Anorexia recovery is an uphill struggle; let me tell you why it’s worth it:
‘Skinny’ doesn’t always feel good
Most eating disorders are usually a product of other mental health issues, or of something else going on in your life. For many anorexia sufferers, a bad break up or an anxiety attack or any number of other negative circumstances can make them feel out of control. So, what do they do? Focus on things they can control. Namely: what they eat. Anorexia Nervosa is most commonly caused by negative mental health or a preoccupation with body image (over-exposure to social media and toxic body ideals can have a huge impact) and sufferers often think that restricting what they eat or being ‘skinny’ will make them feel better.
But the thing is – it doesn’t help. There’s a reason why the spiral runs out of control. No matter how far you take it, you’re never satisfied. And aside from the damaged hair, headaches, bad skin, tiredness and muscle atrophy (wasting away,) the problem you were trying to manage in the first place is still there. Probably worse than ever. Skinny for the wrong reasons never feels good, but there are things you can do to break the cycle.
Recovery isn’t a straight line
If I could give you a miracle fix I’d do it in a heartbeat. But, sadly I don’t think there is one (at least not that I’ve found). The truth is that recovery really isn’t a straight line. It’s difficult and desperate and sometimes downright ugly. But, as hard as it is to believe, there really is light at the end of the tunnel.
Overcoming your eating disorder is the hardest thing you’re probably ever going to do. You’ll have days where you ‘fall off the wagon’ or days when you think you can’t cope. Months later there will still be moments when you’re tempted to give in. But no matter how much you’re sure you don’t have the willpower to overcome it, I promise you do. The key is to start small, and not to do it alone. Eating three meals a day, no matter how small, gives you the control and structure you’re used to whilst making sure your body is getting enough nourishment. And telling a friend what you’re doing will ensure someone else is there to make sure you see it through.
Oh, and do me a favour and unfollow all those Instagram influencers I guarantee are clogging up your feed trying to sell you detox tea. They’re disgusting. End of.
It can feel really confusing
When you start to come out on the other side it’s going to feel strange. What do you do without all the boundaries you’d built up thinking they kept you safe? (Spoiler alert: they didn’t.) Eating a healthy amount is probably going to feel weird and wrong for a while. You’ll be confused as to what ‘wrong’ even means. “Can I go to the gym or is that trying to lose weight?” “If I eat a salad instead of carbs is that just a slippery slope?” These are all totally normal thoughts and, again, there’s no quick fix. But eventually a pattern will start forming and you’ll get used to feeling like you again.
Bettering your relationship with food doesn’t mean you suddenly have to start gorging on everything you see and neither does it mean you can’t still try to stay in shape. In fact, its better that you do. During recovery, re-building the muscle mass you’ve lost with gentle exercise is vital. It’s just important to remember you’re doing it for the right reasons. Now, I’m a vegetarian because its a healthier lifestyle choice, I go for a run every morning because it helps my mental health. Not because I’m restricting myself or trying to stay ‘skinny-‘ I still enjoy a Chinese takeaway occasionally, too.
But it’s worth it in the end
It won’t happen straight away. It’s an uphill struggle and for a long time you won’t like it. But once you get to the top you’ll see its worth it. Slowly but surely, the colour will come back to your face. You’ll feel stronger and more confident and you’ll stop being so hungry. I’m not promising that anorexia recovery will fix the problem that started it in the first place. But I do promise it will make you feel better able to deal with it. And I promise the pride you have in yourself for changing your situation is a thousand times better than striving to be ‘skinny.’ Believe it or not, these days food actually makes me feel better, and it can help you, too.
You can read more advice on tackling eating disorders here.