By Megan White
They say you can’t pour from an empty cup. For years I thought I was the exception to that rule. I believed that running on empty made me feel full, that total restriction made my contribution to the world greater because I needed less to do it.
Admitting myself to treatment and beginning the refeeding process was the scariest and most uncomfortable experience of my life. I felt stretched and pulled in ways I had never been before. Every meal, every snack, left me feeling empty and resentful towards the staff members that refused to let me starve myself any further.
I thought refeeding would be the end of me. It would take away everything I thought I had and ruin it. For what? What was the point? Why put myself through the physical and emotional pain if it all amounted to nothing?
A therapist said something during my time in treatment that has stayed with me to this day. She said, “You’ve given your eating disorder so many chances. You know what it has to offer. Have you tried fully surrendering to recovery and allowing yourself to heal? To know what it’s really like to be nourished? Give it a try. And if you don’t like it, you can always go back to the eating disorder.”
I thought it was such a bizarre piece of advice. But that’s what I did. I gave it a try. I hated it at first and went running back to my eating disorder more times than I could count.
One day I decided that enough was enough. I was going to stick to this no matter how much it sucked. I was going to give it a try. I deserved to give myself a chance. This is what refeeding showed me:
It showed me that rebelling against diet culture and the systemically oppressive beauty ideals of our society was infinitely more powerful than the daily rebellion and destruction I enacted against my body.
It showed me that going on a walk when the weather is nice has the exact same value as exercising. It reminded me that nourishing my spirit by being outside was such an important part of my healing.
It gave me the permission I could never give myself to skip going to the gym in favor of spending time outside by a creek near my apartment. I helped me feel fully present with the warm sun and cool water. It helped me see the small fish venturing out after a season of cold instead of obsessing over how I was going to make up for what I had eaten the day before.
Refeeding gave me the security that my eating disorder could never quite deliver. It nurtured me and showed me how much I have to offer when I show myself love and compassion.
I outgrew everything I had which meant that my world was too small to hold my spirit fully nourished. My stretch marks were physical reminders that I was allowed to take up space. And while they may have scared me and made me feel like a failure, they were truly badges of honor; a testament to the fight I was determined to win.
I may not be able to fully love myself yet in the body that I have, but now I don’t want to destroy it. And that makes all the difference.
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