Recovering from an eating disorder is tricky because there is always the chance of relapse. I've heard it said hundreds of times that unlike an alcoholic or a drug addict who must avoid the substances they were dependent upon to become clean, to an anorexic (or anyone else with an eating disorder) food is an integral and necessary part of not only the recovery process, but to sustain life. As I first began to recover from my anorexia and bulimia, things seemed much harder than they seem now. I was constantly relapsing. I would be fine for days, or weeks, or months, and then I would have a bad day. I'd get stressed. I'd go back to starving myself, or I'd throw up, just because it was easier and it was what I knew. But I would be so frustrated with myself for failing that I gave up (momentarily) trying to recover at all. I realize now, recovery is a very slow process. Relapse is normal. It doesn't mean you're bad at recovering, that you can't or won't recover. You will get better. You have to get better. Being healthy is worth it. You are worth it. We are all worth it.
But I still have questions about recovery. I've been at this long enough to know my weaknesses. I know what triggers me. And I'm learning how to make conscious choices that not only aid in my recovery, but help to prevent any possible relapsing. I still have bad days. Sometimes I have very bad days. But I never think anymore that getting better isn't worth it. I know that relapsing to my old life is not a solution or even a possibility. I don't want to be the person that my eating disorder made me, all alone, sick and scared of everything. That's why it bothers me when I do things like go to the gym. I believe in living a very healthy lifestyle. Yes I try to eat three meals a day. I'm vegan. I avoid fattening or unhealthy foods, not because I'm scared of getting fat, but because I respect my body and want to take care of it. That's why I try to exercise regularly. But when I do, sometimes that old perfectionist in me threatens to take over. Tonight on the treadmill at the gym I kept pushing myself. Why? Because I noticed the number of calories burned was creeping higher and higher. I felt my eating disorder whispering for me to keep running, even though I was exhausted and I had worked out long enough. It kept whispering for me to push it more, to run faster, to bump up the incline level. "What, you're too fat now? You're getting too old for this? Give up. Quitter. You can't run anymore." So I gave in. And I kept running. And my eating disorder won.
I am an advocate of exercise and physical activity. It's good for our bodies. Bodies need exercise. But how am I supposed to exercise without my eating disorder seeing it as an opportunity to gain the upper hand? Should I feel guilty for being happy that I burned a lot of calories, or should I feel guilty for burning them in the first place? I believe that, like food, exercise should be done in moderation. It should be done with the acknowledgment that I am treading onto enemy territory. I have to be armed, even if nothing bad happens. I have to be prepared. I have to be ready to show my eating disorder that it doesn't control me anymore. My thoughts are my own. My body is my own. Don't push it.