Summertime has always been one of the most paradoxical seasons in my life. It has brought me warm weather, freedom–from the monotonous five days a week seven fifty am to two twenty pm (excluding the prolonged hours spent studying and participating in extracurriculars), relaxation and more. Summer brings dates with friends and loved ones, picnics, and late outdoor dinners. Yet, how can I absorb the warm weather happily, feel completely free and at ease, and relax to my fullest extent when all around me, a country’s worth of people and industries are telling me to skip out on my beloved summer treats!? To only go in the sun if my body fits the bathing suit, to instead, spend my time indoors, overworking myself into exhaustion so I’d fit into a swimsuit. As I go into my third summer of recovery, I try my best to work just as hard at maintaining my recovery as I did the first summer. I must acknowledge that I am privileged, I have a nutritionist and a therapist- and to both I am eternally grateful. I am aware that not everybody is able to access this method of help-but, that does not mean they are not entitled to their advice!
Since age six, a looming shadow has engulfed me every summer, taking the joy I get from the sun away from me. This shadow morphed into what began as a whisper, that told me my body was ugly, and undesirable–this always evolved into a violent yelling within my brain. Through my recovery, I learned that I had no choice but to leave the shade before it weaseled its way into my mind. Although I was skeptical since I was exposed to years upon years worth of diet culture, I listened. One of the most crucial things my nutritionist taught me was to create a schedule. Once it was summer, my eating disorder had always hidden behind the guise that I had simply forgotten to eat, and let time slip away, something I rarely experienced during the school year. My summers were always very laid back, apart from the one or two week family vacation, my schedule was pretty much ambiguous. In order to combat this, I planned my days in advance, seeing friends, reading, chores, summer schoolwork, and any other necessities that needed to be completed during this time (college applications and so forth). As I had less time to dawdle, and ignore my hunger cues, I actually began to listen to my body. Whether I was with a friend and we were just hanging out, or mid AP work, if I felt hungry, I ate! It was crazy to me how well this worked. Obviously, this did not occur overnight. I had battled many repressive thoughts, even fighting with my nutritionist at one point. However, in the end it really worked and I can confidently say it is one of the tools I utilize in every aspect of my life.
I would not have been able to be consistent with my scheduling If I hadn’t put my disordered thoughts to rest. Behind action is thought, and I worked very hard to counter the narratives that the world had indoctrinated me with since birth. Whenever I had gotten the urge to restrict, or just blatantly starve, I wrote down (can be in your notes app, or a journal if you prefer) every reason I sought recovery in the first place. I knew that recovery was not linear-but instead of letting myself fall into restriction, my therapist had advised me to think of the urge as the pit, and my steps toward recovery as me starting up again. Ultimately, to never let myself get to the lowest low possible. My main reasons for wanting to recover were that I hated who I became, all consumed by my restriction, irritable, and just so beyond mean to myself. I felt so much cognitive dissonance every minute, feeling so much regret for my actions, but never stopping. I would lash out at those who loved me the most. I felt myself push them away but I just couldn’t stop. I did not realize this was related to my restriction until I had begun my recovery. I was astounded that I was chill, sweet, and rational!! It was amazing! Additionally I knew that if I wanted to go to college, I could not live like this. I was my biggest threat and once I would be pushed into a new chapter of my life, I would be alone with only me, the predator and prey wrapped up into one. I had no choice but to tame the beast. It is important to remember that eating disorder recovery and deciding to embark on it is a courageous process. To anybody reading this deciding if they should recover: DO IT. It is never too late to seek help, It is never too late to recover. It is never too late to enjoy your life. This summer, I hope that everybody, including myself, can utilize these skills to accentuate the ebullience that summer brings!
Talia Levy is an eighteen year old girl from Westchester NY, who will be attending New York University In the fall! She is recovered from her own restrictive eating disorder that she has dealt with the entirety of her childhood and adolescence up to her recovery. She is an avid advocate for recovery, and the termination of food and body shaming.