What I Wish I Knew About Eating Disorder Recovery

January 19, 2022 Emma Parten

A recent conversation with a friend made me consider what I wish I'd known about eating disorder (ED) recovery. The other day, I asked my friend, "What do you think your younger self would have thought of older you?" We retraced our steps down the hill through the snow on our way back to the trailhead. She said, "I think she would have been so surprised. I don't think I ever expected I would move away from my hometown."

My friend asked me the same question. I tried to imagine meeting my young self now. I said, "I think she would probably be in awe."

This would not be awe over appearance or accomplishments. My past self would be in awe that I was able to recover from my eating disorder. She would have been shocked to see I was able to enjoy my life.

At the end of our hike, my friend and I talked about how we both changed over time. It did not feel like we were changing day to day or month to month. But here we stood together, changed from who we both were five years ago.

What I Wish I Knew About Eating Disorder Recovery

 Here are some important insights I wish I'd known when I started my ED recovery:

  • Disordered eating might still be a challenge. I thought if I recovered, I would be able to erase the fixation I've had with food my entire life. Now, I can enjoy food without restriction like a child, but I still might have thoughts about food rules. I acknowledge the old thoughts, and I try to enjoy my food anyway. These are mini victories. You don't have to have a clean slate to enjoy your food and your life.
  • You might need to start over, and that is completely normal. Sometimes when I am facing something I don't have control over, I start to obsess and restrict my food again. The difference is now I can recognize the onset of patterns quickly. I can acknowledge what is happening, and I can refocus my attention on something else. The ED doesn't have the power it once had. 
  • You will have to practice letting go. I held back from trying to recover from my ED for years because I was afraid I would gain weight if I stopped trying to control my weight. Eventually, I met with an eating disorder specialist who helped me through this fear. My body did not change when I stopped restricting my eating. As you begin to let go of food rules and eat freely, you might still feel tempted to restrict certain foods. It might be helpful to let go of all rules to prevent yourself from slipping back into restrictive eating. 
  • You will feel mixed emotions. When I began to accept the reality of my body as it is, without restrictive eating, I experienced a mix of sadness and freedom. It takes time to feel comfortable with your body as it is, day to day. It is completely worth it, though, to feel recovered.

We are always evolving and changing, even if it doesn't seem like we are. I hope that you will continue to pick up and start over if you have been struggling with an eating disorder lately. Eating disorder recovery is difficult, vulnerable, and lonely, but the effort over time is worth it. You are capable of rebuilding yourself and enjoying your life.

APA Reference
Parten, E. (2022, January 19). What I Wish I Knew About Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Emma Parten

Connect with Emma on her personal blog.

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