The fear of weight restoration is one of the most frightening and challenging mental blocks to conquer in eating disorder (ED) recovery. When you are malnourished from starvation or binging and purging, the first step toward physical healing is to stabilize your weight in a healthier range. This can also be the scariest part of the whole eating disorder recovery process because gaining weight means surrendering that intense and desperate need for control. It means rejecting the illusion that being the "skinniest person in a room" equals success, worth or beauty. It means being forced to accept that you're more than a body, and you are lovable no matter what the scale reads. Without the buffer of weight manipulation to cower behind, you feel exposed in a way that is often uncomfortable and unfamiliar. But shedding this layer of defense is not just a life-saver—it's a turning point to freedom. Here are some practical interventions for conquering the fear of weight restoration in ED recovery.
I have a slew of insights about understanding eating disorders for family and friends, but I often don't have the language to communicate it all. I suspect that I'm not alone in this predicament. My hunch is most people with disordered eating issues struggle to attach words to their experience. Because eating disorders are complex illnesses that oppress the body, mind and spirit, they are painful to discuss. And their secretive, withdrawn nature can make people on the outside feel confused, wounded or even angered. They might perceive the eating disorder sufferer's actions as callous, apathetic, disingenuous and selfish. But while eating disorders do perpetuate this kind of behavior, it's not indicative of the person's true character. Underneath that hard, stony facade is someone desperate to feel accepted and validated. So I need understanding--understanding about eating disorders from family and friends—and if you can relate, I encourage you to use these talking points with your loved ones too.
Your eating disorder has its own personality. In fact, if you have spent any length of time under the possessive, domineering influence of an eating disorder, you know the illness can turn you into a different person altogether. You have probably felt the sensation of watching your actions as though from a distance, ashamed at the erratic behavior, yet helpless to regain control. You have likely experienced the reckless thoughts and wild emotions that breed impulsive choices and abrupt reactions. You can detect when the eating disorder hijacks your brain and all of a sudden, you are operating from a place of anxiety and fear. You are no longer, well, you. Your eating disorder personality has taken over.
Going vegan in eating disorder (ED) recovery can be helpful—or a detriment--depending on the mindset of each individual and the factors of his or her environment. There are many reasons people choose the vegan lifestyle, running the gamut from nutrition to ethics, and veganism as a standalone practice neither heals nor causes an eating disorder. So taking into account all the different variables and nuances at play, whether going vegan in ED recovery will be helpful—or harmful—is contingent on your motives for adopting a vegan diet or lifestyle, and how it manifests in your eating habits.
I know a great deal about eating disorders now, but wish I'd known more when I was younger. There is no shortage of hard truths and stark realities I wish my younger self recognized about eating disorders. Seriously—the list goes on and on and on. I was eight the first time I felt aware of disgust for my own body, and I was 13 when I started acting on that sensation. I was a wounded adolescent, raging at the world and grasping for a "fix" to narcotize the chaotic self-hatred and utter lack of control I endured on the inside. I had no language to express the hurt I was suffering and no framework to process the behaviors I felt drawn to. I could never have predicted that flirting with the notion, "I'll just lose a few pounds," would nosedive into a pattern of destruction which tyrannized me for 15 years (What Are Eating Disorders?). But in retrospect, all the hazard lights were flashing, had I only paid attention. So here's what I know about eating disorders now, but wish my younger self knew then—and what I hope to share with you if that is your struggle too.
When it comes to succeeding in eating disorder recovery, one stubborn misconception needs to be discredited—the good food versus bad food debate. Mainstream culture has propagated the idea of attaching morality to certain food groups by idealizing some and demonizing others. But this paradigm is nothing more than a fabricated social construct with destructive implications. When a food is labeled either "good" or "bad," it suggests the person who consumes that food must take on a similar virtue. But the reality is, character is not based on someone's diet. Integrity cannot be measured by asking the question, "Did you eat a salad or cheeseburger for lunch?" What you eat doesn't define you. Foods should not be forced into categories any more than humans should. In order to prioritize eating disorder recovery, it's time to stop the good food versus bad food debate.
Learning to face down your triggers in eating disorder recovery is non-negotiable. A trigger is any form of content, behavior, topic or event which exacerbates a trauma or mental illness, and today's culture is saturated with them. In a society that endorses the harmful message of ideal bodies, clean diets and extreme fitness, the pressure to cave into those triggering beliefs is enormous—and if you're susceptible to an eating disorder, that urge can feel overwhelming. Triggers in eating disorder recovery are ingrained in the broken systems of this world, so triggers can't be avoided entirely. So while it's unrealistic to pretend they don't exist, there are coping methods you can utilize to navigate triggering situations with a healthy mindset that won't risk your progress in recovery.
Writing a goodbye letter to my eating disorder was one of the most challenging—but empowering and rewarding—tasks I was assigned while in treatment for anorexia. As someone who has been using the written word as therapy ever since I learned how to form a sentence, this tool immediately resonated deep within my bones and it's been a crucial guidepost in recovery. This goodbye letter to my eating disorder was a break-up of sorts, a severing of the relationship, an epilogue to the abuse and toxicity. It gave closure to traumas, wounds and regrets from the past while extending permission to move forward in the present. If you haven't tried writing a goodbye letter to your eating disorder, I recommend it. This could be just the motivation you'll need to embark on your own path toward recovering from an eating disorder.
Building personal boundaries in eating disorder recovery helps to make the healing a priority. But when it comes to eating disorder recovery, how can you maintain effective personal boundaries, and why do those boundaries even matter in the first place? It's important to realize the purpose of having personal boundaries is not to prevent all relationships from nurturing—but to protect the safe relationships from becoming unhealthy. Constructing and asserting personal boundaries will equip you to prioritize eating disorder recovery while teaching the people you care about which behaviors toward you are appropriate and which should be re-evaluated.
The lies your eating disorder tells you will prevent your recovery. The eating disorder masquerades as your closest friend and trusted confidant, but it is a fraud, and the lies your eating disorder tells you saturate your brain and hold you back from eating disorder recovery. The more entrenched those lies become, the more fearful you are of envisioning a future that doesn’t revolve around the eating disorder. You’re trapped in a vortex of wanting to escape its death-grip but wondering if you’ll have a sense of purpose or an identity without the eating disorder. The eating disorder is a persuasive storyteller—I believed it for decades, and am often still tempted to again. But those lies that your eating disorder tells you to hold you back from eating disorder recovery aren't worth pursuing once you know the truth.