5 Things You Will Learn in Eating Disorder Recovery
Eating disorders (or disordered eating) have historically been associated with significant amounts of stigma and misconceptions. Despite the opinions of some, eating disorders are not something one “chooses” or something that is “in their head.” Eating disorders are real illnesses that impact the lives of millions across the nation. Eating disorders know no boundaries and are not restrained to specific demographics.
They affect people of every race, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, background, and economic status. According to data provided by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), eating disorders impact at least nine percent of the population worldwide. In the United States, approximately ten percent of Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illness (second only to opioid and overdose) and are responsible for taking the lives of over ten thousand Americans each year.
That averages out to approximately one death every 52 minutes that is directly attributed to disordered eating. Also, over twenty-five percent of those diagnosed with an eating disorder will attempt suicide. Unfortunately, of the millions who struggle with disordered eating, only a small percentage will seek treatment.
Eating Disorders and Recovery
With proper treatment and diagnosis, sixty percent of people with an eating disorder will make a full recovery. Without appropriate diagnosis and treatment, the complications those with disordered eating experience can be long-lasting and, in some cases, fatal. Treatment for disordered eating is most successful when intervention occurs early before many of the potential physical and medical side effects associated with disordered eating begin to have an adverse impact on the individual’s health. The road to recovery (and the path once you achieve recovery) is not always easy. There are many things to be learned along the way.
Recovery Is Not Quick
As the saying goes, “patience is a virtue” or “the best things come to those who wait.” Whichever your phrase of choice, it is essential to remember that recovery from disordered eating (as with many mental health conditions) takes time. It is essential to allow yourself the time to learn about your illness and how to manage it in a safe and healthy way. For many, treatment in a mental health treatment program is the first and most essential step towards recovery. In a program like Meadowglade, our staff will help provide a safe environment where you can explore the roots of disordered eating. In therapy, you will learn new and healthy coping skills to help manage triggers. But most importantly, in therapy, you will learn how to recover. All of these are pieces to the puzzle, but it is not a puzzle built quickly and without regard to your unique treatment needs. Each person recovers from illness at differing rates. It is essential to allow yourself the time you need to achieve recovery.
Have A Support Person (Or People)
During recovery, it is essential to have a strong support group you can turn to when you need a little extra support. This can help ensure you remain safe when feeling triggered or provide you with an outlet for someone to talk to when times are hard or you feel stuck. There will be times during recovery when you are faced with situations that are difficult. For example, family dinners, business outings, or traveling. Having a support person or people can help you stick to your eating plan, help determine healthy (accurate) portion sizes, and encourage you to follow recovery-based skills and behaviors. Your support person can also help navigate uncomfortable conversations or comments about dieting, eating, appearance, or other possibly triggering topics when they inevitably arise. If you do not have access to a healthy support person or team, reach out to your therapist at Meadowglade or perhaps a support group member from a weekly support group meeting you attend as part of your aftercare plan.
Ongoing Self-care and Stress Management Are Essential
During therapy, you will learn and practice self-care and stress management techniques. Using these as a means to reduce the impact of triggers and challenges to your recovery does not stop upon returning home from treatment. It is essential to continue integrating these lessons into your recovery routines. Stress can and will continue to have a significant impact on recovery and can lead to destructive mental and behavioral patterns that put you at risk for relapse. One of the best ways to manage stress is to practice self-care. It is important to choose an activity or practice that helps you feel grounded and removes emotions related to triggers. This may be something you learned during treatment, a technique you developed during recovery, or something a peer introduced you to in a support group meeting. Self-care looks different for everyone and should occur when you need it most. Self-care also means allowing yourself grace and reducing negative self-talk, which can happen during times of stress. What works best for you may not work for others, and that is OK. Regardless of your method, choose what is most effective and practice as often as possible to help reduce stress.
Recovery Means Giving Yourself Permission (And Forgiveness)
It is essential to give yourself permission to recover. Friends, family, and loved ones cannot do this for you. You are the only one who can permit yourself to take a day off from exercise or to have a slice of pizza. You need to find the strength to give yourself permission to do what recovery looks like for you. It is OK to grant yourself the permission you will not find anywhere else. On the same topic, it is essential to give yourself forgiveness.
Recovery is not a straight path. You will have slips, missteps, and challenges to your recovery along the way. To continue a safe, healthy, and successful recovery, it is essential to allow yourself forgiveness and the space to learn and grow from adversity and challenges.
Understanding Your Triggers is Essential
A key factor in maintaining recovery is understanding your triggers and how they affect your emotions and behaviors related to food. Triggers are those events, situations, and even people that are most likely to lead you to relapse. If you find specific situations, people, or environments difficult, make sure you are well prepared to address them using healthy coping skills learned and practiced in therapy. Part of successful recovery is knowing that food is not good or bad. It is essential to know the safest and healthiest ways to manage your triggers in a way that does not involve food. If you find yourself struggling to remember learned coping skills or find they are not working well for you, consider making an appointment with your mental health provider or reach out to members of your support circles for help.
Recovery Is A Time to Put “You” First
For recovery to be successful, it is essential to put yourself first. Recovery is a long and challenging process that cannot be done when your primary focus is placed on the health and well-being of others. You must take an active role and make the conscious choice to work at it every day. To accomplish this, you must put yourself first. This means putting your meal plan, your activity goals, and your own mental health first. It is OK to take the time to ensure your own mental health needs are being met before the needs of those around you. Although this can be challenging, it is essential to your recovery.
Recovery is not something that happens without commitment and work. Recovery is a decision that you must consciously make. The first steps in recovery happen when you are ready to seek treatment at a facility like Meadowglade. For many, this decision is the most challenging and fear inducing but also the most liberating. The recovery process will take time and trust. Trust in your treatment team but also trust in yourself. You need to trust your body and trust that the process you are following will help you achieve health and get you to where you want to be in recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with disordered eating, don’t wait another day to seek help. Eating disorders are illnesses that often have significant and adverse impacts on one’s overall mental and physical health. In some cases, the physical effects of long-term disordered eating can lead to extensive physical health concerns, some of which may lead to irreversible disease processes or death. Disordered eating can also lead to co-occurring mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety if symptoms are left untreated.
Defeating eating disorders is challenging but not impossible. With the help of the team at Meadowglade, you can learn more about how your disordered eating impacts your physical and mental health. Through therapy, medical support, and nutritional counseling, you will work to improve your physical and psychological health learning better ways to eat and practice self-care. During therapy, you will learn and practice essential coping skills to help in early recovery and beyond. Once you complete therapy, your team at Meadowglade help ensure a seamless transition to a robust aftercare plan where you will continue therapy, participate in support groups, and foster relationships with peers who share similar challenges. At Meadowglade, we will ensure you are supported throughout all stages of your treatment and recovery. If you are ready to seek treatment for disordered, now is the time to take that first step. Reach out to the admissions team at Meadowglade today to learn more about how our programs can help you get started on the road to recovery.