Getting stuck in the recovery community – when “recovering” becomes your identity

I have been meaning to write this post for a while now, but never got around to actually sitting down to share my thoughts. That was until yesterday, when i brought up the topic of having exercise/gymrat/cardiobunny as my identity a few years ago. I became known as the “fitness person” and the runner in high school. It became my identity and later on when i started university, and realised that at least half of the people in my program were also interested in working out and known as the fitness person. I wasn’t really different… but also, because of having my identity be the fitness person it also made it harder to rest, thinking that… who am i if i am not working out? Over time, i had to learn that my identity is not in exercise and it doesn’t lie in my illnesses, either the past or present ones. I had to recreate an identity for myself, and see myself as more than just the fitness person or more than just the sick girl. Instead realise i was so much more than that.

What i wanted to write about in this post is getting stuck in the recovery community online. The recovery community on social media can be positive and helpful – you can feel less alone, but at the same time it can also be negative and keeping you sick.

You make friends with other people who have the same illnesses, you become known as the person who has an eating disorder and it becomes ALOT harder to let go and move on. If your whole identity – whether in real life or on social media, is based on having an eating disorder…. what happens when you are in recovery and need to let go? When you are no longer sick…. you will go through an identitiy crisis.

But you need to realise that you are so much more than the sick person. So much more than the person with an eating disorder. And even if you want to connect with people who have the same illness and can relate with you… it is not good to get too attached so that you can’t move on.

Remember that you are more than your illness – you are also your hobbies, the things that make you happy, your goals and your dreams, your thoughts. You need to find who you are – or recreate yourself if you have lost yourself in your eating disorder. I personally had to sort of recreate who i was after my eating disorder as i had lost so much of myself… But also that everything i had gone through had changed me and shaped me into a new person. So in a way, i don’t think i would be the person i am today if i hadn’t gone through everything i did in the past.

In a way, i guess you could say i haven’t truly let go…. because why do i still write about eating disorders or past experience from time to time? Or why do i have “recovered from anorexia” in my bio on instagram…. Is that truly letting go? Some would argue that no, i haven’t let go completely, and i accept that. For me personally (how i think right now, maybe my mind and thoughts will change in the future), but right now i think that i can still use my past experiences to help others. And many who see that i have recovered message me and find inspiration in what i post/write.

I can’t change the past or what i have gone through, and in a way it will always define me. But i no longer have eating disorder/sick person be my identity.

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One of the best steps to move forward for me was to let go of my old blog. Sure, there is so much positive on that old blog, so many people i could and was helping and so many good advice posts. But it still took up such ahuge part of my life and still holding onto the illness, even if i wasn’t sick, it was still a part of me as i had to keep going back down memory lane to write advice posts.

Not to mention that i realised that i never get any negative comments about my appearance anymore. Back when i had my old blog i used to get regular comments of people accusing me i was still sick or saying that i was too thin to be healthy or that i was working out too much. Or just overanalyzing everything i did and every choice i made. But now… none of it. And it is great. It may be that i don’t share as much of my personal life, so there isn’t as much to overanalyze and i don’t share as many pictures of myself…. but mostly i think that people don’t define or connect my present choices to my past eating disorder. I.e if i ever choose a salad when eating out i would get people telling me it was my eating disorder – even though i had been recovered for years and they had no idea what i was going to eat later, or that i was just craving a salad.

Finding people who can help you and inspire you can be beneficial in recovery, but at some point you need to move on. You can not have your identity be the sick person – you are so much more than your illness. Your illness is not YOU – no matter what illness you are struggling with.

Learning to find things you enjoy. Recreating yourself. Spending time with friends and family. Stepping away from recovery communities or others who are sick – so you can spend more time with healthy people. Find hobbies and interests and find goals and dreams to work towards.

