Life with ED, Part 10: A Light Bulb Moment


Disclaimer: This is a series of posts about my experiences with anorexia and bulimia.  Many of the things I discuss could be extremely triggering if you are dealing with an eating disorder, so please read at your own risk. I am not an doctor or a therapist. I am simply telling you my story. Please click here if you are interested in reading the other posts in this series.

I had a weird moment last week. I was sitting on my couch and I happened to think about my eating disorder. Mostly, I thought about how much I was not thinking about it, and how, for the first time in my life, it is normally pretty far from my mind. “Maybe I’m actually recovered now,” I thought. “Maybe this is what it feels like to finally be better.”

Two hours later, it seemed like the world had come crashing down thanks to various disasters at each of my jobs. I felt overwhelmed by feelings of self-doubt and anxiety, and everything felt like it was spinning out of control. I sat in my car on the way to teach a class at the barre studio and tried to think of a way to ease my anxiety and solve the problem. My very first thought was “Ok, I’m going to lose weight. Ugh, I’m disgusting – Danielle, you know you should have already lost those ten pounds. Ok, we can do this. I’ll sign up for MyFitnessPal again and I’m going to stop eating sugar and I’m going to run every day and…”

A light bulb went on. I couldn’t believe it. As soon as I realized what I was doing, I felt so ashamed and so disgusted. Literally two hours beforehand, I had been tooting my own horn about how “recovered,” I am, and then one little thing goes wrong and my ONE IDEA about how to deal with it is to lose ten pounds immediately? I sat in my car absolutely stunned, shocked, and grateful for the years of work I’ve put into therapy, recovery, and self-awareness that led me to even realize what was happening. Three years ago, weight loss would have not only seemed like the first solution, it would have seemed like the only solution. And I would have followed through on that plan.

I go back and forth on how I feel about my weight these days, mostly hovering somewhere between “I really would like to lose five pounds, but it’s not the end of the world” to “I’m never giving up sugar and those five pounds can go to hell.” I have plenty of trouble spots, moments of insecurity, and wishes for the occasional stomach flu before a big event, but mostly, I find myself in a place of being more or less at peace with my body how it is – perhaps because I’m too busy to spend much time thinking about it.  Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think “I really need to run more” every time I see a picture of myself…but I don’t care enough to actually do it, if that makes sense. It no longer seems like the most important thing (or the only thing) on the planet. For me, that’s progress.

Me, lately – Photo courtesy of the amazing Allison Dobbs Photography!

Thankfully, I’ve learned other coping mechanisms besides weight loss over the years that I’ve been working on recovery, but I guess “Old Faithful” is still the first one I turn to when I don’t know where else to turn. I’m just glad that I recognized what was happening before I started to take action. I firmly believe that it’s ok to want to lose weight if you’re uncomfortable with how you look. It’s not ok to lose weight because you don’t know how or refuse to learn how to deal with stressful situations. Recognizing this is a huge step in the right direction and away from unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s only a matter of time before those thoughts go away entirely – at least, I hope!

In my most recent post for the Life with Ed series (written almost 2 years ago!) I said of complete recovery, “Maybe not today, but one day.” I am getting closer and closer to “one day.” Today, it seems possible.



15 thoughts on “Life with ED, Part 10: A Light Bulb Moment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this – it is so true, so real, and anyone who has ever seriously struggled with weight and eating very likely knows that feeling and struggle.

    I know I do.

    I have been very happy with my weight for the last ~5 years now, and as I say, for the last 4+ years I’ve truly been in the best shape of my life – feeling constantly ‘half marathon ready’ sounds like a humble-brag, but it is for me a sustained goal that is part of my overall health plan.

    But I am far from perfect – I know that pretty much regardless of what I do I will tend to have ~5lb swing between summer and winter. So this summer I modified my breakfast because I was getting too thin, and now I am drifting up (yes I know I shouldn’t weigh myself, ugh) and resisting the urge to ‘do something about it’. I mean – 5 lbs … I am 6ft 1 and a decent sized guy – I’d like to be closer to 175lbs, whereas my doctor would like me closer to 200lbs (certainly over 190, so we more or less split and I stay around 185) … but regardless – 5lbs is trivial.

    And it is stupid, but I cannot stop my brain from occasionally going there. Way too often. If I get invited for a work lunch, I know there will be more calories than my normal controlled lunch, so I start doing the math. Ugh – just stop already!

    The notion of food as an addiction is very much true – but it is one that is absolutely essential to our survival so we have to confront it every day.

