Today I want to talk about eating disorder recovery, and whether it’s even possible.
Before we get into the post I should emphasise that although I’m a Psychologist, I’ve never worked with people with eating disorders or disordered eating. This post is not a professional opinion, but one which is written from my perspective as someone who has experienced an eating disorder.
Also, I would also advise against self-diagnosis of any physical or mental health condition. If you’re concerned about yourself, or someone you know, then please seek guidance from a trained medical and/or mental health professional.
I’m aware that some people, including myself, have been denied the opportunity of accessing appropriate support due to not being underweight according to the BMI criteria for a diagnosis of anorexia. I talk about this more in this post.
Where I’m at with my eating disorder recovery
For the most part, my eating disorder doesn’t bother me day to day. I haven’t engaged in any behaviours such as restricting or purging for some years. The only “remnant” I really experience is the eating disorder “voice”.
I believe at this point in time that, for me personally, I will always be in recovery for my eating disorder. I don’t think I will ever class myself as recovered.
Now, this might sound like it’s a doom and gloom post, but I’m not feeling doom and gloom about my recovery status at all. For me, it’s about being realistic about what the word ‘recovered‘ means to me.
Recovery/being recovered is individual
Recovery from an eating disorder is as individual as the person themselves. Equally, I believe that being recovered is unique to each person as well.
In order for me to deem myself recovered I would need to be totally free from the eating disorder voice.
I know the triggers to my eating disorder voice. When I’m feeling particularly stressed or anxious the voice pipes up, wanting me to become vigilant about my calorie intake. It doesn’t tell me to restrict, but I feel an increased ‘need’ to make sure I’m within my calorie allowance for the day. Otherwise, I can feel quite panicked.
I think this goes back to my need to be in control if internally I feel out of control.
On other occasions when I’m stressed the voice may tell me I need to raid the cupboards and eat a large amount of food in one sitting. For this reason, I don’t keep certain foods in the house anymore.
Just having them in the house used to cause me anxiety, in case I was unable to refrain from bingeing on them. It was therefore safer to not keep them in the house, and I’m totally fine with that.
So, I personally feel that the goal of being totally rid of my eating disorder voice in order to deem myself recovered is unrealistic. I believe it will always be there to some degree. So, I would rather say I’m in recovery.
But, please remember this is just my view. It’s my perspective of my recovery status, which I’m perfectly happy with. Your views and goals for eating disorder recovery and being recovered may be different, and that’s okay too.
Is recovery lifelong?
For me, I would say it is. I never want to become complacent about my eating disorder. I know it can rear its head now and then, and I wouldn’t want to slip into disordered eating patterns again.
Equally if I didn’t keep it in check, I fear my mindset could slip back into a place where food could become the overriding focus as a way of coping with difficult situations.
I liken it to someone who has had issues with alcohol. They may need to put certain strategies in place such as avoiding pubs, or not having alcohol in the house, in order to maintain their sobriety.
What does recovery mean to you?
Like I said, the process of eating disorder recovery and of being recovered will look different for everyone.
It’s important to be honest with ourselves as to whether we are, in fact, in recovery or recovered. I spent a long time in denial about my eating disorder, thinking I was okay when in fact I was far from okay.
I believe that whatever goals or definitions we set for our recovery, they need to be realistic. If we aim too high and don’t reach that place we risk beating ourselves up and feeling like we ‘failed’. Take recovery a day at a time; step by step.
What do you want your eating disorder recovery to look like? What would recovered mean for you?
If you’d like more information to support you with your eating disorder recovery then here are some websites you might find helpful:
Whatever your definitions of recovery and your goals, I wish you all the best on your recovery journey 🙂
Welcome! I’m a Psychologist and fitness enthusiast. My passion is supporting people with their health and wellbeing, and inspiring them to pursue the things they love doing. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or want to collaborate!