How Andrew helped me in eating disorder recovery.
Andrew and I both grew up like every American child does, instilled with a sense to conform to unrealistic body ideals. For me that meant becoming smaller and for him that meant becoming more muscular. As I was struggling with exercise type bulimia in college, Andrew was doing a gallon-of-milk-a-day challenge to gain muscle.
Eating disorder behaviors are so normalized in our society that when we got married Andrew didn’t know how much my self worth, identity and feeling of safety in this world was dependent on me being thin and athletic. Here’s are 5 specific ways Andrew helped me heal my disordered eating and constant pursuit of thinness.
Listened to Food Psych podcasts with me.
On a 4 hour road trip Andrew stumbled upon Food Psych and we listened together. It gave me a chance to describe my eating disorder and disordered thought patterns to Andrew. The podcast was nice because it kinda led the conversation between us and was a jumping off point in our conversations on how food and my body size impacted me.
Calling out EDBs.
Eating disorder behaviors (EDBs) are everywhere and it’s so nice to have someone who understands how comments about food restriction and weight loss affect you. Anytime Andrew and I heard an EDB, whether it was someone giving themselves a food rule to follow or having a weight loss goal, we’d give each other a knowing nod and it was so comforting. If you’re someone who’s self worth is/was highly influenced by your body size, calling out EDBs could be a helpful thing. If you have/had an eating disorder, this world is hard to live in when someone’s new years resolution or slim-down-for-summer plan is something you use to harm yourself with in your eating disorder.
Was proud of me for going to non-bourgeois donut places.
Words of affirmation is my love language. I remember one morning in particular when I picked up donuts from a non-fancy donut place and when I got home with them Andrew asked where they were from. I told him I went to this random donut place and he looked at me and said, “I’m proud of you for going there for donuts.”
It made me feel so understood. In my eating disorder trendy donut shops were far easier to eat at than random strip center donut shops and he knew that. I have a lot of other examples of Andrew validating how hard things I went/go through are…things that may seem like nothing to someone else because engaging in disordered eating is the norm and what we’re taught to do. Isn’t it messed up how not engaging in eating disorder behaviors is counter cultural?
Another example of feeling safe and understood was when I stopped running and was letting my body find the size it was meant to be in that season of life. Andrew got how hard that was for me, likely from listening to the Food Psych Podcast and him listening to me explain things I was learning from Intuitive Eating and Body Respect (<–affiliate links.)
Really pressed that not every meal has to be a gourmet experience.
I already wrote a post on how sometimes meals are boring and not especially satisfying, but I wanted to point it out again. I saw the below funny saying somewhere…
…and while I do agree that sometimes it’s good to remind yourself you don’t need to eat out because you have a fridge filled with food at home, I also know that if you’ve had an eating disorder (or long-term disordered eating) you’ve likely suffered a nutritional trauma from the physical and mental food restriction and you should eat according to your cravings as often as possible. So if you have the time to drive across town for a certain cookie…that can be part of your healing process from years of restriction and you should go for it!
When you come from a place of long-term food restriction, I get how there is SO much pressure on every eating experience to be perfect. Your disordered eating thoughts tell you to eat as little as possible and that this is your only chance to eat for the next x hours. Having so much pressure placed on every meal to be perfect makes you feel out of control around food.
You want to eat according to your cravings as much as possible, but there are some times when it doesn’t make sense to go out to eat because you have a fridge filled with food or you don’t have time to pick up x food from x place.
So when you are ready and feel you can tolerate the distress of not having the meal that perfectly meets your cravings but still has protein/carbs/fat, you can start challenging yourself to not have to eat a perfect meal at every meal. Sometimes you eat a bland soup and saltine crackers and it’s not exciting, but it fills you up and is convenient. Andrew was big on reminding me that sometimes food is boring and that may be hard for me because of past years of restriction…and it’s okay that it’s hard and it’s okay that I eat the bland food anyways.
Always has been judgemental of running.
This is just a funny one haha. Andrew would always say, “why is moving your legs in this set range of motion the marker for optimal physical fitness?! There are more ways we can move.” I’ve talked extensively about me + running, but I’m not against running for everyone. Some people find running a very joyful way to move their body. And some of you are like me and have let running go (or know you need to) because running for you is all wrapped up in wanting to change your body size and felt rigid and forced, not joyful.