Last Monday, my dad thought it would be a brilliant idea to take the family to Hardee’s and taste-test their Beyond Meat burger. My family is vegetarian and the craze around new and improved meat alternatives has got my dad especially excited. Beyond Meat was offering a deal at a couple of fast food chains where one could receive a free Beyond Meat burger with the purchase of a drink. My dad insisted that we meet at the local Hardee’s to take advantage of the deal that afternoon.
Growing up, my family never really ate fast food, and until Monday, I had never even been into a Hardee’s. The handful of times I’ve eaten veggie burgers from fast-food joints, my stomach has felt heavy and sick, but since my entire family wanted to try the Beyond Meat burger, I put my trepidation and eating disorder aside and agreed to join them. A few years ago my eating disorder would never have allowed me to eat a burger from Hardee’s, so by agreeing to the meal I figured I was taking a step in the right direction.
Not gonna lie, I didn’t care for the burger (I’m sure it’s good for a meat substitute, but it’s just not my type of food). I couldn’t finish the whole burger and I felt quite gross and uncomfortable by the time we left. Burgers tend to sit very heavy in my stomach and I wasn’t used to consuming so much oil and highly processed ingredients. When I got back into the car with my brothers to drive home, my eating disorder tapped my shoulder.
“Do you realize how many calories you just ate?” it asked me.
“Well, I don’t know…” I responded, taking out my phone and typing “calories in beyond meat burger Hardee’s” into Google’s search engine.
I almost fainted when I saw the number. How could there be so many calories?? I felt the anxiety rise in my chest. Why did I eat that? I am so disgusting!
My eating disorder had taken a seat next to me in the car and was nodding in agreement. “You really are disgusting,” it said. “If you just listened to me and stopped eating altogether, this wouldn’t be a problem. Now you need to go the gym and run all those calories off.”
“Yeah, I guess I do,” I admitted.
I left home a few hours later to make sure I had enough time at my university gym to burn off the calories I’d consumed at lunch. I ran on the treadmill for about 1.5 hours until the calorie counter on the bottom on the equipment was to my satisfaction. When I got back to my room, I took a shower and fell into bed, exhausted.
I was so discouraged. No matter how many times I think I’ve taken a step forward in my recovery, my eating disorder always shows up with greater force to prove me wrong. One step forward, two steps back.
Even in my depressed, frustrated, hopeless, and exhausted state, I knew that tomorrow was a new day. Tomorrow I would have renewed strength and vigor to keep fighting. I also knew that my presumed progress was deceptive. Progress is not linear, and even though it feels sometimes that recovery is one step forward, two steps back, it’s really not.
When I have those moments, days, and sometimes weeks of despair and frustration, I have to take a step back and look at the big picture. I’ve come a long ways from where I was four years ago. Sure, some days are worse than others and I am by no means recovered yet, but my overall trajectory has been trending up. I am recovering, slowly but surely.
Next time you feel discouraged, remember you are not alone! Recovery is a terribly long process. But in those moments of despair, take a step back and look at the big picture. My guess is that you’ve come further than you think. If you’re just starting your recovery journey, know that there will be ups and downs, but keep fighting. Recovery is possible. Keep your head up, beautiful. We’re all in this together and I’m rooting for you!
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