Guest Post: Hello Life
I still remember the day that I decided that I knew I was battling an eating disorder.
It was a Monday morning around 8:30 a.m. I told my boyfriend at the time that I promised to not weigh myself that day before I went to work.
I promised him that because every single time I stood on my scale, my entire moment, day and night was ruined. No matter what that number said, it was never good enough for me.
We had fought about this for a long time.
Dinner dates out that I would refuse to go to because I didn’t want to eat, or cancelled parties that I couldn’t attend because I was stuck by a toilet because of laxative consumption.
This doesn’t include the many conversations my family had with me about how worried they were about my health.
Nothing anyone said really made me want to change anything; not because I didn’t care about how my illness affected them, but because my eating disorder at that time was stronger than I was. Even on the days that I would tell myself, “today’s the day. I am going to break free of this,” I would lose and feel defeated.
Just for that for one day, I said I would not stand on my scale. I am one of those people that take promises really seriously. I honestly didn’t’ think that it would be that hard to not stand on it.
“I will not stand on it, prove to everyone this isn’t that big of a deal and move on,” I remember thinking to myself.
So he left to work before me and I remember hearing the door close and making sure I could hear his car leave the driveway.
Without even thinking twice about it and without even questioning my own promise, within 60 seconds of him leaving, I was already standing back on my scale in my room.
I remember standing there crying.
I had just broken a promise to someone who I really loved. It was not the first relationship that my eating disorder had affected and it wasn’t the first time that I let my illness let down someone who I loved-but it was the first moment that I realized that I had a problem that was more powerful than I was.
I had been going to Eating Disorder Anonymous groups. At the time, I told myself I was only going to make my grandma and mom happy because they were worried about me and wanted me to go. I never saw myself as “one of those girls in the real group.” That day, I knew I was just like every other one of those girls in my group.
I had a card of a therapist that one of the girls in my group gave me and I called it and left a voice message. Two days later, I was sitting in her office.
That day, my recovery journey began.
For months, I still didn’t really think I had “that big” of a problem.
I would always tell the therapist, “Listen, you really don’t get it. I was overweight as a kid and now I just really like to be skinny. It’s really not a big deal. I just want to get my thoughts about being skinny under control.”
Learning that I had an eating disorder was one thing; truly accepting that I had an eating disorder was another.
But after the first three months of therapy, I kept realizing one pattern showing itself over and over and over again.
Every time I thought I had a good week or a good day, and every time I felt slightly proud of myself for something, my scale would mess it all up.
And I use the term “my scale” because it wasn’t just an ordinary scale-it was my scale. The only scale I trusted. The only scale that came with me from house to house-the only scale that I secretly hid-it was like we were each other’s own little secrets.
It was New Year’s Eve and I was celebrating it with a bunch of friends and I didn’t bring my scale with me. We were at a ski resort for three days and my therapist and I decided it was going to be my first test without it.
I cried every night. Sometimes I cried several times a night. Without my number, I couldn’t gauge what kind of person I was that day, and that was hard.
On our way back home, I skipped over dinner with my grandpa who was visiting from Israel at the time, all to go rush home and stand on my scale.
I knew then it was controlling my life.
On January 21, I put my scale in the trunk of my car and drove it to my therapist’s office. I never, to this day, have stood on it ever again. I still to this day, four years later, have no idea what I weigh.
When I brought my scale to my therapist to hold onto for me, I told her that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it big.
I don’t even know how I let the words come out of my mouth, but I somehow got them out.
“I want to give up my scale for year. Will you hold onto it for me? I’m not sure I want to totally throw it away forever.”
She looked shocked. Happy, but shocked.
I was shocked too. But I was ready.
She asked me if there was anything that I wanted to tell my scale before she took it for a year.
The only things that came to my mind were the words, “hello life.”
I don’t know where those words came from and I hadn’t thought about it earlier-but for whatever reason, hello life was what came to mind.
I tried the first few days of being without my scale alone. I didn’t’ tell anyone. In my typical “I will do it this myself kind of way,” I kept it to myself. But in recovery, that mentality doesn’t last long.
So on the 7th day of my life without my scale, I decided to go public.
I thought to myself, that if I was going to do this for a year, I need to be accountable to someone else other than myself-so why not be accountable to the online world?
That’s where my blog, Hello Life: A Year Without A Scale , was born.
Every single day, for that entire year, I vowed to write a post about my one-year journey without my scale and essentially the very start to my journey to recovery from anorexia.
That blog, and the support that I got from it from strangers all around the world and my family and loved ones saved my life from my eating disorder.
When I started my blog, I thought to myself, “This is going to be a really hard one year journey, Shira. It will feel like you will break, but you won’t. It’s one year, you can do it.”
I sit here almost three years later and I am still walking my recovery journey.
It was never going to be just a one year journey-and I think that that while my recovery team knew that, they gave me the space to figure it out on my own.
To this day, that was the hardest year of my life.
I had spent so many years basing my self worth on numbers, that I didn’t even know if I liked myself without this number defining who I was.
I would define myself by calories, weight, clothing sizes and minutes exercised. Once I took away the scale, I had no choice but to take off my blinders and really look at who I was.
Who was I without a calorie count? Or, who was I when I hit a calorie count that my eating disordered trained brain didn’t like?
How was I supposed to sit with those uncomfortable, disappointing feelings?
Who was I without my number on a scale?
I was a 22 year old college student who made straight A’s. I was a great sister, daughter, friend and hard worker who had multiple internships working my way to becoming a journalist. But at the time, I couldn’t see that. Everyone else around me could see it but me.
