “perfect” body, or the way you looked last year-all of these comparisons are a big waste of time!
You are who you are, in the body that you’re in today, right now. Learning to appreciate this present moment can help you stay healthy in the future, too. Instead of trying to look like someone else, or yourself in a previous stage of life, see if you can find aspects of yourself that are beautiful now. You’d be surprised how many people are looking at you and wishing they had some of your qualities.
For more information on eating disorders, or to find out where you can get help, visit the National Eating Disorders website (nationaleatingdisorders.org).