Like most people in my generation, I grew up in a family fully immersed in diet culture. My parents were always trying the latest fad diet. Skipping meals was a celebration of willpower. To be thin was to be happy and healthy. It was a tough place to be for a chubby kid who became an even chubbier teenager and young adult. I felt like no one was happy with the way I looked – especially not myself.
Much like the rest of my family, I am also a perfectionist, so it’s no surprise that in my 20s when I decided to lose the weight and I went ALL IN. I obsessively counted every calorie. I started exercising to burn more calories. I joyfully celebrated every pound I lost. Friends and family praised my progress. And when my cravings for “bad” foods got too great, I had the perfect solution. I simply binged and purged.
My eating disorder continued into my 30s and 40s, even through marriage and two beautiful children. As a stay at home mom wanting a second, part-time career, I joined the fitness industry. It was perfect - I could get paid to feed my obsession with being thin! I was teaching 8-10 fitness classes a week, eating no more than 1200 calories on a “good” day, and purging on my bad days. Every morning the scale determined my happiness for the day. I thrived on the admiration from others. Outwardly I was the picture of health, but inside I was the least healthy both physically and mentally than I had ever been in my life. It was my dirty little secret, and I was a total fraud.
Then someone very close to me was diagnosed with an eating disorder, and my world came crashing down around me. How could I support this person in their recovery when I was unwilling to face my own demons? How could I celebrate their strength and yet not admit my own weaknesses? How could I set a good example if I continued to live the life of a hypocrite? The choice was clear.
Recovery is not a linear journey. It is a winding road of ups and downs. I am learning to love this new body I am in, and take joy in teaching others to love themselves as well. And when I am feeling particularly down on myself, or feeling judged by a society that still believes you have to be thin to be healthy, I remind myself that I chose this. I chose health over sickness. I chose a nourished body over an “ideal” body. I chose to have ice cream with my kids. I chose happiness over obsessiveness. I chose recovery.
And it was the best choice I ever made.