If I had to wear a name badge in public each day, it would announce to everyone around me: "Hello, my name is Perfectionist." This might seem vain or self-important, but in truth, it's debilitating because perfectionism is a roadblock to eating disorder recovery. The merciless expectations of achievement, the rigorous standards of appearance, and the continuous loop of self-deprecation can form just the right conditions for an eating disorder to take root. Therefore, to heal from an eating disorder, the roadblock of perfectionism must be overcome. This is hard work—but so necessary and worthwhile.
As a young woman, I am unfortunately no stranger to crude—and sometimes coercive—innuendos aimed in my direction. Like countless other women, I have been taught to use car keys as weapons of self-defense, and I know all the tactics designed to repel an attacker. However, not until I was sexually assaulted in 2017 did I recognize the full impact of this type of violation and the residual trauma it causes. Nor was I ready for how this would further exacerbate and complicate my eating disorder. But three years later, the truth remains: my eating disorder makes it difficult to heal from sexual assault.
Can I share a fundamental, irrevocable truth that you just might need to hear? Your personal identity is more than an eating disorder. Even if you cannot imagine a life without this illness right now, I want you to know that recovery is attainable, and you are capable of existing in a world that does not revolve around your eating disorder. How can I voice this with absolute confidence? The answer is simple—in these past few years, I have been on a crusade to unearth and reclaim my own identity outside the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa; so if I can do this, I guarantee you have the same potential, too.
If you have a history of eating disorder behaviors or mindsets, then you have most likely body checked yourself, or stood in front of a mirror and scrutinized your reflection with a severe and merciless eye. Chances are, you understand how it feels to wither beneath your own cruel gaze which repeatedly dissects the size, weight, shape, and curvature of a frame that will never be adequate to you. This ritual is known as compulsive body checking, and it can worsen your eating disorder tendencies. But if that toxic pattern sounds familiar, rest assured, it is possible to break yourself of a compulsive body checking habit.
Dating someone with an eating disorder can be challenging. I know every single one of my past relationships was affected by my eating disorder, and while there are undeniably things I could have done differently, there are also things I wish I'd been able to articulate to my exes to make the relationship easier.a
When I first stumbled upon actress and activist Jameela Jamil's "I Weigh" social media account two years ago, I breathed an audible sigh of relief. Here was a celebrity using her enormous platform to raise awareness to the overlooked truth that humans are worth more than the size and shape of their bodies.
As the eyes and ears of American society are fixed on dismantling more than 400 years of racial injustice at this pivotal moment in time, the intersection of racial trauma and eating disorders must be part of this broader conversation.
Are you all too familiar with the inner eating disorder voice's monologue which tries to convince you that self-worth can only be achieved with a perfect body? This critical, insidious whisper does not come from you—it's the influence of an eating disorder that aims to control your decisions and undermine your wholeness. But a foundational part of recovery is learning how to both identify and confront the eating disorder voice in your head.
As a college freshman, I was hospitalized for anorexia. It's been almost a decade since then, but no one told me about the pain—and payoffs—of residential eating disorder treatment. I had just embarked on a harrowing three-month process that would stretch, unravel, and change me.
Here is a truth about me that I once believed to be impossible: My eating disorder is not at the forefront of my mind right now—and I love the way it feels. All my mental energy used to be allocated to tracking how many calories I ate, miles I ran, or pounds I weighed. I fixated on these so incessantly, in fact, that I had no stamina and concentration to focus on anything else.