If You're Struggling In Your Eating Disorder Recovery, Remember These 10 Things

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Eating disorders are the leading cause of death among all mental illnesses, including depression. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), approximately 10,200 eating disorder-related deaths occur every year in America.

What is an eating disorder?

There are many different classifications of eating disorders, ranging from Anorexia Nervosa to Binge Eating Disorder (BED), Bulimia Nervosa, Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS), and everything in between.

An eating disorder is an unhealthy preoccupation with food.

This can include over-eating, under-eating, eating only specific foods, avoiding certain foods, over-exercising to compensate for eating, purging meals out of fear of weight gain and fullness, obsessively measuring food, having food rituals and rules, and an array of other aversions to food and eating.

Who is most likely to have an eating disorder?

When you imagine someone with an eating disorder, what image do you conjure up? The typical portrayal of an individual struggling with an eating disorder in media today is a thin, white, cis-gender woman in her teens to 30’s.

However, this depiction is strictly a stereotype.

Eating disorders can plague anyone, male or female, cis-gendered or nonbinary, black or white, rich or poor.

Most likely, individuals who struggle with an eating disorder are predisposed to grappling with the mental illness, often because the illness is hereditary, or because they experienced extenuating circumstances early in life that set them up for the disorder.

Those fighting an eating disorder did not choose their affliction. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that are difficult diseases to overcome and recover from.

If you’ve ever struggled with an eating disorder or disordered eating, you know firsthand how difficult the recovery road can be.  

What is eating disorder recovery?

Eating disorders are vicious; they go to extreme measures to keep you sucked in. They lie to you, use underhanded tactics, coerce you into believing they know what’s best for you and your wellbeing, and tell you they will make you attractive and desirable.

However, strong as eating disorders’ influences are, recovery is possible. It is viable to reach freedom from an eating disorder with time, proper care, and medical attention.

Recovery is the time where you take control back from your eating disorder and stop allowing it to consume and dictate your life.

Recovery is the period of time spent working through and facing the issues that fueled the eating disorder in the first place.

The recovery phase looks different for everyone because the process is not linear, but it is always a time of progress, healing, and restoration. It is a time where the eating disorder no longer runs the show; the person struggling is actively fighting against their illness, taking control of their life back.

Recovery is not easy, it is not simple, it is not straightforward. It is difficult, often trying, and tumultuous. There is forward and backward progress. There are ups and downs, highs and lows.

Recover takes time and requires a great deal of strength, consistency, and dedication, but recovery is always worth fighting for.

If you’re struggling in your eating disorder recovery, remember these 10 things. 

1. You are not your eating disorder

When in treatment for an eating disorder, you often learn to treat the disorder like it is a separate entity from yourself. The eating disorder is a separate being, that when questioned, gets angry and defensive and takes control over your actions.

In recovery, remember that your eating disorder is not you. You are not your eating disorder. You have an eating disorder, but you are not defined by it.

You are so much more than a person struggling with an eating disorder. Recall the qualities about you that make you unique and embrace those things. The eating disorder may be all-consuming but do your best to push it out of your mind and remember the things you love about yourself.

2. You have an illness

An eating disorder is an illness. It is not a game you play with yourself; it is not a choice you wake up one morning and decide to make. It is not something to be taken lightly.

An eating disorder is a diagnosed illness. The disorder must meet certain health and behavior requirements in order to be diagnosed as an eating disorder, and therefore qualifies as an illness. It must be treated as such.

3. Your illness is powerful

Eating disorders are deadly illnesses that affect about 9% of the world’s population, according to ANAD. They are nothing to be trifled with; if left without treatment, an eating disorder can consume all aspects of your life and seize complete control.

These mental illnesses are powerful, strong, deceptive, and sneaky. They play with the mind and lead sufferers to believe things about themselves that aren’t true. They tell lies to the person suffering, implying that the person isn’t sick or in need of help.

However, eating disorders are extremely serious illnesses and must be treated with care, physically, mentally, and emotionally. If given an inch, an eating disorder will take a mile. It must be dealt with head-on, as soon as possible.

