This Woman's Eating Disorder Recovery Letter to Her Past Self Is So Emotional—and Important
It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and the theme is “Come as You Are: Hindsight is 20/20.” The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), which provides millions of people with eating disorders with life-saving resources every year, is encouraging participants to reflect on the "positive steps they’ve taken–including those stemming from setbacks or challenges–toward accepting themselves and others.”
For Sarah Rav, a student doctor from Melbourne, Australia, reflecting on the positive steps she’s taken in her recovery from anorexia seems to have taken the form of a letter to her past self, which she titled “Reasons why you should choose recovery.” Rav shared the letter on Instagram on February 23, her 22nd birthday.
“As I turn 22 today, I’d like to reflect on what I wish I had known when I was younger (and perhaps what other young girls in my position would find useful),” she began her post, captioning two side-by-side photos showing her recovery from her eating disorder.
Rav went on to list those thoughts—all 10 of them—on why those suffering from eating disorders (through the lens of speaking to her past self) should choose recovery: "1. You won't look sick. People won't stop in their tracks & stare whilst wondering what's wrong with you," she wrote. "2. Your hair will grow back thicker, stronger & faster than ever." Rav also listed another reason being, "you won't take months to recover from a single paper cut."
Rav continued, her reasons also giving her followers a look at her daily struggles with an eating disorder: "4. You won't hurt your bones when sitting in a chair," she wrote. "5. You'll fall asleep much faster, instead of spending hours lying awake in pain from how hungry you are and how empty your stomach is."
After rounding out the list with five more reasons to choose recovery—including enjoying the company of her friends and family, and achieving any future goals—Rav shared her gratitude with her followers. "Thank you for taking the time to read. I believe in you."
For anyone currently struggling with an eating disorder, stories like Rav's can help them feel less alone, and may also empower them to make a change in their own lives. "It can be extremely empowering to see and read personal stories from people who have struggled, are in recovery, or have recovered from an eating disorder,” Melainie Rogers RDN, CDN, CEDRD-S, owner and founder of BALANCE eating disorder treatment center in New York City, tells Health. "It could be the catalyst for them to finally reach out for help."
Rogers adds, however, that Rav's Instagram post only shows one person's experience—and to truly make a difference when it comes to educating the public about eating disorders, it's important to show that anybody (and any body) can be affected by those conditions—including those who aren't extremely thin. She also notes that, while before-and-after pictures can be helpful for those who want to celebrate their accomplishments, they may also reinforce the incorrect idea that eating disorders are always focused on weight. "In reality, eating disorders are more about the behaviors one is engaging in and are dangerous no matter someone's physical appearance and/or body weight," says Rogers.
In Rav’s case, her physical changes are obvious—and when you read her words, you realize that her transformation goes way deeper.
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