As an eating disorder counselor in Vancouver, WA I am asked often what recovery is like, is it worth it, what will be different. I don’t have a crystal ball, so don’t know what everyone’s journey will entail, but I have compiled a list of some things you can do after your eating disorder.
Approximately 24 million men and women in the United States have an eating disorder. Many people report isolation, hopelessness, and deteriorating relationships because of it. The road to recovery won’t look the same for everyone and life after recovery is just as unique as the person living it, but it is possible.
Here are 8 things you may find yourself enjoying in recovery:
Can you imagine your life without all of the anxiety that comes with the eating disorder? Imagine being able to go through life and not constantly be planning the next meal or how to get out of the next meal.
Imagine not having to worry about every ounce or calorie. What would it be like to go to a beach and just relax on the sand, enjoy the sun, without the obsessive thoughts?
Exercise can bring up so many things for someone struggling with an eating disorder. What does it bring up for you? For me, in my eating disorder, it was a time where I tortured my body for hours at a time to purge away calories or self-hate. I would just stare at the calorie burner on the machines or push myself to the breaking point. It wasn’t enjoyable.
In recovery, exercise can be about joyful movement and getting connected with your body. It’s a powerful time to enjoy its strength and movement instead of beating it into submission.
Eating disorders are isolating. It’s the nature of the disorder. It gains its power in your vulnerability and when it is the only one speaking to you, you become more susceptible to it.
In recovery you will learn to rebuild your positive, supportive, healthy relationships. You will learn how to nurture them effectively and use your support system to help you when you’re struggling. Research has shown that a good support system is imperative to a strong recovery. They will learn to help you and you will learn to appreciate them.
Not many people in their eating disorder are real keen on meditation. All day long your brain is telling you your worthless, pathetic, and ugly. Can you imagine having a friend that said that type of stuff about you? Wouldn’t want to hang out with that person for long, right?
As the healthy part of you grows stronger in recovery, that eating disorder part of your brain that screams insults will quiet. Your head will slowly cease to be the battleground it once was. Imagine a friend that told you they believed in you, supported you, and would walk with you through the hard stuff. That would be a friend worth hanging out with. In recovery, your brain can become that friend.
5. Making Mistakes
Recovery is still life so you will still make mistakes. In recovery those mistakes will not haunt you and drag you down. In recovery, you will gain what Brené Brown calls “shame resilience”. You will be able to have compassion for yourself and an understanding that your mistakes are not what define you, it’s how you deal with them and what you do next.
6. Being Spontaneous
When did you become so rigid? Remember when you used to do things on a whim, be willing to go to a new restaurant, or hang out at a new friends house? Does that seem like a different person who was able to do all of those things?
As you put the eating disorder behind you and move into the next phase of your life you will lose the rigidity piece by piece. Imagine being able to go somewhere new without researching the place first and just enjoying the experience. It’s possible.
7. Ordering What Looks Good
Who gives a crap how many calories are in it or how it’s prepared, what about the fact that it looks good and you’re really in the mood to eat it! I know it may seem impossible right now that you would ever order something just because it looked good. I understand that right now you order food based on how “safe” it is. I understand because I did that for years.
Recovery will mean listening to your body and ordering something that you really want to eat and seems satisfying and trusting your body. It won’t happen right away. Honestly, for most people, it takes quite awhile, but eventually you will get there and it will be so freeing.
8. Not Acting on the Urges
When you have the urge to exercise, binge, or purge it’s overwhelming isn’t it? I bet once it comes it feels like you will burst at the seams if you don’t act on it.
The skills you will learn in counseling will be so valuable. Instead of acting on them or reacting with fear toward them, you will learn how to use mindfulness, distraction methods, self-soothing, and coping skills to work your way through any urge. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not. It takes time and practice, but with some perseverance and some grace for yourself, it’s amazing the things you can accomplish.