Rest Is an Essential Part of Eating Disorder Recovery

September 22, 2021 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

I will be the first person to confess that physical rest does not come easily to me. In fact, one of the most persuasive lies from my eating disorder, which I'm still working to dismantle, is that I am not allowed to rest. For years, I assumed that a body in constant, relentless motion would equal strength, power, and control, whereas a body at rest would signal weakness. However, as recently as this past weekend, I had no choice but to pause and remember that rest is an essential part of eating disorder recovery—and health overall.   

Why Rest Is So Essential for Eating Disorder Recovery

Admittedly, I want to move as often as possible. I have an intense and energetic personality, so it feels natural for me to jump into action. This isn't necessarily a problem all the time, but if I am not careful, it can lead to a compulsive or unhealthy relationship with exercise. And because I gravitate toward motion over stillness, I don't always grant myself the permission to rest. While I no longer consider myself someone who battles an active eating disorder, I do sometimes wrestle with the residual belief that I am weak or lazy if I need to rest. But of course, this thinking is both inaccurate and harmful—not to mention an unrealistic expectation to hold. So here's what I am learning about the importance of rest.

Not only is rest an essential part of eating disorder recovery, but it's also a non-negotiable aspect of just being a human with a body. Take the example I referred to earlier from my own life this past weekend. On Saturday morning, I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the side effects left me sore, feverish, and lethargic for 24 hours after the injection. In other words, I was in no physical state to move. As much as I wanted to ignore those symptoms and force myself to exercise, I made the tough choice to listen to my body's plea for rest.

This decision to slow down still feels uncomfortable and counterintuitive at times, but the healing process teaches me to honor my own limits instead of requiring my body to perform like an inexhaustible machine. So as part of my commitment to eating disorder recovery, I've started to reframe my whole definition of rest as an intentional practice in self-kindness, compassion, and gentleness. I deserve both physical and mental rest for no other reason than because I'm a person who lives in a tiring world. Rest is not the prize I earn after finishing a strenuous workout, nor is it something I have to withhold from myself as punishment. Rest is essential for mind-body wellness—it's just that simple.   

Signs That Tell Me I Need Rest in Eating Disorder Recovery

Although I'm aware that rest is an essential part of eating disorder recovery, I'm not too skilled at noticing when I personally need to pause and rest. So to help me recognize when I'm on the cusp of over-exertion or need to refuel my energy tank, I've created a list of signs to be on the lookout for. I will elaborate more on this in the video below.   

Is it ever a challenge for you to prioritize both mental and physical rest in eating disorder recovery? What signs do you look for to determine when you might need to pause or slow down? Please share your insights in the comment section.  

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2021, September 22). Rest Is an Essential Part of Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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