real life

I let go of all my food rules and here's what happened.

Pizza and chocolate are just the beginning.

The past week has held some great hurdles and even greater triumphs.

I’m recovering from an eating disorder which I have had for five years. This week gone by has been most confronting but equally the most liberating week of my recovery.

Here’s why.

I asked my boyfriend, Antoine, if he would help me with my food and exercise choices, two elements of my life that cause me great fear and anxiety.

I gave my boyfriend complete autonomy over my food choices.

I want to preface this by saying that when I asked my boyfriend for help I was under the care of a psychologist and a dietician.

I chose to ask my boyfriend to help me because he is the person I am closest to in my life. I could have asked for my Mum’s help or my Dad’s help.

And while I want to relay my own experiences, I also want to make it clear that I am not advocating this as a magical cure for an eating disorder. I just want to tell my story and describe what this week taught me about my illness and about myself.

I’ve known for a long time that I needed help confronting my food fears. I’m aware that even in recovery I am stuck in certain habits. There are certain routines that I abide by to calm my mind and relieve my anxiety.

I have avoided confronting my fears like the plague. Because being in the comfort zone is just so… comfortable. I prefer to be wrapped in a blanket of assurance than be out met with the brittle air of uncertainty.

So I asked Antoine if, for a week, he would manage my food and exercise choices just as my Mum did when I came out of hospital five years ago.

I wanted help but I was ashamed to ask, because my disordered behaviours are still looming in the background. The only way to challenge these fears is to face them. I had to confront my comfort zone and be thrust into the unknown.

This week, my routine was completely and utterly compromised. I hadn’t had a square of chocolate for over four years. This week, I’ve had chocolate on four occasions. I still have fears around carbohydrates. I’ve had complex carbohydrates for every meal every single day this week. Since I first got sick in 2010, every time I went to the movies, I avoided sweets like the plague. On Saturday, we sat down to a 7:40 session of Spectre and shared a packet of sour squirms and a block of Crunch. I felt, for the first time, that the real me was back again. I was truly content. I was having fun again, like I used to.

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My routine was completely and utterly compromised.

I won’t lie to you and say it was all fine and dandy. The anorexic side of my brain was battling for airtime and connecting emotions to the foods I was consuming. But I let it happen. I set my mind on my goal. My goal was to follow Antoine’s advice, no matter how frightening that was.

I let myself be free.

I have never felt more liberated. In the five years since I developed food and body image insecurities, the answer was asking for help and being open to that assistance.

I trusted that Antoine would push me in what I ate but wouldn’t hurt me. I trusted that he would challenge me, but would also nurture me. I trusted his knowledge about nutrition and the human body, as he’s a qualified personal trainer.

And he challenged me alright. Portion wise. Food wise. Exercise wise. I’ve had more challenges this week than in my whole recovery journey combined.

As a young woman I am constantly surrounded by people who have a dysfunctional relationship with their body and food. Friends complain about their body or whinge about their weight. I feel like I’m always trying to convince or reassure someone that they’re beautiful. That their body is perfect just the way it is. That going on a diet isn’t the answer.

I trusted that he would challenge me but would also nurture me.

I’m aware of the messages shoved down our throat. We’re taught that foods are “good” and “bad”. That we should steer clear of sugars and avoid fats. That we should mainline quinoa… because ‘health’. Why am I the only one who admits that quinoa is expensive glorified gravel?

Well, you know what this week has taught me? EVERYTHING is okay in moderation. You need to listen to your hunger cues. You need to tap into what you feel like rather than what you feel you should have.

I’ve learned that I’m much stronger than I thought I was. That I need to be receptive to advice every now and then to grow.

I’ve learned that I should eat more like a bloke. Which in short means eating until I’m satisfied and not dissecting the nutritional content of everything I put in my mouth. That also means eating for pleasure. And NOT providing a lame excuse for doing so.

I  listened to my hunger cues and met every food challenge with optimism. And the most surprising thing that happened that week?

I’ve decided to keep up the challenges until they become part of everyday life. Live with optimism, eat with gusto and love with an open heart.

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