Thursday, November 29, 2012

Is it possible to (fully) recover from an eating disorder?

The question "Do you think full recovery, from an eating disorder, is possible?" has been posed to me several times. It is something I have thought about, a lot, over the last few years. 

There are two trains of thought when it comes to eating disorders and recover (and probably any addiction and cooresponding recovery for that matter). 

1. One has the ability to fully recover. You recover, move on, and never deal with your disorder again.
2. One will never be 100% recovered and thus will always have some lingering effects, regardless of how big or small these effects might be. Basically, you will live with your disorder your entire life.

A New York Times article states "It is difficult to define recovery from an illness that has both physical and mental dimensions." This is very true. Very, very true. 

The article expands on this idea. . . 

"If, for example, a patient reaches “normal weight” — which researchers define as either 85 or 95 percent of a person’s ideal weight — and starts menstruating again, she would be considered to have recovered in most studies. But what if she still weighs herself daily, monitors her calories with a vengeance and obsesses about food and the size of her ankles? Or, as is often the case, moves from anorexia to bulimia or binge-eating disorder?" - Source 

See how this gets a little tricky?

How do you define recovery for an issue that is soooooo amazingly complex?

I don't think there is a black and white answer. And I think, in a sense, recovery looks a little different for everyone.

So what does it look like for me?

It's looking back on my darkest days, and the behaviors that accompanied me during my darkest days, and asking myself "ok, so where am I now?"

We Are The Real Deal also wrote a post on this concept called "Full Recovery from Eating Disorder is Possible. 

Like the author's experience in the blog post, there are several components that had to fall into place before I could say, without a doubt, "Yep - I'm recovered. Fully. No doubt." 

Here's a few that immediately come to mind...

I knew I was fully recovered when. . . 
  • I stopped weighing myself on a daily basis. (Which later translated to a weekly/monthly basis)
  • I stopped measuring my food. 
  • I stopped obsessing about what I would order when we went to a restaurant. 
  • I no longer felt a sense of accomplishment when I turned down one of my fear foods.
  • I no longer felt a sense of accomplishment when I ate less than friends or family. 
  • I no longer had food on the brain 24/7. (Side note- It is quite ironic how one, who is so scared of food, can think about food. day. long. I could dedicate an entire blog post to this irony.)
  • I could eat one of my fear foods and not dwell on it all day long. 
  • Guilt was no longer associated with food. 
  • There was no longer good vs. bad goods - but instead more of a balance.
  • I could sense my stress starting to build, yet was able to manage it in other healthier ways, besides controlling my food intake.
  • Good days vs. bad days were not determined by my weight. 
  • I stopped associating a set number on the scale with being "fat" vs. "skinny"
  • I was able to consistently set appropriate boundaries with other people, when necessary.
  • I no longer limited myself to a black and white, perfectionist way of thinking.  
  • I no longer got my self worth or self confidence from the size of my jeans, but rather from my Creator and Savior.
  • I once again found joy in eating a variety of different foods.
  • I started saying yes to social outings that involved food, rather than saying no because I was too scared of what I would have to eat.  
  • The first first thing I wanted to do each morning was grab my coffee and Bible and talk to my God, rather than weigh myself (all alone, in the dark, in my bathroom).  
If I kept thinking, I could probably add more.

Now. . . This doesn't mean that I will never again feel fat, never again step on a scale, never again second guess eating that second piece of double fudge cookie cake, or never again have a day when I struggle with body image. I think these things just go hand in hand with being a woman, or a human for that matter. Take the most self assured person around and I guarantee they have days when they don't particularly like the extra dimples on their thighs, or they order the grilled chicken instead of the fried just because it's the healthier option.

Do you get what I'm saying here?

If I turn down dessert it's just because I don't feel like having dessert. Or maybe I'm full. Or maybe I want to have some dessert when I get home. If I order a salad for my meal that just means a salad sounds good at that time, not that I have fallen back into my disordered ways.

I can say these things with confidence. Because I have come that far.

Praise God. Praise His holy name.  He has brought me up out of the pit and set my feet on new ground.  Much more sturdy, solid ground. I'm living proof of Psalm 40:2.

So there you go. That's a little bit about how I view (my) recovery.

What about you? For those of you with an eating disorder past, do you consider yourself fully recovered? Or if you have struggled in another way, what does recovery look like for you? I would really love to hear other people's thoughts on this topic. 

13 comments

  1. This is so interesting to me. I really appreciate your openness and vulnerability about your recovery. My mom struggled with an eating disorder while I was in high school...and while I've never struggled with one myself, I've always been hyper-aware of the struggle, if you know what I mean. Like my dad was always watching my sister and I for signs of it....so then I started being paranoidabout "catching" it myself...or something. Anyway...so glad your recovery is going so well. I love when you share about this!

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    1. Yes, I do know what you mean about being hyper aware of the struggle. It's such a complex issue but tackling recovery is sooooo worth it!! Does your mom talk about her struggle much now?

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    2. No, she doesn't really talk about it much. Occasional mentions, and I'd guess she'd talk about it if ASKED, but...I don't hear much about it.

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  3. Thank you for sharing- I think it's great for all of us to read/be aware. My dad is a recovering alcoholic and it's interesting that he never says he "used to be" an alcoholic, but instead says he "is a recovering alcoholic"... similar concept!

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    1. Yep - totally the same concept! Have a fun vacay!!

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  4. Wow, what an important post! So glad you can talk about this so openly, that takes a lot of courage, too! And, I learned a lot from reading this, so thanks for sharing!

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    1. You're welcome. I don't think enough people talk about their experience with eating disorders (or any mental illness for that matter). I try really hard to be transparent in hopes of helping someone else or just overall spreading some good info.

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  5. I can tell a huge difference in you now and then. Thank you Lord for pulling you all the way through.

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    1. Aww - thanks, Wen. Love you!!

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  6. This is such a great and interesting post. I've never had an eating disorder but I think all women have obsessed at times. It's great to see the steps you have taken to beat it.

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  7. I read once when I was younger that it takes 7 years of health to really recover from an eating disorder. I held on to that number with a vengence. I had my 7 years, I was "cured". I gradually went from eating nothing more than a single tootsie roll in a day and obsessing all day long about food to eating when I was hungry and what I was hungry for. I had balance.

    Like any addiction though, cured was the wrong word to use. I relapsed and I relapsed big. Now I work through recovery a second time and I work through it with a very different perspective. I work through recovery trying to get back to that place of intuitive eating. I work through recovery knowing that once I succeeded and that I can again. I also work through recovery with a renewed desire to actually deal with the issues behind the eating disorder rather than just the physical symptoms.

    Thank you sweet Brittnie for this post. The Lord knew I needed to read this today, this was so very encouraging.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience! I think striving for intuitive eating is so important. Working through the underlying issues is also SO vital to long term success. Great job! Keep it up. Recovery is so so so worth it!

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