Woman running through fall scene, in recovery from an eating disorders

Recover to Discover Yourself

Recovering from an eating disorder or even just going on a journey to heal your relationship with food might be the hardest thing you ever do in your life. Which is why so many people never get better. It can be really scary to get started because when you are in a disordered mindset, your appearance is everything. Your literal biggest fear in the world is gaining weight. You think you could not possibly survive if your body got any bigger. 

This incessant obsession with your physical appearance and body shape and size starts consuming every aspect of your life. It becomes the thing you value the most in the world. Your friendships and relationships may suffer because you’d rather stay in then have to go out and socialize, especially when eating is involved. Your disorder tells you that living every day feeling anxious, overwhelmed, disconnected, and miserable, is better than the alternative; gaining weight. 

The obsession with your physical appearance is only one aspect of your eating disorder. But what are other reasons why you can’t let go of this disordered mindset? The truth is that deep down, your eating disorder is a coping mechanism. It is protecting you from facing your internal emotional struggles. It is distracting you from looking inward and processing the things that you feel safer numbing. When you focus on food and your body all day every day, it leaves no space for you to face what you’re running from and feel the uncomfortable feelings. 

When the seeds of your eating disorder were first taking root, it probably felt like you were regaining a sense of control. Having the “strength” and “willpower” to restrict yourself in uncomfortable ways might have felt satisfying and powerful. Ironically, when you let the disordered voice dictate your every move and take up all the thoughts in your head, the eating disorder is the one in control, not you. Recovery returns the power to you. When you stop listening to the disordered voice in your head, you regain control over not just your food choices but also your freedom, happiness, and life. 

When you spend each day believing what the disordered voice trapping you in your own mind is saying, you lose your sense of self. You identify with the illness that is not you. You spend every minute of every day doing what the disordered voice says (do this, don’t eat that). When this goes on for quite some time, you forget who you are without the eating disorder. What do you like to do? What do you believe in? What matters to you? Who are you without the eating disorder?

Recovery is possible with enough courage and the right support system. I know this to be true because that is how I recovered from my own eating disorder. Something that gave me enough courage to choose recovery was remembering my values. I knew deep down that there was a time in my life where compassion, love, and connection were more important to me than how many calories I ate every second of the day or how lean I was. I thought back to the younger version of me who was outgoing, warmhearted, and enjoyed all foods without a worry in the world. I wanted to be that little girl again. I recovered for her. Remember the person you used to be before this all began. Remember what you used to value. Let this be the light that guides you through your journey. 

Many things will be scary for you during your recovery. At first, I was petrified of the unavoidable but absolutely necessary weight gain. Since I was restricting for so long, I became obsessed with food. (I now know that it is a primitive survival response for our bodies to hyperfixate on food when in a starvation state.) I was afraid to eat, but my appetite was huge. I was scared that if I truly let myself eat as much as I wanted of whatever I wanted, I would never stop eating. I thought that once I started gaining weight, I would never stop gaining weight. It was hard to have full faith in the fact that my body knew what it was doing. Yet the only way to truly recover is to let your body do its thing for as long as it takes for you to stop being obsessed with food. If you truly trust your body, let go of the mental restriction, and always eat as much as you need to feel satisfied, eventually your appetite and weight will both settle in a comfortable place. 

After I finally accepted that weight gain was inevitable, I was scared of what my eating disorder was covering up. I was scared to face whatever emotions I used the eating disorder to repress. But recovery doesn’t mean you are going back to the situation you were in right before the disorder began. Yes, you will feel uncomfortable emotions throughout the process but I promise these feelings are way better than continuing to live with an eating disorder. Through recovery you will learn healthy coping mechanisms and skills that you’ve never tried before. You will realize that it is much easier to deal with difficult feelings by addressing them head-on than by obsessing over your food and body and living with an eating disorder to help you cope with them. Through recovery, you will become the newest and best version of yourself. The version you were always meant to be. 

Recovery was the best thing to ever happen to me. I used to be so scared to gain weight. Yet now I can look back with gratitude. My body changed a LOT, yet I am the happiest and most confident I have ever been in my entire life. Properly recovering is not only possible, but it is the KEY to reconnecting with yourself, living the life you want to live, and being the person you want to be. 

Recovery can allow you to discover new things that you value. By going through the recovery process and coming out the other side, you are guaranteed to learn a lot about yourself. You may become more spiritual or just feel more connected to the world in some way. You will be more grateful for all that you have and way more happier with your life. You will get your personality back and be more energetic and present with your friends and family. And so much more. 

Realize that recovery is a journey that will bring you home to yourself. You will regain your personality, your confidence, and live up to your values. You will also find out new things about yourself and learn just how brave you are. It is scary but it is possible. Recover to discover who you really are and all the wonderful things that life has in store for you. Do it for the you that you once were and the you that you are meant to be.