The other day, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts (not food/health/body positivity related) and the guest they had on that day was someone in recovery from an eating disorder. It’s the first time I’ve heard this topic addressed on this particular podcast (though it dominates many other podcast conversations I listen to) so I was interested to hear how it would go. The two women who host the podcast are comedians, though the podcast is about sex positivity so they’re very familiar with women empowerment. Still though, the topic of eating disorders seems to be outside their wheelhouse so I was curious to see how it would be addressed.
The guest was an actress/stand-up comedian who had a history of anorexia. I won’t go into the inappropriate questions that got asked and inappropriate jokes that got made on both ends- I’m not immune to the unseemly jokes that sometimes happen in comedy; I get it. I also understand that this is an issue that I am very close to so my bias is strong. But the one thing I do want to unpack is how they talked about recovery.
The guest said multiple times that she was “in recovery” while acknowledging that it will likely be a lifelong process. However, when the hosts (inappropriately) asked her what she eats, she was still cutting out some pretty major food groups. When they asked more specific questions, it was clear that she was still following some pretty strict food rules.
Look, I’m not here to disparage this poor woman. I have boundless compassion for her. So many of us (myself included) have been in that place. And I’m truly happy for her if she feels like she’s in a better place than she has been in the past. But I think it does a discredit to eating disorder recovery and to everyone who is looking for freedom from dysfunctional eating patterns to imply that what she described is recovery.
Recovery is not cutting out food groups.
Recovery is not having stringent rules around food and exercise.
Recovery is not laughing about how you would never touch a certain food.
Whether it’s from an eating disorder, disordered eating or chronic dieting, recovery is so much more than that. It alarmed (though not necessarily surprised) me that such a dangerous description of what eating disorder recovery is was described on such a popular podcast.
So what does recovery and food freedom look like?
It’s allowing yourself all foods. It’s knowing that you can have as much or as little as you want. It’s nourishing yourself without rules. It’s opening the fridge and knowing that you can have whatever you want. It’s knowing you can eat all of it now but also that you can save some for later. It’s tossing out the list of “bad” foods and recognizing that it’s dangerous for foods to be attached to morality. It’s going out to eat and knowing that you can order whatever you want. It’s not beating yourself up when you eat past the point of fullness and it’s having compassion for yourself when you do. It’s knowing that no matter what decisions you make about food, it doesn’t define your worth or who you are as a person.
It’s easy to get to the point where you feel like you’re doing “good enough” with food- when you’re not necessarily restricting, but you’re not truly allowing all foods. When you’re not as obsessive as you once were, but you still get nervous about going out to dinner or eating without knowing calorie counts. I’m all for celebrating the small steps along the way, but I think it’s so important that we don’t stop there. That we keep taking steps towards total food freedom so that we can live our lives without letting food control more space in our brains than it deserves.