On gratitude and self-acceptance
In retrospect, I now understand that I needed to cultivate some measure of self-acceptance and self-compassion before I could start moving into recovery. It was only after I first started to believe that I was “worth it,” that I could begin to question if I honestly needed to use food that way anymore. With time and perseverance, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I no longer felt such a pressing need to eat that way so often. I started to learn that I could stay calm and relaxed throughout the day without overeating or binge-eating, and this insight became one of the first tangible steps I took towards ED recovery.
These early efforts at reversing my failure-based mindset were also helped immensely by writing out a series of positive personal affirmations that I would read out loud to myself every morning. I moved my focus away from trying to control my diet and my weight, towards learning how to love and accept myself as I was, right in that minute, even if I’d just “failed myself” by hitting another drive-thru the night before. That was the first and only thing that actually got me to reduce those disordered eating behaviours that I had been battling for so long.
When I reflect on this now, I actually find myself feeling grateful that I developed a dependence on only food for my emotional comfort as a teen. I could have easily chosen alcohol, drugs, crime or sex as coping mechanisms instead. However, since my drug of choice happened to be food, I never needed to go anywhere other than my own kitchen or to the corner store to get my fix. If that step-parent had been just a bit more dangerous or harmful, then food might not have done the trick, which might have made me turn to something harder. Sometimes I laughingly wonder if I owe that person thanks for not having treated me badly enough to make me become a criminal. Today, I also celebrate other moments of gratitude, such as mindfulness of what I’m doing while I clean the house, do the dishes, prepare a meal, or take care of my kids. Successfully accomplishing those simple tasks actually makes me feel like a better person each day.
That step-parent was a damn hard teacher, but in retrospect, she might have been an effective one.