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And it is also important to mention that you can not put your identity in your size either… i.e “the skinny person”. If your identity is your size, it will be much harder to gain (or lose) weight. And if you constantly surround yourself/see images of thin people with eating disorders, not only will your perspective on body image be skewered, it will also be alot harder to gain weight and reach a normal/healthy weight.

People like to put labels on others and group/categorize them… it makes it easier for the brain to just categorize people. But don’t let others define you, and even if you are known as the sick person, or the skinny person, or the fitness person. Remember that you can break free of those identities and you can RECREATE yourself and be whoever you want to be.  You get to label and identify yourself as whoever you want to be… if you want to be the artist, or the musician, or the horse rider, or even the vegan. But you can identify yourself as the happy person, the energetic person, the positive person. Your identity doesn’t have to be your illness.

 

Some posts from my previous blog that may help:

You are not your eating disorder

Recovery is about fully letting go

“Who am i?” – finding yourself

 

10 tips to increase your confidence

Put I found these tips from HERE, and i thought  they were too good to not share on here. 10 tips that i need to remember myself!!

Some of my best tips to increase confidence are, to fake it till you make it. Sometimes you ust have to put on your best outfit and try to fake confidence even if you may not feel completely comfortable or in your zone.

But also to take care of yourself from the inside out… to love yourself from the inside out. 

Put on a smile, and even if you don’t feel 100% confident… accept that but push through and try anyway!

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1. Don’t compare yourself to others. You are totally unique, and have different talents, abilities and strengths.

2. Never criticise or put yourself down. There are plenty of others who will do that for you. You need to be your biggest, and you greatest, fan. Be understanding, gentle and kind to yourself.

3. Consciously accept every compliment you get and see them as accurate and genuinely meant. Don’t brush them off as stupid, wrong, or meaningless.

4. Keep affirming yourself until it changes how you feel. It may feel false at first when you say something like “I accept myself completely– and believe I’m valuable”. But as you constantly repeat it you’ll find that, over time, you do accept and value the person that you are.

5. Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people. If you hang out with people who always put you down, and never seem to like or approve of your ideas, then you’ll soon stop believing in yourself as well (and it will also crush your creativity).

6. Make a list of your successes and accomplishments – like playing an instrument, learning how to cook, passing an exam, graduating from high school, or getting into college, or receiving an award. Review this list often – and be proud of yourself!

7. Make a list of your positive qualities and traits. Are you an honest, reliable and caring friend? Do you make time for others? Do you try to do your best? Again, review this list often, and get into the habit of focusing on your positive qualities and traits.

8. Spend your time doing things that you are good at, and enjoy. We become more alive when we’re doing things we love – and that naturally increases our self-confidence (as we’re being our true selves and not just acting out a role).

9. Get involved. If you sit on the sidelines and avoid all challenges then you won’t be able to achieve much in life. But if you push through the feelings of anxiety and fear, then you’ll grow, be successful, and have higher self esteem.

10. Be true to yourself; live a life that’s really “you”. Don’t let other people decide what you should do, or what is best for you, or who they think that you should be. You only have one life – choose your own path – just be you!

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Are you obsessed with eating healthy and working out?

In today’s society it feels like there are two polar opposites when it comes to eating…. those who don’t care about what they eat and just eat noodles, fast food and white bread. Whereas on the other side there are those who are extremely aware of what they eat and won’t eat anything processed, nothing with gluten or sugar and only so called “wholefoods” or “real foods”. (Read about “real food” vs “fake food” here)

According to me, there is a problem with both of these and as a society we need to tackle both of the problems.

I know many think, “why is it a problem if people don’t want to eat processed food or eat food that has sugar or gluten… isn’t that a good thing.” And yes, nutritionally it is a good thing. Because the truth is, no you don’t need to eat processed food or eat food with added sugar or food with gluten. However, many also don’t eat those because of disordered eating or eating disorders. They use their “clean eating” or “paleo” or “vegan” diet to avoid dealing with the actual problem which is their eating disorder or disordered eating. Unless a person has an allergy towards a certain food or ingredient, no food will hurt them if eaten in moderation. I.e as long as you aren’t allergic to an ingredient in the food, you can eat a processed burger or a pizza or some chocolate every once in a while (if you crave it) and still be healthy. The main problem is that many eat those foods all the time.

