I’m pretty sure that it was an episode of Sex and the City on which I first heard the theory that it takes at least half as long as the time you were in a relationship to get over a break up—so if you were in a six month relationship, it would take you three months to get over it.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the longest relationship I’ve ever been in was with my eating disorder/disordered eating (both the mental health issues and the behaviors that carried through into my periods of “recovery)—and it lasted 13 years.
So if the relationship rule applies to all relationships (not just romantic ones), then that means it’s fully acceptable and even expected that it would take me at least 6.5 years to get over my eating disorder and my former relationship with Diet Culture.
Let that sink in. 6.5 years.
I’ve had this blog for almost 4, and I would say that I’m most of the way there. No relapses and actually no desire to diet or weight suppress or any of the old behaviors. No desire to go back to being less than the person who I am. No diet pills or crazy weight loss schemes. No triggers from reading a whole book full of trigger-worthy material.
Sure, there are days when I still have to cope with the exercise addiction, and days when the concept of embodiment makes me feel like I’m physically hurting, but those days are fewer and farther between.
But on those days, when the call of my former abusers—Diet Culture and ED—seems particularly strong, it helps to remember that it’s okay that I’m not immune. That I’ve only been building up my immunity to the call for about 2 years. Two years is nothing—and incredibly impressive—when you measure that up against the 13—just under half of my adult life—that I spent believing that I would only be happy, healthy, or worthy when I was thin.
When you think about it, it’s almost crazy that we should enter into these relationships with disorder—abusive relationships that threaten the only relationship that really matters: the one you have with your body.
Your relationship with your body is the ONLY relationship that will be with you for your entire life. It’s the only one you are required to stay in for as long as you’re on this earth—you can break up with bad partners, divorce your parents, disown your kids, and get new friends*—but you can’t break up with your body.
So many of the promises that come with weight loss programs and diet and fitness plans stem from the idea of breaking up with your current body and developing a new relationship with a brand new person who is like you, but “better”—but these claims are bogus. You’re you. You’re IN you. Always.
But we don’t live like we believe that. Most of the time, we don’t believe that.
And so when it comes time to break up with the part of yourself that’s not really yourself—the part that’s abusive and shame-y and self-critical and full of hate—it’s going to be hard. Hard, but completely necessary. Completely necessary, but a slow process.
When I go into Facebook groups or open my email inbox and read about people’s perceived lack of progress with body positivity or intuitive eating or recovery, I feel their sense of urgency and frustration so strongly: why isn’t this happening sooner? Why is this so hard? What is taking so long? Am I broken? Is this impossible? Will I never get better and am I doomed to hate myself and struggle with food and fitness forever?
I’ve asked these questions myself, becoming frustrated when the anxiety picks up or I want to get back on the scale.
But maybe this just takes some reframing. Recovery is going to take time, whether you’re breaking up with an eating disorder or disordered eating. It’s going to take a long time, especially if you’ve been in a relationship with ED for months or years. It’s going to take even longer because you live in a society that worships Diet Culture—where you’re going to be constantly exposed to diet behaviors and fatphobia and concern trolling, behaviors and reactions that may cause you to relapse or want to go back. If you like of this like a break up, this is not unlike constantly seeing your ex show up in your Facebook feed.
Until you can get to a place where you can completely “unfriend” and “unfollow” Diet Culture, it’s going to prolong your recovery time.
That is not a message meant to cause you despair, but rather to give you hope: you’re not as far behind as you think you are. You’re not a failure at “getting better.” You CAN reach diet freedom and recovery, and you get to give yourself grace and leeway in the process.
It’s going to be okay. Break ups take time. Even (and sometimes especially) breakups with an abuser. And you will be a stronger person for going through the process—as long, messy, and emotional as that process may be.
You got this.
Speaking of breaking up with your diet, you’re not going to want to miss this week’s podcast with the amazing Virgie Tovar. Seriously…she is so full of insight into how to tap into radical body love that you can’t help but be inspired to ditch the diet and start trying to love yourself today.
*I don’t recommend doing any of these things lightly. But you have an out if you need one. You don’t get an out from your body. Sorry.