Learning to Nurture after an Eating Disorder

24 Jun

Eating disorders are all about deprivation- deprivation from food, deprivation from social contact, deprivation from plain old FUN in life. The eating disorder turns basic human needs like nutrition, comfort, conversation with others, and self-care into rewards. And with this skewed view, your ED tells you that you never “deserve” the rewards, so therefore you never receive them.

As part of my recovery, I have struggled with learning how to let myself believe that I am worth it. That despite my mistakes and faults, I still deserve to feed myself and even if I don’t love my body, at least I need to respect it enough not to starve it.

Trust me, it’s a hard lesson to swallow. Literally.

But there’s nothing like learning from example. Since I began on the path to recovery from my eating disorder again, caring for other living things has shown me that nurturing, not denial allows life to flourish. On our patio, my mom has tons of potted plants, but one… just one is mine. A pretty pink zinnia. Just like recovery, my zinnia needs tending to everyday- without water, rich soil/compost, and plenty of sunlight, it will shrivel up and die. Recovery takes daily to work to cultivate a joyful life.

My zinnia is lovely, but I also take care of a living thing a little closer to my heart. When I see this face, there is no way I can’t spoil her with treats and walks, which give me time for mindful movement and get me out of the house(brightens my mood and I often meet other people with dogs to talk to). My dog has forced me to get out of the isolation of my ED through her begging for more walks. I could never refuse to feed her one day and I try to treat myself the same way. I often catch myself when the urge to restrict comes up and think, “That would be so cruel to an innocent dog. So why do I have such a problem believing it would be cruel to myself as well?”  She brightens my day, greets me with a wagging tail and excitement no matter how I feel, and is the perfect example of living in the moment. She lives for THIS pet, THIS bowl of kibble, THIS sniff at the dog park. Freckles gives me one more reason to live.

Because there’s no one like a dog to love you unconditionally.

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