Each individual has a slightly different version of eating disorder recovery. I am often asked (mostly by parents of people with Anorexia) what I mean when I say I am recovered, and what that actually looks like.
What is the difference between recovered and cured? Is one ever cured from an eating disorder such as Anorexia Nervosa?
I’d say no. Anorexia is a disorder with a genetic base, so I think that in order to “cure” me from it, you would have to cut off my head and start again. Never say never however—as the way that medical science is going, maybe we’ll be able to change the genetic makeup of a person one day. Either way, I’m not up for trying that. Genes can be switched on and off by the environment, so what this means for me, is that each day I am actively making checks to switch my Anorexia off.
To explain: My eating disorder is a bit like an app that is active in the background on my phone that will crash my phone if I open it. Trouble is, this is an app I can never delete. As long as I don’t open it up, it won’t do anything much, but it is always there draining a bit of my battery and waiting for an opportunity to go into full screen mode. It is also an app that is very well marketed, and everyone is talking about it (i.e. the constant focus that society has on weight and food). Every day, it is an app that sends me a Push notification telling me to open it for some reason or another. Regardless, whatever I do, I must not allow myself to be tempted to open that app!
Recovered? For sure! I’m very happily recovered. I’m alive. I’m a good weight. I can eat anything.
But does that mean that I no longer have Anorexia? No.
I am very aware that I am recovered but not cured, and that my eating disorder could still affect me if I let it. I have no intention of ever letting Anorexia affect me, but I do think that it is important that I am aware that it could because this way I never let my guard down.
Here’s what Anorexia recovery looks like for me:
- I eat. I love to eat. However, I never eat in silence—Anorexia is always there in the background.
- I eat very regularly. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. Maybe some more snacks in between the snacks. This is very essential to keep that Anorexia switched off.
- I ignore. I am so used to my eating disorder having a ghost-like presence in my life that I am a pro at ignoring it—for the most part. There are times and situations where this is harder, so the more I am aware of when and what my weak spots are the better I am at preparing for them.
- I monitor my exercise. There is not a day that goes by that I am not overriding the urge to work out for six hours. This is why having a strict gym routine is essential for me—strict in the sense that I am not allowed to spend hours in there. I work out for 45 mins every weekday morning, and/or I do yoga, or I walk the dogs. My eating disorder wants me to do so much more than that. I’ll admit this is the hardest part for me on a daily basis, and my tendency to exercise too much is something I am still actively working out (pun intended) how to overcome.
- In times of stress, I have to try extra hard not to lose weight. I’m super highly strung, and my metabolism is naturally fast. When I am stressed I rev up like a McLaren before a checkered flag. I have to be ultra strict with myself when I am stressed and make sure that I eat more than usual.
- In times of happiness, I have to try extra hard not to lose weight. When I am happy, I relax. When I relax, I drop my guard and am more likely to not be as strict with myself about how much I work out.
- When I am tired I’m more susceptible. For obvious reasons. It takes energy to do anything—including blocking an eating disorder.
- I weigh myself regularly. Yup, this is a controversial one for sure. But weighing myself to check that I have not lost any weight has been a game changer for me. I’ll explain this in detail in another post.
- I challenge myself to eat foods that my eating disorder doesn’t like. Example: my taste buds love bacon/cheese/cream/peanut butter, but Anorexia hates it. I make sure I eat something Anorexia hates at every meal. (That’s not hard, because it hates just about anything with fat in.)
The point I am trying to make here, is that Anorexia is still in me and always will be. It’s like water trying to seep into a crack and I have to check all those cracks every single day to make sure they are watertight.
I think this is why it irks me so when people tell me Anorexia is about “control.” It isn’t. Anorexia is about being utterly out of control and being overtaken by a disease.
For me, it is Anorexia recovery that is about control.