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What It Means to Relinquish Control in Eating Disorder Recovery

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Editor's Note

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.

My eating disorder manifests in many different ways, but they all seem to have the same root cause: I want control over something. I am usually unaware of what I want control over, as it changes frequently. Sometimes it is a relationship I want authority over; other times, it is as simple as wanting to change an answer on an exam I already handed in.

Giving up control is difficult, but my sanity depends upon it. In an effort to do this, I have taken actions to reclaim my body as my own. As a person with an eating disorder, I have been poked and prodded by medical professionals, been given the opportunity to relinquish control at treatment facilities and accepted the option of taking medication to manage my co-occurring mood disorder. I have felt at times that my recovery is not my own, but for other people in my life. It is by reclaiming my body and my recovery that I am able to simultaneously turn over control and gain agency in my life.

I began reclaiming my body by using my eating disorder, and now it is a choice to give that up. This is a choice I must make on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. I used to use my behaviors as a way to gain control over something missing in my life. I was obsessed with managing everything and everyone around me. I was convinced that I could somehow change the outcome of other people’s behaviors if I manipulated them enough. I’ve since learned that this is not possible, and even if it were, it is not worth the sanity it requires.

Today, I reclaim my body by taking actions towards recovery. I choose to nourish my body and nurture my soul. I make a conscious decision to practice gratitude in my life, and to show up for friends and family when I say I will. I practice humility, which sometimes feels impossible to implement in my life. I recognize that I am unable to change other people, and am only able to change my own behavior. With this realization came a sense of relief that I no longer needed to engage in manipulation tactics to change an outcome.

Relinquishing control in eating disorder recovery can be difficult at times. For example, if I feel I have overeaten and want to use a compensatory behavior, I must turn over control to my body. This sometimes feels nearly impossible, but I must remember that my body has the tools it needs to digest the food I consume. Another example of relinquishing control is when I attend a session with my dietitian and we make a meal plan. I make a verbal agreement to commit to this plan, and by doing so am turning my recovery over to somebody whom I trust in this process.

Making a conscious decision to release the grip of torture that I have embraced myself in, I am ready to move forward into the light of a recovered lifestyle. I want nothing more than to love myself fully and to do that, I firmly believe that I must relinquish control over food, my body and the world around me.

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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Originally published: March 1, 2018
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