Finding A Sense of Self Post-Recovery

**Written April 6th, 2017**
When you spend years, months, weeks, hell, even one day battling an eating disorder, you lose yourself. You become the disorder. It’s all you identify with. You’re the girl who doesn’t eat, the one who goes to the gym twice a day, who’s disciplined and strong. Yeah yeah, you know the drill.
Okay, so let’s say you’re basically beyond your disorder. Now you’re weight restored, you’re mentally and physically stable, and you’re beginning to search for new outlets to invest your time and energy in. Where do you turn?
Two summers ago, this was the state I was in. I was no longer an eating disorder, but what was I? What lifestyle did I identify with? How did I want to lead my life? I was so lost. At this point in time, I had just started posting on a recovery-based Instagram account to help hold me accountable for my intake, to vent about my struggles, and to connect with those who were in the same place I was. My account was small, my posts were just vehicles for therapeutic captions. I went out of my way to follow as many “pro-recovery” accounts as possible. People who had overcome their disorders and were now sharing their next steps. Being as lost as I was, I looked to these people for inspiration.
My Instagram feed quickly filled with bikini competitors, fitness gurus, and protein-bar junkies. I was being fed the idea that once you recovered, the next step was to become a “health nut”. A “gym rat”, if you will. I spent the majority of last year scoping the Internet for the newest protein powder that I could pair with a protein bar that tasted remarkably similar to a candy bar after the gym. Sipping my BCAAs while I wrote out a heavy lift for later that day. Taking (no exaggeration) about thirty gym selfies after every workout. I followed accounts that counted macros, were gym obsessed, and praised protein like it was all that was holy in the world. I didn’t know better. My ignorance was only bliss for so long.
Eventually I found myself doing these things to. Most importantly, I was counting macros. I saw that these accounts didn’t care about the ingredients in the products they were eating, as long as they were “macro-friendly”. This term became an obsession. I stocked up on more bars than I care to remember, never glancing once at the ingredient list but instead making sure they were super low net-carb and not too high in fat. What I was looking for was a slab of protein that tasted like some wild dessert flavor, and unfortunately there are A LOT of options out there, surprisingly.
I spent my entire senior year of high school eating products that I now realize were just collections of chemicals, manmade sweeteners and additives and flavors. I ate my veggies at dinner, sure, but that’s probably the only source of “whole foods” I was consuming. Protein pancakes with WF for breakfast, protein bread for sandwiches, sometimes THREE PROTEIN BARS a day, etc.
Not only was I not seeing the results I wanted, but I knew I could be feeling better. How did I know this? I found myself constantly thinking about the foods I wasn’t allowing myself. Pretty sure I dreamt about guacamole…like, a lot. My body was sending me signs that I was craving more whole foods, especially more fats. Admittedly, I spent all of last year AFRAID OF FATS. I identified myself with the gym and “gains”, and I couldn’t justify the presence of more fats than necessary, or more specifically, the ones in my Combat Crunch bar.
These cravings led to me searching through#avocado hashtags on Instagram. I began to follow more and more accounts who were food based instead of gym based. More strong minded people posting whole foods, nutrient rich and fresh intakes. I was in awe. These men and women led such radiant lifestyles, and I wanted in. They talked about how they incorporated exercise into their lives, because it was healthy in moderation and because they enjoyed it. There were no overwhelming amounts of gym selfies, just beautiful food and beautiful people behind the camera.
I was inspired by these accounts to start doing more research into wholesome foods and digestion, the microbiome, how important fats and carbs were, etc. In doing so, I realized how horrid my new identity truly was. Now that I’m no longer ignorant to ingredients and their importance over calories and macros, I have a lot of regrets about last year’s intake. Today, I wouldn’t go near half of the products I used to eat with a ten-foot pole.
In exposing myself to my fears, I was able to truly discover myself. I can now say with pride that I identify myself as an advocate for all-around health and wellness. I’m not the gym junkie, protein guzzling little powerhouse I tried so hard to be. I thought there was no other way to lead my life post-recovery. But here I am. The gym is only a part of my life. I find so much joy in cooking, in eating wholesome and fresh foods, in going to farmers markets and simply appreciating how BEAUTIFUL whole foods are. I can’t see myself ever going back to rejecting the ingredients of what goes into my body. I have found such an appreciation and love for wellness that I wouldn’t compromise that for the world.
This is a topic that’s been on my mind for awhile, especially as my birthday nears and another year comes to a close. I’ve realigned my beliefs and values greatly in this past year, and I feel confident going into the big 19 that this is where my heart is. I would have never discovered my true place of peace had I not expanded my horizons, faced my fears, and branched out. I don’t want to throw a cliche at you about comfort zones, but I don’t think it’d be a bad idea right about now 😉
In no way am I demeaning or dismissing the dedication and passion involved in a gym-dedicated lifestyle. To each their own, and if one is content and happy where they are, I’m in no place to judge. As always, I’m just speaking from my personal journey and what worked and didn’t work for me.
Sending love!!