Three Steps to Begin Recovery

Did you know that 100% recovery from an eating disorder is possible?
Whenever I have the chance to tell someone this I do because, in eating disorder counseling, my clients often feel hopeless at first. Often clients have long given up the hope of recovering and feel like having painful thoughts and feelings about food and their bodies will be never ending. Sometimes recovery doesn’t seem possible does it? I think the tough road it takes to get to recovery makes it seem even more impossible. But I promise you full recovery is a thing, I have witnessed it in clients just like you and I have lived it for myself. I have met with clients and loved ones who feel like they have lost all hope. Now they are 100% recovered for years, decades even.
Most of the time when I tell a client that 100% recovery is possible, that they don’t have to live this way forever they are surprised yet hopeful. I often get “REALLY???” My answer is always “Yes, Really. Recovery is going to take a lot of tough work, it will be one of the hardest things you have ever done, but I have never had a single client regret recovery!”
This often elicits a lot of feelings. I wonder if you are feeling some of those even thinking about recovery. Where do you even start? How do you even begin on this journey, when you are looking to leave behind habits and patterns you have lived with for years? Maybe you have even come to depend on them. Maybe your eating disorder behaviors even feel like your best friend. I get that. It’s hard to know where to take the first step in leaving all of that behind.
Here are a few things that you can do to begin this process and increase your chances of recovery…
  1. Find yourself a really good treatment team. And get ready for us to challenge you. That’s what we have to do. If you are always hearing what you want to hear and your toes are never getting stepped on, then your eating disorder is running the show. A good treatment team will consist of medical professionals, a dietitian, an individual therapist, and a family therapist that will push you and support you on your road to recovery. These professionals must be well trained in eating disorders. Ask lots of questions about their training, supervision, education, and knowledge. Be weary of generalists, who work with everything, Eating disorders are a very specialized field and require a lot of training. Look for these people now! Treatment can be hard to find, some of my clients commute an hour or more. Treatment can also be costly, but it is so worth it. Although we may challenge you at times, we will also support you, encourage you, and be a safe place to share your struggles along the way.
  2. Talk about the eating disorder. Not everyone you meet is trustworthy enough to know everything about you but there should be someone you know that is trustworthy enough to know what you are going through. I was at a local conference a few weeks ago and Mike Veny talked about how stigma produces shame and shame produces silence and silence produces suffering (I hope I didn’t just woefully mess up that quote). I have also heard many people say “silence keeps you sick.” This is so the truth. I have noticed that not speaking out keeps you in the shame cycle. Sometimes you might only have one person but I hope you at least have that. If you haven’t found that support, trust in your treatment team. There is nothing that you can’t tell us. We have heard a lot, and can really empathize with what you are going through. Journaling can also be a really great outlet to help you find your voice during the recovery process. Group Therapy is another way to feel less alone in your struggle. These are all great outlets for being able to speak about what you are going through and voicing this is an important step in recovery.
  3. Eliminate the voices that are reinforcing your eating disorder voice. The diet culture world we live in makes eating disorder recovery hard. It’s impossible to stay insulated from it. But try to at least remove the noise of diet voices as much as possible. Sara Upson, M.Ed., RD, LD, CEDRD has a great diet culture detox plan you can follow here. We can’t always avoid people that talk about dieting, exercise, and weight loss. This is sadly normal in our culture. You can learn to speak up when these conversations are triggering, but until you feel ready for that it might be best to avoid them all together. Surround yourself with recovery influencing voices. There are so many blogs, books, podcasts, and social media outlets that can be a voice that counters the eating disorder voice and diet culture. Surround yourself with these and the ED voice has less of a chance of coming through.

There are many ways to support your recovery, it was pretty tough to pick just three but these will be a great place to start. I hope these tips have helped you feel a little more ready to begin your own road to recovery. Remember, it is possible. Write that down so, when things seem impossible you will know. Full recovery is possible. You can do this. So many others have. Reach out, talk about what you are experiencing, and silence the diet culture voices!

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