New Year, Be You

By Kristine Strangis

Happy-New-Year-Image-01The New Year is coming, and while this time may bring joy, it also may bring stress. Having an eating disorder, it can be tough to hear all of the New Year’s resolutions because they are typically appearance focused, which can be very triggering. From losing weight to exercising more, these goals, while they may be helpful for one person, may be detrimental to a person with an eating disorder who is in recovery.

I personally believe that New Year’s should be focused on bettering oneself mentally. The way to do this is by focusing on the internal, or who you are, rather than external, or what you look like. Change only happens when we dedicate ourselves to the process and put our words into action.

Currently, I am dealing with a relapse on my recovery journey, but I am staying strong. After getting some tough love from my family, I decided to check back into outpatient treatment, and now I am working toward change. Therefore, for my New Year’s resolution, I have decided to work towards my recovery by taking some much needed time for myself. This is not selfish, but rather, self-compassion.  For example, I have been doing mindfulness exercises, such as meditation and coloring, in order to cope with my emotions in healthy ways, instead of using eating disorder symptoms. Small steps lead to big changes.

I am choosing to learn from this relapse. The fact that my eating disorder was coming back meant that something in my life was out of balance. So, one of the changes I have made is quitting my cashier job and instead, volunteering with my college’s eating disorder research center. I knew that I needed to do more fulfilling work that would align with my values. My education, and the fact that I have battled and still am battling with anorexia nervosa, has led me to finding my vocation in helping others achieve recovery.

I want others to know that recovery is possible. I say that I am recovered because I continue to be resilient. I keep choosing recovery and fight the eating disorder whenever it comes creeping back in. Recovery may be a long and hard journey, but it is well worth it.

Overall, my New Year’s resolution is to focus on my recovery while being true to myself. I know that the research work that I will be doing will help others recover and save lives, and that is what keeps me strong in my own recovery. So, as this New Year approaches, I will focus on making goals towards my recovery. Focusing on what I can change internally- with my mind, rather than giving into the eating disorder that tries to change me externally. The eating disorder thinks that changing physically will fix everything, but it does not. The eating disorder provides an illusory sense of control that is only temporary; but change from within is permanent and that is why it is so valuable.

This is my recovery journey, perfectly imperfect, and that is ok, as long as I keep staying strong.

So, what is your New Year’s resolution? Remember, focus on what you can change inside. If you are stuck, here are some ideas:
1.    Volunteer somewhere that gives you a sense of purpose
2.    Take up a new hobby (I recommend coloring books!)
3.    Challenge yourself to face your fears
4.    Work on loving your body as it is
5.    Reach out to your friends and family
6.    Journal more often
7.    Take time for yourself, practice self-compassion
8.    Work on your recovery, wherever you are in the process
9.    Do mindfulness exercises (meditation, yoga, going for a walk, etc.)
10.    Be you! (Do what makes you feel happy and fulfilled, this is what will enable you to find an identity beyond the eating disorder)

Never give up warriors! Recovery is possible, just stay strong and keep on keeping on.

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