My body wanted me to be its friend

I abandoned my friend, my body, during my eating disorder. It deserves love and respect, not harsh control and criticism.

My body wanted me to be its friend

My body wanted me to be its friend

Sometimes, I dislike my body even though I consider myself in recovery from an eating disorder. If I were to wait until I felt at peace with every part of my body before calling myself recovered, recovery would never happen. I don’t say that to be pessimistic; I say that to be realistic.

Being happy with every part of my body can be challenging in a world obsessed with weight loss. This is especially difficult after having achieved a body close to ideal when trapped in my eating disorder (ED).

I miss my flat stomach and how my hip bones jutted out on either side. I miss my thigh gap, something I didn’t know was an achievement until it was gone. I miss my xylophone ribs and scrawny arms despite sometimes feeling self-conscious about them. The reason I was self-conscious was that I was afraid they’d reveal to the world that perhaps I was too thin.

Even though I didn’t think I had an eating disorder, even as I lived in denial of that possibility, I didn’t want to be told I had to change. In a world where I often felt I didn’t belong or measure up, being thin made me feel worthy and confident about something…sometimes.

Constant thoughts of inadequacy and shame

It’s easy to look back and romanticise that time in my life. You may wonder, if I was so happy with my body, why did I seek treatment for an eating disorder? That’s an excellent question—sometimes I’ve wondered that myself!

The thing is, during that time of jutting hip bones and prominent ribs, my mind was constantly plagued with thoughts of inadequacy and shame. I was convinced that I had to maintain that thinness or, better yet, get thinner. “Teeny-tiny” had become my identity, of which I was deeply proud.

I thought I’d found the secret to success and happiness in a diet culture world, and come hell or high water, I wasn’t going back to the days of worrying if my butt looked big or if my jeans would fit. I revelled in knowing that everything would fit because the number on the scale assured me of that every day. Thinking I was “watching my weight” and doing what diet culture preached allowed the ED to deceive and control me for years.

I could not relax or be content

The dirty little secret of eating disorders, however, is that I could never be content or relax. Even at my thinnest, I never felt genuinely confident or safe. The ED convinced me that I would never be good enough and that if I gained weight, then everyone would know I was a fraud.

I was a “high-functioning” person with anorexia in that I never got thin enough to raise the alarm with my doctors, which only served to validate me. They never said I was too thin, so I was okay.

The ED crept in and fit perfectly with my people-pleasing personality. It alternated between whispering and shouting in my mind, telling me to stay the course, to stay thin. The ED wanted me to believe I had nothing else to offer, and it had my best interests at heart.

I managed to ignore the ED voice enough to live a “normal” life, but its lies were always running in the background. Living like that was exhausting and lonely.

Why asking for help is important

Once I miraculously decided to be assessed for an ED and was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, the ED voice gradually became quieter and quieter. It was as though it knew its time was up; there were no more shadows where it could hide.

With the support of my treatment team, family and friends, I appreciated the talents and qualities that had always been within me; I’d just been distracted by the ED for way too long to trust that they were more valuable than being thin, that I was more valuable than that.

Now that my body has restored the weight I’d worked diligently to avoid for years, the ED voice occasionally pipes up to remind me how great it was when my stomach was flatter or my arms didn’t jiggle. That’s when I remind it that those days weren’t great.

Living with the ominous underlying hum of anxiety over things that truly didn’t matter distracted me from living a full and happy life, of being present in every moment. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve had a good life—but I’ll always wonder how it might have been without the ED.

Now I see my body as my friend

The damage inflicted by an ED runs deep, and escaping its clutches is not simple or easy. I am mindful of granting myself compassion and patience, like the compassion and patience I’d give a friend. A major difference in how I view my body now is that I see it as my friend. After all, it’s always been with me. It’s been there for every experience, the good and the not-so-good. It allows me to function, and I am grateful for that. I also know that in the blink of an eye, I could lose the ability to see, walk, hear, speak or think. None of those losses would diminish my worth because I am not defined by my body or what it can or cannot do.

While I’m grateful to be in a recovery space, I also mourn the time lost. How much richer would the tapestry of my memories be if I hadn’t spent hours and hours wondering how many calories were in that sandwich or how many ounces I might have gained if I hadn’t worked out that day? How many experiences were less fun for my companions because I refused to get the ice cream sundae?

My body deserves love and respect

Those might seem small, insignificant things, but over the years, they add up to a lot of lost “quality living”. I deeply regret that I abandoned my friend, my body, and let it fend for itself with the ED in the name of being healthy. It deserves love and respect, not harsh control and criticism.

That’s where the hope comes in. Today, I know my body is here for me—it always has been. This loving and loyal friend has forgiven me for what I put it through. I’m thankful for its resilience and ability to find its happy place in a stable, healthy weight.

These days, when I don’t like a specific part of my body, I shift my focus to the parts I do like, or better yet, focus on all I’ve gained in recovery—compassion, respect, confidence and the knowledge that eating disorders and diet culture lie. While I’ve been busy locating and developing these treasures, my body has been patient, waiting for me to relax and be its friend.



I am an author who writes fiction as a way to make sense of things for myself and hopefully, my readers. Exploring complex, often painful issues to find meaning and hope is central to my motivation as a writer.

I live in Minnesota with my husband, where the long, cold winters provide ample time to write. My novels include A Charmed Life, Ahead of Time and most recently, A Battle for Hope, a novel about eating disorders. These books are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both digital and print form.

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