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If we look at society as a whole, the biggest problem is that too many people eat junk food/Processed food too often and they don’t eat enough fruit, vegetables, fiber and non processed food. That is the biggest problem in society when it comes to nutrition (as well as too many people live an inactive lifestyle.) So i understand that this is where most attention should be focused, however in this post i want to address those that may be obsessed with eating healthy, who may be controlled by food thoughts and wanting to eat as healthy as possible… because believe it or not, that is also aproblem and those people may not be as healthy as they seem.

In the past i used to have the mindset of wanting to eat as healthy as possible. Everything had to be sugar free, as little carbs as possible, and would choose the “healthy” version over the “unhealthy version”. I was never extreme with it, and didn’t care about e-numbers or additives, as long as it was sugar free or lower calorie i was fine and didn’t care about what else was in the food. Also i didn’t cut out dairy or oils or try to be super clean, but i wanted it to be high protein and low sugar.

I still choose sugar free over the sugared version if possible, however i don’t really care if i do consume things with sugar and not everything i eat has to be high protein, low carb either.

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Why is this a problem many may think…. The problem is that often there are controlling and disordered food thoughts that make the person think this way. There is not a balance with food. The person controls their food, won’t eat anything that they don’t know the ingredients of or something they deem as unhealthy. This can make them isolate themselves, hard to eat with others, hard to socialize when food is around and often people don’t eat certain foods because they are scared of them. Maybe they want to control their body image or think they will get sick or “poisoned” by certain foods. In the long term this can affect relationships, lead to very strict and disordered eating, isolation and never really dealing with the actual problem which might be control issues, anxiety, bad body image or insecurites or maybe the person just has an extreme fear of illnesses or getting sick… but often it might require proffesional help to tackle the actual problem. Because food isn’t the real problem, instead it is something else. And now a days it is so easy to just say you are eating plant based or paleo or eating “clean” or even IIFYM is a way of controlling food and not having to eat foods you are scared of

This is not me labelling everyone who follows a certain way of eating as disordered or sick, absolutly not. There are people who follow those ways of eating just as a sort of structure and guideline but have a balanced and healthy relationship with food.

The problem is when people are far too strict and don’t actually eat food they enjoy or control their food so much that it begins to affect their social life or just life in general. I.e can’t travel, can’t eat with others, can’t have other people make them food, can’t go out to eat, brings meal boxes and prepared food with them everywhere etc

With this post i am not saying that you have to eat processed food or sugary food, because as mentioned in the beginning you don’t have to. But it can also be good to be honest to yourself… are you not eating them because of fear, whether it is fear of the calories/fat, fear of gaining weight, or fear that they will make you sick… or is it because you generally don’t like them? You don’t have to like all foods or eat foods just to prove you can.

But the first step is to be honest with yourself. Sometimes the healthiest thing is infact a chocolate bar instead of an apple. (For mental health anyway, not to mention that dark chocolate has antioxidants! But sometimes you just need some milk chocolate and that is ok as well.)

You need to find a balance… maybe your balance is eating cake on your birthday once a year, or eating processed/junk food when you are offered which is maybe once every 2 months. That is ok.

Maybe your balance is eating a treat every week or maybe eating something sweet everyday….

But find YOUR balance and to not have any limits or restrictions. Not be scared of food.

You don’t have to like all foods. You don’t have to eat all foods. But to live a life being scared of certain foods or being controlled by food or fear of food is not a full life.

