The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The power of eating disorder recovery

Carolyn Hultz

Content warning: discussion of eating disorders

The seven years of my life that were governed by my eating disorder were a constant game of playing pretend.

After a sharp downward spiral that landed me bedridden in a children’s hospital that was followed by a stay on an inpatient eating disorder ward, I remained in a state of partial recovery in order to live a relatively normal life. 

First, I made sure that I put on a good enough show so that I could stay home instead of in an inpatient ward. I made sure to drink all my thick nutrition supplements and proceeded to work them off with jumping jacks in my bedroom. 

Then I made sure to eat enough so that I wouldn’t faint after a race and jeopardize my chances of being able to run competitively. Food consisted of the same bland oatmeal and dry turkey sandwich. 

I did the bare minimum for so long. 

External forces of my family’s approval and a goal of maintaining my privileges kept me motivated to stay out of the hospital, but I lacked the desire to fully recover. 

I could exercise, go to school and be with my friends and family. Though I wasn’t completely free of disordered thoughts and behaviors or fully trusted by my loved ones, that reality was enough for me. 

My life was a pendulum in which I swung between the euphoria of losing weight and the repeated insincere promises that I made to myself and others. 

I claimed each relapse was the last one and insisted that I really wanted to be rid of my eating disorder.   

I restricted my diet, compulsively exercised and isolated myself. I confined myself to a life that was robotic and in no way worth living. 

I don’t know the exact moment this narrative changed. All that I know is it did. 

I’m in college with no parents prompting me to eat consistently. I couldn’t tell you what I ate for breakfast this morning because food doesn’t occupy my every thought. And I just realized the only exercise I did today was walk to my classes. 

I had to want to recover from my eating disorder for me and only me. Only then could I lead a life that I truly felt excited to live and, dare I even add, love my mind and my body alike. 

In waiting for others to direct my efforts to remain medically stable, I neglected the real person that I should have been feeding: myself. 

True recovery meant that I needed to develop a relationship with food, exercise and my body that allowed food, exercise and my body to be a piece of my life and not the entirety of it. 

There are times I pause and comprehend that I am in recovery.

These moments occur not when I make an active healthy decision, but are instead when I think of the organic nature of my actions surrounding things that were once disordered. 

I think the first time I recall knowing I was in recovery was when I forgot about the ice cream we had in the house. 

Before I would have fixated on it, listing all the reasons why the ice cream was forbidden. I would have fantasized about the treat until it was gone from the house. 

But during winter break of my first year of college, I genuinely forgot my mom had a tub of ice cream in her freezer. It didn’t hold so much power over me any more. 

It’s the moments that I am not fighting that I reflect on how far I’ve come. 

I never thought I’d be able to spoon peanut butter straight out of the jar and just make the easy decision to stop when I felt satisfied but here I am, sometimes even adding a few chocolate chips. 

I never thought I’d be able to eat in front of my friends. Now I value their company more than the numbers of calories and grams of fat in the food I eat. 

The thing that made all of this possible was deciding that life beyond my eating disorder was a life worth living. I had to know my value and work to separate my identity from the eating disorder that consumed me for so long. 

I needed to recognize my self worth. If I was going to recover, I needed to love the person that I am. 

I needed to do things that scared me. Eat foods that I had labeled as off limits, wear a shirt that hugged my frame and allow myself to be comfortable having time off from exercise. 

But I couldn’t challenge myself because someone was prompting me to, I had to do it because I knew I was deserving of everything good in the world. 

Food is a part of my life, but it’s not all of it. My body is something I am learning to love. And exercise is something that helps me manage my stress, not something that causes me extra stress. 

As I ponder my past, I feel a sadness for all the years I lost, yet an excitement toward all the wonderful memories I’ll make in a healthy body and healed mind. 

Every so often, my breath catches in my throat. 

A feeling of astonishment washes over me as I acknowledge what my life has become. 

In working to separate from my eating disorder, I opened myself up to happiness, true health and the opportunity to work toward my fullest potential. 

Recovery is never out of reach. Intentions are everything. 


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