recovering from anorexia: a treasure trove of wisdom

last year, i had a post entitled recovering from anorexia: 10 activities. over the months, we’ve had some important conversations on that post and a lot of wisdom from people who are overcoming anorexia. i’d like to present this wisdom here in a somewhat organized and easy-to-read format. these are all things that have helped people who are in recovery from anorexia. none of these ideas and activities were “invented” by a therapist – they’re all tried and true.

i’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to this so far. none of this was written by me – i’m just the person who gathered it all together.

1. constant reassurance- often when eating, i repeatedly ask those around me (parents, my partner) whether it is “okay” for me to be eating what i’m eating, whether it’s “okay” to gain the weight… i know what their answers will always be, but it helps to hear it repeated.
2. engaging in healthy relationships: a form of distraction, this makes me feel loved, special and takes my mind away from the negative thoughts.
3. honesty: when i have the strength to do this one, it does help… but it’s a matter of me not wanting to ‘burden’ people with my rubbish.
4. try not to get caught up in the social network around you if it entices unhealthy habits.
5. not isolating myself from loved ones, i.e. going out to dinner with them and truly enjoying the company and food too

getting in touch with your body
6. for me it’s been a discovery of what my body actually likes and wants. it’s matter of listening to yourself and feeling ok in your own flesh.
7. the best thing is to try to learn yourself- when you’re hungry- how long you should work out, etc.
8. working hard to have the mindset that i can trust my body to balance if i eat a little too much one day.

9. i also use to keep a post-it note on my desk that read “some things just aren’t worth it” and it would remind me when i wanted to restrict that i wasn’t hurting anyone but myself.
10. personal achievement- doing things like short courses and working really helps, i focus my energy on achieving something else other than weight-loss and see positive results at the end.
11. fortunately, my parents noticed my sudden “healthy” eating habits and got me a wonderful team of therapists to treat it. it takes your body a little boost to get out of that dangerous underweight range, so when it was taking a long time for me to gain weight they told me i might not be able to go back to college. i realized my school, friends, and life were more important than something as silly as calories in food and i just had to try harder, every meal eating more.

12. i know it always helps me when i have schedule- so if it helps to plan out what your eating or when you can eat in between studying, socializing and classes definitely do that.
13. it seems somewhat extreme but every night before bed i would plan out my next day on a post it note bit by bit, when i should eat lunch and dinner in between my five classes, gym time and meetings… it kept me sane even through the tough times that i knew i had a plan.
14. walking away from unhealthy eating: i’m not always good at this and do slip up and purge, etc. but walking away definitely does help at times.

writing and art
15. spending quiet time with your feelings: writing is a huge helper, art and music too. i would recommend any of these, almost above everything else, to people trying to recover.
16. writing does help but it feels pointless but good for me at the same time

self empowerment
17. i have taken things into my own hands and am doing much better than anyone thought possible.
18. find your own ways to cope. for me, it’s reading research articles through our school library on the long term effects of eating disorders. from my readings i have found that sure, you can take calcium pills, but they won’t do much if you’re deteriorating your body, which isn’t just fat. it’s muscle and bone too.

eating differently
19. sometimes i eat a lot in the day, sometimes i eat a little bit less…it all balances out. now that i’m nourishing myself extra i can exercise, but i take days off and just hang out with friends. i also eat something after i workout, i.e. fruit with peanut butter.
20. i also don’t drink coffee or diet soda to limit my appetite. in my research i found that the phosphoric acid (found in pop) and caffeine (found in coffee and usually pop too) are no no’s for bone health.

body image
21. i realized my worth is not a number on a jean take, especially such a small one. plus, curves are beautiful. it’s normal to have relapses in thinking, but you just need to keep eating normally. it’s so much better to prevent an eating disorder or prevent relapse.
22. it’s kind of nice feeling “above” the whole propaganda that thin is in. notice that most with people with eating disorders are women? hmm…i know with mine it was also a control thing, but i have to admit the media was a part of too.

understanding the disease
23. every time i want to restrict i look up research on the effects of eating disorders and osteoporosis (especially because i know i have that), ones that are credible. it scares me so much that i never skip a meal anymore because malnutrition is so harmful to the bones.
24. people with anorexia are bound to get cravings when they start eating, and chances are, they are going to last for quite some time.

made a decision
25. i too one day just decided that i was going to eat, because i wanted to get better and also because i love food so much.
26. it took me about two months to finally decide that i was sick of controlling every mouthful so one day i just decided to buy a huge box of chocolates after dinner one night and i finished the whole lot, enjoying every second of it. now that was a turning point. i began looking forward to my after-dinner treats, and now i eat a lot. i have just reached my minimum target weight, but i’ve yet to get my periods. so, that is my motivation to keep up my weight.

27. i also stay away from calorie counting or anything that would lead to me ocd about food.

be gentle with yourself
28. try to be gentle with yourself. know that there will be some nights where you should have ate more, or should have not eaten so much- and know that it takes time to get over this problem. know that if there is a time where you eat too much- it’s only a few minutes of your life, you aren’t a bad person, and forgive yourself and move on.

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