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  • Em R

Living a Recovery Focused Year

I think it’s important that we all step back and celebrate the fact that we made it through January. A month that has been cold, unpredictable, and heavy. Yet, somehow, at least for myself, refreshing. This time of year we feel like we get to hit the reset button. Personally, I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Of having to wait until a certain point in our lives to start making changes or feeling like there is something that we should be doing better just because the date says so. Love them or hate them, resolutions will be a part of all of our lives for the foreseeable future. This means we will continue to be bombarded with messages that we need to change how we look or who we are. We’ll be told to begin a new diet, join a gym, start a new home workout regimen, or to convince ourselves that this year is going to be THE ONE.

For someone with a history of disordered eating, these messages aren’t always motivation. They may instead be incredibly harmful. In an attempt to change the focus of the New Year to celebrating ourselves as we are, I have proposed my own intentions to focus on during the upcoming year.

Celebrate ALL of my Wins: No matter how small they may appear. This year I am going to be proud of myself. I am going to take more time to appreciate the things that have brought me joy throughout my day, week, month, year, lifetime. One way that I consistently try to do this is through a regular gratitude practice. I begin my day by writing a list of all of the things that I am grateful for or that have brought me joy in the last 24 hours. This provides the opportunity to ground myself in the moment and to acknowledge all of the good that I may have overlooked. And when given the opportunity, I now share these wins with someone that I trust will celebrate them with me.

*One thing that I have learned during the recovery process: It is important for me to acknowledge my wins for myself. It is my natural instinct to reject positive feedback. When my success is acknowledged externally, I am likely to dismiss or discount it. By celebrating my wins on my own, I am intentionally recognizing what I have done well, that my progress is worth celebrating, and I continue to build my self confidence.

Additionally, in my recovery process, certain statements triggered a response from the eating disorder. I was okay celebrating progress in recovery as single events, but I was incredibly sensitive to the idea of celebrating growth in recovery as a whole. I eventually became familiar enough with myself to recognize these triggers (and was able to communicate those to everyone involved in my recovery), but this took time. One of the first steps I took in building my tolerance to positive, recovery focused feedback, was to acknowledge and celebrate my wins on my own.

Find Happiness in Food: I want food to make me feel good. And I’m not talking about how it makes my body feel. No food is ‘good’ food. No food is ‘bad’ food. Food is food. Strawberry Pop Tarts will always be my favorite post run fuel. Lucky Charms before bed will always remind me of being a kid. Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Ice Cream will always remind me of middle school sleepovers. And Biscoff will always remind me of flying. I want the memories that each food holds to be what’s important.

Be Gentle with Myself: Instead of telling myself that I need to do more. That I need to be better. That I need to constantly be showing growth and development. I am enough as I am. My purpose in life extends beyond other’s expectations of me. I don’t constantly have to be pushing myself harder, checking boxes on an imaginary to-do list of societal expectations, or criticizing myself if something doesn’t go as planned. Falling down is a part of life and that’s something I’ve struggled to accept.

My response to a difficult day has been to let that day spiral into a difficult week. I repeat the cycle of good weeks followed by the ‘inevitable crash and burn’ more than I would like to admit. This is never going to lead to the life I want. My recovery vision includes forgiveness. Learning to accept that I will make mistakes (in both life and recovery) and what's important is that when I do, I don’t give up entirely, but instead give myself grace.

Open Myself to Honesty: My last post addressed the honesty that I needed to have with myself about the difficulty of recovery; and the self discovery that I needed to continue my journey. Honesty can be incredibly painful. Whether it’s challenging our own acts of self-sabotage or hearing criticism from a friend, the root of accepting honesty from others is being honest with ourselves.

Tying my identity to the eating disorder has only served as a way for me to hide my true self; and developing a sense of self outside of the eating disorder has been essential for me in continuing to make progress in recovery. I need to slowly remove a piece of each wall I’ve put into place. To focus and to sit with what's on the other side, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. This is the process that will show me what my true values, desires, passions really are. And will ultimately lead to further self discovery.

Say ‘No’ When I Want To: Saying yes to new experiences is one thing, but saying yes too frequently is a result of my desire to please everyone else by putting my own needs aside. My intention is to take time to actually consider requests instead of automatically responding. Is this something that I want to do? Is this something that will bring me joy? Am I doing this for myself? If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, that’s my answer.

We don’t have to do things that we don’t want just to make others’ happy. We don’t have to live in constant fear of rejection for not being the person we believe other people expect us to be. This is an area that I hope to continue to grow in.

Do More Nothing: We are constantly told that we need to be more productive. Even as children we learn our primary goal in life is to produce more. And that is exactly how I have lived each previous year. I am notorious for working multiple jobs, serving various community roles, maintaining social, familial, and romantic relationships. All while attending therapy, groups, dietician, and doctors appointments. I never sat still. And all of this (as my therapist will readily point out) has served a purpose. It has provided me with the feeling of success that I’m constantly seeking. It has allowed me to mask my emotions and to run from the tough stuff. But it’s time for me to let go. It’s time for me to stop hiding from myself, to learn who I am, and who I want to be.

So, this year is going to be the beginning of living my life for myself. I am going to be proud of my successes and learn from my struggles. I am going to sit in the discomfort of honesty in order to engage in self discovery. I am going to eat the food that makes my soul happy.I am going to turn down the need to people please, and I am going to say no (and maybe sometimes, yes) for myself. I am going to rest more, I am going to stop hiding from the tough stuff, and I am going to give myself grace. Because nobody was meant to live life perfectly.


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