Being in recovery from an eating disorder isn’t a finite thing. There are days when the disordered thoughts may come rushing in, triggered by outside sources . There may be times where our body dysmorphia gets the upper hand and we can’t discern reality from our own delusion. There also may be times when we find ourselves in a relationship with someone who’s at the tipping point of their own eating disorder. Typically, these types of circumstances are not emotionally safe, but in many ways, they provide opportunities to engage in the practice of self-care: Ask for help, and whenever possible, walk away.
Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors are tricky: the risk of sliding is always there, because, well, we HAVE to eat. Our bodies require the fuel, the love, and the dedicated care that feeding ourselves provides. But even in recovery with days, months, or even years of abstinence, there may be some rough days where we may get off track. The trick there is, do you have enough tools in your recovery tool box to ask for help and stop ED in its tracks?
Recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating is a process. It’s an exercise in letting go of control and learning to trust those in your circle of support instead of the distorted voices of irrationality. You may find that the practice of self-care will be the pièce de résistance in your recovery. Eventually, we discover that we are eating because we are being kind to ourselves. We are eating because we deserve to be healthy. When we feed ourselves, we are taking care of this incredible body that we get to hang out in.
Here are some ways to practice healthy self care (adapted from this list from NEDA):
- Remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. There is not “right” way to look.
- Celebrate all of the amazing things your body can do, like: breathe, run, jump, laugh, dream!
- Keep a top 10 list of things you like about yourself that are NOT related to the way you look or how much you weigh.
- Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. .
- Use positive affirmations when the negative internal tapes start playing. You can even place post-its with positive affirmations on them in strategic places: like on your mirrors!
- Wear clothes that are comfortable. In other words, work with your body, not against it.
- Take care of yourself: get a manicure, go on a hike, take a bubble bath, read a good book.
- Schedule some “do nothing” time so you can recharge.
- Be mindful of your media intake and the messages you receive. Pay attention to messages that make you feel bad about yourself. Say something and maybe you can effect some change!
- Be of service. Helping others gets us out of ourselves and into service. This is another way to make some positive changes.
As we continue down this path of recovery, our care for ourselves will allow us to care for those around us. We are so much more than our outsides.
“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross