The Difficult Truths About Eating Disorder Recovery


“You’ve got to get back on track and get back on your meal plan.”

“I know.”

This is a conversation that’s not unfamiliar. In fact, I suspect it happens more frequently than either my therapist or I would like to admit. I used to roll my eyes when I heard cliches like, “Recovery is a process, not a destination.”  Truth is I still roll my eyes, but I get it now.

Staying in recovery is exhausting. Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day. You’re in the groove. You’re eating well, you have your behaviors under control and then something happens.

Maybe you have a doctor’s appointment and instantly panic when you see your weight.(That’s what happened to me most recently.)

Maybe you think, “I’m doing fine and I’m really busy. It won’t hurt anything to cancel my appointment with my dietitian next week.”

Maybe you think it won’t hurt to skip just this one meal.

Then it’s like you hit the proverbial chute in a giant game of chutes and ladders and it feels like you’re back at square one and what was easy-ish a matter of days ago, now takes monumental effort. What makes it even harder is the frustration you feel with yourself for being back at this place and having this conversation yet again.

“You’ve got to get back on track. You’ve got to eat your meal plan.”

“I know.”

And I do know. I do. I know I have to get back on track, I have to start eating my meal plan again and I know it’s not going to get any easier the longer I put it off. I know it in my head and in my heart. I can either do it now as an outpatient or later at a higher level of care. Honestly, I wish with all my might that I’d never slipped in the first place.

But I did.

And here I am.

I know that if I want to stay in my life and engaged with the things and the people I love I have to get back on track, no matter how exhausted and weary I am.

I have to pick myself up, dust myself off and do what I know deep down I now have the skills to do. My therapist describes what I need to do in words that resonate deeply. “Jess — I know it’s not easy, but it’s simple,” — because what I need to do is eat.

And eating is simple — but it’s sure as hell is not easy.

So this piece is for all of us who keep picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off and fighting like hell to get back on track. The fact that we still struggle, the fact that we get tripped up does not mean we aren’t making progress or that we’ll never get better.

On the contrary, it means we’re warriors, fighting to stay in our lives. It means that no matter how much we desire to be perfect, we can’t be perfect at anything — including recovery. It means we’re one step closer to a day where our eating disorders are a part of our past, but not our present.

So may we give ourselves the same grace and patience that we would give others and that at least my treatment team continues to give me — because no matter how cliche it is — this recovery process is not a destination, but a journey.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via Astarot

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