I wanted to learn what it felt like to love myself-or even like myself-without the scale telling me what numbers I need to make that happen.
I wanted to learn what it felt like to go out to a restaurant –and have it not be the same and only restaurant that my eating disorder brain “lets” me go to because it is the only one with the “safe” food choice on the menu.
I wanted to learn what it felt like to have a meal in the break room with my coworkers.
I wanted to learn what it felt like to pick a coffee creamer that I really liked, not the one with the least calories.
I wanted to know what it felt like to eat frozen yogurt with my brothers and not just watch them from the sidelines.
I wanted to know what it felt like to celebrate my birthday and not spend days and days prior planning out how to avoid the cake or how to work it off at the gym.
I wanted freedom.
I have been in recovery for almost four years now and I honestly feel like I have experienced some of the most free moments in my entire life.
I’ve gone out to eat at restaurants, new ones all the time-and I explore the menu. 7 times out of 10 I won’t pick my food choice based on “safe” foods-which in my new world of recovery, that is grey and not black and white, 7 out of 10 is pretty damn good.
I’ve not only taken my little brothers out to frozen yogurt, but I’ve had whole days with them at a time where I am not tired or so focused on my eating disorder rituals that I can really be present with them.
I’ve eaten peanut butter pie with my mom on the floor of my new apartment in the dark because I didn’t even have lamps yet-but we made sure we had pie.
I have at least 3 different coffee creamers in my fridge at all times. I measure them out still-and again, in my grey world of recovery that is freedom. It is my freedom.
I’m engaged to the most caring, sensitive and amazing man who proposed to me while I was at my heaviest in recovery ever and still thinks I am perfect the way I am.
These moments of freedom were worth every moment of my recovery. These moments of freedom are what keep me fighting for my recovery.
Even though I know what freedom feels like and even though I have had many moments living in freedom, that is not my everyday reality.
I do not live in freedom from my eating disorder 24/7.
I do not live in freedom from my eating disorder even 12 hours a day 7days a week.
It’s been four years and I am still here fighting hard for my freedom.
Being a recovery fighter looks different for me now than it did four years ago.
Four years ago, fighting for my recovery meant re-learning how to eat, and re-learning who I was without my scale. It meant learning how to get comfortable with discomfort.
I know how to eat again now. I know what I like now. I am an expert now at learning how to sit in discomfort.
I know who I am now.
Now, being a recovery fighter is about me learning to love myself even when I am at the heaviest I have been in four years.
It means battling the constant thoughts in my head that come up when my TimeHop app pops up and shows pictures of myself from one, two, three and four years ago.
It means battling the thoughts when I look in the mirror or when my old clothes don’t fit.
I always tell myself, “Shira, this is your happy body. Love your happy body.”
I am the happiest now that I have ever been in my entire life. I am madly in love, I love my job, I enjoy my life and I let myself enjoy my life-and a lot of that is socially through food.
I work out a few days a week and I eat balanced overall. But I love dessert and I am proud to say that I have a little every night.
But just because I am happy, that doesn’t mean that my eating disorder thoughts have disappeared.
Just because I know what freedom feels like, doesn’t mean I get to live in it all the time.
The more time that goes on, the more that I am ok with that. It’s a hard acceptance to come to, but every day I inch my way closer and closer.
I used to think that one day I would just wake up and never have another “eating disorder” thought ever again.
And maybe for some people that is true.
But for me, at least for right now, I am still here fighting strong.
I am going to fight for my right to love myself and my happy body-even through planning a wedding and wedding dress shopping, when my eating disorder voice is going to be roaring.
But I know that I deserve to look at myself in a wedding dress and think, “Oh my gosh. You are stunning.” I am going to fight for that.
I know I will cry, because I already have. But that is ok, because all fighters cry.
I know I will wonder why I can’t just wake up one day and be like a “normal” person. I already have done that too.
I know I will have moments where I am going to want to take a break and put my gloves down and come back the next day and try to love myself yet again, and that’s ok too.
All fighters have to rest.
But I will still be here fighting for my moments, days or weeks of freedom.
I am going to fight for it so on my wedding day, no matter what kind of body image day I am having, I feel and know matter of factly that deep deep down , that I am truly beautiful inside and out.
I am going to fight so I can have more moments of freedom where I get dressed in the mornings and actually say to myself, “wow, you look really great today.”
I am going to fight so I can continue to be a role model to my little brothers.
I am going to keep on battling these moments of negative self talk because I know how amazing those moments of freedom feel like.
And even if I battle these thoughts everyday for the rest of my life-those moments of freedom-whenever they do bless me with their presence-are so worth it.
Celebrating my birthday at my favorite restaurant with my friends and family with my favorite cake. That was freedom.
Being offered an amazing job because someone in that office thought I was qualified-and it had nothing to do with my looks and everything to do with my determination, work ethic and brain. That was freedom.
Skipping a morning workout because to watch one of my favorite tv shows instead. That was freedom.
Enjoying Thanksgiving with my family. That was freedom.
Beginning and running my own nonprofit for other fighters like me who are trying to overcome eating disorders and learn to love themselves. That is major freedom.
All these moments of freedom are what make up my drive to keep living in recovery.
I was at a play earlier this week and at the very end of it all the kids sang the song called “Fight song.”
I just kept watching them as they all sang their hearts out to the part that says, “I still got a lot of fight left in me.”
I remember just watching them and thinking to myself, “Me too!”
I still got a lot of fight left in me, which is good since I know I still have a long way to go in my journey to true self love and acceptance.
But for today and for this moment, I am proud of where I am and where I came from.
And when I think of the next four years ahead of me, I still can proudly and excitedly say, “hello life.”