Proud2Bme | I Choose a Bigger Life

  • Body Image
  • Personal Stories

I Choose a Bigger Life

By Daniell Koepke--Most of us battling eating disorders can identify with the negative thoughts that make us believe being thinner and losing weight will make us happy. Eating disorders are about so much more than a drive for thinness, but that pursuit is usually one of the catalysts that leads us deeper into behaviors, and it’s often one of the reasons so many of us in recovery find it difficult to fully let go of the eating disorder and find freedom.

I want to share a piece of wisdom I learned during my struggle that has continued to impact me and help me choose recovery each and every day:

What is more important to you: the size of your body or the size of your life?

At the onset of my eating disorder, and for the duration of my struggles with the anorexia and bulimia, I desperately believed that having the perfect body would solve all my problems. I thought that if I was skinny, I would be beautiful, and if I was beautiful, I would gain confidence, win people’s friendship and affection, finally gain the courage to participate in life, and ultimately, find happiness.

The thing about that sort of happiness though is that it’s extremely short lived.

I might have felt satisfied for a while, but it was never good enough — I never felt good enough. No matter how thin I became, I still felt the need to lose more weight. I still felt flawed and inadequate. I may have felt more comfortable in my body and more attractive, but it didn’t remedy the self-hatred I felt. It didn’t solve the problems underlying my eating disorder. It didn't fix the situations causing me pain. It didn’t make me feel whole or at peace. It temporarily satisfied the emptiness I felt and allowed me to numb out from painful feelings — but it wasn’t sustaining and it definitely never made me happy.

Looking back on my struggles, I realize that what I really wanted wasn’t to be thin.

I wanted to be loved and accepted. I wanted to feel seen and heard and validated. I wanted to feel appreciated and significant. I wanted to feel connected and like I belonged. I wanted to feel like I mattered. All of those feelings are so normal and valid. They are things that most of us want and need. But I never realized that I didn’t have to sacrifice myself or achieve perfection in order to find them. It took me a long time to recognize that staying in my eating disorder made it so much harder to receive the love and connection I so desperately wanted.

The truth is that when all of my time and energy was dedicated to pursuing thinness, I didn’t have very much time or energy to put into anything or anyone else.

I didn’t have the time or energy to spend developing new friendships or strengthening existing connections. I became so wrapped up in behaviors that I wasn’t really able to be there for the people I cared about. I was so busy making sure that I would stay thin that I gave up doing things I felt passionately about, and as a result, I became disconnected from the people I used to share those passions with. I had trouble thinking and concentrating because I felt so weak, and sometimes, I didn’t even have the energy to hold conversations. 

I was so terrified of food that I didn’t allow myself to go to certain events that would force me to eat. And so, I missed out on important experiences and opportunities to engage in the world and connect with others. I missed out on birthday lunches and dinner parties and late night trips with friends to get fast food. I skipped fun things like going to the beach with my friends or spending the day exploring the city with my roommate because that would mean missing out on my exercise routine. I canceled dates because I didn’t feel comfortable going to restaurants and eating in front of other people. Other times I canceled plans because I had just binged and purged, and felt too ashamed and exhausted to see anyone. I turned down road trips and out of state visits to see friends because I wouldn’t have control over the food I would eat. I couldn’t be present at holiday gatherings with my family because I was so preoccupied with food or because I was engaging in behaviors. I couldn’t enjoy vacations or high school class trips because I was so stuck in my head and fixated on food or my body or the shame I felt for not being normal. Again, and again, I missed out on life and connections for the sake of pursuing thinness. 

I ended up isolating myself, and because I consistently made myself physically and emotionally unavailable, people interpreted my behavior to mean that I didn’t care — and so they distanced themselves too. I was left feeling lonely, disconnected, inadequate, and invisible — the exact feelings I had been working so hard to escape from. Sure my body was small, but so was my life.

It was only after the relentless attempts at finding happiness and fulfillment through losing weight, and failing each time that I realized my happiness couldn’t be contingent upon a number.

It was only after my eating disorder stripped me of everything and everyone I cared about that I was able to choose another path. When I found the strength to reach out for help, the courage to identify and confront the real issues causing me pain, and the will to keep going, no matter how hopeless things seemed, life got better — I got better.

Yes, my body is a lot bigger now, but so is my life, because I’ve gained so much more than just weight. I’ve gained confidence and energy and happiness. I’ve gained new friendships and life experiences and opportunities. I’ve found my voice and my personality and my passions. I’ve gained a tremendous amount of growth and learned so much about who I am and what I’m capable of. I’ve made peace with my past and I’ve created room for my future — all things that would have never been possible had I continued to pursue thinness and perfection through my eating disorder.

So when your body hating thoughts get loud and you hear that voice in your head promise you that losing weight will solve your problems and remedy the pain, remind yourself of this. And ask yourself, “What is more important to me — the size of my body or the size of my life?"

About this blogger: Daniell is a student at CSU Channel Islands where she majors in psychology. She is the creator behind an online space called the Internal Acceptance Movement (I. A.M.) which touches on issues involving mental health, recovery, self-care, gender, sexuality, and social justice. She is also an aspiring writer and eating disorder activist who hopes to challenge the stigma surrounding mental illness by speaking openly about mental health and her own journey to recovery from anorexia and bulimia. 

More by Daniell:

5 New Year's Resolutions for People in Recovery

Facebook discussion

get help

 

About Us

Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.