How You *Know* You’re Recovered

Holly @ The Balanced Broad posted recently about “fight or flight mechanisms with respect to disordered eating recovery.

As she notes, “Whenever people are affected by someone or something close to them, I always think that they have two options: 1. Cut off ties with that person/thing or limit your time with them/it; or 2. learn to cope.”

This really resonated with me, because like Holly, lately, I can’t handle all the obsessive talk about food and exercise — and I’ve needed to go the “flight” route.

I have a lot of friends on Facebook and Twitter (some of whom I’m close with, some not) and I can’t tell you how many posts lately are about food or fitness (no surprise–it’s the new year!).

“I ran X miles” or  “I resisted X food” or “I’m soooo hungry!”  type posts.

While I’m thrilled for them that they’re working hard to lose (or maintain) weight, I just don’t want to hear about it.

(Maybe it’s because I went about my weight loss privately? I did Weight Watchers online, but didn’t even start posting on the message boards until I was at goal. I dunno ...)

Anyway, while I am not going to stop using Facebook or Twitter (the ultimate “flight” move) I have had to separate myself a little and not engage when they post things that make me heat up.

Sometimes I’ll say “congrats” (because I do believe they’re doing it for good reason — to get support) but for the most part, I just have resolved to ignore the commentary around me.

I could get involved — offer up my own ideas, suggestions … but nine times out of ten, I “walk away,” or just don’t engage. I realize whole-heartedly that I’m taking it personally; it’s not their faults at all and I’m just super-sensitive to it.

You know, it’s funny. They say we always find flaws in others that we have in ourselves, and I really believe that to be true.

As two of my dear friends noted the other night, it’s a sign of progress for me: that I can recognize obsession elsewhere now; I wouldn’t have been able to probably even a year ago. I’d have been part of the conversation, I’m sure.

I gotta say, it makes me sooo happy I lost weight 5 years go, before the advent of social media — because you can be rest assured I’d have been yapping with the best of them, driving everyone around me mad!

The truth is, most people don’t want to hear about it (it ends up making people feel bad about themselves, however ridiculous as that may sound) … but with social media, we feel can talk about whatever we want, all the time — and often have a captive audience to do so.

And that’s fine, except when you’re the disordered one who is recovering and want to close your ears and walk away.

Since we can’t control others and we can only control our reactions to others, walking away is sometimes the best solution.

Another example. A while ago at work (as part of our awesome wellness program) we had a nutrition counselor come in to talk to us.

While I thought it was a great benefit and an awesome thing my company did, I didn’t sign up to go. It was a very deliberate, conscious decision. I was still chewing and spitting at the time, and just didn’t want to put myself in an uncomfortable situation where food would be the fixation.

I couldn’t explain it to my colleagues when they asked (they were surprised, knowing my love of all things nutrition), but the truth was, I just didn’t want to be in a situation where the fixation was on food. I just needed to be removed from it, plain and simple. “Flight” took over.

I think in some ways I “fight” — I think the existence (and maintenance) of my blog or my participation at WeAretheRealDeal is an example of that.

But when it comes to surrounding myself with people talking obsessively about food/exercise, I find myself shying away. Changing the conversation. Altering the tone of a chat. And I don’t think it’s such a bad thing.

In a way, I think this is the first step in realizing, “I’m recovered.” Conversations like this upset me. They don’t make me happy, I don’t want to participate like I used to.

Of course, time and place mean everything; I realize in some situations “flight” isn’t a viable option. But for the most part, on a case-by-case basis, I can choose how I’m going to react. Sometimes I might need to “suck it up.”

But  sometimes, inaction/non-engagement really is the best strategy for me … at least for now.

How about you? If you’re recovering yourself (or even not) how do you deal with others’ food/diet/exercise obsessions? Do you fight or flight?


28 thoughts on “How You *Know* You’re Recovered

  1. hmm while I was reading this, I was thinking, “in this case, I thinking the ‘flight’ IS the fight!” knowing that these situations put you at risk, and knowing that it’s time to step away–*that’s” the hard part, and I think that’s where the true battle lies. and going against those social cues and giving yourself permission to disengage is one heck of a battle!

    I find myself, now, doing much of what you’ve been doing–I’ve gone so far as to hide people from my Facebook news feed if they’re just causing me stress. a year ago, I would have either joined in with them, or used their obsessions as an excuse to continue my own.

    I blogged about something similar to this a few days ago–must be in the air!

    be well. : )

  2. This is such a prevelant topic for me. I have definitely found that just “disengaging” from the conversation if I’m a dinner or a party is the way to go. If I don’t stop myself, I find that I’ll start telling my friends they should “love their body…”. What I’ve realized is that NOT everyone has an ED. NOT everyone is going to extreme measures to lose or maintain weight. Of course, I need to remind myself to love my body, but I don’t need to bombard everyone with certain messages.

