Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By Quinn Nystrom, MS

I walked into an appointment today, and they shouted, “Happy 25th Birthday Quinn!” They were joking, of course. I’m not turning 25; I’m celebrating my 37th birthday. A badge I wear with honor! Every hill I’ve had to climb, every hurdle I’ve had to overcome, I’m damn proud that I’m still alive and well. For many years though, I hid from myself. I hated myself. My eating disorder was a punishment for a body that I felt kept failing me.

My doom and gloom carried over to the dreaded holiday of Valentine’s Day. It seemed like such a manufactured holiday. I also preferred the single life, so I resented it. Some years I would buy myself the heart shape Papa Murphy’s pizza, or other years I’d get a chocolate heart and a hammer to smash, and other years, I bought an insect to be named after an ex and then have it get smashed, as all of the ways to celebrate. I also wore all black like I was attending a funeral. When I was in treatment for my eating disorder, I first learned about Brene Brown’s work. One of my favorite quotes from her is:

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”

Life is not perfect, but I’m a beautiful work in progress. It’s been a process for me of figuring out how to own my story, what that story is, and learning how to love myself. Here are some of the tips that I try to live by to continue to prioritize myself and work on self-love:

1. Don’t let the critics get to you.

2. Don’t compare!

3. Nobody’s life is perfect; accept that mistakes will happen.

4. The number on a scale should never wrap up your worth.

5. Start a gratitude journal and reflect quarterly.

6. Do estimable acts.

On Valentine’s Day this year, I may wear something other than all black, I won’t buy any bugs to smash, and I’ll spend the day surrounded by the people I love the most.