Models in Eating Disorder Recovery
If you're in recovery from an eating disorder, you can join me now in a collective sigh of relief. We survived the holidays.
Yes, yes, the holidays are wonderful and lovely and it's great to see family and friends and spend time with them. I loved spending time with my sisters at a football game, loved walking around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights, loved meeting my little cousins who live halfway across the country.
I did not, however, enjoy the considerable amount of stress that comes along with holidays in eating disorder recovery. While everyone else is enjoying their holiday fully, if you have an eating disorder, your mind is probably also burdened with calories, exercise, weight, your body, exchanges, etc. To be sure, this does not make your holiday season any more enjoyable or your recovery any smoother.
Lucky for us, there is usually an abundance of articles and blog posts around the holidays giving us great ideas for how to survive the holidays with an eating disorder. There is, however, one trick that works particularly well for me -- not just at the holidays, but anytime. Whether you're at a New Year's party, out to lunch with a friend, or meeting with your monthly book club, this is a great skill to have.
One of my favorite movies is "When Harry Met Sally." I'll watch it any time it's on TV, despite the fact that I own the DVD. I think it's hilarious, but I recently came across a bit of recovery wisdom tucked into one of the scenes of the movie.
I'm talking specifically about the scene where Meg Ryan's character is faking an orgasm at a diner. (If you're squeamish about sex, don't let this deter you from watching the movie - it's great!) After Ryan's character has finished her bit of acting, a woman at a nearby table tells the waiter, "I'll have what she's having."
Eating Disorder Recovery Tip
Have What S/He's Having
Model your meals and snacks after other people you know to be fairly "normal" eaters. I'm lucky to have a lot of "normal" eaters in my life (my dad, my roommate, and my good friend Meghan just to start!), so I'm usually around one of them when I'm in a social situation. Chances are that if you find yourself in a social situation, someone invited you, so start there.
If you're comfortable doing so, let your friend (or coworker or family member, whatever the case may be) know beforehand that you're nervous about the food and that you'd like to use their normal eating as a guide -- just so they're not creeped out when they catch you staring at their plate.
Don't look just to your female friends as models, either. Some of the most normal eaters I know are men, and sometimes I'll model my eating after them, too. "Oh, D is having a couple of cookies at Bible study? I guess it's okay for me to, too!"
A Word of Caution
When you have an eating disorder, and especially if you've been in treatment, there is always the possibility that you will be around some of the eating disorder friends. Unless they are in a really great place in their eating disorder recovery, they are absolutely not the people you should be looking to for your own food choices.
And if it's not the case that they're in a great place, be prepared with some positive affirmations when your eating disorder inevitably begins to berate you for not acting on behaviors like your friends are.
Try out some of these:
- "I am treating my body well by eating enough."
- "I am working hard to overcome my eating disorder."
- "If it is okay for ______ to eat this, then it is okay for me, too."
- "One meal or snack is not going to affect my weight."
I hope this turns out to be helpful for you in the future. If you do something similar or try it out, let me know about it!
Hudgens, J. (2012, December 27). Models in Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2012/12/models-in-eating-disorder-recovery
Author: Jessica Hudgens
I just want to point something out about having what someone else is having - it can be destructive. It isn't inherently, but it can be particularly around other people with an eating disorder.
I've had/seen this process make things worse - like "if - has it, it's okay for me too" becomes "if - doesn't have it, I shouldn't either" which is another form of food restriction, no matter who - is or what the food is. I've seen this lead to unhealthy and competitive behavior in myself and others with an eating disorder, and want to put that caution out here.
Thanks for your comment -- you make a great point. I addressed it some at the end of the article, but it definitely bears repeating!!
It's such fantastic advice in social situations, too- good to remind ourselves of fantastic staple skills, and to apply them to recovery! Thanks Jess
Also - HI HEIDI!!!
This is definitely a staple in my bag o' recovery tricks! I use it all the time!
Hope you find it helpful.
I meant last day or so. You've just recently posted this...my bad.
I'm so glad it has helped! :)
You have such helpful advice, Jess. Thanks for your article. It has helped me over the last few days. :)
Ah! Great idea!
Thanks, Chanda! I forgot who gave me the idea initially, but it's really been a life-saver!
That is a great idea that I've never thought of! Thanks for sharing!
Jill -- I hope it can help you in the future! If you try it out, let me know!