How Does One Ever Fully Recover from an Eating Disorder?

By November 8, 2012

I just came across your site, and I just want to see if you can give me any kind of advice. I’m 19 I live in Australia and I have been “disordered” for as long as I can remember. I guess I have in the past gone through phases of anorexia, bulimia, compulsive over eating over exercising and chronic dieting. Basically I’ve done it all! However right now, and the past year have been the worst. I’ve been in a constant merry-go-round of starvation, bingeing/purging. My Dr.’s and psychiatrist say that I am very underweight (BMI of about **) and if I lose any more I will be hospitalized. Which is something I really don’t want to go through. I’m on Potassium Supplements from my Dr. and get regular blood tests to monitor my levels. My menstrual cycle has stopped. I see my psychiatrist twice a week and that has helped somewhat with my depression and figuring out how this all started, but as far as the Eating Disorder I feel it’s getting worse. I know the Dr.’s can only do so much and the rest is up to me, but I’m really not strong enough. I don’t even really feel as if this is happening to me. I just feel so incredibly lost and helpless. How does one ever really fully recover from an eating disorder that has such a massive impact on my entire life? If you can give me any words of wisdom or help, it would be muchly appreciated. – anonymous

Dear anonymous,

I really hear that you are tired, feeling lost and helpless. Miles and miles away I hear the cry of your heart and mind. I can not tell you exactly how any one person ever “fully recovers from an eating disorder” because each person truly has their own path. I want to think about the answer to your question in terms of a metaphor.

Imagine that you have a guest in your home, perhaps a relative, that is a bit “buggy.” You feel obligated or a sense of loyalty to put up with their behavior and not confront it in an active way because they are family. You allow that person to do things you would not necessarily do to others or allow others to do to you. You tell yourself to not make waves because they will not be there for long. This impacts your living, and every time they come, you wish you had told them no. But the cycle repeats itself. The good news is that despite the down times during the visit there are days that you are free from this visitor and have some level of enjoyment.

So, let’s imagine that your disordered eating, a long time visitor in your life, that is daring to control whether you live in a hospital or as an outpatient must realize you are actually the boss of it. What if you were to take a holiday from it? Maybe 1-2 days a week you claimed you were on holiday from it and its impact, what would you be doing? What are the first things someone else would notice about you that told them on those 1-2 days a week you were the boss of your living and it was not?

I don’t know that the goal is wise to kick out the disordered eating. My personal theory is that our disordered eating serves a purpose. It demands our energy, our time, our money, and keeps us from being the boss of our own lives. It can be overwhelming to begin by thinking in terms of kicking it out of your life permanently. Begin by maintaining your medical supervision, your therapeutic supervision, and dare to ask yourself how you can become the boss of when it (the disordered eating) is out or on holiday.

Do not give up your battle to live healthy even when inside is a part of you that wants to boss all of you around and force you to either choose indulging or overly restricting. You can find a way to deal with disordered eating being a coping mechanism that you are prone to without having to give in to it or not live until it is completely eradicated. Of course, the more you get used to kicking it out on holiday, the more you’ll be able to cope with the idea of getting rid of it entirely.

Please write back and update us about how things are going with you becoming the boss of your disordered eating and taking a holiday from it.


Leanne Spencer