    I take the flight route at this point, but I agree, a sign of being “recovered” is that we identify triggers, and deal with them appropriately.

  3. I know I’m doing well since I haven’t been on the scale in months and I really don’t care what it says. I feel great and that’s what matters to me. When I went back to work after the holidays, the other ladies in the office said, “Well, back to the diet!” and I replied, “Not me!” which was a FIRST!

    My new blog is exclusively about my attempt to run a marathon in a particular time. I’d love to write about other things in my life but I’m just not there (putting my thoughts out in public) but am rather just using my blog to keep track of my training. I suppose I could have just used a paper journal like I’ve always done but this way seemed easier as I’m in front of a computer a lot of the day as well.

    Also a first–I’m attempting something fitness related without trying to lose weight. I’m expecting NOT to lose weight. I’m trying to eat better so that I can run better. I just want to feel good!

    I agree as well, the flight IS the fight! I’m simply not interested in counting calories or points or even hearing about it. I’m interested in how to be healthy and feel good in my body. And, oh yes, work towards a goal I’ve had since I started running decades ago. This year felt like the year to give it one last decent try.

    1. Melissa, I kind of feel similarly. Last night I even told a friend that I don’t know how badly I really want to re-lose this weight because I am happy here in every other sense. It’s a long process for sure. Best wishes with your marathon training!

  4. Thanks for the link! I have to say, I can’t imagine going through my ED now – with social media the way it is. Seeing all of these self-deprecating status updates and tweets, and hearing someone post about their workouts every single day. It’s enough to make a lot of women feel badly about themselves.

    I feel a bit hypocritical, because I do post on FB about my workouts sometimes. But NOT to get praised – I usually do it because I’m proud of an accomplishment, or like to make fun of myself (like when I attempt Zumba). 🙂

    I think I need to get over the feeling that “flight” is a cop-out. It certainly isn’t – NOT when it is the most beneficial thing for you. I think there are so many women who don’t have healthy body images (like my boss), and it’s best for those of us in recovery to limit our exposure to their comments!

    1. Smooches, Holly! 🙂 Oh, I’ve posted before about the gym in passing or something or a food I like–that’s different. I’m talking about the constant “I’m running X miles” where it’s MEANT to share pride, but to me, comes off as “Look at me” b/c I still see it through that lens. So I walk away.

      “Flight” isn’t a cop out … you’re so right. Thanks, ladies, for helping me see the positive in this!

  5. I went through my ED in the late 1980’s, before the internet and really thankful because I am sure I would have fallen into those pro-ana sites, blogs, etc and would have been even worse off then I was.

    I find I really have to remove myself from conversations that get too focused on food/dieting and even some blogs or I start feeling like I need to be more like that, etc and it is not healthy.

    Now with so many health living/food blogs I really worry about some of the younger women and/or those on that fine line between healthy person and Orthorexic/full blown eating disorder and how they could be treally triggering wihtout them reailzing it.

  6. mostly flight, for all the wrong reasons. the yelling that exists solely inside my head at people who constantly seem to need reassurance that they’re pursuing healthy lifestyles by facebooking and tweeting it makes me think this is the safest option. for now. in my head it should still be secret, this weightloss thing.

    i *fully* recognise this is disordered….im working on it. Thanks for making me think.

  7. Depending on the situation, I tend to use both flight or fight. I don’t think “flight” is necessarily a bad thing- especially if you know well enough that you’re still in a slightly vulnerable state, in those cases I try to separate myself as much as possible from the crazes- definitely change the subject when people start talking obsessively about food/exercise/their misinformed thoughts about ‘carbs being bad after 5pm blah blah blah” A lot of the time though, I rebut and while stating that we should change the subject I usually correct people’s misinformation or am up front and say how considering my ED past I do not wish to hear them rant about how much weight they ‘need’ to lose.
    However, in my recovery I have gotten a lot better at dealing with these things and have found for the most part that it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to- because well, I don’t miss obsessing about food, weight, or exercise and am not even tempted to get sucked into that sort of banter. I even look down upon those who constantly engage in such talk, ironic considering that that’s all i used to talk/think about at the heights of my eating disorder- funny.

