How to Fully Recover from Eating Disorder?

By August 23, 2012

I have struggled with an eating disorder for over 10 years. I went to therapy for a year and things improved significantly, and I continue to work on my recovery each day. Some days I feel like I am getting better and that it won’t always have a hold on me, and other days I feel hopeless and that I will have to live with an eating disorder forever. My question is, what do I have to do to fully recover? I already went through two treatment programs and have seen improvements, but I still have a few days each week that I have problems with purging. Besides that, I eat normally without restriction, lead a healthy lifestyle, and maintain a reasonable weight. I feel like I am ready to give up the eating disorder, but it continues to hang on against my will. Where do I go from here? I want to be complete, without an eating disorder. – PJ

Dear PJ,

I have read your letter several times. I felt as if I could “hear” you. I think this e-mail came from the bottom of your gut, and I believe you are so sincere and so despairing that you may never feel “complete” or “done”.

My first response is all joy when I read these things: that you felt significant improvement after one year of therapy, you actively work on your recovery every day, you can eat at times without restriction, you lead a healthy lifestyle, and maintain a reasonable weight. Congratulations! I am glad that you have windows of time where you are who you want to be. Free of self doubt and able to function and live. I wish for you that you rise every day and speak these words: “Today, I want to live. I want to live.”

Why do I offer that statement? Because what I also read and feel as if I “hear” in your message is fear. This process, this disorder, this recovery has served a purpose in your life. I wonder if as much as you want to be free, the idea of “trusting” you are finished with purging is too scary. It is like a security blanket. A familiar and comforting action.

You question what you have to do to fully recover and my thought is that there is no final destination in life. We are always growing and any struggle (alcoholism, eating disorders, cancer) puts us on the process of personal growth and transformation. Do not become fixated on achieving recovery. There is no conventional standard for measuring when an eating disorder “leaves” or will no longer be triggered.

Answer the following questions for yourself:

When I am done with occasional purging, I will be _________.

The very first and smallest clue that I am despairing less and less is that I __________.

The person who would notice first that I am despairing less and less and living fully is ___________.

When the eating disorder is no longer “hanging on” like it does, I will be _______.

Finally, consider this or your own version of a personal mantra:

I will measure my recovery by how often I am kind to myself and others, forgiving of myself and others, able to bring hope and joy to myself when I am in the despairing phase, and will live in to my future where nothing has control over me without my full consent.

After ten years of awareness of an eating disorder, treatment and therapy you have the skills, heart, and tenacity to go get your life. Utilize the above questions and personal mantra statement to put together your living plan. It is not a recovery/goal sheet. It is a living plan. Godspeed and grace to you.