10 Ways I Stay in Eating Disorder Recovery
If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.
Today, I want to celebrate how far I’ve come in my eating disorder recovery. I also want to help anyone else who currently struggles with disordered eating, of all kinds, to know that recovery is most certainly possible.
I have been in recovery off and on since 2014, when I was first hospitalized for anorexia nervosa, (binge-purging type) for 10 days on an eating disorders unit. Since then, I have been trying my best to eat in a balanced way, with the help of therapists, nutritionists, psychiatrists, self-help reading, and lots and lots of writing.
I have since been to two residential treatments, primarily for other disorders like borderline personality disorder (BPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but naturally my eating issues were always addressed. This included not only anorexia, but also bulimia nervosa, exercise addiction, compulsive overeating and the ambiguous label of eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS).
Here are 10 ways I stay in recovery today:
1. Radical acceptance.
This might sound contradictory, but I radically accept my relapses, rather than shame myself for them. I try to prevent them from happening; however, by accepting them, I get through them quicker.
2. Trauma work.
See my essay on trauma recovery. I know that eating disorders are often deep-rooted in trauma, and so working through it in therapy has helped me abstain from my eating disorder.
3. Treating other comorbid conditions with medication and therapies.
Eating disorders often exist with other conditions such as personality disorders, PTSD, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, sensory processing disorder, substance use disorders, etc.
4. I allow myself to grieve the loss of my eating disorder, as if it were a person.
My eating disorder was my best friend, my companion, but also an abusive bully, and so it is important to give yourself the space to grieve that.
5. Sensory issues.
I use fidget toys to keep my hands and mind busy when I have urges to engage in eating disorder behaviors, as well as other forms of self-harm. I also have heavy weighted blanket that calms me.
6. Using DBT and CBT skills.
These skills have really helped me cope when I have urges or miss my eating disorder. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was great for the coping skills, while cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) helped me reshape my distorted thoughts.
7. I write.
I write and I write and I write. I journal, I creative write, I make poems. It keeps me grounded.
8. Exercise in moderation.
I only recommend this with the permission of your treatment team first. I engage in going on daily walks, which I consider a light exercise, and it really helps me feel calmer and more emotionally regulated. I do not exercise for weight purposes, but rather just to help my mood and concentration. It also really helps, even if you cannot exercise, to be outside. Nature is soothing to my soul.
9. Create art.
I paint, I draw, I create. I get those anxieties and inner hyperactivity out onto a canvas or paper.
10. I read.
I read about others’ recoveries as well as fiction novels that take me to a different world. I read nonfiction to better understand myself or my brain, and I read poetry to find a sense of inner peace. I love to read. If books aren’t your thing, I recommend giving poetry a try or a graphic, art-based novel.
Thank you for reading. I hope that these tips can help someone, anyone, out there living with an eating disorder. I feel as though I am doing well today, but I am prepared for the hard moments, as this is a disease that will likely try to re-enter my life for many years. I often view eating disorders through the addiction model. To go along with reading, I am also trying to connect with my spiritual side through support groups like Eating Disorders Anonymous, something that isn’t for everyone, but just very well could be the next thing to help you.
I also want to point out that at no point in this article have I mentioned weight. Why? Because weight is not the most important thing! Don’t get me wrong — it’s important to be at a medically healthy weight. However, I want to make it clear that eating disorders can affect people of all genders, shapes and sizes.
Please comment below if you have any other suggestions for coping and staying in recovery.
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash