DISCLAIMER: Having disordered eating is not the same as possessing an eating disorder. However, there are many overlaps in the habits and thinking patterns between the two, so please exit out of this post if you become triggered easily.
This post has been long in the works–at least in my head. I mentioned my experience with becoming far too rigid and obsessive about my personal health and fitness routine in multiple blog posts, but I genuinely do not recall any specific posts that address how I healed my relationship with food, exercise, self-imposed beauty standards, and desire for control–specifically, disordered eating, which serves as one of the elements for building the foundation of festering into an eating disorder that would require intervention, whether psychological or medical.
The delay was prolonged because I needed to encounter every aspect of my journey to truly understand the steps in evolving the way I have. I also needed to confirm that every single individual will have a different path that may require more or less steps, directions, and resources. My personal experience alone can bring some insight and even guidance on overcoming disordered eating, but I highly recommend external resources such as consulting with a registered dietitian, registered nutritionist, psychiatrist, or counselor who can help you–ideally in person, but online can also work.
At the very least, I can provide some insight from my personal experience both first hand and from witnessing others around me, ranging from developing detrimental health consequences to visiting other dieting extremes as a result of restriction. Personally for me, I knew that I had disordered eating habits because I found a lack of motivation within myself to enjoy my life outside of controlling and micro-managing every aspect of my health and fitness routine. Once my physical state was drained of nearly all of its energy, I knew I had nothing to lose from seeking help from myself, from my support system, and the universe outside of me (I did speak with a psychologist but did not use any other forms of medical/psychological treatment).
- CONSTANTLY LOOK INWARD. There is a sense of self-indulgence and selfishness in developing disordered eating (or a full-blown eating disorder for the matter) because there is a loss of being able to control the world around you. While looking inward, I really just questioned what I want to see if I was a different person looking at myself. Someone who had the willpower of steel but didn’t see much interest in the world around her, or someone who thrived everywhere she went and found beauty in every component of life, not giving a care about how she looked because she was already confident in her own skin. Ultimately, this was a very lengthy and intense process that I worked at every single day. I wasn’t perfect at all. Sometimes I made the choice to be comfortable in my own bubble and other days I chose small decisions that would benefit me in the future with my pursuit of being secure in the unknown. Whether your motives today are for vanity and control or freedom and presence, remember that you are the leader with the final say in the journey you choose to take.
- FIND OTHER ASPECTS OF LIFE THAT YOU VALUE AND ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT OTHER THAN FOOD, EXERCISE, AND PHYSICAL AESTHETICS. When I was in high school and blogging very early, there were three different elements that would occupy my brain every single day: food, exercise, and school. I kid you not when I say those were the only aspects of life I put all of my energy in. Of course, there were other components of life such as traveling, Buddhism, wellness, and attending events, but all of them were rooted from one of the core three in some way. But imagine, I could have utilized the time I spent planning my meal plans and workout routines for weeks in advance embracing other passions, taking a dance class, teaching myself a new song on the piano, writing a novel, doing yoga, hanging out with my friends and family, even if that included indulging in foods that are higher calorie, higher sugar, higher fat, higher carb, higher salt, anything of that sort.
- PLACE YOURSELF INTO AN ENVIRONMENT THAT WILL FORCE YOU TO CHANGE. The fact that I live outside of Los Angeles while studying actually helps me immensely. I live in an environment where food isn’t a fundamental quality of attractiveness as a city, where everything is a lot simpler. My academic setting forces me to prioritize work, relationships, and studying instead of anything more aesthetic or fitness-related, but still allows me the time to enjoy these aspects of life. You will recognize that your body is more than just a physical entity, but a medium that allows you to channel all kinds of air, weather, voices, vibrations, and images that you have never processed before. That alone is a miracle you cannot neglect.
- IF YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA, REDUCE YOUR TIME OR TAKE A BREAK. Social media, even if you’re just looking at seemingly innocent photos like a picture of a pair of sneakers, a model in a fashionable outfit, a plate of healthy food, or someone in a private jet hovering over a beautiful waterfall, those images will program your mind into thinking those are the standards you must meet or exceed. There is something about social media that is so different from conventional media because you get the updates instantly and they seem more tangible than the news or television per se. Just delete any mind-cluttering apps or limit your screen time every single day from 24 hours to 12, 10, 6, 4, 2, even less than an hour a day if you are ambitious.
- RE-DEFINE ENERGY. Remember that consumption expands beyond food. It is how you absorb the environment around you, the people you surround yourself with, the products you wear on your body, and what you watch on your phone, laptop, or television. This isn’t to say that you need to take a 180, but do consider some media of your life that just are not serving you in some type of capacity and are even harming you in some way, whether subconsciously or consciously. You might actually not need to eliminate anything, but integrate something else. For instance, add ten minutes of yoga or meditation into your morning routine, or eliminate thirty minutes of Instagram scrolling or fashion-related television at night. Think about this: what makes you feel so alive that you could never sleep, and what makes you want to fall in a slumber that you’d rather never awaken from?
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I discuss more about the food and exercise aspects of disordered eating where you take action!