Eating Disorder Recovery Is a Series of Both Ebbs and Flows

February 2, 2022 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

It's been more than 10 years since I took those first reluctant, clumsy steps into the eating disorder healing process. But even now, after all this time, eating disorder recovery is still a series of both ebbs and flows. As someone who wants a clear line of demarcation to signal the end of this path to recovery, it's frustrating that no such finish line seems to be in sight.

However, in my own experience, healing is continuous—marked by triumphs and failures, revelations and uncertainties, forward leaps, and brutal setbacks. If you are also frustrated or exhausted by this often repetitive cycle, please know it's normal to feel that way. I can empathize, considering I'm in this mental space right now. But hear me out: these ebbs and flows do not make recovery a hopeless cause. 

Acknowledge Both the Ebbs and Flows in Eating Disorder Recovery

The phrase "ebb and flow" comes from the recurring movement of ocean tides. An ebb state is when the water recedes from the shoreline, and a flow state is when those water levels rise once again. So when it comes to eating disorder recovery, I think of ebbs as the seasons when my motivation and resolve to stay the course are on a sharp decline. However, because this pattern is circular, after an ebb comes the flow—a period of regrowth when I learn from my own fumbles and orient my footsteps back on the path of healing.

When I feel myself being swept in the current of a recovery ebb, I think it's important to find the balance of equal compassion and accountability. I make an effort not to shame or berate myself for this setback, but I don't excuse or minimize the harmful impact of my choices and behaviors either. It might take some time, but eventually, this approach returns me to a flow state, so I can continue making strides in a healthy, positive direction. Eating disorder recovery is a series of both ebbs and flows, so the more I acknowledge this reality, the better equipped I am to ride out those turbulent waves—just to extend the metaphor.

Breathe Through the Ebbs and Flows of Eating Disorder Recovery

This fluctuation between ebbs and flows can feel emotionally jarring and chaotic sometimes. So because eating disorder recovery is a series of both ebbs and flows, I need an accessible coping mechanism to reach for in those moments when the chaos threatens to overwhelm me. I find breathwork to be such an effective tool, and my therapist taught me a variation called "tap and breathe." If you are not familiar with this technique but want to incorporate it into your own healing process, I will demonstrate it as best I can in the video below.

How do you cope with the series of ebbs and flows in eating disorder recovery? What helps to regulate your emotions and calm your mental state? In your own experience, do you find it relatively simple to course-correct after a setback in the healing process, or is it difficult for you to recalibrate in a healthier direction? Please share in the comment section. 

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2022, February 2). Eating Disorder Recovery Is a Series of Both Ebbs and Flows, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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