The key(s) to eating disorder recovery*

In the past decade, I have found recovery out of reach, an impossibility. I have often wondered why others recovered but not me. I have been given opinions by those without eating disorders and professionals.

How to recover according to the church of others

People without eating disorders have told me that:

  1. You need to be determined.
  2. You need to want it enough.
  3. You’ll recover when you hit rock bottom.
  4. You just need to get out there and live and eventually things will get better.
  5. If you get yourself a boyfriend you’ll probably forget all about the eating disorder. 

Professionals have also given their opinion about the key(s) to my recovery.

  1. Engaging in a course of DBT, CBT or some other BT.
  2. Getting to the root cause of why I continue to engage in disordered behaviours around my eating.
  3. Therapy
  4. Medication
  5. Dealing with the depression which I experience with sometimes alarming frequency.
  6. An inpatient admission

The reality of medical support/treatment in the UK

Admission to an inpatient unit in the UK is done for the purposes of medical stabilisation (not recovery) or if you are having serious suicidal tendencies. Given that many who struggle with eating disorders have suicidal tendencies, it is clear that this in itself will not qualify you for treatment. A seriously low BMI and/or medical instability in your blood work are usually required. What generally qualifies an individual for IP treatment in the UK is a severely low BMI which means many anorexics and bulimics** will not qualify.

Access to DBT, CBT and therapy is often subject to a long waiting list so medication it seems may be the only option left to those with eating disorders. But I don’t believe this is the key to recovery even though it may support an individual to get into the mind-frame required for recovery or may impact their actions to some extent. Fluoxetine has been said to reduce the frequency of purging for some who struggle with this.

If like me, you have an aversion to medication, does that mean that you are therefore up shit creek without a paddle? NO.

The key(s) to eating disorder recovery

What professionals and others have suggested to me in the past can only be defined as either triggers or aids to recovery. They can start off the chain of events leading to my recovery or they can support my recovery but they are not the KEY to my recovery.

The triggers to my current foray into recovery have been the knowledge that my life cannot improve unless and until I am in recovery, a change of location, a letting go of the desire to hang onto a particular body type as well as a period of G’ing (gearing) myself up for more. I had a period of about 3 months of telling myself that I would get better even though the reality looked different. Yet, none of these triggers were key to my current state of being ‘in recovery’.

I believe there is 1 key (the main singer in the band/the main act) to being in recovery and being recovered and other tools  (back up singers or supporting acts) which can aid both processes .

THE KEY TO EATING DISORDER RECOVERY IS – FOOD/EATING. I’m sorry to say this but also happy to say this. Sorry because there is no magic wand but happy because that means I don’t have to rely on others or wait for someone else to act before I recover.

Think about it. You can have all the therapists in the world, all the treatment options and food plans in the world, things could hit rock bottom, you could have the best partner in the world but if you don’t eat, you will not recover. It’s brutal but simple.

When I say eating, I mean eating consistently and substantially. It’s taken me 20 plus years of an eating disorder to realise this. No professional I have ever worked with has impressed this point upon me. I’ve been told that ‘it’s not about food, it’s about feelings’, ‘food is not the issue’, ‘you need to get to the root cause of why you keep engaging in behaviours’. But no one has ever said ‘you need to eat consistently and substantially’.

The supporting act or back up singers in recovery for me are:

  1. Myself: making the decision to recover no matter the cost. The cost for me is losing the body which I’ve kept for almost a decade and which I thought allowed me to function, kept the depression at bay and allowed me to feel mildly comfortable in my own skin. I gain so much more than I lose by recovering.
  2. Having the practical support of one or some who know(s) and love(s) me to get me through the uncomfortable, sometimes painful and sometimes distressing process of refeeding.
  3. Encouragers: those who cheer me onto and beyond every new milestone.
  4. Books and blogs from those who HAVE RECOVERED: Bulimia Help by Ali Kerr, Rehabilitate, Rewire, Recover: Anorexia recovery for the determined adult by Tabitha Farrar and BRAINWASHED: Diet-induced eating disorders. How you got sucked in and how to recover by Elisa Oras.***
  5. My current belief that I am the key to my recovery, not a professional and not an eating disorder unit. Professionals and ED units cannot bring about recovery if an individual does not make the decision to actively recover and commit to their own recovery. If the case were otherwise then relapse would not occur. I believe that an over-reliance on professionals can cripple those with EDs. It can stop us from acting and sometimes from recovering. It can however support those who believe that therapists, treatment programmes and/or ED units are crucial to their recovery because ‘as a man thinketh, so is he’. If I believe I can recover without professionals, I will. If I believe I can only recover with the help of professionals, then likely that is what will happen. For me personally, the first option is much more attractive. It means YOU DON’T NEED TO WAIT TO RECOVER.


* this entry is based solely on my opinion and experience. What works for the goose may not always work for the gander.

**i hate labels and am using these terms simply for ease. We are NOT the labels others accord us. We are the labels we accord ourselves.  “As a man thinketh…”

***I do not endorse these authors or fully agree with their views. I do however find a lot of sense in many of their assertions and some of their views are aiding my recovery. I take what makes sense and leave the rest.



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