A few weeks ago, I linked to this post, written by Kaila of Miss Skinny Genes. Have you read it yet? Go ahead, I’ll wait.
To say that this article hit me hard is an understatement. I found myself frantically nodding along to everything she was saying about identity, recovery, and the self-discovery process.
She discusses how as a kid, she felt like she had to change what she was interested in in order to ‘fit in’ – that’s something I related to completely. As a kid, I think I was a bit of an outsider. I was into video games, reading (I started reading Stephen King novels around age 10), highland dancing, and heavy metal (thanks to my older brothers influence). Is there anything wrong with any of these hobbies? Absolutely not – but as an 11 year old girl in a tiny elementary school, it’s not exactly how you win friends.
Maybe deep down, this is why the binge/restrict cycles started when I was still a preteen, and why they got bad in high school – being the alternative, video-game playing, book-nerd alternative/punk/goth girl (whatever label you want to throw on it) doesn’t exactly make you popular. Like Kaila, I think I was embarrassed – embarrassed by who I was and what my interests were. I didn’t care about fashion, or the OC/whatever TV show was popular back in the day, or playing any sport besides field hockey. I thought I was too alternative, too nerdy, too weird to really be accepted outside of my core group of friends (who were awesome, by the way!).
Eventually, I also added ‘too chubby’ to the list of reasons why I felt like an outsider, and so began my quest to lose weight in high school through restrict/binge cycles. This continued through my university years when my disordered eating habits turned into a full-blown eating disorder – I wasn’t making friends, and still feeling too alternative and weird to fit in with the people I met in school.
I let myself believe that in order to be accepted, I had to be thin. So thinness became my identity – first the quest for it, then maintaining my disorder so I could stay thin. My identity revolved around my body, my food, and my exercise. I was so rooted in my eating disorder that I didn’t have room for anything else.
Even throughout my recovery, food and exercise was still central to my being. I didn’t want to be sick anymore, but I wanted to recover in the ‘healthy’ way. To be honest, this meant giving up my obsession with food but still maintaining some degree of leanness. Society and mass media have drilled into our heads that healthy = lean, so I told myself had to find a balance between letting go of my disorder and ‘letting myself go’.?
Like Kaila states in her post – it wasn’t about recovery. How can you recover an identity that doesn’t really exist anymore? I was so focused on food and exercise for so long, that I had no identity outside of it. I think this is what makes true, real, mental recovery from an eating disorder so difficult. After building an identity around food, fitness, and being thin, you feel empty without it – so you find yourself calculating your macros, googling ‘healthy’ recipes, or god forbid, having a full-blown relapse into your eating disorder because you don’t know what else to do. You don’t know who you are when food and fitness aren’t filling up all your time and brainspace, so you find yourself running right back to those obsessions. So what do you do to help you loosen you be rid of them?
You discover who you really are.
This is what this last year or so has been about for me. Not recovery, but discovery – learning about who I am. This is what has lead me to real, raw, true recovery – learning my identity and my passions. Discovering what I really love instead of being focused on food and exercise.
In the last year or so, I’ve learned:
I don’t really care for recipe development. After years of spending time trying to ‘healthify’ recipes, I’m completely over developing my own. I still enjoy the cooking/baking process, but I’m fine with making the recipes I come across. I haven’t posted a recipe on here in ages, and honestly, you probably won’t find too many more over the coming months/years/however long this blog exists. And that’s fine with me.
I love helping vulnerable people. My current job and my favourite jobs in my past have been in the non-profit sector working with vulnerable populations. This is where I feel most valuable and most proud of my work – helping people that desperately need it. I think this is where my real life passion lies.
I want to help everyone realize their own beauty. This is why I’m so dedicated to positive self-image and helping people in ED recovery – I want everyone to realize how beautiful they are and that they’re deserving of everything life has to offer.
1.5 decades later, I’m still obsessed with Stephen King. He just keeps getting better and better.
I really love my dog. But I’m sure you knew that.
I’m unapologetically affectionate. If we’ve met in person, I can pretty much guarantee I’ve hugged you at least once. I’m not sorry.
Horror movies are my favourite. Followed by animated/comedies. If it makes me jump, I’m in love with it. But I also love anything Disney/Pixar and pretty anything Seth Rogen/Jonah Hill/Jason Segel. Basically, I want movies to either make me laugh or make me want to cover my eyes. I don’t watch a lot of dramas or ‘serious’ movies, and that’s fine with me. I didn’t even like The Godfather.
I still love video games. Unfortunately my XBOX doesn’t work very well with the TV here, so I haven’t played lately. I miss it!!
I’m slowly discovering my spiritual side – and I love it. These last six months or so have been about discovering meditation, declaring my intentions and my manifestations, and learning how to trust the universe and my intuition to guide me in the right directions in life. I feel so much more peaceful than I think I ever have in my life.
I am an introvert. I need my ‘me time’ so that I’m able to decompress and reflect on my day. I prefer small groups and one-on-one to big crowds.
I love getting a drink (or drinks) with friends. Being introverted doesn’t mean that I’m not social at all. I love being around the people that matter to me and catching up over a glass of wine, a meal, or just hanging out.
I love being outside. When the weather’s nice, I love the energy that you get from being outdoors. I just love how peaceful, relaxed and free it feels – camping, beach days, being lost in the woods – I love it all.
I value humour above most things. I love laughing, I love making people laugh, and I love the people who can make me laugh. A few months ago Chef-friend and I were in the the car and I almost had to pull over because he had me laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe and my face hurt. I think that is my favourite feeling.
I’m on a journey for real love – both self-love and from the people around me. With discovering all these new things about myself, I’m learning how to truly love myself at my core. I’m also learning about what I need from other people in my life – both romantically and from the friends that I surround myself with. I want to feel surrounded by love, and I’m learning what kind of people I need in my life and in what capacity to feel that way.
As time goes on and I put even more distance between myself and my past food/body obsessions, I’m sure I’ll learn even more about myself and who I’m truly supposed to be. I think this is what recovery is really, truly about – discovering who you really are and completely letting go of the food/fitness identity that keeps you stuck – at least a little bit – in the ED mentality.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud about this today!
Have a good one!
<— Who are you and what are your passions, without mentioning food or fitness?
<— Any other comments about this?