Recovery is Possible!

4 Keys to Lasting Recovery from an Eating Disorder

Each person’s journey to recovery is unique, especially when it comes to making peace with your body image and how you feel in your body. For me, this process took years. Achieving true freedom and living a recovered life requires a commitment to continually work on yourself, take care of yourself, and practice what helps you feel grounded and hopeful. Recovery from an eating disorder is not a task you can check off your list as done; it is a new way of thinking, being, and living. This is why it is important to understand four keys that will help you live a recovered life.



  • Resilience in Recovery from an Eating Disorder

Building your resilience muscle is crucial in the pursuit of a continuous recovery from an eating disorder. Resilience is your ability to recover quickly from difficulties and overcome hurdles. This involves challenging cognitive distortions, coping with and processing uncomfortable emotions, and reaching out to others instead of returning to disordered eating behaviors.


One of the best ways to build resilience is to lean into your memory. When your critical mind takes over, when anxiety rises, or when doubt and worry creep in, remember a time, event, or situation in which you overcame something you thought was impossible. Remember what helped you get through it. Remembering what you have already overcome can reassure you that you can handle the next obstacle too.


You can also build resilience by planning and preparing ahead of time. Visualization is one way to do this. Additionally, intentionally taking extra care of yourself when you know a life transition is coming or when you are in the midst of one can be very beneficial.


It’s essential to stay tuned into your personal alarm system to keep your resilience strong. This can sound like, “I don’t feel comfortable in my body.” That thought is your signal that something is off and needs attention. And that something isn’t restricting, binging, purging, over-exercising, or taking it out on your body in any other way.



  • Practicing Non-Attachment to Your Body

This concept of non-attachment can be difficult to grasp initially. Many people assume it means not caring, giving up, or being complacent. However, it means accepting the things you cannot change, letting go of the past, and being open-minded to the future.


How do we apply this principle to our bodies and body image? By first recognizing that your body is not awful; it is your thoughts about your body that cause the problems. It is your resistance and emotional reaction to your body that are the root of your distress, which then lead to disordered behaviors. You can change your experience and even find happiness by accepting your body rather than resisting it. Yes, you must lay down the need to control and manage your body. Care for your body, sure, but not control it. There is a difference.


Imagine, just for a minute, what life would be like if you could accept your body’s natural healthy size and shape. Often, clients tell me early in their recovery that they cannot accept their natural body because they fear it will make them feel worse about themselves. I always ask, how do you know that is true? Have you tried it? The answer is always the same: “I don’t know and haven’t tried, but I am scared.” It is okay to be scared. I was too. But do it anyway.


In addition, you are not your body. You are a soul who lives in your body. Your body is your home while in this world. When you see your body as separate from who you really are, accepting the body you have been given can become easier. You can then prioritize what is truly meaningful while trying to care for your body the best you can. You will naturally choose to incorporate practices that bring you real happiness and inner peace.



  • Support Systems in Recovery from an Eating Disorder

Your support system is essential. You need people; we are not meant to be all alone. At least having one person you can trust can make a mammoth difference in your life. If you do not feel you have this, one of your missions is to seek it out. This may mean challenging yourself in a new way socially, but it is necessary to meet new people.


One way to build your support system is to join groups or attend events where people come together with a common interest. Then, try to meet at least one person and connect. Having a common interest makes it easier to strike up a conversation. If you are a fellow believer, finding a church home and serving can be truly beneficial.


In addition to building a support system, if you ever need help, there is no shame in seeking out a professional. There are various professionals, approaches, and philosophies, but most of all, look for someone you feel you can connect with. The relational piece in and of itself is healing.



  • Purpose and Passion in Recovery

Two questions that most people ponder at some point are, “Why am I here?” and “What is the purpose of my life?” These are certainly huge questions. There have been countless books written, plenty of media created, and many speakers, professionals, leaders, pastors, teachers, and more, all attempting to answer these questions and provide guidance. I urge you to pay attention to whom and what you feel naturally drawn to when exploring this path, while checking in with yourself to ensure a positive motive is driving you.


The Cambridge Dictionary defines purpose as: *why you do something or why something exists*. In one of my favorite books, *The Purpose Driven Life*, Rick Warren states: “Your life is not an accident. Everyone’s life has a purpose.”


I have had so many clients truly break free of their eating disorder once they found passion and purpose in their life. Often when we talk about purpose, we can start to think we need to pinpoint something grandiose. We live in a time where it seems our purpose needs to be worthy of lots of Instagram followers. That is just not true! We are most fulfilled by things that cannot be seen, and in which we add value. Many times, our answer is simply found in how we care, serve, and impact others, and in our innate gifts and strengths.


  • Helping Others with Their Purpose

Purpose can evolve and change in your life too, so it is not stagnant, nor is it just one thing set in stone. Today, my purpose is helping others, like you, recover. Loving those who are the most important to me, and mostly, serving and making God proud. Once you identify your purpose, passion follows. And with passion comes creativity, energy, and action, leaving no room or time to go back to your eating disorder.


It can also be helpful to take some of the best personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram, to identify your strengths. Your childhood also holds keys to understanding your passions and purposes.


Remember, your journey to recovery is unique, and by embracing these keys—resilience, non-attachment to your body, support systems, and purpose and passion—you can find a path to lasting recovery from an eating disorder.


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