Eating Disorder Recovery

Eating Disorder Recovery: What that looks like for me now 16


Eating Disorder Recovery

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:

  1. I eat. I love to eat. However, I never eat in silence—Anorexia is always there in the background.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. When I am tired I’m more susceptible. For obvious reasons. It takes energy to do anything—including blocking an eating disorder.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

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About Tabitha Farrar

I work as Head of Marketing for a software startup in Boulder. As a recovered Anorexia sufferer, I advocate for proper understanding of eating disorders in my spare time. On that note, I wrote a book about my own journey into eating again called Love Fat.


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16 thoughts on “Eating Disorder Recovery: What that looks like for me now

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for posting, Tabitha. I am the mom of a daughter (grown-up) with anorexia. The things you listed you do to keep things in check are interesting.

  • Daria Tarrant

    Hi Tabitha,
    I wish I was as brave as you and could openly write about my eating disorder like that. ED still plays a BIG role in my life though and its getting harder for me as my 16 year old son is now seeing my eating habits and commenting on them. I’ve had onset at 19 and its been a rough road ever since.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Daria

      Thank you, and I am glad that this post could be some support to you.

      I think that we adult sufferers certainly have a hard time due to lack of support and adequate treatment. We also don’t “have” to do what anyone says, so it is harder for those who are trying to support us to be as affective as they might have been with a younger sufferer. The longer that ED goes on the more entrenched it becomes for sure, but all that aside I am hear to tell you that recovery and a happy, “normal” life is achievable for every one of us. It sounds like you are doing well, but that there are still some things that you are struggling with. It’s important that you keep challenging yourself to overcome. I know that you can!

  • My

    Best thing about anorexia that I have ever read. I got ill a few years ago and I am not considering myself “recovered”, even though my anorexia still takes up lots of time and effort. This has often made me feel bad as I feel like I’m not “trying enough” and that I should be “fine already” which is not what recovery is about. <3

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Totally.

      I don’t think that I will ever be totally recovered because Anorexia is in my genes. I will not, however, allow it to become active again, and that is as good as it gets!

  • Rachael

    Hi Tabitha,
    My name is Rachael. I am 33, Australian and currently in the recovery stages of anorexia. I am experiencing that “fat tummy” thing at the moment and really struggling with it. I am determined however, to beat this freakin’ disease. Your posts are such an inspiration to me. You are obviously still active and health conscious but not restricting. This is what I hope to achieve also. Thanks for sharing your experiences. It helps us fellow sufferers. I want to buy your book. I think I would enjoy it.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Rachael

      That makes me so happy! Thank you.

      If I can beat this disease then anyone can. I was really really sucked in by it for a very long time. I think my book would be helpful to you as I was an adult sufferer (onset 17 years old) and it really is different for us—but that you can do it!

  • Kathy

    I totally disagree with with a lot of what you have written. Is one ever cured from an eating disorder such as Anorexia Nervosa? I say yes, yes & yes! I know many people that are that I have been in ED programs with long ago.( I’m saying 20 years ago.) They have been fully recovered for a long time & have never looked back. Plus I know 2 woman who were both ED directors of the same hospital at different time that are fully recovered when they were the directors & still are. There is so much controversy over this issue. of can you be fully recovered or cured of an eating disorder. I also disagree with a lot of you wrote your what Anorexia recovery looks like for me.
    1) I eat. I love to eat. However, I never eat in silence—Anorexia is always there in the background. Uh, For me that is not the case. I do eat in silence. My past history of anorexia is NOT in the background. I don’t have an ED voice anymore. I haven’t since 2007.
    8) 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. UH, totally disagree on this one. I only weight myself the morning that I am going to my PCP’s office which is once a year. Now because og Pelvic floor Dysfunction issues I have been weight myself because i have lost weight NOT because of anorexia but because of ongoing GI issues that have been going on for a number of years.
    9) 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.) UH, again. Totally disagree 150 %. I don’t have to challenge myself at all because I don’t fear food. I love tuna melts so I make one. I love baby back ribs so I order them when I go out to eat. I don’t fear fat. WE need fat. We need food. Food=energy. Enegy that we need to live & to do things each day. If You don’t publish this I will understand. I just wanted you to know that being fuly recovered & cured IS POSSIBLE!!! I am living proof.

    • Anon adult sufferer in weight restoration phase

      I think this subject raises lots of interest because it’s subjective. As an adult sufferer who has probably had disordered eating behaviour for over a decade, I really hope my weight restoration is the start of my recovery being one I intend to uphold this time. I think I have played at it over the years and it’s only now, recognising my triggers, that make me understand how I became trapped by this illness. Like Tabitha, I think I will always need to be aware of my weak spots, but I hopefully will be able to say I’m recovered fully and can have a healthy relationship with food in the future because that will not be what will make me happy. Only now, recognising things I have felt and admitting to my insecurities, knowing I’ll have to deal with them when enough weight goes on to use methods that will work, can I look for the structure to build on. I truly believe your triggers and personal circumstances define whether you can be 100% recovered or whether you are going yo feel susceptible in the future.

  • Adult anon

    How did you get to eat the fear stuff? Do you have a sweet tooth for instance?
    I am doing the six meal thing, breakfast, snack, …..but find it difficult relaxing to have the more calorific cake or the extra biscuit. I’ll have an icecream bug only on a certain day. That’s not fixed, is it?
    What is a regular daily recovered diet like for you, if you don’t mind sharing. It’s good to be able to see, compare, flash into recognition that I may be battling but need yo punch harder!
    I’ve just been away for a holiday and its triggered a kind of inward attitude to eating. I’ve eaten but sort of restricted. Now back, I’ve been keen to fight that big harder. Any yips or sharing a meal plan would be great.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      So, I don’t really stick to anything in particular food – wise, in fact I try my best to mix it up. But I do stick to the 3 meals and 3 snacks minimum. Snacks are often cheese, greek yoghurt (NEVER low-fat, only full fat) and I love things like Clif bars and protein bars, or good old chocolate. I do love ice cream too and eat that after dinner practically every day. Oh, and peanut butter!

      Meals, are often egg-based as I have chickens, and cheese because I love it so much. I eat anything, so all types of meat too. I don’t limit anything and the only food that I don’t eat is low fat versions of things. But this is me years into full recovery now. i know that initially it is not was, but you simply have to keep challenging yourself. If the ED voice says not to eat it the chances are that you should eat it!

      I know that holidays can mess things up, but fight that ED voice!

      • Adult anon

        Thank you. I think there’ll be lots of adults like me who may be trying, succeeding at times or finding it hard for whatever reason. I think hearing it as it is is so important and getting an idea of foods and thoughts about them from people who really understands helps so much. I hardly eat low fat now but I do limit. I stopped the low fat stuff after reading your book. But there have been the soft cheese slip ups occasionally. I have a way to go so I’m grateful for your help.
        I know your words need to reach a lot of sufferers, particularly the ones that look like they’re OK. The ones who might be in a normal bmi but are binging, purging or daily being emotionally challenged by their thoughts around food. The invisible ones.
        Thanks for your speedy reply and I hope if anyone out there, who, like me, an adult sufferer with daily challenges but trying or in need of eating more and in hope, will see that there is the chance to improve. Take that step. Keep going even with the slip ups.