When Eating Disorder Thoughts Don't Go Away – Even in Recovery
After spending over nine years of my life in and out of treatment centers for my eating disorder, I had finally “graduated.” Last fall, I made the giant leap into the unknown. I had the skills to cope, my support system was strong and I was determined to stay in recovery. My life finally seemed to have a purpose and I had goals of my own for the first time in years. I knew this journey would be difficult, but you can never be fully prepared.
Eating disorders fall under the category of mental illnesses for good reason. The behavior isn’t the biggest problem. Just imagine walking throughout your day with someone following you and screaming in your ear. They yell things like, “Don’t eat that! You look horrible! No one likes you! You will never be good enough! You ate way too much today. Looks like you have to stay up late to get an extra workout in.” These thoughts never stop while you keep feeding into them. A huge part of my recovery was continuously doing the exact opposite of what I thought I needed to do. I literally retrained my brain about how to think about food, exercise, weight and self-worth.
People who haven’t struggled with an eating disorder might think that once we start treating our bodies with respect and eating healthy, those thoughts will go away. I even fed into that belief myself at times. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. I can proudly say that I have followed my meal plan 100 percent for a year and a half now. And I can also say that those thoughts are still there. The times when the thoughts are the loudest lead me to believe I’m not doing well in recovery.
“I must be failing somewhere. I’m not a good role model. I should just give up. These thoughts are too loud.”
But what I’m beginning to see is that just because I still struggle with old thought patterns, doesn’t mean I’m not doing well in my recovery. Am I listening to and obeying those thoughts? No, not at all. Do I reach out for support and do some fact checking? Always. Those are not actions of someone who is actively in their eating disorder. So although my recovery doesn’t always feel how I want it to, that doesn’t discredit how far I’ve come.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
To anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder, know that you are not alone. Recovery is probably the hardest thing I have ever put myself through. And it is totally worth it.
Photo by Eli DeFaria on Unsplash