Some claim that orthorexia is not a thing or is not an illness/eating disorder. Because how can wanting to eat healthy be a bad thing. But there is a difference between wanting to eat healthy but having balanced and eating so “healthy” that it infact becomes unhealthy because you are controlled by food and do not have balance and are scared of  certain foods.

If healthy eating controls you i.e you get anxiety or panic eating something you think is unhealthy, or if you eat things based on health rather than taste (all of the time. I.e sometimes you just gotta eat your vegetables and nutrient dense meals even if all you want is pizza. i.e maybe make a sweet potato crust pizza topped with vegetables then instead ;)) Or if you punish yourself for eating something you deem as “bad”/”unhealthy” then you should bgein to question your relationship with food.

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Reasons you need to eat – eating disorder recovery

Eating is something everyone needs to do and something most people do….. however food and eating is an area that so many people have a complicated relationship with. It is not always as simple as eat, instead there are rules and regulations on what and when you can eat and even how you can eat.

Eating doesn’t and shouldn’t be complicated, instead it should be something you enjoy, something part of your life…. something that gives you energy so that you can live life. Because that is what food is – it gives us energy!

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With this post i don’t mean to complicate eating or food or make you focus even more on food, but more to serve as a reminder as to why you should and need to eat everyday. But also why eating only junk food maybe isn’t the best idea (i.e… don’t forget to add some veggies into your diet!). Food doesn’t have to be perfect… there is no perfect way to eat, there are just guidelines and recommendations – but not even dietitians or nutritionists always follow those guidelines. Sometimes it goes a week without eating a fruit, sometimes i eat just bread or oatmeal for dinner, sometimes i barely drink any water in a day and other days i drink 3-4l. It varies and you don’t need to know calories or macros in your food, instead just trying to aim for more wholesome plant based foods for the majority of the time!

So if you ever get thoughts about restricting or not eating, remember these are some reasons – physiologically why you need to eat!

Because food and calories is energy for your body! Without it you would just want to sleep and never want to do anything…. unless you end up in ketosis where you might feel more energetic because your body is just running off of fat… but then there is also the chance that you end up in a coma and die (i.e people with undiagnosed diabetes can end up in ketosis and end up with major complications if it is not treated.)

Because it makes your bones stronger! You need your calcium daily as well as some sort of physical activity to keep your bones strong – not to mention the importance of calcium for your teeth!

Because it makes your skin, nails and hair look better…. of course, skin, nails and hair varies for everyone and some people get alot of acne, others have dry and brittle hair and some have thin and weak nails. But if you don’t eat there is a very high risk that your hair will  be very thin and fall out, your nails will be weak and your skin will turn paleish and very dry/thin.

Because it means you can think, learn, concentrate better!! Of course, some may have concentration problems, but it sure won’t get better if you don’t eat or if you just eat a bunch of sugary foods. Food gives you energy to think and learn…. hard to focus if you don’t have any energy.

Because healthy fats are a part of your cell membranes and you need them for optimal function! Not to mention for your hormones….. if you don’t eat or don’t eat enough fat your hormones may not work as they should and that can cause all types of consequences and unwanted symptoms.

Because some foods are antioxidants and can help fight oxidation in the body and minimize inner damage!

Because protein is the building blocks of your body and they are a part of your DNA, a part of enzymes that have so many different functions in your body as well as a part of antibodies that can protect your body from viruses and bacteria… not to mention they are a part of your muscles and a part of your cells among other functions!

Because vitamins help/strengthen your immune system so you can fight off colds better and not always be sick. Because they help your metabolism function the way it should so you can actually digest food and have energy.

Because certain fiber feeds your gut bacteria (the good ones!) and the gut bactiera is connected with SO MANY things (according to new studies) and by having a good healthy gut bacteria can minimize risk of developing certain illnesses.

Because iron transports oxygen in the blood from the lungs to your organs/tissues so that they work as well as being a part of immune function and metabolism function! Also so that your cells and organs actually function the way they should.

