Recovering from an eating disorder

Adrienne Oliva, Editor in Chief

To celebrate National Eating Disorder Week last year, I came forward with my own experience struggling with different eating disorders. This year, however, I want to celebrate this week by focusing my fight through recovery.

For so long, the only thing I wanted in this world was to be thin. When I was struggling, the only accomplishment that meant anything to me was seeing the number on the scale decrease by two pounds every week.

For me, my recovery from my eating disorder was contingent on me finding more things in the world I wanted to be than just “thin.”

My official recovery began with hospitalization. This is how it begins for many people- it helps us put a hard stop to something that has been spiraling out of control for a very long time.

Being hospitalized is not something I am ashamed of, because it gave me an opportunity to realize that recovery was something I wanted, and that changing how I looked at my body would be healthier than how I was trying to physically change my body.

After hospitalization came therapy, which is where I met one of the most important people in my life: an eating disorder specialist named Susan. In a word, I would describe Susan as rad. Susan gave me the most important skill I’ve ever been given- the ability to look at the world around me critically.

One day, I told Susan I could only have power in this world if I was thin. Baffled, she asked me why. I answered because all the bad ass women I’ve ever seen in movies were thin; all the Bond girls are thin, all the superheroes are thin, even Erin Brockovich is thin.

She then suggested to me that I thought this way because this was all I was surrounded by, therefore, if I changed the media I consumed, my view of what powerful women looked like would change, as well.

What some people don’t realize is that to recover from an eating disorder, you have to change your world view almost completely. We are constantly surrounded by implicit and explicit images of what our bodies must look like.

In order to recover, I had to completely change what stimulus I took in. I began to actively search out images of large women I found beautiful. I filled my Instagram feed with them. I covered my bedroom walls with them. I put their pictures in my notebooks. I did anything I could to make my idea of beauty wider.

And over time- it happened. I find big women, including myself, beautiful.

Some days I wish I could talk to my 16-year-old self to tell her all the things she will be besides thin. I wish I could tell her that at 21, she is a promising journalist, an international traveler, a fashion show model, a not so bad beginning rock climber, and an all-around adventurous powerhouse.

I wish I could tell her than one day, you will have much bigger aspirations besides ‘thin.’