Progress. Definitely worth noting.
With this year’s Thanksgiving gathering rather pleasant, I must acknowledge the progress related to ED recovery. This progress almost slipped by unnoticed, if it hadn’t been for my current eating disorder mentees keeping their mentor in check. Reason being, my new recovered lifestyle of “freedom” has become nearly routine. Social eating situations have become much more frequent (gotta love the dating world for that), and my previous eating anxiety in anticipation of America’s national food holiday (surprisingly) was completely absent.
Instead, I keyed in on the annual road race that morning (in the bitter rain I may add), and most importantly, the family I would get to share in special fellowship with. The spark of adrenaline and familial relationships were what drove me that day. I was thankful for traditions, and their consistency whether rain or shine. Despite the disappointment in my running performance, I embraced the new physical strength of my stride. This year, I was the first one in line to fill my plate with overflowing mounds of homemade dishes. I reminisced in cheerful childhood memories, laughing at old sayings and embarrassing stories with my cousins.
Welcoming new faces into our traditional gathering, our family expanded our soulful love that day. Fulfilled with the quality engagement and conversation, my mind never wandered to overeat. I felt calm. I felt at ease. On the one designated day of thanks, I was actually thankful. Thankful for family, thankful for friends, and thankful for peace. Finally, a Thanksgiving day spent as it should be—connected by care, and shared out of love. Food was merely the article of appreciation, not the focal point.
For nearly ten years of my life, however, this was not the case. I loved Thanksgiving like every other holiday, because of the excuse to draw family together. But at the same time, I dreaded this day because of my eating disorder. The remarks from others about exercising more and counting calories to prepare and makeup for over-indulging after their Thanksgiving meal set me on edge. I feared being forced to swallow strange foods and overeating. I was scared of gaining weight from one large dinner plate (actually two, which were custom in my family).
I was nervous about what others would say, about my eating habits or about their own. I would contemplate all week long how I would compensate for the caloric overload that day—adding extra miles, pushing through harder workouts, sneaking in bonus push-ups whenever I had a chance, and restricting food the minute the holiday was over.
Part of me knew that not everyone took these intentions to the extreme like I did. I knew that 90% of the people who complained about gaining weight from too much turkey wouldn’t even lace up their running shoes the next morning. Yet even still, I had to be the exception. I had to be the healthiest one. I had to uphold my fitness reputation and turn down the gluttonous pie. I wasn’t allowed to give in to the temptation of seconds or thirds…or if I did, I wasn’t allowed to enjoy it.
No matter what I told myself before going in to the stressful situation, I always seemed to lose. The eating disorder was having a marvelous time beating me back and forth between its rigid fists. I dreamed of a Thanksgiving where I too, could relax after lunch and watch football without my mind franticly coming up with ways to burn off each and every bite.
Some people might not consider a thankful Thanksgiving to be a big deal. After all, isn’t that what the day is supposed to be all about? Don’t get me wrong, I have always practiced gratitude on this typical holiday, and have always thanked God for the many blessings in my life. But when you have experienced a personal rescue from a bottomless pot of gravy, each following bite is even more grateful.
I guess you could say my list of thanks has grown even longer, adding a line for every meaningful year. Today, I am thankful not only for the internal healing from an enslaving mental illness. I’m thankful for the light that shines bright even through the rain. The light that peeled open my eyes so that I could see, once again, the love that was sitting at the table with me for every meal along the way. Today, I am thankful to feel, once again, the fullness of His joy, and the sureness of His peace. Smiling with my family, enjoying pieces of dessert, holding a fully satisfied belly, streaming thoughts of appreciation—all guilt-free.