Ways An Eating Disorder Changes Your Life Forever
Eating disorders can lead to death more than any other mental illness. Anorexia, in particular, has the highest death rate as far as mental illness goes—it is even more life-threatening than depression. These are statistics many women already know, even before developing symptoms, so that gives you some idea of what a strong hold the disease has on a person. Knowing their life could be at stake, millions of individuals still sink deep into eating disorders before seeking help. If you’ve ever suffered from one, then you know your life is officially broken up into two significant phases: life before your eating disorder, and life after it. You can never really go back to the way things were before. You can achieve normalcy, and a healthy, happy life but the way you think about your body is forever altered. Here are ways an eating disorder changes your life forever.
You have a strange relationship with scales
Having a scale around can trigger old, unhealthy behaviors. If you live with someone, you may need to ask them if you can have a scale-free home. You know that seeing your weight fluctuate even just a couple of pounds can trigger things like exercising extra that day or eating less. You know that you’re happiest without a scale.
You hate being hungry after a meal
It’s very important to you that you get the nutrients you need at a meal. Nutrition and healthy eating is a big part of your recovery. There may have been a time when you always, intentionally, were hungry. If you are now accidentally hungry after a meal, your brain can be confused and think maybe you’re doing it on purpose again. You also know this can throw off your day’s meals—you can reach for more snacks or sugar later.
You hate being too full after a meal
It’s important that you feel perfectly satisfied after meals: not hungry, and not too full. You’re no longer one of those individuals can who overeat and just laugh at how stuffed you are. Feeling like you’ve overeaten puts you in the tough spot of resisting old habits like skipping the next meal, or squeezing in extra gym time to compensate. Your life must be about balance now.
You’re sensitive around body and diet talk
You have to tune out when your friends start talking about how they feel fat, or how thin this one celebrity is, or how their friend used a certain extreme diet to lose weight before her wedding. Eating disorders are addictions and for you, being around diet talk is similar to being around alcohol for an alcoholic.
You try to ignore calorie counts on menus
You spent a long time conditioning yourself to stop worrying about calories and just listen to your body. You try hard to just be in harmony with your body and understand when it needs more or less food. Seeing calorie counts interrupts that harmony, and throws you back into some of your old ways of thinking. If calorie counts are on the menu, you cover them with your hand.
Then you read calorie counts, to feel normal
You can often wind up getting irritated at yourself for covering the calorie counts because this, in an indirect way, is an unhealthy habit. You want to be normal now and normal people—your friends and family at the table—aren’t letting the calorie counts throw them. They see them, but they don’t let them affect their orders. If they do, they aren’t hard on themselves about it.
You worry about having a daughter. A lot.
After knowing how deep you got into your own eating disorder, and how far you were from even accepting help at one point, you’re terrified at the thought of helping someone you care about out of one. Like a daughter. You really worry about bringing a girl into a world where half the magazines show size two models and actors.
You always know who has one
If someone in your friend circle or family is developing or has a full-blown eating disorder, you know it. Even if they only display mild symptoms, you still know it. You have a sharp radar for eating disorders now. Even if a friend simply mentions another friend’s habits—someone you don’t know—you can spot an eating disorder.
Your routine is very important to you
You have a certain routine: breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same time. Exercising approximately 30 to 45 minutes a day. Keeping to this routine keeps you healthy. So long as you keep up these habits, you can keep unhealthy thoughts and patterns at bay. That’s why you’ll make the whole road trip car pull over at 7 am so you can have breakfast, even if nobody else wants any.
Some variance in routine is also essential
There are two essential factors to your health: routine, and a little variance in the routine. When you had an eating disorder, you probably were too strict about a certain routine. As part of your newly found, post-eating-disorder freedom, you like to allow room for spontaneity in everyday life. You make a point to do some new type of exercise or eat a new type of food every day, to make sure your life doesn’t become rigid like it used to be.
You’re jealous of people who laugh off weight gain
You have friends who can come back from vacation or the holidays and just laugh off the fact that, “Whoops. I gained seven pounds. Too many pina coladas I guess!” You’ll never be able to laugh off weight gain. Your brain is wired to see sudden weight gain as a problem—as a loss of control. It’s so important to you to know what’s going on in your body that it’s highly unlikely you ever would accidentally put on seven pounds.
You’re always a little worried it could come back
A small part of you worries that your eating disorder never went away but simply lies dormant. Particularly in times of high stress, you worry that it could come back. You know you can’t dally in things like extreme diets or exercise regiments, for fear that these could trigger your eating disorder. You can’t dally in these things the way an alcoholic can’t just have one drink.
It’s a part of your medical history
Your eating disorder is forever in your medical history. When a doctor talks to you about weight and nutrition, you know that in the back of her mind she’s thinking about the fact that you’ve struggled with eating disorders. She may speak to you about diet and nutrition more gingerly than she does to other people who have not had eating disorders.
You don’t want to give it too much attention
You don’t want to talk about your eating disorder too much. If people ask you about it, you want to keep the discussion short. It got far too much of your attention while you were suffering from it and you don’t think it deserves attention anymore.
You want to help others, but you don’t want to get too close
You’ve had women suffering from eating disorders come to you for guidance. You want to help, but you also don’t want to because you don’t want to get too close to your addiction. It’s a very complicated feeling.