Giving Up On A Perfect Recovery Actually Helped Me Heal From My Eating Disorder

More than a decade of my life, from my early teens to early 20s, was largely defined by my obsessive food and body rituals. I counted calories so closely that I eventually stopped needing to track them, running a list in my mind as I measured out tiny portions. I refused to visit friends in other cities, worried about when and how I would exercise. I starved myself most of the day and ate mindlessly at night, beat myself up for it, then started the cycle all over again the next day.

For years, my eating disorder gave me a sense of control, made me feel safe and strong. And then it started to eat away at my life.

More than a decade of my life, from my early teens to early 20s, was largely defined by my obsessive food and body rituals. I counted calories so closely that I eventually stopped needing to track them, running a list in my mind as I measured out tiny portions. I refused to visit friends in other cities, worried about when and how I would exercise. I starved myself most of the day and ate mindlessly at night, beat myself up for it, then started the cycle all over again the next day.

For years, my eating disorder gave me a sense of control, made me feel safe and strong. And then it started to eat away at my life.

I got help only when I was in enough pain to really want it. About 18 months after I injured my hip, I finally sought treatment for my eating disorder.

In eating disorder spaces, some experts talk about recovery in the past tense. Many studies have aimed to clinically define what being “recovered” from an eating disorder really means, looking at a combination of physical, behavioral, and psychological indicators. (Notably, one study found that a group considered “fully recovered” had similar results to a control group, but elevated rates of anxiety disorders.)

Carolyn Costin, a pioneering eating disorder therapist, defined being recovered from an eating disorder as “when the person can accept his or her natural body size and shape and no longer has a self-destructive or unnatural relationship with food or exercise.”

I used to think of recovery as a peak I would reach, after which point I would never have to think about any of this food bullshit ever again. But I have started to feel more like recovery is a cyclical state, with seasons that mirror nature’s own. Two years into the pandemic, I’m riding the recovery loop again, this time with just enough experience to recognize this shifting form of my recovery for what it is: not a failing, but a deepening and a widening. I have a community of other people in recovery and the support of professionals to help me catch myself before I fall too far, and I now know that eating disorders aren’t creative — I can see the signs that I need help more clearly now. But strangely, I’ve begun to feel that giving up my idea of a perfect recovery has been the most helpful piece of all.

Excerpted from “Giving Up On A Perfect Recovery Actually Helped Me Heal From My Eating Disorder” in Buzzfeed News. Read the full article by Addy Baird for a first-hand account of her experience with disordered eating and recovery.

If you’re dealing with an eating disorder and need someone to talk to, the National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.

Source: Buzzfeed News | Giving Up On A Perfect Recovery Actually Helped Me Heal From My Eating Disorder, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/addybaird/eating-disorder-recovery-definition | © 2022, Buzzfeed, Inc.

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