    1. I hope you will consider throwing away your scale, or if not throwing it away – at least putting it away. We still have one, but it is kept in the guest bathroom in a linen closet I have almost no reason to ever go in. Out of sight, out of mind makes it a lot less tempting. While using the “How do my clothes fit?” test isn’t perfect, it’s definitely easier/better than worrying about a pound or two.

      I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I understand and empathize with everything you said in your comment and I appreciate you sharing – it is a long and painful struggle, and it is sometimes hard to know what “normal” even feels like.

  2. Your “thought work” around this falls right in line with a podcast that I love. The Life Coach School Podcast talks about thoughts and actions. Initially I listened to it during my post partum depression and I really started looking forward to new episodes. I recommend it (and am in no way affiliated with it). I just genuinely think it has a wonderful message and helpful for thoughts like those. Love the blog!

    1. Thanks for the tip, Jami! I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts, but that sounds like one that might be worth checking out.

    1. Thank you, Sandra! I know so many people out there can relate, or they know someone who can relate. It’s my goal to add a little insight into the thought process as best I can!

  3. I feel like it is natural for old monsters to come creeping back in. I was talking to another blogger, or should I say, commenting (and to which she replied, so basically a conversation, but I digress), who is in the midst of recovery about a very similar issue: she had had a recurrence of certain thoughts and behavior, and she, too, was disgusted and saddened that she had them when she felt that she was doing better.

    I will never forget the psych class that I took in undergrad that taught me that these types of behaviors (the relapse and that moment for a decision) are actually incredibly helpful: they are what help you recommit to your mission because you have to make a choice and then defend that choice to yourself. That is why, often (though not always), we find ourselves more committed to choices that we weren’t so sure about in the beginning–because we have spent more time consciously figuring out why we are committed to them.

    I hope that idea helps you not feel defeated, or to be so hard on yourself. This is your moment of recommitment–it makes you stronger (which is a tough act, because you are one strong lady).

    1. That is an excellent point Suz! Every time these dark thoughts cloud our mind it is like a fork in the road, and it takes strength to cut through the one side we know to be correct – to recommit to what we know is right – but when we do it, we have made another small victory. Sure we have to keep making these choices, these small victories – but it really does remind us of how strong we really are.

      To me, I always go back to how I felt embarrassed about how easily I lost weight and kept it off when I was 23, and again after getting my thyroid back on track through meds … then I realized that it was NOT easy – I had just committed to the hard work and kept myself on course even when it would have been easier to stop. Which is funny in a different way – even in success I found a way to view myself as a failure.

      And totally – this is a conversation 🙂

    2. That’s a good way of looking at it – thank you. I have struggled with relapse many times (never after such a sustained period of success, though) so I have a tendency to view those thoughts as inherently negative and scary and as signifying a relapse, but you’re right – they can be used for recommitment instead. Thanks for that idea!

  4. Danielle, thank you so much for sharing (the entire series and this update) and for your honesty. It’s easy to just say ‘hey, look at me! I’m recovered’. But I commend you for facing these thoughts head on, for finding a healthy coping mechanism, for believing in yourself and for this huge victory!

    One thing that struck me about this post is how it is easy for me to think to myself as I read each post of yours ‘wow….Danielle is such an amazing, brave, strong, powerful, courageous, head strong, funny, beautiful young woman (with fabulous hair) doing so many great, selfless acts of kindness…..’
    But as you know, you need to believe it! And I’m so very happy to read that you know that you have so much more value than the number on the scale.


    1. Thank you, Caroline! To be honest – I never thought I would be the type of person who got to say “I’m recovered.” I have always thought it would be a lifelong issue and that people who claimed to be fully recovered were either never that sick in the first place, or they were lying to themselves. I still wouldn’t say I’m full recovered, but I think I am much better off than I ever thought was possible, even a year ago. I would say it’s a miracle, but it’s not – it’s hard work!

      I appreciate your kind words so much. It is sometimes hard to believe all those nice things about myself, but I am much closer to that today than I used to be – and I have people like you to thank for that!

  5. Thank you for giving my mind a break from the shock of what just happened in the election. I love how you are always so open and honest, willing to make yourself vulnerable in this space, which is not an easy thing to do. This is super helpful just knowing we all have thoughts like this and, it’s how we react to them that matters, not the thoughts themselves.


    1. I need like a 4 – year long break/distraction, I think! I think you’re so right – the actions themselves are what is important. We can’t always control our minds. I do think that changes in the mind follow behavior, and I know my thought processes are getting better and changing over time. I’m just not quite done yet!

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