My eating disorder taught me that I didn’t have to be behind bars to experience lack of freedom. I was at war with what I ate and my body for more than 15 years, and for me this was like being in a prison. My whole life experience was determined by what I ate and how big or small my body felt. I was a victim of my limiting thoughts and beliefs. It felt like I had no choice. This obsession negatively impacted my health, relationships with men, family and friends, as well as my professional life.
At age 30 I hit bottom and made a decision to get out of the black hole. This is when my desire to be sane and happy got stronger than my desire to eat perfectly and correct my body. All I wanted was to shut down the voice in my head and feel sane and healthy. I didn’t want to cry and isolate anymore. I wanted food freedom.
The journey towards food freedom is rocky, confusing and painful. I see this in my personal experience and my current work with women as a health coach focused on eating disorders and unwanted habits around food. When I was in recovery, I thought food freedom meant finally being able to eat like a normal person. I thought it was miraculously gaining more willpower or self-control. I was wrong. It was harder than that. One of the most important lessons my journey has taught me is that food freedom is actually having a choice. Those with an eating disorder know that the obsession and insanity feel like our destiny. It feels like we have no choice. There’s no hope.
In A Man’s Search for Meaning, Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl wrote that “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In an eating disorder there’s no space between the stimulus and the response. There’s only one choice: restricting, purging, binge eating, isolating, over exercising, etc. I learned that food freedom starts happening when we surrender and are willing to look for mechanisms that allow us to widen the gap between the stimulus and the response.
These mechanisms are any tool, group, practice or resource that centers you and gives you that pause or millisecond that opens the door to make a choice. Food freedom doesn’t mean common triggers like stress or the unpleasant things in life disappear. It means that you’re able to pause and choose to either go ahead with the harmful behavior or make a wiser, kinder choice.
In practice, food freedom is a state in which you’re able to enjoy food and people around you. You aren’t obsessed with dieting and restriction. You forgive yourself when you’ve eaten “too much” and don’t try to “correct” it for the sake weight-loss. It’s accepting that sometimes the “cake” is the right thing to eat. It’s feeling sane around food. It’s accepting your body’s perfect imperfection. You’re free from the food obsession when a number on the scale is not the base of your food choices, but rather physical, emotional and mental nourishment. It’s discovering who you are outside of the food obsession. It’s feeling comfortable in your own skin.
While eating disorders are a complex puzzle and the journey of recovery isn’t the same for everyone, we only start getting a taste of food freedom when we realize that we do have a choice.
The information provided on this post is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use.
Written by Lina Salazar.