One of the most difficult compliments to hear while recovering from an eating disorder is “I wish I had your body.” This is not a compliment, or at least, not a helpful one. Firstly, it trivializes the severity of eating disorders by making them seem glamorous, and secondly, it overlooks the pain that went into weight loss, muscle gain, or any other perceived body improvement. Eating disorders are never pretty, glamorous, or conscious choices.
My current body size is a result of my eating disorder. Some may find it attractive, but I would trade my eating disorder for a healthier, happier life in a second. I would be lying if I said I lost weight in healthy ways. I would be lying if I said I was fully recovered. Yes, I am in recovery, but I hit a rough patch a few weeks ago. Hearing body compliments only triggers me and reinforces negative behaviors.
Eating disorders are not just losing ten pounds and being showered with compliments. Eating disorders are losing time with friends. Eating disorders are not knowing whether a sore throat is an indication of a cold or just the result of a purging episode. Eating disorders are constantly shivering, but not wanting to walk inside because the body burns more calories when it is cold. Eating disorders are fainting and hospitals and being forced to eat. Eating disorders are six stitches above my left eye. Eating disorders are nose bleeds. Eating disorders are my friends waiting outside the bathroom to make sure I am not purging. Eating disorders are wanting to lose weight, but being terrified of dying. Eating disorders are missing periods, but still being bloated after eating normal-sized portions. Eating disorders are feeling so full from a healthy-sized lunch that I do not want to go to class. Eating disorders are swallowing my own vomit during class. Eating disorders are heart palpitations and anxiety over potential electrolyte imbalance. Eating disorders are vomiting bile and blood. Eating disorders are two years of laxative abuse. Eating disorders are memory loss and disappointing people who care about me.
Although I have been struggling, last night I tasted recovery for the first time in a while. I ate pizza with a close friend, and we talked for hours about whatever was on our minds. At college, ordering take-out is a normal occurrence, but not for me. I am terrified of ordering take-out and terrified of pizza. As a result of my irrational fears, I have skipped parties, missed out on lunch dates, and so many other experiences. Last night reminded me of why I need recovery. I do not want the memories of my college years to be overshadowed by calories, pounds, or jean sizes. I do not want to die as a result of my eating disorder. Yes, my eating disorder may have made me thin or fit, but it has stolen five years of my life that I can never get back.