Recovery from an eating disorder has been an extremely hot topic lately. A recent New York Times article has created a firestorm in the eating disorder community (from clinicians, people suffering from an eating disorder, as well as their families). In fact, “recovery” is a highly debated topic as there is no consensus currently as to what it actually is or how to define it. If you are interested in reading more about this topic, I highly recommend this blog post by Aimee Liu, this blog post by Randi Hutter Epstein, and this blog post by Lauren Grunebaum.
I’ve been thinking A LOT about this topic. My entire life’s work is dedicated to working with people who are suffering from an eating disorder. And you better believe that I believe in complete recovery. But I’d like to take it a step further. I believe that people who struggle with an eating disorder can actually have a healthier and happier relationship with food and their bodies than people who have never had an eating disorder.
Now, you make think that’s totally crazy but hear me out. While eating disorders may be somewhat rare (but more common than Alzheimer’s and Schizophrenia combined), disordered eating, body hatred, negative self-talk, and extreme dieting are not uncommon. In fact, it has become normal in our culture to have a dysfunctional and unhappy relationship with food and your body. Here are a few examples:
*Labeling foods as good and bad (ie “I ate so much last night, I was so bad.” Or “Wow, you’re skipping the bread basket, you’re so good!”)
*Cutting out food groups- Atkins diet anyone?
*Incessant fat and body talk. If you have a lot of girlfriends or work in an office, you know what I’m talking about
My point is that some people with an eating disorder spend years in therapy and/or working with a dietitian to repair their relationship with food and their body. They do an incredible amount of work and find peace on the other side. While many people (particularly women) spend their lives griping, stressing, agonizing, restricting, dieting, and compulsively eating or exercising but never get help. They don’t have a full-blown eating disorder, so they somehow believe that this is an acceptable (even normal) way to live life. And they get stuck there.
While eating disorders just plain suck, they provide an opportunity to “take the road less travelled” and discover that there is life beyond calories, points, and the number on the scale. Yes indeed, having an eating disorder may in fact be a catalyst to living a fuller and more vibrant life than most people think possible.