As much as I would rather overlook this step in the healing process, I cannot deny that self-forgiveness is a powerful tool in eating disorder recovery. It pains me right down to my core when I remember just how much I hurt both myself and those I love most in that dark, miserable season of life when my eating disorder had all the control. I take no pleasure in those memories, but I need to forgive myself for them nonetheless.
The phrase "new year, new you" is all over the place right now. From social media posts, to news outlets and blog articles, to conversations with friends or family, to marketing tactics from wellness brands, it often seems I can't escape this message once January rolls around. But while the concept might sound positive in theory—a chance to start fresh and reinvent oneself—the truth is, this "new year, new you" mantra doesn't work for me in eating disorder (ED) recovery. I also suspect I'm not alone in that feeling, so let's unpack it further.
With the start of another new year just around the corner, you might have some questions about how to set eating disorder recovery resolutions for 2022—and that's completely understandable. In the past, the tradition of making New Year's resolutions was often associated with strict body-conscious goals, such as "to exercise more frequently," "consume a healthier diet," or "lose the 'holiday pounds.'"
In many cases, eating disorder behaviors can be fueled by cognitive distortions. These irrational thought patterns could influence you to latch onto a negative and inaccurate view of yourself, a situation, a relationship, or life as a whole. But cognitive distortions only have power if you allow them to take root, which means that you can learn to spot cognitive distortions—and ultimately combat them—in eating disorder recovery.
Why am I, a queer woman of mostly European descent, talking about the movement to decolonize body image? The answer is simple: because it matters—therefore, it must be talked about. In the United States, November is recognized as National Native American Heritage Month, which makes this as ideal a time as any to further the conversation.
This article is not meant to be a universal claim about eating disorders, as I can only speak from my own observations and experiences. But in many cases, I believe that eating disorder behaviors manifest on the surface to mask a fear of rejection deep within.
The way I choose to interact with my body has an impact on my eating disorder recovery. So, it's crucial to make sure that I practice mindful interactions with my body, rather than using harmful words or behaviors to abuse my body and interrupt the healing process.
This letter is to you, the person who wants to quit eating disorder recovery.
Over the past few weeks, Simone Biles taught me so much about healing. I don't know Biles personally, of course, but I know resilience when I see it. At 24 years old, Biles has suffered the trauma of sexual abuse, the pain of numerous athletic injuries, the stress of training in a pandemic, the systemic offenses of the U.S. gymnastics culture, and the burden of expectations from an audience who assumes her performance will not falter.
In just a couple of days, I will turn 30. To those who have spent more time on this earth than I have, this might not seem like such an extraordinary milestone, but 10 years ago, I never imagined that I would be alive to see my 20th birthday—let alone my 30th. That version of me felt hopelessly convicted to a life sentence of anorexia.