This post was written by Mackenzie Woods, Chapter Leader of Project HEAL Chicago
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend ANAD’s annual “Wellness, Not Weight” conference in Naperville, Illinois. Somewhat unsurprisingly, I was probably the only attendee who wasn’t a clinician, therapist, doctor, dietician, or someone formally connected to the eating disorder field. At first, this made me a bit uneasy. After all, what do I have to contribute to conversations about medical interventions and treatment approaches? It wasn’t until a few talks into the conference that I started to settle in and realize that I was actually there for a very important reason.
The eating disorder world is one I am all too familiar with—not only through my own experience with anorexia, but also those of both my older and younger sisters. Granted, I have created quite a bit of distance between my eating disorder and myself, having been “recovered” for about eight years now. Anorexia doesn’t rule my life like it once did, and in fact, I feel like a completely different person than my 15-year-old sickly self. It’s actually quite difficult to get back in touch with the mindset of that young girl anymore because so much has changed since I started allowing her to truly live.
One speaker mentioned something that really resonated with me—that is, when you have an eating disorder, your world becomes very small. Your capability for rational thought—or thought beyond anything but food—doesn’t even exist. Through recovery and the passing years, my world has grown exponentially. I moved across the country from California to Wisconsin with my family, traveled and lived abroad on two separate occasions, graduated from a top college and moved to a new Chicago to embark on a new career path. So I suppose that’s my goal in committing myself to organizations like Project HEAL—to encourage others that there IS a world beyond your eating disorder. A great big world. And sure, it’s definitely not always rosy and perfect. Like any other person, I worry about my appearance, finding a job I’m passionate about, experiencing true love, making enough money, being “pretty enough” or “fit enough”…the list goes on and on. But all of that is small and insignificant compared to this grand adventure we call life. And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have life.