People with eating disorders are often obsessed with comparing. Not only during their illness, but still when they made the decision to say bye to Ana. Being perfectionist and quite unsure at the same time, they are constantly looking for role models to emulate. The only problem is: in the media, especially in the Internet, there are a lot of bad role models! I had a phase in which I was kind of obsessed with so-called „pro recovery“ accounts on Instagram, diet guidebooks and food diaries. I was so confused and stuck in my illness that I just wanted to see how a „normal“ person at my age eats. What I found were girls on Youtube, talking about how much they regret they had eaten so much for lunch, because now they could allow themselves „just another apple for dinner“.
I saw so many pictures of smiling girls, drinking green tea while balancing a tiny bowl of low-fat curd and blueberries on their knees and calling it a breakfast. It all seemed so pure, so beautiful, so balanced. So the next day, I would eat my bowl of low-fat curd and blueberries in the morning and I would hate my greedy stomach for still crumbling afterwards. I wasn’t as naive as I would have believed that a typical breakfast table looks like this (very natural, huh?) :
But it still took me a very long time in fact to fully internalize that it’s all fake! The photos you see on some blogger’s pages are the result of a thousand photos from which the best one has been chosen. It’s a measure of image cultivation, not how food typically looks like in everyday life. Food doesn’t always have to be perfectly arranged or 100% healthy. You won’t die for example from eating a white bun at a train stop if there’s currently no other option around. That’s life and it’s all better for your body than restricting.This might sound so silly for some of you, but there were times when it took me around five minutes in the supermarket until I found the perfect package of bananas (no green points, no spots, the right size etc.). Food is neither something mysterious nor is it a form of art, primarily it’s energy!
I wasn’t only looking for role models in social media, but also in my surroundings. While I was still living at my parent’s I would for example constantly compare my food intake with my mum’s. If I just eat exactly as much as she does, I thought, this can’t be too wrong. Once we went to an Asian restaurant for lunch and after the meal my mum said something like: „Gosh, I’m so full right now. Aren’t you?“ I nodded, even if I could have easily eaten the same portion again right away. In the evening we were just drinking a beer and I went to bed distressed and hungry.
So, in conclusion, comparing led me nowhere. When it comes to food, you have to be your own role model! There will always be somebody out there who is currently on a diet or obsessed with exercise. Somebody who never eats breakfast, somebody who makes comments about what you or other people are eating. Somebody who is more talented than you are and somebody who weighs less. So what?!!
We’re all individuals with different bodies, different metabolisms, different preferences. A friend of mine just told me that she loves to eat brokkoli with ketchup from time to time. Others crave whole pints of icecream when they’re lovesick. Cold pizza for breakfast after a long night of drinking. There’s no right or wrong just as there’s no step-by-step guide to normal eating. A healthy body will tell you what kind of food he needs, when it needs it and how much of it.
Of course, this principle doesn’t apply in early recovery as it is a state of emergency. Your body is out of balance and your fellings of hunger and fullness are out of balance. It took me a very long time to leave behind what I considered the perfect way of eating, to let go and start listening to my body again. There was a time when I got extremely hungry which is a normal and logical state in recovery (read more about it here). So yes, it could happen that I ate twice the amount of food that others would consume in a day. Yes, sometimes extreme hunger hit me suddenly and I had to get myself something out of the fridge at 2am. Yes, I felt guilty and greedy and disguisting. But letting go the control is worth it as it leads to the point that everything evens out and you can trust your body’s signals again.
In this article, I cast a quite damning light on social media. So I don’t want to end this without mentioning some blogs that massively helped me during recovery. Firstly, you should definitely check out amalielee on Instagram. This girl shows that weight gain is possible and how stunning one can look with a healthy weight. The same applies for my second favourite healthy_vansi who has an amazing feed with great shots and inspirational texts. And of course I should not forget to mention A Life without Anorexia, a blog from Izzy which is regularly updated with a lot of photos, recipes and recovery tips.