Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Comparison Trap

Recovery from an eating disorder is rough, but there's no doubt that it's also a learning experience. As we progress, we learn new things about ourselves that ED covered up and we also discover our strengths and weaknesses. Through my personal journey, I'm realizing that I do have things to offer the world and that I'm not afraid to share my emotions when the time is right. However, I recognize that I still struggle with comparing myself to others, whether it's with food, appearance or just success in life.

Growing up with a younger sister, my life always seemed to be a competition. When I was younger, I had to 'compete' for attention from my parents. I had to learn to be a big sister, and remember that I was not an only child anymore. Later on, when we both started developing interests, we competed against each other to see who could be the 'best'. It didn't help that for awhile we were both involved in a lot of the same things, like dance and acting, so it seemed like one of us would always come out ahead. It was the same with school. I'm four grades ahead of my sister, but I always felt inadequate and stupid when my sister would come home with straight A's and I'd have a mix of A's and B's. Sometimes I still feel competitive but I try to remind myself that we're each great in our own ways and there's no point in trying to be 'better' than the other one.

Me and my sister at a competitive age (I'm on the right)
 With my eating disorder, I still struggle with comparing myself to other people. I'll see a girl at the store about my height and instantly think I'm fatter than her. Even though comparing yourself to others is never a good thing, it's better if you're at least comparing yourself to someone similar. Most of the time I compare myself to these random girls, I'm 99% positive that they're a few years younger than me. ED says "Yeah, they might be younger than you but they're the same height as you and they're skinnier." But really, why am I wasting my time comparing my body to someone's who may not have even gone through puberty yet? I'm an adult woman in college, I don't need to look like a little girl. I'm naturally petite but that doesn't mean I have to look like I'm still in middle school.

I like to take dorky pics of myself and that's okay ;)
 I also compare what I eat to what others eat. Sometimes, I check out healthy living blogs and while a lot of them are very positive and show a healthy mix of eating and exercise (like Carrie's and Megan's), some of them aren't. I see what they eat and think I can do the same. I feel guilty for not eating as 'cleanly' as some of them do. I eat pretty healthily-- mini Clif bars and organic froyo are my 'junk food' (just to clarify, I'm not saying that I think it's bad if people choose to eat more processed foods, it's just my personal preference not to)--but I feel bad when I see some of these people doing sugar free challenges because even though I don't eat white sugar, I still have a big sweet tooth. One thing I have learned: everyone's different, what works for one person won't necessarily work for you. It's okay to get recipe inspiration or whatever, but don't try to copy everything someone else eats. Just do what feels right for you, whether it's veganism, meat-eating, intuitive eating, meal planning or whatever. Stop the comparison game, and you'll feel so much better!

I've found what works for me: seafood/fish every so often, veggies and LOTS of fruit...

...with some yummy gelato once in awhile :)
 Q's: Have you ever compared what you eat to what others eat? What about body comparison?


  1. Oh gosh, I could have written this post. Mostly I just compare myself to my sister, but it's constantly in the back of my mind. She's a little taller and more atheletic than me, so of course I HAVE to eat less than her (note - sarcasm!). Honestly, I feel like its the major roadblock in my recovery because eating-wise I'm pretty good.

    You're so right though - everybody is different and comparing gets us nowhere!

    Keep fighting!
    P.S. I like your new background!

  2. I feel ya because I'm the same way. A few weeks ago at Target, I saw a girl a little taller than me who was super duper skinny. I had to take a step back and think... she's probably a teenager. I'm 25. I'm well past puberty, and my legs might be bigger but hey, they run super fast and win age group awards!

    The concern about healthy eating blogs worries me too. Everyone works out a different amount or has different caloric needs... and not everyone can have fresh foods for lunch every day or has access to a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Most days I wind up eating leftovers for lunch, a frozen dinner, or something super convenient. And breakfast- usually cereal or oatmeal, nothing flashy. Good thing I'm not a food blogger, eh ;).


  3. Yes, I do find myself being very competitive with others when it come to food. When Stu and I eat, I always glance at him and see if he is going to eat less than I do. I do the same thing with my friends, my family members, and everybody else.

    I don't have a sibling rivilary when it comes to my siblings. Lauren, my cousin/sister, and I both do have disordered eating. She feels competitive with me. I don't feel competitive with her.

    I guess our disordered thinking differs a bit from a person to person, but the bottom line is the same.

    I do compare my body wtih others esepcially with younger women/girls. I have to tell myself, Okay, I am 26, not 15, not 18, not 20, and this is how 26-year-old women are suppoesd to look like.

    It's hard though.

  4. You are so insightful, Ash! I know the comparisons are rough, but it's awesome that in retrospect you are able to recognize that it's not helpful to compare yourself to others. My former nutritionist used to tell me "To compare is to despair". I also struggle with comparing myself to others, so I understand where you're coming from- I also tend to compare my body to people much younger than me, which logically I know is ridiculous! I hope that as we reframe our thoughts and keep talking back to the ED voice, we will be able to stop comparing and see our bodies more clearly. Keep up the good work, Ash. <3

  5. Hey Ash,
    It's great that you know that this comparison is unhealthy and a little psycho!!
    Cuz you are beautiful! And you know that what you eat is healthy.
    I had to stop following some blogs too because I just felt like a fat pig eating pita chips & hummus instead of carrots and salad, ya know?
    But I need to do what my body tells me and not worry about others.
    Same goes for you :)
    Btw, I love those glasses on you


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