In the last week, I've gotten e-mails from several women who have struggled or are still struggling with eating disorders. I'm thrilled that Healthy Girl Cooking is beginning to foster a dialogue about the meaning of healing and reimagining our relationship with food.
The stories I've heard this week have gotten me thinking about the process of overcoming an eating disorder. Everyone's experiences are different, of course, but the thing we all have in common is that we've learned to channel our anxiety into the act of over- or under-nourishing ourselves. Eating disorders are such private things; often, we even keep secrets from ourselves by burying the original sources of our anxiety and displacing them onto our relationship with food. There is alot to understand on a personal level before healing can begin, and my hope is that communicating in an online setting, which allows for as little or as much anonymity as you care for, can serve a therapeutic purpose.
I think the second step in overcoming an eating disorder, after deciding that you want to get better, is becoming mindful of your stressors and the things that trigger your behaviour. Therapy has been instrumental in helping me change my relationship with those stressors, which made working on the eating disorder stuff easier. I happen to think that most of the problems in the world would be solved if everyone just had a good therapist, but therapy is especially important if you're dealing with an eating disorder. It's important to find someone you feel comfortable with who will gently push you to do the work at hand, but who also respects your boundaries and is sensitve to them. Therapist shopping is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, and good therapists know this--it's perfectly fine to agree on a trial period (3 sessions, for example) after your initial session to determine whether you have a good match. If you don't feel that the dynamic is right, you needn't feel bad about saying so; part of a therapist's job is to help you find a match that will enable you to get as much out of the experience as possible. He or she can probably even refer you to a practitioner who may be a better match for you.
Becoming mindful of my destructive habits has helped me to develop a different relationship with food; understanding nutrition and the benefits of eating well has helped me turn my old fixations and rituals, like the never-resting calorie calculator in my head, and the slow, methodic consumption of a single carrot stick in which I used to take such comfort, into positive habits. I think the transfer of this energy was significant; I don't know how to eat without knowing exactly what I'm ingesting, so I needed to find a non-destructive way to do that. I think it's important to listen to yourself as you heal. Find healthy new habits, no matter how small, that comfort you without being destructive.
Please keep your comments and e-mails coming. Understanding your experiences can help me make this blog the most helpful and supportive tool possible. Feel free to post using your name or remain anonymous. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like. Respecting your privacy is important to me, and anything you e-mail me will always be referenced anonymously unless you specify otherwise. If you don't want me to reference your comments on this blog at all, let me know.
Thanks, healthy girls. You can do it! :)