Recovery from an eating disorder poses many challenges that need to be overcome in order to regain health. These challenges can result in someone relapsing at a time when they were starting to beat the disorder and gain some control over their lives.
By making themselves aware of these hurdles, people recovering from an eating disorder can be prepared to continue their journey towards a healthier and happier life.
Here are some of the key barriers faced during the recovery process:
1. Listening to yourself – Many people with eating disorders learn to ‘numb’ or ‘deaden’ their feelings and needs. This might be due to abuse or having to be available to care for others. Therefore, a defining moment in recovering is often the realisation that there is a self, a self who has different wants and needs to others. They realise that, underneath the ‘voice’ of the eating disorder, there is a person – there is an ‘I.’
2. Feeling emotions – Food or lack therefore can become a way of suppressing or hiding emotions, as well as a way of coping with them. Therefore, a huge part of the recovery process is starting to feel emotions rather than hide from them through eating, purging, or starvation. Learning to cope with emotions is important for recovery to continue.
3. Expressing – Food and weight has become a form of expression and therefore with weight gain or weight loss (whichever is needed for recovery), comes the need to find another way to express oneself. This might be through talking, art, dance, or music.
4. Trusting the body – Living with an eating disorder and within a society that encourages dieting, the body is often ignored. Signs of hunger are ignored. Signs of fullness are ignored. The need for different types of food is ignored. True recovery requires trusting the body by listening to it and ensuring its needs are met. This can be a daunting step for someone with an eating disorder, who might have spent years distrusting their body’s signals.
If you are in recovery from an eating disorder or know someone who is, be prepared for these hurdles so that you are fully equipped to tackle and overcome them.
Remember, it is good to listen to yourself, to listen to your body, to feel your emotions, and express your needs. These are all part of being human and are important aspects of your recovery.