Reflections on National Eating Disorders Awareness Week Theme

Every Body Has a Seat at the Table

By Camille Williams, LCPC, Therapist, Timberline Knolls

The theme of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this year, “Every Body Has a Seat at the Table,” sparks the need for important reflections and discussions about recovery. Two immediate reflection questions that surfaced for me in the recovery process are:

  1. Am I worthy of a seat at the (recovery) table?
  2. Do I deserve to sit at the table (and eat)?

These are two important questions that those in the recovery process frequently ask themselves and their answers can greatly impact their recovery path and trajectory.

Exploring whether or not someone is worthy of a seat that the table is very similar to the common phrase of “I’m not sick enough.”  Oftentimes, individuals who are suffering will walk away from the recovery table because they feel they are not at a low enough weight, they do not look a certain way, they do not engage in certain behaviors or do not engage enough, they do not have medical complications yet, and the list could go on and on. These are all reasons individuals do not feel worthy of recovery.

There is so much pressure with eating disorder recovery to look a certain way or have a certain struggle that people reject treatment because they feel rejected.  This awareness effort is providing a space to explore these beliefs and the stigma that is attached to what makes someone worthy of recovery.

My response to this first question is that everyone, those with any type of eating disorder and even those without an eating disorder, deserve a seat at the recovery table. The recovery table can include making small changes to have a relationship with food that is more freedom-based and less guilt-ridden or it can look like a space to let go of eating disorder rules and rituals and instead, embrace a new meal plan provided by a professional. We live in a world where sitting at a table and having a healthy relationship with food is not often promoted, which makes it meaningful for all to be invited to the recovery table.

The second question asks, “Do I deserve to sit at the table and eat?” Phrased another way is, “Can I give myself permission to eat?” Permission in the throes of an eating disorder may have always been conditional and the individual was “allowed” to eat as long as they followed ED’s rules about it. Maybe that included a limitation on calories, required compensatory behaviors, or was only permitted as a form of self-punishment or a way to manage emotional distress. Unfortunately our world gives “permission” for those in smaller bodies to eat and often does not give “permission” for those in larger bodies to eat or to eat a variety of foods. This is an extremely harmful and judgmental stereotype and stigma that only further perpetuates eating disorder behaviors. All bodies require food as a fundamental and basic need and it is preposterous that someone would not deserve to sit and eat because of their body shape or size. Recovery from any eating disorder requires unconditional permission to eat in ways that honor the body and a meaningful life.

In order to answer these questions, think about how you would answer for someone you care about.  This will provide insight to true values and beliefs. It’s time to let go of qualifications for recovery – we all deserve a meaningful and freedom-based relationship with food. It’s time to let go of expectations and stereotypes that prevent someone from taking a seat at the table. It’s time to care for the body rather than managing emotional struggles and self-hate by denying food. It’s time to accept my body and my worth as a human in this world. And, it’s time to accept that as a human in this world, I am worthy of a seat at the table and I deserve to eat.

Just as the theme states:  “EVERY BODY has a seat at the table.” This includes me. This includes you.

*The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders and not intended as endorsement by iaedp™ Foundation, Inc. or its Board of Directors.*

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