Recovery is a journey, not a destination. There is recovered, but for me, I view being recovered as a stage in recovery that can be achieved and maintained. With this in mind though, it also means that I think once you’ve been in the depths of an eating disorder, the ability to go back is always deep within us. It is a part of us, our history, our present and our life journey. That is not to say that recovery is not worth it; it definitely is. Nor is it to say that it doesn’t get better or easier, because it does.
Recovery is reaching a point in the journey when looking back you can see the real hell hole the disorder created for you. Recovery is not romancing the gains to be obtained from having anorexia. Recovery is knowing and being actively wise enough to know yourself, your triggers and how to fight them off. For me, there are a few red flags that suggest I am struggling again, and at risk of slipping.
For me, recovery is not saying that these flags don’t arise. Recovery is acknowledging the warning signs and knowing how to go about managing them to maintain a level of wellness. In this series I’ll be exploring 15 of my most predominant signs of relapse, and methods I use to battle them in order to stay well.
Relapse Symptom: Counting calories.
When I am well calories barely enter my thoughts. I don’t count how many I have in a day, and I have no idea how many calories are in most of the foods I eat on a daily basis. When I am slipping I often catch myself checking labels, but not for health benefits, but for calorie information. When well, I check for healthfulness and ingredients, and if it passes my test in the shop I don’t think any more about it. When I am becoming unwell I catch myself downloading my favourite food diary app, and tallying every mouthful, snack and drink alongside practicing my mental arithmetic every time I want to put something in my mouth.
How I Stay Well:
I allow myself to check the calorie in the shop if I feel that I need to, but I don’t allow myself any form of tallying of calories at home. I delete all calorie counting related apps, and throw away all notebooks that have been taken under my calorie counting wing. I allow myself to measure out portions so that I know I am eating enough, and not too much of each food, but I try to focus in on my body to let me know when I have had enough to eat.
Focusing on calories is also a warning sign that I am experiencing outside stressors that are affecting me negatively. When I notice myself counting calories I alter my focus towards exercise goals, mood diaries and mindfulness breathing exercises. Usually these work in helping me to not focus too much on the calories, and shift my focus towards what is bothering me, which is the real root of the problem in these incidences.