My Declaration about Eating Disorder Recovery
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.
i think it’s super important for clinicians working with eating disorders to believe that full recovery is possible and attainable. i like that you go one step further and believe that the hard work necessary for recovery may in fact lead one who has recovered
from an ED to have a fuller, more balanced relationship with food and their body than a non-ED woman in our society.
Thanks so much for your thoughts Kara! I think you’re right- clinicians can play powerful role by holding on to the hope of full recovery through the process of recovery (which has its ups and downs).
What an inspirational and hopeful post- LOVE IT!! I sent the link to my parents and my friends in recovery. 🙂 Thank you for believing in us, Marci!
Hey Jess, thanks for your comment! I will always believe in your recovery (look how far you’ve come)! Glad you liked the post and thanks for sending it along.
Just want to say I totally agree that those of us who have had eating disorders and have recovered can in fact become more normal about food than…normal people! I’ve seen it in my own life. After a 15-year battle with binge eating disorder, my mom told
me the other day that I am the most normal eater she’s ever seen, talked to, or imagined—no guilt, ever, no recrimination or restriction, and moderation as a natural instinct. It’s truly amazing! xo…Sunny
You are so right, Marci. So many women and men (and sadly children and teens) are caught up in such a cycle of body hatred, negative self-talk and extreme dieting and they never receive or seek the help they need to live fuller lives and once and for all
develop a healthy relationship with food. As a nutrition therapist /registered dietitian, I agree with you not only on the fact that recovery from an eating disorder is possible, but also with your point about the work that a person does on their path toward
healing leads them to develop healthy attitudes about eating, calories, the number on the scale and appreciating the body they were blessed with that they would otherwise quite possibly never have developed!
@Sunny- thank you so much for your thoughts. It’s so inspiring hear stories of people who consider themselves recovered and it a great place with food and their bodies. @Monica- I”m excited to know I’m not the only RD that thinks and believes this! It’s
cool well you get to witness these amazing transformations in other people’s lives.
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