Today, it took 30 minutes to convince myself that eating an oatmeal cream pie after eating a candy bar earlier in the day was okay.

10 minutes ago, I spit out half of a different cookie because I couldn't make myself eat the whole thing after already eating two "bad" foods today.

I'm beginning to realize that I've been lying to myself lately.

When I first started dating Justin, I was finally coming out of my eating disorder and feeling confident about my body at whatever size it was. I started to realize though that my post-disorder weight-loss was finally manifesting itself about two months into our relationship. I loved it. I loved being back to feeling healthy again. I think I loved looking "healthy" even more. It didn't start intentionally at first--cutting back at meals and eating smaller portions. It just happened gradually. I liked what I was seeing in the mirror, but with every glance at myself, my eating disorder started to fester inside of me again.

When Justin was concerned about me not eating enough, I would tell him that I just had a small stomach--which was true, but only because I was making it that way. Before our wedding, I lost weight and my wedding dress was actually too big for me. On our honeymoon, I only ate the crusts off of my french toast at breakfast one morning. Sure, I ate, but I wasn't eating like I should have been. I wasn't eating like someone who had overcome three eating disorders should be. I would eat large meals now and again without being phased, lying to myself and saying; "See! You're okay! You just ate something you would have never eaten during your disorders!", but I was wrong. Sure, I wasn't anorexic or a binge eater, but I wasn't "okay". Some days it feels like I'll never be. This wasn't anywhere close to how I was when I was anorexic, but I easily could have continued down that path. I liked that the pants I had bought nine months ago were too big on me. I liked that shirts felt loose on my shoulders. I liked that I could put my hands on my waist and not strain to have my fingers touch my bellybutton.

From day one, Justin told me that he loved me at any weight, but part of me was afraid to believe him. Part of me was afraid to wait and see what would happen if I gained weight. I guess I was mostly afraid of myself. Before we got married, my sister came up to me and asked if I was doing okay. I said I was because compared to my past, I was doing better. I mean, I was eating regularly and not restricting myself to celery and crushed ice like I had before...but the calorie counter in my head was dusted off and ready to go. Food started to become a number, not a source of nutrition.

To be honest, I've never forgotten the calorie amounts that I forced myself to memorize back in high school.

Initially, I was baffled that I kept losing weight, but I'm starting to realize just how complicit I actually was. When I was trying on wedding dresses, I happily credited most of the samples fitting me to my recent weight loss--I was relieved.I remember being proud of myself for not obsessing over how dresses looked on me, but I think I was actually just proud to be thin. I don't think I necessarily wanted to lose weight though, I think it was a matter of me liking the fact that I was finally making visible progress down from my binge eating weight and being okay with going a little further--losing a little bit more.

But that's how disorders get you.

I just re-discovered this picture while I was looking through our wedding photos :)
I love being married to my best friend!

Since we've gotten married, my fear of gaining weight has come back in full swing. Sometimes, I'll look at my profile in the mirror and push my fat towards my ribs to see what I would look like with a flatter, anorexic, stomach again. I mention in passing to Justin once or twice a week that I've gained weight and pretend like it isn't a big deal. But it is. I've done it so much that last night, I started to say something while I was standing in front of the mirror and Justin instantly thought that I was going to ask him if I was had gained weight. A couple of times, I've fantasized about kneeling next to the toilet and throwing up. I've fantasized about the hunger that comes from intentionally starving yourself. I've fantasized about a nightmare.

 I still consider myself recovered, but am I as okay as I thought I was a year ago? No.

I love my body and since I've noticed these behaviors coming back, I've tried to be mindful of them. I watch them, I counter them, but sometimes, like today, I fall short. Back when I was an eating disorder mentor on campus, my catchphrase was: "Recovery is real" and I still believe that it is. However, I'm starting to realize more and more lately that recovery isn't necessarily instant or long-lasting freedom from a disorder. Relapse is an incredibly common reality for anyone who has recovered from an eating disorder (check out this awesome video by Blythe Baird on relapse--it actually was one of the biggest motivators for me writing this post finally), it isn't anything to be ashamed of and it's okay to struggle. What isn't okay is deciding not to struggle against things that are hard or allowing shame to diminish the magnitude of our past accomplishments. Just because I'm stumbling now, doesn't mean I shouldn't stand tall for overcoming three disorders in the past or that I'm a failure. While we're talking about relapse, I think it's also important to note that relapse comes in all shapes and sizes. Spitting out a few cookies or counting how many calories are in a bowl of pasta do not mean that I've fallen back into an eating disorder--disordered eating, yes, but a disorder, no. I don't want anyone to mistake that last sentence as me brushing off the severity of my actions because I'm not. Things aren't as great as I'd like them to be, but I think it's important to recognize that things also aren't as bad as they could be. Yes, I acknowledge calories more than I'd like to, I'm more afraid of the implications of eating than I should be, and I'm afraid of what'll happen to my self-esteem if I gain a significant amount of weight in the near future, but have I become anorexic, bulimic, or a binge eater again? No.

And I don't plan on letting that happen ever again.

One of my main reasons for writing this post is to let others who have recovered from their disorders, but still struggle, still fight, still get exhausted by their own thoughts, that they aren't alone. That they aren't a failure. That they shouldn't be too hard on themselves because recovery isn't easy.

We're in this together.
And I think we'll be okay.