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If we want to recover from an eating disorder we have to make a choice.
Our recovery is 100% our responsibility.
We can either hold on to some of our behaviors and thought patterns or we can let go fully and completely and move into recovery.
We cannot go half way and consider ourselves truly recovered.
To be fully recovered we must commit to healing on every level.
Physical recovery is paramount, as it is impossible to do the deep mental, emotional and spiritual work needed to recover if we are starving or are in anyway impaired as a result of altering our brain or body chemistry by purging, abusing diet drugs, taking laxatives or over exercising.
Restoring weight and creating a healthy physical body is obviously important, but it is only just the beginning.
Not everyone wants to be fully recovered.
If one wants to stop at physical recovery it is a real option, but be clear that a choice is being made. Perhaps it is an unconscious choice, or one that we would rather not admit to making on some level. But it is a choice.
Staying in a place of partial recovery is like building a house on sand. It may stay for a while, but the chances of the foundation crumbling under pressure is high. What do we expect to happen when the metaphorical storms of life happen?
If full recovery is desired, know that it is possible.
Physical recovery comes first, but then we must address the thoughts and emotions. Not just the thoughts about food and body image, but the habitual thoughts and perceptions about everything.
We must get to the core of our beings and see ourselves as the beautiful souls that we are.
Get in touch with our feelings.
If guilt, shame, fear or uncertainty are clouding that view, they must be addressed.
It is hard work. It is deeply human work.
Fear, shame, guilt and confusion are not exclusive to people suffering or recovering from eating disorder. Every human being experiences them.
These feelings do not make us special. Each of us has a unique way of experiencing them, acknowledging them, deeply feeling them and choosing to heal. They are not a free pass to choose to stay stuck.
We are each responsible and capable of finding our ideal path to full recovery happen. Perhaps it will be a traditional one. Perhaps not.
Regardless of what path we choose, it is necessary to commit to stopping all eating disordered behaviors and find support.
We must find a therapist or treatment professional that can be trusted. If trust is hard, we must open to the idea of potentially trusting them.
It is supremely helpful to find a way of connecting the mind and body that feels nurturing.
Yoga was my path back into my body. I know many others who find asana practice helpful. Some of us have benefitted greatly from experiencing our bodies while surfing, hiking, biking or Nia dancing.
Learning to find joy in the body is an amazing experience after a long time of distrust and disembodiment. I hope that everyone in recovery can feel it someday.
The process of learning to distinguish the eating disordered voice from the voice of intuition will likely have ups and downs.
Especially in regards to movement, but keep tuning in more deeply and it will start to become clear which thoughts are creating freedom and which ones are stoking the eating disorder.
The missing link for many of us in recovery is a connection to spirituality.
In my experience prayer and meditation were, and still are, key. Yoga and Buddhism resonate with me and feel like my spiritual homebase.
In the past I found bits and pieces of 12 step programs helpful. I leaned into my original religion for a while. I read a 1,000,001 spiritual books and took college courses on philosophy and religion. All of it was vital for me in finding my connection to something larger than myself.
We must be careful not to spiritualize our eating disordered tendencies though. Fasting and cleansing and be masked as holy practices, sacrifices or rituals, and for someone in recovery from an eating disorder that is a confusing black hole that is best avoided.
Not participating in such practices does not make us any less committed to the spiritual path we choose.
There is a plan to get to physical recovery.
Eat a healthy amount of food and keep it in the body until it digests and naturally passes as waste. Exercise in a way that creates health in the body instead of harm. Stop all eating disordered behaviors.
Unfortunately, some of the physical damage, caused by eating disorders, are permanent. Find a medical team that understands eating disorder recovery and get a full check up. See them as often as they suggest.
There is no set timetable for getting to a place that is considered full recovery. It is up to each of us to go all the way.
That process can be as shallow or as deep as we choose.
It is up to us.
It is a choice.
Let’s go all the way.
Author: Katie Ashley
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: courtesy of the author