Sometimes a song starts playing on the radio that’s uncannily perfect for that moment, to describe my current mood or a recent occurrence. Example: a few days before I left for Israel this summer, I was sitting in the car with my dad and the song “When I’m Gone” from Pitch Perfect came on, reminding us both, “when I’m gone, when I’m go-o-o-o-one, you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone…”
Occasionally I notice some songs that really strike a chord with my ever-evolving recovery from previous eating issues. Today I have compiled 13 for you, with links to Youtube videos of each song. (Links open in a new window/tab.)
Since I have an anti-discrimination policy with regards to music selection, the songs range in genre from country to pop to foreign, ensuring there will most likely be something here that’s your jam. And I imagine they can be applied to a lot of other life issues apart from recovery from an eating disorder, such as relationships, addiction, depression, or just being in a certain mood and needing a certain song to cheer you up. Give them a listen. Try one, several, or all 13. And if you have any other songs in mind that might aid in or relate to eating disorder recovery, please mention them in the comments!
This first couple parallel the eating disorder itself, when it is reigning wild over a victim’s life and in full destructive, crazy-behavior mode. They reflect the helplessness one might feel during this time, before recovery has begun to take shape.
1. Ellie Goulding – Lights – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NKUpo_xKyQ
I remember hearing “Lights” a lot during my restrictive eating period, and felt I could relate to the character in the song, a frail, tortured creature reminiscing on better times…
I had a way then losing it all on my own
I had a heart then but the queen has been overthrown
And I’m not sleeping now, the dark is too hard to beat
And I’m not keeping now the strength I need to push me
2. Tove Lo – Habits (Stay High) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ez2_T10fr0
I know it’s about some kinky stuff, but when I first heard it it made me think of how those of us with self-destructive tendencies think we can escape from real problems by creating an alternate reality through disordered eating. The phrase “starvation high” also comes to mind.
Spend my days locked in a haze
Trying to forget you babe
I fall back down
Gotta stay high all my life
To forget I’m missing you
The next two songs deal with the beginning stages of recovery, and the dilemmas patients grapple with early on.
3. Pink – Sober – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANP53cXy_Jc
Being torn between the voice in your brain advocating health and change, and the voice wanting to pull you back into old habits, is a phenomenon affecting people from the start of recovery forward, but seems most violent at the beginning: is taking care of myself the right decision?
Oh, I am findin’
That’s not the way I want my story to end…
…I’m safe up high, nothing can touch me
But why do I feel this party’s over?
4. Martina McBride – Wrong Baby Wrong – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkkG1hGZaD0
This is the reassurance desperately craved by those beginning a new path, uncertain that it will lead them out of misery. It urges someone feeling hopeless after a breakup – which can be interpreted as kicking ED out of the house – to see a better future without needing the guy.
Come on now
Everyone falls down
Everyone crawls now and then
Then they get up again
You cry if you want to
That’s what we all do
But if you think you’ll never move on you’re wrong baby wrong
The realization that life is so much bigger (figuratively speaking) when one opens up to social connections, to achievement, through taking care of oneself, is uplifting. This realization takes place over time, and can hit a person at random moments of achievement in recovery. Here are some songs reflecting that optimism.
5. Kelly Clarkson – Break Away – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktWTvqdmH_o
Success comes with stepping outside one’s comfort zone and taking risks.
I’ll spread my wings, and I’ll learn how to fly
I’ll do what it takes till I touch the sky
And I’ll make a wish, take a chance, make a change
6. Idina Menzel – Let it Go (Disney “Frozen”) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk
Sorry, Frozen non-fans… but seriously, this song is a great example of the battle between freedom and captivity, and reflects the moments of false hope that the destructive behaviors are freedom from pain, as well as capturing the joy of liberation from them.
Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
When I had progressed somewhat in recovery, I looked back on the disordered eating of earlier days with regret, contempt, vengeance in my heart against the metaphorical “being” who had compromised my time, opportunities, happiness and health. Here are two songs to chew out “ED” when he comes back begging for forgiveness and a second chance at making you miserable.
7. Christina Perri – Jar of Hearts – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XFA3rI23zw
When ED starts acting lovey-dovey again, stay strong. Slap him in the face with a warning that his soul is cold as ice:
And who do you think you are?
Runnin’ round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart…
8. Sara Evans – A Little Bit Stronger – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22zB6Soc2Gk
A song about the slow but upward progress of moving on from a bad relationship, with a focus on realizing that it was dysfunctional.
I’m done thinking that you could ever change.
I know my heart will never be the same,
but I’m telling myself I’ll be okay.
Even on my weakest days, I get a little bit stronger.
Recovery is an ongoing journey, and some say you’re never completely “cured.” However, there comes a time when one can truly participate in life and feel happiness. Here are three songs to celebrate advanced progress, whatever that means to the listener.
9. Pharrell Williams – Happy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-GLuydiMe4
Apart from its appearance in Despicable Me 2, an irrelevant but great movie, I have always loved this song because the concept is simple, free of sex, and positive. It’s about being happy. Despite all the complications that try to invade one’s life, including eating issues, it’s important to take a moment to just bask in the sunlight of simple pleasure.
Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,
Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah,
No offense to you, don’t waste your time
Here’s why: because I’m happy!
10. Nina Simone – Feeling Good – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHs98TEYecM
You will feel the liberation coursing through your veins at the end of this riveting song – there are many covers, etc. but listen to the original!
Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Yeah, freedom is mine, and I know how I feel..
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me…And I’m feelin’… good.
11. Marc Anthony – Vivir Mi Vida – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYZBULGd7CU
The linked video above displays the lyrics in both English and Spanish. I find the Spanish more beautiful but I will only post the English snippet here for space’s sake.
And why cry, for what?
If it hurts bad, forget it
And why suffer, for what?
If it hurts bad, forget it
I’m gonna laugh, I’m gonna dance
live my life, la, la, la, la
I’m gonna laugh, I’m gonna enjoy
live my life, la, la, la, la
I’ve heard and seen so much chatter on the internet and in the hallways at my school – so many girls and women mistakenly believe that what men want is the skinniest sticklike female they can find. But an overwhelming number of healthy, respectful men prefer a healthy woman with real curves and, more importantly, the self-esteem to wear what she’s got with pride and style! To prove it, here are two songs extolling the virtues of loving what’s inside and appreciating one’s own beauty.
12. John Legend – All of Me – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=450p7goxZqg
It’s impossible to really delve into relationships, whether they be with friends, family, or a significant other, if one’s mind is occupied by destructive behaviors and obsession. John Legend describes, and begs for, his ideal relationship: the opposite of what one would have with ED tangled up in it. A relationship where everything is shared and nothing is kept secret.
‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
13. Prince Royce – Corazon Sin Cara – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKrndpUqSns
In the video the Spanish and English lyrics are displayed.
And they tell me
You’re self-conscious of your image
And look at the mirror
How pretty you are without makeup
And if you’re fat or thin
None of this matters to me
And nor am I perfect
I only know that I want you like this (this way)
I wish you luck in your recovery (if applicable) and in all your endeavors, whether they be directed at helping yourself, others, or the world. Happy Thanksgiving, and may your days be seranaded with the best and most meaningful music!
Image credits (in order of appearance) :