  8. Interesting post! For most fitness/weight lossFB statuses, I won’t say anything. If I get too involved, I tend to get preachy about not dieting, and a lot of people aren’t ready to hear it. My mom was telling me about going to TOPS a few weeks ago, and all I said was “let me know if you want a few names of intuitive eating-type books – they really helped me with my relationship with food”. I make a point of not saying bad things about my body to others (even if I do say them to myself more than I’d like). And I never say things like “I’m bad for eating this” or “I’m going to have to work out extra hard tomorrow for eating this (insert food here)”.

    1. Thanks, LG. And thanks for sharing. Like you, I’ve totally stopped with the ““I’m bad for eating this” or “I’m going to have to work out extra hard tomorrow for eating this (insert food here)” stuff too. And I brush off others when I hear it.

  9. I really identify with this. A little while ago, I had to revolutionize my Google Reader and Twitter subscriptions. I cleaned out most of the diet/weight loss/food blogs. Now the only blogs I subscribe to that discuss food are ones like this (disordered eaters pursuing health), or VERY balanced ones (like Everything else is off limits because, as you said, it just makes me feel bad, even when I know in my head that I’m doing well.

  10. I am almost 100% flight. This is something that is still very difficult for me to handle. I think as I get more confident in my recovery, it won’t affect me so much, but it does now. I had made tentative plans with a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a long time. Then a mutual friend told me that this friend had lost a ton of weight and was constantly talking/bragging about it. I thought, “Ok, those plans are canceled.” I feel like this makes me a bad friend, but I just know that it’s not healthy for me at this point. I think social networking has made things harder too. I just don’t want to hear about everyone’s diet and fitness goals. We’re all different, but the mandates regarding what we eat and how we exercise are based on a notion that we’re all the same. My needs are different than other people’s needs. Sometimes, I have to insulate myself because I have a tendency to compare too much. This happens to me with food bloggers. I think, “Oh, I eat way more than that,” which, while true, doesn’t mean that I don’t still need to eat more to maintain my weight (and gain a bit). Anyway, I really do think it’ll be a sign of my own progress when I can not care so much what others are doing. What they do really doesn’t (or shouldn’t) affect me.

    1. Kim, you do what you have to do, and that’s great! I think it’s all one big process. And I see what you mean, that it’ll be a sign of progress when what others do/say doesn’t impact you. But in the meantime, you do what you need to!

  11. Just found your blog – lovin’ it! I completely relate to wanting being tired of all the fitness talk. To recover from an eating disorder, I think we have to be 99% stronger than everyone else, because food and body image are ingrained in society. It’s the norm to comment on someone’s weight when they are losing it – it seems society always deems that a good thing. And then there are the hushed conversations when someone is gaining. In my recovery, I have also had to leave the fitness/nutrition convo’s behind, because for the most part, they are just disordered eating comments in disguise.

  12. Wow, great post. can really relate.
    althought I know I am not recovered yet, i have all hopes that I will be, and I am really giving it a fantastic go. I feel like some blogs, facebooks, etc are not helpful. I know I am on blogs etc, because I would like to be understood by like-minds and listen to their takes on ED, stories and lives. I don’t want to hear XX calories now I have to go for a run or I am XX wieght XX height i feel fat, or I hate my therapist my new food plan is just going to make me balloon up. I dont feel like these kinds of posts etc are helpful, to me, or to my recovery. I dont think these people are wrong for saying these things, or should stop either, as the blogs are such a great place to be writing and be honest, but I know it is easier and better for me to not read their entries.
    my blog might be not everyones piece of cake too, and i would encourage anyone who is triggered in anyway or upset by it to discontinue reading it, because we are all here to recover, and whatever it takes… that is the main goal here.
    thanks for that post. got me thinking!

  13. I have a girl friend who has her own issues… not an eating disorder (maybe with tendencies?), but a similar compulsion to punish herself I guess. When she tells me she’s “hardly eaten anything”, she wears it like a badge of honour. She doesn’t seem to realise how triggering it is for me. And how do I deal with it? I tell her to look after herself. I refuse to let my own, disordered thoughts of “she’s hungry, I’m not, I’m bad” to take over from what would otherwise be my natural response as her friend to care for her. I’m not denying those thought are there, but I will not let them dominate.

  14. I am usually the voice of reasoning and recognize that people are really hard on themselves. even if they are not disordered they are expecting perfection in their “diets” and exercise programs. Especailly at this time of year. So I try to encourage balance and not expecting pefection. Past that, if it is a disordered conversation I just avoid. If I feel uncomfortable I get out. I don’t think this is at all something to be ashamed of. I’m doing what is best for me. It is best for me not to be around that so I can not start to be confused into thinking this is ok or normal. Regardless of how prevelant that type of talk and thinking is: it is not ok for me. I am not happy when I think that way. And this is something I have to remind myself of more when I see it on a regular basis.

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