09/17/2014 02:48 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2014

Life Lessons from an Eating Disorder Survivor

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1. You are a complicated being. You are made up of neurons and cells and genes and things like dendrites and leukotrienes. So don't be too hard on yourself. It's easy to want to control how we feel or look, but with things like leukotrienes control doesn't sound so simple. Nor should it be. Life is not about manipulation -- this is how you fall into the trap of wasting time, of missing the joy and sorrow that make life wonderful. We can use our time here to be good, to be patient, to be in control, to be the one with power. Or we can simply be...

We can embrace the rise and fall of the events around us, feeling how we feel rather than stuffing down the pain with food or starvation or alcohol or drugs. We often use and abuse the people and things around us because we fail to understand ourselves; we don't understand that failure and inadequacy and loss are okay. With clear introspection and awareness we will make it through to the mysteries that lie ahead. Do not attempt to understand all the complexities around you or even inside you. Understand how you feel.

2. There is more to life than looks. We are a visual society. Everyone and their little sister is on some new diet. We are confronted with images of what "beauty" should be and admire billboards and magazines staring longingly at the figures of men and women that do not exist. We place value not on nourishing ourselves or building strong bodies, but on minimizing ourselves; we are taught to make ourselves disappear.

It is important to take care of ourselves, to feed the body what it needs. But it is also important to recognize the beauty of a smile, of confidence, of kindness and wit, of tears and spunk. There is no beauty in watching a 9-year-old girl cry because her body type is different and because she has a growing fear that she will not be accepted. There is no beauty in shaming or ridiculing, or judgment based on size. It can be glorious to feel as if I look beautiful, but the true magnificence lies in feeling as if I AM beautiful.

3. Self-worth is not placed on the value others give you. We all have those days when a compliment can turn us around, when talking to a partner can remind us why we may not be so bad after all. And in those moments, the little reminders from others can be a nice boost. But we shouldn't depend on these definitions of our worth. It is when we depend on others to define us that we have lost ourselves.

You can spend your time meeting society's standards but your confidence will not follow. When you wipe off all the makeup, when you can remove the mask and still smile back at your reflection -- this is when you can feel at peace. It is our actions and behaviors, our morals and characters that should provide self-worth, not someone's assessment or a number on a scale.

4. Eat the damn cookie. For a long while I lived my life with uncertainty. I needed to plan, to keep busy, to make sure everything on my end was taken care of to the best of my ability. I also lived with Anorexia for many years. I calculated endlessly, living inside a small shell that I assumed would protect me from the pain. Well you know what they say when someone assumes... In reality, the eating disorder exacerbated the pain -- in reality it did nothing to protect me.

Life cannot be predicted or planned. Sure we can be responsible and get things done but at times it's important to sit back and enjoy. To stray from the plan and simply be in this world. To inhale the wonders that come with living as a complicated human being and to taste the delicacies of life. So have fun, let loose, eat the damn cookie and know that you will never be perfect but that doesn't mean it won't be meaningful or enjoyable along the way.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.