Thought Catalog
July 21, 2014

5 Things I Wish People Knew About Eating Disorder Recovery

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What is the issue?
Often times, people recovering from an eating disorder have these expectations that are put on them by family, friends, and society. I know for myself, all I’ve ever wanted is for people to truly understand what having an eating disorder entails and what being in recovery is truly like. No lifetime movie or fiction book can depict the reality of eating disorders. What people who don’t struggle understand is that recovery is a process. There are many misconceptions about recovery. If we could get people to understand and know why we do certain things, or why we feel a certain way in recovery, maybe it would help to remove the stigma that eating disorders have, and people would finally start to see this mental illness for all that it is. Hopefully, it would also help those who don’t struggle support their loved ones who do.
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1. A recovered body doesn’t equal a recovered mind.

Just because someone has restored their weight, doesn’t mean the fight is over. If anything, this is where the real work can begin. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Recovery goes beyond the actual weight and food. Just because someone might look like they’re “fine” doesn’t mean they are. The mental chatter of an eating disorder still continues long after the body has physically recovered. But I like to believe that the mental chatter doesn’t last forever, and as you continue the process, it lessens.

2. We are selfish sometimes and that’s not a bad thing.

I have come in contact with a lot of people in recovery who have a hard time saying “No” to people. Many times, we have put others before ourselves even if it got in the way of our well-being. As people continue through the recovery process, they realize it’s okay to be selfish. And you, yourself, are the most important person out there. It’s okay to take care of you.

3. Body comments are more harmful than helpful.

The body is such a tangible, objective thing in society. It seems to be the main focus. But as I mentioned earlier, eating disorders go beyond the body and food. Focus more on attitude, mood, or things like someone’s smile. Comments like, “You sound so much happier” or “I notice you have been more social lately!” are much more effective than, “Wow, you look great.” Sometimes recovery doesn’t feel so great. Those suffering with eating disorders want their inside to match their outside. So when your comments don’t match up with our feelings, it gets confusing for us.

4. We aren’t and don’t always have to be so strong.

Sometimes being vulnerable is the best thing we can do for ourselves. Sometimes all we want to do is break down and cry. Recovery is one of the hardest things anyone has to go through. Sometimes we feel weak and that is OKAY. “You’re much stronger than you realize” isn’t always the best comment to help someone through a situation that is difficult or triggering. Often times, we just want others to acknowledge that we have shitty moments, and it’s okay to feel however we feel. Recovery isn’t always about being strong. It’s about being your authentic self, raw and real, just as you are.

5. It takes a lot of work but is worth more than anything in life.

Recovery is like a full time job. It requires constant awareness. It requires sessions with therapist, dietitians, psychologists, group therapy, meal support therapy, 12 step meetings (whatever is deemed necessary for a client). Recovery is a way to find you. Recovery is a way to create a life for yourself, eating disorder free. Recovery opens doors. Recovery allows you to take chances you never thought you could take before. Recovery gives you opportunities for new possibilities. Recovery has good days. Recovery has bad days. Recovery has its ups and downs, it’s happy moments and sad moments. Recovery is exhausting. Recovery is hard, but recovery is possible. And reaching full recovery is worth more than anything this life can offer. A sufferer doesn’t choose an eating disorder, but they choose recovery. It is a daily choice but the best possible choice one can make. TC mark