I've been in eating disorder recovery for 10 years. I didn't expect to confront it again on a solo trip to Ireland.
12.11.2023 - 16:19
I put myself on my first diet when I was 8 years old. My childhood and teen years are littered with memories of restriction and self-judgment. It's not hard to imagine how I developed an eating disorder, or ED. I struggled with restriction, bulimia, binging, and other disordered-eating behaviors for years. Thanks to my privileged access to therapists, psychiatrists, and help from loved ones, I've been in eating disorder recovery for the last 10 years.
This past summer, I spent months caring for a sick parent far from home. I left my life, which I'd curated with routines and methods that kept me in recovery, miles away. The stress was enormous, so I gifted myself a solo trip to Ireland for my birthday. I looked forward to an experience that would grant me the relaxation I so desperately craved.
I planned every detail of my trip, from the cities I'd hit and the tours I'd take, to the landmarks and museums I'd visit, and the friends and coworkers I'd meet up with along the way. I even booked a spa visit to make sure I truly took the time to relax despite all my trekking and city-hopping. What I didn't plan on was having to combat that ED voice in my head.
Once I checked into my hotel, the voice in my head got louder. I wondered if I should take a taxi or if I should walk because I'd be having food later, likely with a side of potatoes. And, of course, it trickled down to how I judged myself in photos and if I decided they were Instagram-worthy. It didn't help that I was comparing them to photos of myself 12 years ago — when I lived in Spain as an au pair — at the height of my eating disorder.
I was furious with myself. I was allowing my past to dictate my present and forgetting the lessons I'd learned and the hard work I'd done during the past decade in recovery. I was in a stunning place, enjoying adventures with people happy to discover new things, and was still stuck among old thoughts. It was haunting.
I resolved to take up space. I first decided to pick out the menu item I desired when eating, to enjoy many pints of Guinness with coworkers and newly made friends, and to order the dessert night after night because I could and because I wanted to — because what I was eating and my size was not indicative of my self-worth.
I took a taxi when I was tired and walked when I was energized — but not to burn calories. I walked so I could explore, so I could marvel at the hundreds-of-years-old cobblestones beneath my feet, and so I could people-watch all the travelers and locals alike. Instead of counting my steps, I reminded myself how lucky I was to be healthy and strong enough to walk miles each day.
On the morning of my 33rd birthday, I slathered Kerry Gold butter onto the best scone I've ever eaten and