4. Sometimes you might give in and that’s okay

In recovery, you will still face temptations. Your eating disorder’s voice will still be loud at times, it will still lie to you, it will still want to be in control.

Recovery is all about trying things out, making mistakes, and learning from them. Recovery won’t be perfect; it’ll be full of errors and missteps. You will give in to your eating disorder at times and allow it to win some battles.

This doesn’t mean you’ve given up. It just means you’ve given in. Get right back into your recovery and remind yourself why you want to heal yourself of your eating disorder in the first place.

5. Recovery is worth it

No matter what your eating disorder tells you, recovery is worth it.

It’s worth the hard work, the time, the energy and effort, tears and anger, sadness and fear. Fighting back against your eating disorder is one of the strongest things you can do, especially when the voice of your disorder is so loud, telling you how much you need it and can’t live without it.

However, the fight is always worth it. Take each day one at a time, take things in stride, keep your head up, and keep fighting. Recovery is worth it.

6. Your eating disorder has taken a lot away from you

While your eating disorder may have helped you in some way (you wouldn’t hold on to it if it didn’t meet some of your needs), it has hurt you in so many others.

Eating disorders result in a decline in physical and mental health. You lose bone density, nutrients your body needs to operate and function properly, and depending on your disorder and symptoms, you may have an excess amount of fat or not enough to protect your organs.

Eating disorders take over your whole life. They prevent you from going to dinner with friends, they keep you from that ice cream date with your significant other, they hide you away and keep you isolated from loved ones.

Eating disorders destroy your life, and if given permission, they will completely dominate and control all of your actions.

7. Life is much harder with an eating disorder

Life is hard; there’s no way around it. We all have struggles and challenges that we face on a daily basis, and we fight every day to live our best lives, to be happy, and to be grateful.

However, life with an eating disorder is exponentially more difficult. You worry about food constantly, what and when you’ll eat next, how many calories are in this or that, what the sugar content is in your afternoon snack.

Life shouldn’t be spent wasted on these minute things. It should be spent living fully, embracing moments as they come, and enjoying as much as you can. When your whole focus and attention are on food, you cannot focus on what truly matters.

8. You are perfect just the way you are

Eating disorders often result from poor body image. We’re taught as young people that we’re not good enough, we don’t fit into the mold society has created for us to fit in, and we simply don’t make the cut.

Consequently, we develop disorder thoughts that are constantly telling us what we need to change about ourselves in order to be worthy of love, and eating disorders can result from these thoughts.

You are perfect just the way you are. You don’t need to gain weight or lose weight, fit into a certain size, have specific hair color, or wear your makeup a certain way in order to be cherished. You are enough exactly as you are right now in this moment.

9. You are strong and capable of fighting it

When fighting against your eating disorder, it’s often easy to lose sight of how strong you truly are. The disorder wins and comes out victorious time and time again, and we feel defeated and bogged down.

You must remind yourself regularly that it takes courage and strength to fight your eating disorder. That’s not a task that should be taken lightly. It’s a tough choice to make in the first place, and once you’re fighting back, you’ve transformed yourself into a fighter because that’s what you are.

Keep fighting. You are strong enough.

10. Recovery is not linear

No one’s recovery journey looks the same as anyone else’s. They are all unique, all take on their own paths and stories, all have their own individualized barriers and obstacles.

However, no one path is perfect. Everyone in recovery from an eating disorder faces challenges in one way or another. It’s not always sunshine and roses, as much as you may want it to be. There will be sadness, darkness, and sometimes even regret.

But with rain comes sunshine. You’ll face difficult days, but you’ll also experience your share of magnificent ones, days that are bright and happy and optimistic and powerful.

Throughout your time in recovery, you’ll find your strength. You’ll be able to take it one day at a time, and you’ll be kind to yourself if you occasionally give in to your illness. Remember these 10 things during your recovery and hold them close to your heart.

Recovery is challenging but so worth it in the end. Keep your head up and keep fighting.

woman eating oatmeal
Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash
Eden is a 26-year-old Aries who loves learning and exploring mental health, self-love, self-care, and eating disorder recovery.

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