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FED: my five-point roadmap

i've said this before and i'll say it again. i thought the end of my eating disorder would come with the speed and force of a mack truck. (in a good way). 

i figured i'd be waking across the street, a sudden impulse would prompt me to turn and then

and it'd be over. done. and i'd be free.

turns out it hasn't really happened that way.

it has been inches. slow crawling inch after slow crawling inch.

when this recent funk hit i took a deep breath, thought, been there, done that, then realized my familiarity with the thing was not a get out of jail free pass. took a longer inhale, getting air into the space between my toes and reminded myself that this too shall pass. only then did i go about doing everything my capable little hands could do to crawl and claw my way out of the trench.

my version of trench warfare? full fat mochas (they feel luxurious and indulgent--make me think i'm on vacation). afternoon tea with girlfriends. indulging in massages at that place on 80th that sections of the tables with nothing more than clothes lines and bed sheets. painted red nails. a trip to boston. hurtling down icy northeastern ski-slopes. tickets to see noah and the whale. and investing in a very lovely, lovely cannon (i may not be able to crawl out of this funk, but perhaps i can photograph from within it?).

and so it has gone for the last six weeks: a funk. and so it goes. deep and encompassing. an overriding sense of apathy. and a feeling of claustrophobia--suffocating in my own skin.

and yet.

it's been bearable (as most funks prove to be).

and even a little exhilarating. exhilarating, you ask?


because the eating disorder (ned) has been so quiet.

yes it's still there. but somehow now it's not so important.

in the past the funk would come. and i would eat. and the eating disorder would quickly spiral. and the feelings and sensations that would follow i would label as such: that pesky ned, rearing his disastrous, hellish head once more.

but this go round the feelings and sensations came and the eating disorder didn't.

illumination. for better or for worse, illumination.

and another step forward.

a little while back a reader emailed asking for advice in dealing with her own eating disorder. in replying to the email i realized i was mapping my own little trail of recovery. and because i am slightly better and because it was national eating disorder week just two weeks ago and because why not? i thought i'd share:  so here goes. my five-point road map to mental health:

1. get help. find a therapist. a really, really, really good one. one who specializes in eating and weight disorders. (i can't emphasize this enough. if nothing else, please get help). it is unbelievably difficult to deal with an eating disorder, but to struggle alone is nearly crushing.

in looking for help, trust your gut. i sought out medical professional after medical professional before i found one who could give me a correct diagnosis. (two doctors, and four therapist--the fifth therapist was able to diagnose me, and the sixth (tom) literally gave me life back). there is a huge amount of mis-information and lack of information out there regarding eating disorders and not everyone who should be able to help can

2. figure out how food can be about more than just necessity. and more than just pleasure. for me the decision to become a vegetarian was an easy and practical (and meaningful, might i add) way to make food bigger than myself--it took some of the selfishness i was struggling with out of the equation. i do recognize that going vegetarian isn't for everyone. may i suggest volunteering at a food bank or soup kitchen? reacacquaint yourself with what it means to really need a warm meal--and fill yourself up in the process (i find goodwill much more filling than any of the many flavors of ben and jerry's--and i've tried them all, so i should know).

3. fall in love with kitchen. or try. at least, try.
i don't love to cook. but i'm working on it. it began with my hour long bake potato. from there i figured out that cinnamon in tomato-basil soup is delightful. i now make a mean vegan banana bread and pretty darn good raw chocolate chip cookie (made from cashews and oatmeal). making your own food is good for you--studies have been done indicating that when you make your own food and there is some time and process involved, you end up eating less because you fill up faster. i like that my baked potato takes an hour to make--i don't want to shorten that process. 

4. experiment, experiment...in life. do things you don't want to do. that you wouldn't usually do. go to a party. flirt with a guy. take risks on a daily basis (they don't have to be big). wear those skinny black pants before you're ready. exercise in spandex (even if you feel naked in them the first few times). take someone up on an invitation even if you're afraid you won't know anyone else. 

5. and exercise. (for the mental aspect of it). i can't emphasize this enough. i've been exercising consistently for years now. but it took going to physique for me to really get all the benefits that exercise has to offer. yes, in part because physique is tremendously good for the body--but more because it challenged my mind--forced me so far out of my comfort zone and provided my mind with a whole new set of skills to tackle. for me it elevated exercise form something i had to do to something of a personal practice. and the most important thing i've taken away (even more important than increased bone density) is the knowledge that it gets easier. pain changes and morphs. and everything, every sensation passes. in life to. exercise as metaphor! meaning all those pesky sensations and emotions that i would attempt to self-medicate by binge eating would pass if i just gave them time enough--lived through them.  

this list is by no means comprehensive or all-inclusive. there are so many other things i could include like recognizing patterns and identifying those aforementioned pesky emotions, but much of those things can be done with the help of a really great therapist. and if you are really, truly in the throws of an eating disorder, or even if you're struggling with disordered eating, i can't recommend finding help enough.

also, know this: i still struggle. often. i have good days and bad days and in-between days. i eat too much sugar and too much processed food. i'm not a whiz in the kitchen. and the last month i've found it much more difficult to get to exercise class. i still strive for perfection when i know--in my bones, i know--that perfection and the pursuit of it is not good for my health. but i am better. and i continue to get better. and that is something to celebrate and applaud.

small victories. small victories.


communikate. said...

holy crap.

i needed this today. like really really needed this.

thank you.

Celeste said...

so inspirational! it's nice to see you being honest and just living the best you can. it's all we can do.

nathaliedelakim said...

