Eating Disorder Recovery: Rebuilding Your Identity

June 10, 2013 Patricia Lemoine

How do you rebuild an identity outside of your eating disorder behaviors once you embark on the recovery process? Giving up eating disorder behaviors can be daunting at first, because with time, they become an integral part of one’s identity and personality. In my case, it was so engrained, that at the time, stopping them, even when I wanted to, seemed like an impossible task. Here are a few helpful tips and words of wisdom which I’ve gathered along the way in my journey.

Who Do You Become After Eating Disorder Recovery?

Developing an identity outside of your eating disorder is a challenging part of eating disorder recoveryEating disorder recovery is no solo trip! I’ve mentioned this many times when sharing my journey to recovery for a reason: you can't do it alone and you shouldn’t have to do it alone either! In my experience, it’s essential to surround yourself with people in order to avoid feeling isolated during your recovery. Members of your recovery tribe might include close friends, partners, family members, loved ones, mentors, therapists, support group members, etc. It goes without saying that the people you surround yourself with should have a positive body image and be open when it comes down to being able to talk about mental health, and especially your mental illness.

Surround yourself with these people because you value their presence in your life. This means that you may have to spend time reflecting on the state of your relationships. In my case, some of those “friends” were actually enabling my destructive behavior. When I cut those people out and eventually found better support people, my road became that much easier. To help you along, ask yourself these 4 questions:

  1. Do these people encourage me in my recovery?
  2. Do they hinder the process by their comments or their behaviors?
  3. Is it easy to talk to them about my mental illness?
  4. Do I feel that I can really be myself (my true self) around them?

This can really help you in realizing who is fully supportive of your identity as an eating disorder survivor in the process of recovery and who isn’t. Remember to not blame yourself for the fact that you might feel they’re not quite as supportive as you’d like them to be. Taking a stand by picking the people you let in, in your recovery process is a big step in shaping your identity.

Have compassion for yourself: When you’re in recovery and you experience anger, sadness or any other powerful emotions when you feel triggered, stop, breathe, and reflect. Try to resist the urge to self-harm or other behaviors such as restricting, over-exercising, starving, binge eating or purging. Instead, try using coping skills in order to get through that rough patch. Be mindful of what triggered you (read: What Triggers the Start of an Eating Disorder?). Very often, that, coupled with having a great support system made of people you trust can be the start of building your identity and discovering who you really are, minus your eating disorder. This might also mean letting go of some activities and people you might previously have relied on while suffering from ED. In my case, the changes I made in my life at the time were pretty big. I switched careers and group of friends altogether within a year, 5 years ago. The changes you make don’t have to be that drastic; but if your intuition tells you something is standing in the way of your recovery, then you probably need to change it!

What about you? What has helped you rebuild your identity after you embarked on your eating disorder recovery journey?

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APA Reference
Lemoine, P. (2013, June 10). Eating Disorder Recovery: Rebuilding Your Identity, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Patricia Lemoine

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