A Letter to Myself Before I Developed Binge Eating Disorder
Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders, Binge Eating
Dear Past Elizabeth,
It’s been awhile since you’ve been in touch with your true self, and I want you to know that it’s okay – even necessary – to connect. That might sound odd right now, but hear me out.
Growing up, you learned that it’s not okay to be yourself. Cultural messages of the so-called “ideal woman” permeated every facet of your life. You were told to cater to everyone and appear perfect even if you were hurting. This meant you had to be thin, conventionally attractive, and always calm and collected, as the “ideal woman” is an effortless endeavor. So, you wore makeup and certain clothes to look “pretty,” because you believed your appearance defined your social worth. You had put others’ opinions and emotions above your own, hoping to be accepted by them. You tried your hardest to be a social butterfly despite how unnatural it felt as an introvert. Being authentic never felt enough for the world. So, along the way, you started to conceal your true self. You’re not aware of it now, but this desperation to become someone different has gnawed at you for most of your life. You’ve built up layers and layers to hide your inner voice, but it’s still there, waiting to be heard.
Without the wisdom of your inner voice, you’ll develop Binge Eating Disorder. You’ll try and tell yourself that it’s just “emotional eating” and that you have a “food obsession.” But it’s much deeper than that. When you suddenly wake up from dissociative episodes, realizing you were in the dining hall and consumed over 3,000 calories in one hour, you’ll feel so much shame and guilt and emptiness. But this is not your fault. Even though you’ll do it again the next day, and the next day, it is okay. You were simply trying to numb your feelings – feelings that felt so overwhelming that they’d lead to a tsunami if you actually allowed yourself to feel them.
Something you’ve never really been concerned with is your weight – you’ve been a so-called “intuitive eater” for your whole life, luckily avoiding the toxic influence of diet culture. That is, until freshman year. When you hear about others’ diets, don’t listen. Remember that your weight, size, and shape do not define your worth and value. This is incredibly difficult, I know. But you will have a gut feeling that tells you that the pursuit of weight loss doesn’t feel right – I urge you to listen to that feeling.
You’ve been a believer that calorie counting is a bad idea. But diet culture is a powerful force, and you rejected your inner voice to follow the pursuit of thinness. Your many calorie-tracking apps are a waste of time, and there’s no need to spend hours planning your every bite for the week. You don’t need to change your appearance to be accepted. Trust that your true self doesn’t need to change for others to like you, and if you don’t develop a genuine connection with some people, it means you haven’t met the right friends yet. Trust me – you will. It’s just a matter of time, and a matter of opening up your heart.
It’s healing to forgive yourself. You are allowed to just “be”: you can be your introverted self, you can go a day without makeup, and you can make mistakes. It will always be okay, because your worth and value are not conditional. I love you and forgive you regardless of your feelings and actions. Find people who love you just the way you are, because it makes a world of difference; support, acceptance, and authenticity will serve you well. Yes, you’ll figure out how to succeed in classes and extracurriculars even with an eating disorder, but this road would lead to nowhere without the voice of your authentic self. I’m here for you, I’ve always been here for you. You just have to listen.