I am quickly approaching the day I will celebrate my ten year anniversary of “life after an eating disorder”. After a seven-year battle with binge-purge type anorexia, on December 6th, 2007, I decided once and for all to put my faith in something bigger than myself and to allow the transforming power of God to shape the rest of my life. The result? Life change. Healing. Total recovery. You can read more about this experience in A Story and an Invitation.
I am so thankful for the events of that day, and the obvious work that God was doing in my heart leading up to it to get me ready for what would come next. And I can’t even begin to express how blessed I feel that I have been able to spend the past ten years enjoying the new life that I’ve been given. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been a gift nonetheless.
This year has brought with it obvious new challenges. I have spent most of my adult life anticipating family growth through the avenue of adoption. Though our reasons for pursuing adoption had nothing to do with my own insecurities and fears, somewhere deep down inside of me, adoption somehow seemed a “safer option” for a recovered anorexic who had never completely come to terms with the fear of weight gain.
Pregnancy has been a massive test of will for me—a mental challenge unlike anything else I have experienced in the past decade of recovered life. Looking back on it now, nearly 37 weeks into the process, I can see that this was something God wanted me to go through. It has been an important journey for me in so many ways, and I am very thankful that He took the reigns and lead us down the path He chose for us… rather than just letting us carry on with our own version of the status quo.
As a recovered anorexic, pregnancy has not been easy for me. But somehow, it has changed me. It has made me better. And stronger. And taught me so much. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned along the way:
1. People mean well.
Nothing is more uncomfortable for a girl who has lived through the horror of an eating disorder than other people’s incessant fixation on her body. Comments on her growing size do not feel like compliments—they feel like sharp, piercing knives that dig deep into her soul. These comments were painfully difficult for me to bear in the first few months as I began to “show”. Sometimes I felt bitter and angry towards those who verbalized them. But as time went on, my heart softened towards these moments as I understood that no one was actually trying to hurt me. Instead, they were excited for me. They were celebrating with me. They were honoring me. And that is something to be grateful for, not upset about.
2. Insecurity is never an excuse for bad behavior.
For me, self-control was not an easy quality to employ during those situations described in my first point. “How dare they feel the right to comment on my body?!” I would think to myself. “What is wrong with them?!” Sometimes these thoughts would remain hidden beneath the surface, but sometimes they would poke out their ugly heads and start to influence my actions. But insecurity simply is NOT a good excuse for bad behavior. It’s not a good reason to write passive-aggressive statuses on Facebook. It’s not a good reason to respond rudely to a friend who is simply trying to interact with you around the excitement of your pregnancy. It’s not a good reason to avoid relationships. My insecurities are my problem… and this pregnancy has taught me that I can’t expect everyone else to fix my insecurities by acting exactly the way I might “wish” they would. I need to take responsibility and deal with my own insecurities in a healthy and productive way so that I am not tempted to treat others poorly as a result of them.
3. My body is awesome.
Watching my body grow has been a very strange and scary experience for me. But I’ve learned not to focus on the weight gain. Rather, I’ve become utterly amazed by the awesome reality of what God is allowing my body to accomplish every single day: creating and sustaining the life of another human being! It’s seriously wild to think about.
4. My baby is worth it.
One thing I have known deep in my heart throughout all of the trials of this pregnancy is that my baby is going to make it all totally worth it. To be honest, it has taken me a while to get to the point of connecting with my daughter as a little person inside my belly, but I think I am finally reaching that point. I don’t really see my body anymore when I look in the mirror. I see her snuggling up inside of there, and I just absolutely can’t wait to meet her! She’s the best!
5. Growth in pregnancy is not all physical.
As I look back on the past 37 weeks, I can see so much growth that has taken place in my life—and I’m not just talking about the extra pounds! When so much of your past has been consumed by a lust for the perfect physical figure, sometimes the numbers on the scale and the reflection in the mirror are all you can see. But I’m so glad that I have allowed this pregnancy to be about more than that. I’m so glad that I have allowed it to shape my character, stretch my limits, and test my fears. If you are currently pregnant and are struggling (or have struggled in the past) with body image issues, I want to encourage you to look beyond the physical changes that you see in yourself and discover the beauty in what’s happening in your heart throughout your pregnancy. Because growth in pregnancy is NOT all physical.
Thanks for reading. If you are struggling with an eating disorder—pregnant or not—I want to urge you to pursue help and encourage you to believe that total recovery is possible. To find out more about helpful resources available to you in Canada, please visit www.nedic.ca or call the National Eating Disorder Information Centre hotline at 1-866-633-4220.