I have been in recovery from an eating disorder for about 3 years. I know it’s fucking difficult and I am far from considering myself fully recovered but I thought I’d try and offer some advice on recovery. It might help someone or at least be interesting to read…
As cliché as it might sound, the first stage of recovery is accepting you have a problem. Having an eating disorder can be so all consuming that it becomes completely normal to you. Starving yourself or missing meals seems like something everyone does. But, remind yourself that it is not. It is not healthy. Admit that and understand you have an illness and your recovery can begin.
2. Weight restoration
This will not apply for everyone. But, for me, the first step of my recovery was getting back to a healthy weight and in the long run, that’s the easy part even though it seems like hell at the time! The motivation for me was that I really did not want to end up in hospital like one of my friends. So I started eating a lot and often. I did not really want to get better for the right reasons, but it was a start. I think meal plans really help. Do not kid yourself into thinking you can gain weight on 1200 calories a day or something like that. Most people need about 3000 calories every single day to start gaining weight. See a dietician or ask for your doctors advice if you can. Every day will be a struggle. You will want to skip meals. You might want to find ways of compensating. Initially, I began to abuse laxatives, I hated feeling full. That was another thing which I then had to fight. Weight restoration is difficult but possible. Just keep reminding yourself of a healthy body that can keep you going every day – it’s amazing!
3. Why recover?
This was difficult for me. I always felt like I was recovering for the wrong reasons. Many people say you can never really recover until you do it for yourself. I would’ve disagreed with that a while back but I now agree. I have tried recovering for family, for friends, for boyfriends. The only time anything has really stuck was when I realised I needed to recover for myself. For my health, for my life, for my happiness, for me. I find it useful to have a list of reasons to recover so that any time I feel like a relapse might happen, it’s a nice reminder. It tells me what the eating disorder has taken away from me and what I can have back. The ability to eat around others, in restaurants, enjoying my favourite foods, not feeling dizzy, spending time with friends, the list goes on and on.
4. Figure out your triggers
The best way to do this, for me, was to keep a diary of my moods. Any time I would eat less or binge then I would notice how I was feeling or what I had been doing. For me, loneliness or feeling emotionally empty usually led to binge eating and anxiety usually led to starvation. By noticing these triggers, you can notice them and then start to avoid them. Find other ways to deal with the emotions – hanging out with friends or listening to music, anything that helps. Sorting this out can really help you to stop using food to deal with emotions, something which is often a big part of eating disorders. Unfortunately, not all triggers can be avoided. I find people talking about diets often leads to negative thinking and behaviour. People talk about diets a lot. For these types of triggers, it’s just a matter of strong will and reminding yourself of how mush better life can be free of your ED.
5. Stop calorie counting etc.
There are little behaviours with eating disorders that become totally ingrained into your life such as weighing out food and counting calories. This is something that I am still yet to stop doing. These are behaviours which you begin to do almost automatically so stopping them is really hard! For a start, throw out any records of what you have eaten. Lots of people with eating disorders keep records of their daily food intake and keeping these is not going to help recovery. Burn them, throw them away, you do not need to know what you ate 3 weeks ago on a Monday morning. It does not matter. Now, every time you find yourself counting calories or going to the bathroom after a meal – STOP. Think. Breathe. You do not need to do this. Now do something else. Anything. Watch a film, read a book, go for a walk, call a friend. Distract yourself as much as you can. Keep reminding yourself that you are more than those behaviours and numbers.
6. Throw away the scales
Stop weighing yourself! You are more than a number. It does not tell you how valuable you are. It does not tell you anything other than how much you physically weight. It is not important. You are more than that. Write a list of all the things you like about yourself. Sounds impossible, right? Just try it. It could be about your appearance but what about your personality? Maybe something small like how you have good manners or something bigger like you are always there for your friends. Look at this list whenever you feel like you are only worth a number.
7. Accept your body
Maybe you’re a little ‘overweight’ by those stupid BMI standards. Maybe you have fat where you do not want it and stretch marks and cellulite that you hate. THAT’S OKAY! The important thing is that you accept it. You do not have to love your body (you should though, it’s amazing!) but do accept that this is it. It is the only one you’ve got and it keeps you going and allows you to do so many great things. Accept it as much as you can.
I am aware that recovery is different for everyone but I thought that I would share some things which help me. I haven’t quite got there yet but I have hope that I will. You should all have hope because recovery is difficult but definitely possible and totally worth the struggle!