Eating disorders are… really bloody complicated. So complicated that it can be quite a scary topic to write about or even talk about, but you know what? We need to talk about it more.
After watching Louis Theroux’s recent documentary on anorexia, I saw more than ever that only part of the story is being told. To be honest, while I love Louis, I had some issues with the documentary, most of which are explained eloquently in this article.
One thing I noticed in the documentary that wasn’t picked up in the article was the lack of hope. It set a very scary scene, saying average recovery time is 7 years, which may be statistically true, but isn’t necessarily how long it takes to recover. There were no discussions with people who had recovered and you were left believing that, basically, there isn’t much hope.
As someone who has recovered, fully, from anorexia – I know this isn’t true and I would hate to think anyone watching that documentary believed there was no hope.
There is hope. Recovery is entirely possible.
Yes, eating disorders are serious and life threatening for some, but they are different for everyone. Early intervention is so so important. The earlier you catch it, realise you need help and reach out, the better your chances of full recovery.
Of course, due to the nature of eating disorders, this is far easier said than done. You become an expert in lying, both to others and yourself. The important thing to remember, wherever you are on your journey, is that there is always hope. And that your life will change when you recover. I promise.
So while I want to stress that I have no training in eating disorder support, I thought it might be helpful to write up a few things that helped me in my recovery. They won’t help everyone, we’re all different, but when it comes to eating disorders – anything is worth a shot.
Write a letter to your disorder
This was one of the first things I did in counselling that actually made an impact. I was asked to write a letter to my anorexia, telling it what I thought of it. It made the disorder tangible and separate from myself – and THAT is invaluable.
I wrote a letter and told the disorder that while I thought it was a part of me at first, I now knew it was something else that wanted to harm me. I wrote that I had been unhappy ever since it came into my life and that I didn’t want it around anymore.
Argue with the disorder
Many people say eating disorders are like voices in your head, telling you to act a certain way, to eat or not eat, to do harmful things. Once I fully accepted that I wanted to recover, I started arguing with the voice.
If it told me not to eat something, I would eat it. I basically did the opposite of what it said. If it told me I was ‘fat’, ‘hideous’ or ‘lazy’, I would argue back.
Now, this was not easy. After listening and believing the voice for so long it’s very difficult to go against its wishes. It is so much easier to give in. This is why eating disorder recovery takes strength, but it can be done. I used this tip again when I relapsed at university and it was all I needed to get back on track.
Find some helpful reading material
I became quite obsessed with reading books on anorexia recovery – I was always a bit of a perfectionist, so if I was going to recover, I was going to do it right! I read a couple of books about recovery and read lots of personal experiences. Knowing other people had got through it gave me hope, and there were lots of practical tips too.
My only word of advice here is to be careful with what you read. Try to avoid sensationalised articles with before and after pictures, those that include weights or explanations of disordered behaviour.
It’s very easy to feel competitive and get sucked back into old ways of thinking, so take care of yourself and look for positive and thoughtful stories.
If you’re reading this and struggling yourself, or you know someone who is struggling, I would really encourage you to reach out for more support – these sites are super helpful:
And know that there is a way out, it might not be easy, it might not be linear, but it is so worth it – YOU are worth it.
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