A common theme of eating disorders is comparison. I have always compared my body, exercise routine, diet, and schedule to everyone around me. Recently, I have noticed more and more that I am comparing my food intake. This is not hard to do in the age of social media. Everyone wants to discuss their latest diet or their recent weight loss. This is very difficult for me to see.
As I follow the meal plan that my dietician prescribed to me, eating protein, fruit, veggies, carbs, fats, and challenge foods, I see people eating a fruit bowl or a serving of yogurt and calling it a “meal.” My disordered brain tells me this means I am “glutton” and “fat” and that I should start restricting again. Recovery is difficult enough, but when society’s skewed ideas about “health” and “nutrition” are added to the mix, it feels impossible. I know that society is not to blame; my disorder is, but that does not make it any easier.
In treatment, I was taught to reframe my unhealthy thoughts. I try to tell myself that my dietician knows what is best for me; not acquaintances, friends, or strangers on Instagram. Many people may be engaging in disordered behaviors because they have a misguided sense of nutrition; while I engage in such behaviors to suppress my emotions and punish myself. That is an important distinction for me to make in order to recover. My intentions for engaging in ED behaviors are self-injurious and rooted in self-hatred. For mentally healthy people, it is often about a misconstrued “fitness” goal. They may be engaging in negative behaviors for a few weeks to lose weight for the summer or to lower blood pressure or look “their best” for an event. For them, a diet is a quick fix, but when I diet, it triggers a relapse. I cannot go on a diet in the way that most people I know are doing. As one of my best friends says, “Those people aren’t in my dance space.”
In short, I guess I am reminding people that their actions on social media can be triggering. Posting calories, weights, or minuscule meals may trigger someone with an eating disorder. While my mental and physical health are my responsibilities, it is everyone’s responsibility to create a world less focused on appearance and shallow fitness goals.