Between February twenty-seventh and March fifth, it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week here in the United Kingdom. Much like other awareness days, it’s an opportunity to talk about what eating disorders are, alongside the troubling statistics that are continuing to emerge.
While mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety have been talked about in the media for many years, it’s only in the last two decades that eating disorders have shared the same limelight. And even still there are many who know very little about them, their effect on the body and their long-term impact on the mind.
What are eating disorders?
Before we begin it’s important that we know some of the most basic information about these disorders. Eating disorders come with many different faces. It doesn’t matter who you are, your age, your social status, sexual orientation or gender; These disorders can thrive within anyone.
Traditionally, all eating disorders have been categorised by disordered eating habits or patterns. Some disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, can be accompanied by excessive levels of exercise and an unhealthy preoccupation with weight or shape. While other lessor known eating disorders, such as BED and Pica, involve things such as eating excessive amounts of food, or eating items not usually be deemed as ediable.
These just to name a few. There are multiple conditions beneath the eating disorder umbrella, and more continue to emerge!
- To learn more about eating disorders and the most common types, have a look at this post on my website
What does recovery from disordered eating mean?
If you’d asked me to talk about recovery in my early twenties I would have laughed in your face. Bitterly. I spent years caught in a constant cycle of severely unwell and quasi-recovered. In regard to an eating disorder, being quasi-recovered refers to a limbo that all too many of us fall into.
You’re still counting calories, watching the scale and constantly thinking about food and your body image. While you may not be actively restricting or binging to the same extent, you’re still very much caught up in the control of an eating disorder.
After spending over seven years caught in this cycle, I never thought that full recovery was achievable. To me, it was a myth. But now, three years into a fully dedicated recovery routine, I’ve well and truly changed my tune.
Full recovery is entirely possible. No, you may never get rid of the urges or persistent ‘disordered voices’ completely. But they become so dimmed that controlling them becomes easier. You learn how to manage, how to bite back, and, most importantly, you learn just how strong you can become.
- Are you already in recovery? Here are some tips to help you maintain recovery even after discharge!
8 Reasons to Recover from Disordered Eating:
1. Recover to experience food freedom!
Since I began my final journey into recovery, I’ve been able to experience food in a way I haven’t since childhood. I actually enjoy eating and trying new, interesting foods with limited fear.
While I followed a strict routine for many years, I now eat when I’m hungry. I even eat when I’m not hungry, which is a perfectly human thing to do! This is what food freedom feels like. Eating and enjoying food without limitations.
This year in particular I’m working to tackle my fear of cooking food. I’ve been slowly growing my confidence in the kitchen, but after twenty years of avoiding it, learning to love cooking is an ongoing process.
2. Recover to live your life to the fullest!
When you’re stuck in the cycle of disordered eating, you’re experiencing life in survival mode. You’re limiting yourself to your comfort zone and possibly experiencing fear when stepping outside it. Even thinking about changing things up can trigger a full-blown panic attack.
In recovery, I’ve been able to do so much more than just eat new foods. I’ve abseiled down a building, started a side hustle, cut my hair up short, and so much more. When you stand up to the eating disorder, you’re opening up your life to so much more.
3. Recovery teaches us self-love and compassion
Self-love and compassion were never things I associated with myself prior to recovery. Now, I practice patience, compassion and love on a daily basis. I’ve allowed myself to rest and relax more than ever before.
While I still struggle with the guilt of relaxation, I’m able to remind myself that no one can hustle all the time. And that includes me.
4. Recovery teaches us to move and exercise without needing to burn calories
Exercising should be about health and enjoyment. But for many, it’s about burning calories and losing weight. You should move your body because you want to for your own well-being.
You might even enjoy it more without the constant thought of burning calories. I personally love yoga, an exercise which is more about health than losing weight. It’s taught me to listen to my body and to see exercise as an enjoyable experience, rather than a torturous one.
5. Recover to fully enjoy your vacations!
This is possibly one of my top reasons to recover! An eating disorder doesn’t take a vacation just because you do. For years I still counted calories, exercised and experienced food fear while on holiday. So many of my past vacations are overshadowed by the emotional distress of the eating disorder.
6. Recovery helps us stop lying to everyone
The ugly truth about eating disorders is the lies we tell. Whether intentional or unintentional, when we engage with an eating disorder we become master liars.
We lie about eating, about not eating, about exercising or not exercising. Eventually, we lie about things we don’t need to lie about just because we can. These disorders lie to us and, in response, we lie to others.
Recovery has shown me just how much of a liar I was. And after decades of being that person, it’s proven a difficult habit to get out of.
7. Through recovery you learn to vibe with your emotions
Something I didn’t expect from recovery was to learn more about my emotions. Or, rather, my inability to experience them fully. I suffered from, and continue to struggle with, Alexithymia.
This condition makes it difficult to feel and fully comprehend our own emotions. It’s common in people with long-term depression and autism. But many former eating disorder patients have also expressed dealing with alexithymia. But through therapy, medication and working on separating myself from anorexia nervosa, I’ve started to understand my emotions more.
Instead of feeling nothing but numbness or sadness, I now feel a range of emotions. Some of which I can identify and name, others I have to focus on to pinpoint. This will be an ongoing journey but recovery has greatly accelerated my understanding.
8. Recovery enables us to live life without permission from the scale
There was a time when even half a pound of weight gain would have sent me spiralling. I would have weighed myself three or four times a day, and abstained from water and food all day in a bid to lose weight.
Have you any other reasons to recover from disordered eating?
We all experience illness and recovery differently. Likewise, our reasons for pushing ourselves to recover can vary. These are just a few from both myself and my recovery group.
But, really, a reason to recover can be something as simple as being able to enjoy peace within yourself. Or having the courage to have milk in your morning coffee. Believe it or not, just a year ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of having a flat white.
Now, it’s a morning routine! Complete with biscuits!