I’ve been struggling with my body. I’m becoming more and more aware of my body, and how my body has changed over the course of my recovery. I’ll be honest: I’m uncomfortable. I look in the mirror and it looks like me, but different. This is the person I ran away from.
It’s been difficult to see my body change through my recovery. I no longer resemble a diagnostic page, but rather my mother’s daughter. I can’t help but compare myself to the body I used to exist in. My pants sit differently on my hips and my t-shirts are tighter than they were. Everytime I get dressed in the morning or pass a mirror I can’t help but notice how my formerly oversized t-shirt fits the contours of my body perfectly. Even my shoes fit weird. I feel uncomfortable in this body – my body. But you see, my body has committed to being this body. I’ve committed to eating three meals and two snacks every day, and my body is the result of this commitment.
Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I made the right decision. I have to work a little harder to see the good that comes with recovery and this is what I tell myself when I’m struggling with my body.
Food is medicine.
I’ve had to completely re-evaluate my relationship with food. I’ve struggled with many distortions around food that have led to self-destructive behaviour, and I’ve worked hard to develop new behaviours to support my recovery. When my partner decided to switch to a vegan diet, I was tempted to follow him. A part of me saw it as a way to experiment with food while another part of me saw veganism as another way to slip back into my eating disorder. Thankfully, he’s smart and can sense when Ed may be making a comeback. He explained to me how his body felt when he ate meat and dairy, and why this was the best choice for him. He told me that food was medicine and while veganism is how he is healing from his own health issues, it may not be the best choice for me. Maybe I’ll be vegan one day, and for now, I need a balanced meal plan that honours every food group in order to get all of the nutrients I need. A balanced meal plan is my medicine.
Beauty is ambiguous.
We seem to think that there is something wrong with being different than the “ideal body type” that we see plastered over billboards and magazines. Being different is beautiful and should be celebrated. Look at models like Winnie Harlow, Joshua Cruz, and Daphne Selfe: Winnie Harlow struggled with bullying due to her vitiligo and found her self-love, believing that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; Joshua Cruz celebrates his body and his sexuality, despite toxic masculinity; and Daphne Selfe, the world’s oldest professional model, help others through confidence-building courses with the belief that confidence is the key to true beauty. These are the role models that I choose to look up to because they show us that beauty is ambiguous. They’ve taught me that everyone’s definition of beautiful is different and that I don’t have to believe that skinny is synonymous with beautiful. Now, I believe that happiness is synonymous with beauty.
I’m gaining more than weight.
By choosing recovery, I made a choice to have a future. Being told that you’re heading towards a cardiac arrest at 22 years old pushes you to re-evaluate the decisions that have placed you in that hospital bed. I had to make the choice to live or die, and I chose to live. By choosing recovery, I have chosen to be loved by my family, to follow my passions, and live the life that girl in the hospital bed wanted so bad. I’ve always dreamed of travelling the world, starting a family, and helping people through hair. Because I chose recovery, I gained the opportunity to do all of these. I have a real opportunity to achieve my goals. I can travel the world because I don’t pass out after walking for more than 15 minutes. I can start a family because my body is strong enough to love and carry my child in my arms. I can help people as a hairstylist because I don’t spend every waking minute focusing on myself. This, and more, is what I choose to gain. The weight doesn’t matter because I’m alive and truly living for the first time in my life.
These are my mantras and they help me remain body-positive when I’m struggling. They remind me that I made the right decision by choosing recovery and that I am continuing to make the right choice. These mantras have helped me through recovery and I’m proud. I hope they help you too.