Recovering from an eating disorder is by far the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I actually consider myself in recovery, since I believe it’s an ever growing, lifelong process. Recovery from an eating disorder, whether it lasted one year or 20 years, as in my case, is hard to deal with. There are many things people don’t understand about recovery, or about people who are recovering from an eating disorder. My family certainly didn’t understand, though it was incredibly painful for them to watch me go through it. There were many fights, more than a lot of tears, and several yelling matches between me and my family. People don’t like to talk about the dark side of recovery, but it’s certainly there. Luckily, there’s a brighter side at the end than you could ever imagine. Recovery is a process, and if you’re in recovery, I’ve got some tips for you. Recovering from an eating disorder takes time, patience, and self love. There are some effective things you can do, however, to make the process a bit easier and less stressful.
1. Baby Steps
One of the first things I’d advise you to do when recovering from an eating disorder is to take baby steps. Don’t try to do it all at once. You’ll drive yourself mad! Not only that, but it’s worse to try to take on too much at one time, and then take 10 steps backwards later. Instead, take one thing at a time. Add one food a week. Reduce one bad habit a week instead of all of them. Eating disorders are a true disease and trying to be perfect all at once will likely backfire. Instead, take baby steps. Those turn into big steps, and then, giant leaps.
2. Find a Relaxing Activity
Whatever you do, be sure to find a relaxing activity you enjoy while you’re recovering. For me, that was writing. For someone else, it was painting. For another person, it was playing with children at her church. Find something you enjoy that is relaxing, and takes your mind off your disorder. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just keep trying to find something until you find the activity that takes your mind off everything else. I even made a scrapbook for my mother, and looking through old pictures really helped me more than I ever imagined.
3. Try One New Food a Week
Whether you’re suffering binge eating, orthorexia, bulimia, or anorexia, it’s important to try one new food a week that is somewhat healthy. This not only gets you out of your routine, but also makes you eat something that is out of the ordinary. Just one food is all you need. It can help you learn to try new things, get out of your comfort zone, and take care of yourself. Do try not to make this junk food or fast food though. We’re not trying to create or feed bad habits, we're just trying to add diversity to your day and your diet. Don’t count the calories, just pick a food and go with it.
4. Listen to Music
It amazed me how, at the beginning of my disorder, I listened to music, but as time went by, I forgot all about it because I was too wrapped up in my disorder. So, one of the things I did while recovering from my eating disorder was to listen to more music. I embraced all kinds, and tried to focus on things that lifted me up and made me happy. I was amazed how lighthearted I felt after doing so. It really helped relax and inspire me to make changes and think about other things than food.
5. Quit Reading so Much
When I suggest you quit reading, I’m referring to health magazines, food blogs, and other things that might trigger your disorder. This was so hard for me to do, but it did work wonders. Instead, pick up the newspaper or read it on your phone. Get in touch with the world around you, or rent a book from the library that has nothing to do with food or health. It can really help you to stop focusing so much on food, and learn to enjoy more about life.
6. Educate Yourself
This tip is an important one that most counselors don’t suggest. If you’re a binge eater, educate yourself on the hormonal reactions that might be causing it. If you’re suffering anorexia, then educate yourself on the same. People with orthorexia and other eating disorders (also known as EDNOS) tend to have a hard time with balance, so find out what things you can do to balance your life, as well as hormonal changes that cause this imbalance. Learning about your body’s internal chemistry can do wonders for you. I like The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure books, which are both by Julia Ross. She covers all issues and has 10 years of experience in this field.
7. Eat More with Your Family
This one was huge for me. I never ate with my family before recovery. I admit we don’t eat together a lot now, but only because of different schedules. Yet, in recovery, my mom and I often planned at least 3 meals a week to eat together. This was so important for me, as I had to try new things, and needed that intimacy I had lost with my family. Try it and don’t feel pressure to pick the perfect meal. Just focus on your family over the food. If you don’t have family near you, pick your closest group of friends instead. Ask them not to judge what you’re eating, or how much, and tell them you’d just really like to enjoy their company.
These are all things that I found helpful when recovering from an eating disorder that I still use today. Do you have any tips you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear them!