I really enjoyed this post. I am not sure how I discovered your blog but I'm glad I did! overcoming an eating disorder is an amazing accomplishment. I found this book incredibly helpful in re-calibrating the way I think about food:
"The truth about Beauty" by Kat James. basically it talks about eating to truly nourish yourself instead of feeding ourselves with low quality junk that leaves us starving for what is real. The author overcome a 12 year eating disorder. All the best to you on your journey and thanks for sharing your insights!

heather said...

you are such an inspiration miss meg. and so, so strong. never stop being true to yourself!

ps. i happen to have just started dating a vegan & don't even know where to begin when it comes to cooking for him, haha (i eat pretty much everything). may i ask what the recipe is to this mean vegan banana bread? perhaps that shall be my start. :)


Claire Kiefer said...

Your self-awareness when it comes to the eating disorder is inspiring. Isn't it so often nearly impossible to see yourself (and your behaviors) objectively? I often fantasize about being able to see myself--even just for an hour--from the outside; to be able to just NOTICE things about me that I can't see from within.

That was a funny little tangent, but I appreciate your wisdom and bravery when it comes to writing about these things--thank you!

Brittany said...

thanks for always being so honest and demystifying eating disorders. i also think that your roadmap is great for everyone trying to have a better relationship with their body, eating disorder or not. great advice and things to remember to hold onto.

sonny said...

Hi meghan....i became your reader a few weeks ago...when i myself was busy wallowing my sorry ass in self pity...i think thats how most of us plunge through tons and tons of reading...i went through so many [ read all ] of your earlier blogs and felt inspired enough to start a page of my own...to see if writing publicly helps me get rid of some of this restlessness....reading you is a pleasure , every single day...dont give up please...you are beautiful, sexy , talented...and you have that sass with sarcasm which makes me sit up and take notice...

jackiek said...

i love when you talk about eating disorder awareness because as a 17 year old girl (a swimmer, of all things), i see so many of my friends struggle with weight issues. it's hard to watch, especially when one of your good friends has a known eating disorder, so being able to understand it through your eyes has made it easier to understand a bit of what she may be going through.

Gisela said...

Thanks for sharing this. I am so impressed by your honesty. You are an inspiring girl...for me...for all of us!!! I admire your strength!

from Munich

Ana* said...

you're such a strong inspirational young woman

Valerie said...

hi meg. I work in a school and I am about to go into a meeting with a student who confided in me that she has been making herself purge. I am so nervous. I had to tell the school nurse and we are having a meeting with her to get her some help. I am torn with the fact that she told me this "secret" and that I have had to tell someone else....but I keep reminding myself that she is just a child...she has no clue what damage she is doing to her body.

Reading this this morning helped confirm my fears about reaching out and helping her. I know it is the absolute right thing to do. Even if she hates me for awhile, I know one day she will understand. Thank you.

::: Wild lola/Naia said...

I like so much your post, I think it´s great to read people who had an experience like you, thank you for sharing!

Even if I never had any problem with food, all the other things that you said, all the little things that you said... so much truth! merci.

look a little closer said...

meg. you are an inspiration. what a great post. as someone who's also struggled with an ed, i think you hit the nail on the head with this one. small victories are everything. and inspiring people are also extremely helpful. i hope warmer weather brings lovely photo opportunities for you and that longer days bring sunshine and even more exhilaration. and more writing for all your readers. :)


Rachel said...

Take comfort in the fact you're not alone in these feelings. While I've never faced them head-on like you have, I've dealt with them too. NYC makes it hard, but once you find yourself above the depression, it is glorious. I'm banking on warm weather and green leaves to help with this transition.

Last night in a yoga class - I'm slowly growing into a yogi, much against my own will - our teacher told us how to find the newness in our breath. Make it exciting. Make it something you want to do, not that you have to do.

Here's to spring and all its newness! :)

PS hoping to make book club!

Megan said...

thanks so much for this post.

i thought i was weak because i too hit funks...which hurt all the more because every time i can't help but think, wait- i thought i conquered this????

but now i see that everyone hits funks, in a variety of shapes and forms. and we are strong because we can get through them each time :)

Platypodian said...

This post is beautiful! Thank you for helping/ being a role model to many people! :)

Shannon said...

Thanks for this Meg. Beautifull written, and that list was great. As a recovering anorexic I can say that list is great for anyone struggling with their own disorder. And Im glad you are doing so well. Hang in there friend. We miss you here in Utah <3

Kate said...

Every woman needs to hear these words, thank you for being so open.

Erin said...

i really don't know anything about having an eating disorder, but i know what it's like to LOVE food and to eat even when i don't need to eat... and usually this happens when i'm bored or depressed. i personally find that keeping myself busy and excited about something (anything) really helps my mood and my likeliness to eat when i don't need to.

you're a strong, brave person! God has blessed you! :)

becky said...

You're a lovely lady, Meg. You give advice and you give strength to women who haven't quite found it yet---and you do it, every step of the way, with a whole lot of bravery and a whole lot of honesty.

Stephanie said...

I love your honesty. You are wonderful with words!

Beth said...

I was referred here by a friend, and I am so glad that I came! I love your honesty, your perspective, the way you use words. I had an eating disorder that pretty much ruined my life for years. . .I feel I am in a good spot at this point. I wrote about it on my blog about 2 years ago and it was very therapeutic. I am realistic, though, and know it can always sneak back in if I let it. So it helps on the sometimes hard days where I feel like falling back into it to read others stories and encouragement. so, thank you!

Rachael said...

I just wanted to say how incredibly helpful your posts are. Like, unbelievably. Every one I read is meeting me RIGHT where I need to be met. Thank you.