Why phrases like, "Go eat a hamburger" are not helpful
“There is a wide misconception in the world that eating disorders are about food… I am here to tell you, food becomes the focus, but the deeper lying issues that brought about the eating disorder behaviors are the real problem. When I was at my worst in anorexia, I had a co-worker tell me to “go eat a hamburger”. I laughed off the insensitive and ignorant comment when it was said, but I went back to my classroom and I cried. My first thoughts were, “I wish it were that simple.”” – Brooke Heberling, Recovery Warriors
The day I was considered in recovery from an eating disorder was the day that Dr. Burnett and I sat down to a good old fashioned Big Mac from McDonald's! Even though it was me "going to eat a hamburger", the victory was not in the actual two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese (you get the drift!); the victory was in the entire experience leading up to, during, and after the meal.
Leading up to the meal:
I drove my car to the iconic fast food restaurant, parked in the parking lot, got out of the car, and walked into the establishment without turning on my heels in sheer terror and high tailing it to the car in panic attack mode… that is how my prior failed attempts to visit to McDonald’s had ended. My eating disorder had trained my mind to think that fast food restaurants would kill me slowly by making me gain weight instantly. This is an obvious lie that my ED fabricated, but my beliefs were so real that I truly had not set foot in a McDonald’s since I was 13-years-old. Actually getting into the building and stepping up to the counter was a triumph in itself.
During the meal:
Where the disordered Brooke would have not eaten the burger at all, the healed Brooke sat down and faced a fear. Just as it is an accomplishment for someone who is afraid of heights to climb a ladder, the meal was a feat that, with the help of treatment, I was able to conquer. Dr. Burnett and I talked about any and everything except the burger. It was so refreshing to be able to enjoy discourse and conversation while eating instead of ruminating on how many calories I was consuming, what eating disorder behaviors I would have to use to compensate for what I ate, or food and body shaming myself until I just gave in to the ED voice that would be at the reigns of every meal. Eating was exhausting, and that is why I seldom partook in the act while deep in my disorder. But, the day I ate that burger, the voice in my head was quite because of the intense treatment and retraining of my beliefs that Manna brought to me. I have to admit- the recovered Brooke thought the burger was pretty darn good.
After the meal:
When in my disorder, if I did eat, I would have plans to run, purge, or compensate by not eating later to even out the caloric consumption that I believed that I should not eat or did not deserve to eat. Can you believe that? I truly believed that I did not deserve to be nourished. After the McDonald’s meal, I went home and played with my kids. Does that seem anti-climactic? It may for some, but for me it was the MVP trophy of recovery. I ate and went home. My kids got the full attention of their mother and I got to be present in the moment instead of living in the past meal or fretting the one to come.
It took 16 years, but I had a meal at McDonald’s. If it was as simple as just “eating a hamburger” I would have walked up, ordered, and eaten a long time ago. Before you make quick judgments, please think about what it actually takes to face a deep rooted and psychological fear for someone who is struggling from an eating disorder.
To read more of this article, please go to: https://www.recoverywarriors.com/recovering-from-anorexia-isnt-easy-as-eating-a-hamburger/