Four years ago on the 11th of April, I was admitted voluntarily to the eating disorders inpatient program at a psychiatric hospital in Melbourne. Each year, I find myself commemorating that day with some form of reflection on my progress. Over the past year, I’ve learnt some important lessons which have furthered my recovery journey enormously. These have been:
- Recovery is not linear.
- I am an adult with an adult body.
- I am my best friend.
- My recovery is my business.
- Things make more sense in macro.
- My recovery will last as long as I do.
- Normal is an individual metric.
Today is the last post in this series, and concerns the lesson that normal is an individual metric.
Normal eating cannot be defined by rules. Guidelines perhaps, but not rules. This is because it looks different for every single person. We all have different nutritional and energy needs due to our shape, size, activity level, metabolic rate and more. We all have different likes and dislikes, routines, lifestyles, moral principles, cultural norms and practices which shape the way we eat. Some of us have allergies or intolerances which preclude certain foods from our dietary repertoire. So, we cannot simply create a set of eating rules which, when followed, will guarantee the health and wellbeing of every individual.
Given all these variations, it would seem obvious that comparing how two people eat is a useless endeavour in the absence of further data. It is thus ludicrous to judge our personal level of health based on surface-level comparisons with people around us. ‘Normal’ or ‘ordered’ eating is an individual metric, but it’s general essence is captured beautifully by Portia de Rossi’s towards the end of her memoir Unbearable Lightness:
“’Ordered’ eating is the practice of eating when you are hungry and ceasing to eat when you brain sends the signal that your stomach is full. ‘Ordered’ eating is about eating for enjoyment, for health, and to sustain life. ‘Ordered’ eating is not restricting certain kinds of foods because they are ‘bad’. Obsessing about what and when to eat is not normal, natural, and orderly. Thinking about food to the point of obsession and ignoring your body’s signals is a disorder.”
If you’re looking for more information about eating disorders, or indeed any other mental health issues, the Australian Government’s mindhealthconnect website is a really useful tool which collects all the relevant resources from organisations such as beyondblue and The Butterfly Foundation into one place.
I hope some or all of the posts in this series have resonated with you.
Love, hope and peace from Emma.