Food is literally your building blocks….. and the quote “you are what you eat” is actually true. Without eating you would be constantly tired, you would lack energy, motivation, concentration. You may feel unhappy from not having energy, you have a higher risk of having weak bones, weak immune system, metabolism that doesn’t work that it should, hormones that don’t work as they should, teeth that may fall out, skin and hair that are weak/thin, muscles that break down because there is not enough protein or energy to build them stronger….. among so many other things that happen in your body if you don’t eat.

So if you ever just need a reminder as to why to eat…. think of these reasons. Maybe it is just me who is a nerd with nutrition and finds the body extremely fascinating, but when i was in recovery one of the things that helped me the most was reminding myself of these things. In combination with working out and beginning to treat my body right, if i ever didn’t want to eat or wanted to restrict i would think about why i should and need to eat. And then there is of course ALL the other things that a healthy relationship with food and enough food can contribute to your life such as actually being able to study, fulfil your dreams, live life, meet new people, socialize etc etc but those are more lifestyle and living reasons, which i might make a post about later.

I hope this helps and doesn’t make eating more complicated or something you need even more control of or need to obsess more over. But just remember why you need to eat – because it will build your body stronger and help all the different functions in your body!!!

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World mental health day

The day may be coming to an end, but it’s never too late to make you all aware that today the 10th of October it is world mental health day.

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Each day so many people suffer from different mental illnesses, and so many people suffer and struggle in silence. Mental illness is still rather taboo to talk about, its a conversation topic you want to avoid and not talk about your own struggles, instead pretend everything is fine… or that’s how i perceive it anyway. However i am noticing a difference and how more people are talking about their struggles and mental illness.

I have also made previous posts where i have mentioned that some of my friends who i just guessed were so carefree and stressfree and healthy, have infact suffered from different mental illnesses and some deal with anxiety as well. It then makes me question how my friends perceive me… whether they just think i am a happy and positive person with no struggles to deal with.

I don’t talk about my struggles and i won’t make this too much of a personal post either as that is what i choose to move on from… However i would say i am a health activist and that includes mental health. I am passionate about overall health and wellbeing and that means a healthy mental state as well. I want to help people get healthy and to dare talk about their problems…. the only real way to get better is to admit you have a problem and find a way to cope with the problem or make the problem go away such as through treatment.

Mental health is so so important. It is easy to push past your limits but if it leaves you feeling lifeless and unhappy then it is not worth it.

Talk about your struggles. Get help for your struggles, and take care of yourself.

You aren’t alone if you are struggling and you can get help- there are people out there who can and want to help you, as long as you dare to ask for it!

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and this is something i need to get better at reminding myself of.

What have you done today for your mental health? Rested? Worked hard? Worked out? Went to therapy? Talked to friends or family? Kept yourself from self harming? Made a delicious meal? Cleaned your room?

Self care and taking care of your mental health isn’t just taking naps and using face masks, but also about knowing that you NEED to clean your room and do your studies and that you WILL feel better after it’s done. Somedays the best thing you can do for your mental health is to do all those basic things like clean, wash, study, go to the store, exercise because it will make you feel better.

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Also i think we should make talking about mental illness less taboo and more ok. HOWEVER i don’t think we should glamourize or “normalize” mental illnesses. I.e i have seen far too often people say, “oh everyone has depression” or “all young girls have eating disorders” or “all university students have anxiety”…. because that is not the case and you should not generalize mental illness and neither glamourize it. unfortunately it feels like depression and eating disorders are rather glamourized in social media… often portrayed by young moody girls who have a certain look and still have perfect hair and make up and look flawless and that it’s just a dark phase. I recently watched the movie  FEED which is new and is about eating disorders and i thought it was done so well. No glamourizing of an eating disorder and no stereotypical things or talk about calories or weight. I think im going to write a review on it, but i would recommend it as i don’t think its  as triggering as to the bone, and also not as glamourized.

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