It’s five years today since I was admitted voluntarily to the eating disorders ward of a psychiatric hospital. This anniversary always gets me thinking about the progress I have made in my recovery. Over the past few days, I’ve found myself wondering whether I have anything new to say this year. This post isn’t necessarily anything new, but it’s a reiteration of something very important.
One of the reflective posts I made last year is what I want to focus on here. In Normal Is An Individual Metric – Four Years On Part 7, I wrote about how we cannot define what is healthy with rigid rules. I emphasised the fact that we cannot judge our personal level of health based on surface-level comparisons with people around us. In short, I argued that normal eating is an ‘individual metric’. At the time, I knew this to be true, but I was not always living this truth. I relied more on rules then on my body’s hunger and fullness cues to guide my eating. I defined what was normal for me by direct comparison with people around me.
Now, after another year, I am much more focused on my body’s cues and consequently much less worried about what I am doing in comparison with the people around me. The difference this makes to my life is subtle yet profound. I eat until I’m full, instead of eating what ‘should’, according to some self-created rule, be enough. I unashamedly eat more than the people I am eating with if I need it. If I’m really enjoying something, I’ll eat more, why not? I have less fear of overeating, because I know my body will tell me when stop. I’ll have a little pre-dinner snack of some nuts or crackers if I’m really hungry and dinner is still half an hour away.
These things may sound small, but for me they represent a profound shift in my thinking about feeding myself.
I want to end with the same quote from Portia de Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness which I used at the end of my post about normal eating being an individual metric last year:
‘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.
Love, hope and peace from Emma.