This is a guest post by Kaila Prins. Read About the Author below to read more about her work.
It took 13 years for me to be diagnosed with anorexia/eating disorder not otherwise specified, because for about 99.5% of that time, I was displaying “healthy” behaviors.
I was the girl who ran once, if not twice, a day.
“I wish I had your willpower!”
I was the girl who ordered a salad without dressing when everyone else was getting pizza.
“You eat so healthy!”
I was the girl with a six pack (but no period).
“I wish I could look just like you.”
For most of my adult life, I had a subclinical/undiagnosed eating disorder—some jumbled up version of restrictive eating through orthorexia, exercise addiction, severe depression and OCD…and no one thought twice because strong is the new skinny, and you can’t see amenorrhea through someone’s abs.
People thought I was healthy. Commented on my health. Praised me for my health. Let me get away with becoming a personal trainer without so much as a question or comment. Women stopped me in the bathroom at the gym to ask me for tips on how to eat and exercise.
So many people do not get the chance to recover—fully recover—from their disordered eating and exercise, because our country has the most warped, jacked up idea about what “health” looks and feels like. In fact, some people don’t even know that they need to recover in the first place.
And while the internet is a great way to find resources to help you recover from disordered eating, exercise, or body image (you’re here reading this post, so you know that!), it’s also a great way to get caught in the dangerous trap I call “Recovered Enough.”
What is “Recovered Enough?”
It’s a justification for modifying but continuing disordered behaviors. It’s a front to show other people that you’re “the healthy one” while continuing to practice disordered behaviors behind closed doors. It’s substituting fitspo for thinspo and writing impassioned blog posts about how you’ve come to love and accept your “bigger body” in recovery while suppressing your weight so you don’t go above a size 2.
I get it because I’ve been there.
I’ve wanted to be adored for my commitment to “health.” And I was. And while I was being adored and praised, I was also miserable. And making my loved ones miserable. And ruining my friendships. And, ironically, destroying my health.
Recovered Enough is when you get to post “love your body” quotes on instagram while taking no rest days from the gym, because you’re scared of losing your muscle.
Recovered Enough is when you get to post articles on nutrition all.day.long. because you want everyone to be as “nourished” as you, but secretly you’re starving your soul while you spend your life making sure it fits your macros.
Recovered Enough is taking on the identity of the fit person (the marathoner, the deadlift girl, the yogi, the Crossfitter) to the delight of your social media followers, while losing the rest of your identity completely.
Recovered Enough is not enough.
It’s not enough, because your time here on this earth is excruciatingly short. And your youth is excruciatingly shorter. You only get to be in your body once, and that once is a blink of an eye.
It’s funny: I didn’t really make that correlation or commit to being fully recovered until after I almost died. Even though my years of anorexia, orthorexia, and exercise addiction were punctuated with brief dalliances with suicidal depression, it wasn’t until I was hit by a car in 2013—it was not until I realized that my life could be involuntarily taken from me—that I realized that I wanted to live.
Live, and not just survive.
It’s corny, but I wanted to thrive. I wanted to have a life outside of my gym and my kitchen. I wanted to be able to eat unplanned meals and not think twice about them because I was so busy camping or hiking or dancing or watching movies or playing video games or having sex or writing or any of the millions of things that have nothing to do with calories or the size of my hips or the prominence of my collarbone.
I wanted to thrive, but I had no idea how. Because Recovered Enough had given me permission to hold onto the disordered behaviors that I was using to cope with the fact that I had no idea who I really was or what I really liked or what I wanted to do.
But Recovered Enough was not enough. And that’s when I stumbled upon what I call “Discovery.”
Because recovery doesn’t teach you how to live; it only teaches you how to stay alive. And, at a certain point, simply “staying alive” isn’t good enough.
Discovery is the process of figuring out who you are and what you like to do. It’s also a process of making mistakes and finding out who you aren’t and what you don’t like. It’s messy, often unplanned, and difficult to control—and it has nothing to do with the size or shape of your body, the macronutrient ratio of your meals, or whether or not it’s leg day. Which is horrifying to anyone who is stuck in Recovered Enough, I know.
But Discovery is a non-negotiable if you want to make the most of your short time on this planet. Because you don’t get do-overs. You have to go out and try things that don’t involve bringing along a tupperware or getting praised for the depth of your warrior pose.
In Discovery, you may gain weight. You may not. You may get more muscular. You may lose muscle. You may eat quinoa. You may eat cheeseburgers. None of that is the point.
In my own personal Discovery, I reconnected with myself and found my inner nerd. She loves stand up comedy and nerdy TV shows. She’s also obsessed with burlesque and pole dance. She is attractive because of how she uses her voice to share her passion with the world, and her body, though many pounds heavier than it was when she was “the healthy one,” is not only healthier than it has ever been, but it also radiates joy and light.
She discovered who she was by getting the heck out of the kitchen and away from the gym. She discovered who she was by not trying to prove how “healthy” she was.
I’m not saying that you have to abandon your açai and overnight oats or drop out of your next marathon. I’m not saying that you can’t lift weights or enjoy trying out recipes. I’m not saying that you have to stop being healthy.
But you do have to stop being “healthy” (read: “Recovered Enough”) if you want to be fully recovered.
There is an entire world out there that is waiting for you to explore it. Don’t miss your chance: discovery is around the corner, and you can’t weigh its importance on your scale.
Want to learn more about #discoverynotrecovery?
About the Author of The Difference Between Full Recovery & “Recovered Enough”
After 13 years of battling an eating disorder and exercise addiction, Kaila Prins is now a wellness and recovery coach and public speaker working with women all over the country to empower them to redefine healthy, happy, and whole at any size.
Kaila’s coaching and speaking focuses on media literacy, health at every size, recovery strategies, and how to navigate the act of performing woman in an increasingly body negative world.
You can read Kaila’s philosophy on and strategies for body positivity on her blog at inmyskinnygenes.com or listen to the weekly podcast at findingourhunger.