What Does it Mean to Recover From an Eating Disorder?

2016-09-19

When I first entered into treatment, I believed that once I put on the weight that I had lost and learned how to eat normally, I would be recovered. I didn’t think about the processing that had to happen in order to fully leave the eating disorder in my past. I thought that recovery was simply about food– that once I was able to complete my meal plan 100% and avoid using behaviors such as diet pills, laxatives, and exercise, I would be discharged from treatment and be able to return to my life. But in reality, recovery is about so much more than food.

Weight restoration and normalized eating is a part of it, but recovery goes so much deeper than that.

Recovery is about discovering everything that is within you. It is about knowing and reassuring yourself that this is something you did not choose, but you are choosing to be brave and move past it, despite your mind telling you otherwise. It is coming out stronger on the other side because you know that recovery is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do in your life. It is sharing your story and helping others. It is no longer competing with the people around you to be the skinniest, but instead choosing to strive for health and happiness.

Recovery is about enjoying all types of food and not just sticking to a meal plan of quinoa, green smoothies, and Clif bars. It is going to get ice cream with your friends at 10 o’clock on a Tuesday night because you’re hungry and it’s 95 degrees outside. Recovery is being able to enjoy your birthday cake and not pack a separate dinner that you bring to the hibachi restaurant. It is being able to eat a doughnut for your afternoon snack, and still eat a normal dinner. It is being able to eat a salad and do so in a healthy way, without thoughts racing of how salad should be the only thing you eat for the next week. It is bringing scones into work and eating some in addition to your breakfast because you want to celebrate that it’s Friday with your coworkers.

Recovery is going on a walk with your best friend to talk about old memories without counting every step you take.

It is going to the gym to do yoga or a spin class without spending the whole day on the treadmill. It is sleeping in on a Sunday morning because you were up late the night before, and it is okay to take a break. Recovery is going out with friends and having a drink because the extra calories will not break you. It is taking the day off from work when you are sick because your body needs rest to heal.

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Recovery is knowing that not everything has to be perfect. It is being able to ask for help on a math problem because you are learning and are not expected to know everything. It is getting a C on a test and taking the time to learn what went wrong without punishing yourself by not eating for the next week. Recovery is making mistakes and knowing that you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. It is getting into a fight with your boyfriend and knowing that with time things will heal.

Recovery is taking risks. It is showing emotions rather than covering everything up with a fake smile and telling everybody that you are fine. It is going up to the girl reading your favorite book and sparking a conversation that leads to an excellent friendship because you’re not worried that she is going to judge you for your body. Recovery is applying to the internship even if you’re just a freshman because even applying is good experience and will only help you in the long run. It is trying a sport that you’ve never done before because you want to have fun with your friends, and it is not important if you are the best one or not. It is signing up for a Spanish class when you have never taken a foreign language because you want to try something new.

Recovery is about creating a life outside of the eating disorder. It is being able to feel safe outside of a treatment center. It is being able to eat in front of people you have never met before without fear that they are constantly judging everything morsel you eat. Recovery is graduating from residential and PHP and wanting to start a new life rather than go back to treatment because that is where you feel the most accepted.

It is growing and healing and beginning to turn into a new and improved version of yourself.

Recovery is knowing that there will be times when things get incredibly difficult. It is knowing that slips and relapses will happen, but you can get back up. It is going back to treatment with more motivation than ever and coming out stronger. It is knowing that recovery is not linear. Recovery is feeling all emotions and accepting them. It is being angry and sad and crying in front of other people because you are human and you have feelings just like everyone else in this world. Recovery is being okay with things being out of control. It is picking yourself back up again when you fall.

Recovering from an eating disorder is about so many things, but most importantly, it is about finding yourself. It is about going after your dreams and fighting for your passions. It is living life feeling free. It is showing the remarkable amount of strength and courage you have inside of you. Recovery is about finding your light and spreading it around the world. Recovery is falling in love with being alive. Recovery is more than existing, it is living. Recovery is wonderful.

Today, I am beyond grateful that I have gotten the chance to recover. This journey has been anything but easy, but today I am stronger than ever. Rock bottom has become the foundation upon which I have rebuilt my life. I am growing and flourishing, and none of this would have been possible if I stayed in my eating disorder. Recovery is hard and scary, and sometimes seems like it will ruin your life, but when you fight long and hard enough, you realize how much more there is in life than anorexia. Life is beautiful, so go out there and chase it. Go after your dreams. Fight for what you believe in. Accept love and radiate love. You belong in this world. You are beautiful.

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