What is “Recovery” from an eating disorder?
So what exactly is “Recovery” and what does it look like? This is the question that I have encountered on countless occasions from clients. The funny thing is that over the years, through my work in treating people who struggle with ED (aka eating disorder), even my definition of recovery has shifted.
When I was working in a eating disorder treatment facility, my belief and typical response was that recovery involves “doing the work” meaning seeking out and maintaining a positive support system, working with a qualified therapist and nutritionist, learning and practicing a variety of coping tools, and taking it ALL one day at a time. While all of the above is absolutely true, I have come to realize that these are the actual steps that must be taken to move forward in recovery, but these steps alone do not embody what is at the heart of a true, fulfilling recovery.
True recovery is a new and different way of being. Most people who struggle have a deep seeded belief that they are not good enough. I know this because, over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of clients from vastly different backgrounds, with completely different life experiences, and many accomplishments yet each and every one of them have identified “not being good enough” in some way. This is the lie allows the eating disorder to grow and thrive.
You have VALUE and your experiences do not define you and never will! Your ED may tell you that you’re not worth fighting for, that you are not good enough, and that all you have in this world is ED. Recovering is examining the idea that these are distortions and reaching a place of realization that you are an extremely valuable human being worthy of love and contentment. It is a willingness to set a daily intention that you are precious and valuable and honoring this intention by treating yourself accordingly.
ED may tell you that you cannot survive without it. Yet, when I explore this belief with people, they begin to truly see all of the ways ED is robbing them of being their true selves. Recovering is making a commitment to yourself that you will live as if you are the capable and worthy of love especially in the moments when ED is screaming at you that you are not.
While it is critical to be diligent with seeking out the right doctors and professionals and following your treatment plan, recovery is not exclusively the cessation of symptoms. It is the willingness to dig deep in order to reach a state of acceptance that the distortions that have been feeding your disorder are not the truth.
Some days may feel absolutely impossible, but each day and each moment brings a new opportunity to re-examine your purpose and to reconnect with yourself and your intention. Recovered is not coasting through life without struggles. Rather it is reclaiming your self worth, loving yourself enough to use all of the resources available to you when you are struggling, and being loving and patient with yourself as you continue the journey. Recovery isn’t easy, but you are worth the fight!