Recovery is daunting. It’s honestly terrifying. It’s like you’re standing at the opening of a massive, dark cave which seems like it has the potential to swallow you up any second. You’re trembling as you begin to take your first steps forward and you feel like there is no way you can ever make it out the other side alive.
Well folks, I’m here to tell you that you CAN. No matter where you are coming from, how deep you’ve dug yourself down- recovery IS possible. Even if you think that you’re ‘worse than everyone else,’ you’re ‘not strong enough to recover,’ or you’re ‘too far gone/too crazy.’ I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. That’s right, I said it. YOU, Miss Perfectionist, are wrong. WRONG-O. And isn’t that just AWESOME!? To be wrong about something like this? Thinking that you can’t recover when you in fact can? BOOM. Imma callin’ you out.
Alright, so now what? Well… Let’s make ourselves a little list. A recovery guide, if you will.
*Disclaimer: These are simply a few of the MANY things which aided in MY OWN recovery. This list is not a supplement for professional help. If you’re currently struggling with an eating disorder, please contact a medical doctor, psychotherapist and/or registered dietician to aid you in your own recovery.*
1) Stop reading food/fitness blogs. *Gasp.* That’s right, I said it. I turned against my people. But I feel it’s necessary in the beginning stages of recovery. You don’t need to spend all day looking at food, reading about someone else’s work-out regime, critiquing their choices, their bodies, their exercise. THEM…Not you. We don’t need to get confused, or fall into the comparison trap. Focus on YOU.
2) Get off all Pinterest food boards, exercise/health/fitness boards. And for the LOVE OF GOD- Get off thinspo and other promotional sites. I don’t need to tell you why. You KNOW why…
3) Find your person. This is the person that can inspire you to recover. Your person can be YOU. You can choose to recover for yourself, your future, your goals, your passions. However, for many, the beginning stages of recovery are very dark and we often need inspiration or motivation to recover for someone else. If this is the case for you, do it for your parents, your sister/brother, your Mother who passed away years ago, your Grandpa, a teacher, anyone. Just pick someone, and hold onto their mental image for dear life. They are literally saving you when you aren’t yet able to save yourself.
4) Write a Life Bucket List. What do you want to do with your life? You want to be a lawyer, buy a farm, start your own company? Awesome! You want to go skinny dipping in the ocean, sky diving, fall in love, have kids? YES! This is the fire we need! Write down all the reasons as to why you want to live. There are plenty, trust me.
5) Compile a list of your favourite quotes/inspirational sayings/affirmations, write them in coloured marker on pieces of white paper and paste them up on your walls. Found on my walls in the beginning were, “I nourish my body with nutrients AND pleasure.” Or, “A nourished body equals a strong mind.” And, “Food is a constant positive in my life.” (I still use that last affirmation to this day!).
6) Quit it with the healthy, satiety-inducing foods. People with ED’s are mastermind’s at knowing which foods will stifle hunger for the least amount of calories/fat/carbs yadda, yadda, yadda without leading to a significant feeling of full-ness. If you are in the very beginning stages of recovery, drinking protein shakes and eating plain greek yogurt, broccoli, egg whites and lettuce, is going to make it hard. You’re trying to REV UP your appetite- not diminish it. This is especially important for breakfast. You know how all the studies say that “eating eggs for breakfast can reduce your appetite for the rest of the day causing you to eat less?” Well? Do I need to spell it out? DON’T EAT EGGS FOR BREAKFAST. Actually, let me re-phrase that. Do not eat foods which you personally find extremely satiating. You want to regain your appetite, not diminish it. It’s already non-existent enough. You want to ensure you get a tickle of hunger every few hours, just to make eating easier. I found for me, the only way to do that was through one of the scariest foods- cereal. It was literally my go to in the beginning of recovery. When I would eat it for breakfast, it would elicit some sort of hunger response a few hours later, unlike protein oats or egg whites would. And so I would be more inspired to then eat lunch. And so on. Positive feedback cycle, yo.
7) TALK. I cannot stress this enough. EVERY.SINGLE.THING. that I ever endured in my life was broken apart and analyzed, whether it seemed significant or not. Bare your soul. Do not hold anything back. If you were to die tomorrow, you want to know that there would be at least one person/therapist out there who would know all of your secrets. When you keep what may appear as ‘little things’ bottled up, they eat away at you. They hinder your recovery. They can even PREVENT your recovery. Now, I’m not going to lie. This is BRUTAL. I’m talking, “I’m-think-I’m-going-to-vomit-if these-words-actually-come-out-of -my-mouth” tough. But when they do? Awwwhhhhhhhhh…the relief. Ohhh, the sweet, sweet relief. PURE JOY.
8) Connect with nature and animals. Animals are HUGE. I truly believe they are nature’s healers. Just looking at a picture of a puppy makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. There is actually an in-patient treatment center in Arizona, which I contemplated attending, which assigns you to your own horse throughout your treatment process. You care for your horse, ride it, and in the process it teaches you more about life than you could have ever imagined. So go outside and pet your neighbours dog. Heck, hold a stuffed animal dog while you eat your meals. Go sit in the grass. Hug a tree. Literally, re-grow your own roots. Become part of this universe again and get out of your own head.
9) Stop exercising. Nope, I don’t want to hear it. Just stop.
10) If it feels right (and only if it truly does), change something about your appearance, such as your hair. For me, dying my hair dark brown within the first month of my recovery felt like a re-birth. The change I so desperately wanted to occur on the inside was manifesting it self on the outside. I was the ‘new me.’ I was going to become the healthy Lauren. And it was exciting.
11) If you’re attempting to recover on your own without outside medical help from either an inpatient or outpatient program, you need to have tremendous family support. And I mean TREMENDOUS. You also need to be able to come up with your own meal plan, or at least some kind of list of meal and snack options that you will stick to. And actually follow it.
12) Have a bedtime snack. You need it. Your metabolism can speed up throughout the night. Your blood sugar can plummet. Your hormones can go all wonky. This explains why so many who struggle from anorexia have such trouble sleeping. They wake up in the night nauseous, anxious and agitated. Having a snack before bed will relax your body (maybe not your mind, but your BODY, meaning your actual physiology) and it will help to keep your appetite going so that when you wake up in the morning, you will be hungry for breakfast.
13) Laugh. Sounds so simple, I know. But seriously, find things that make you laugh. These can be movies, websites, people, anything! Just laugh. And smile Laughter is so cathartic.
14) HUG those you love! The power of touch is severely underestimated. And I am by no means referring to this from a sexual perspective. I’m talking just a basic hug from your sister. A big bear hug from your Dad. That feeling that you get when you hug your Mom and you just let yourself sink into her. You are safe. The oxytocin is being released. You will feel calmer and stronger.
15) Give yourself time. This is a long journey. It takes time. Every day is an adventure. Respect your fears, but don’t let them leave you stagnant. You’re too strong not to move forward. Once you’ve built your recovery foundation, take baby steps forward to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Add a tablespoon more of food to one meal. Then to two meals. Add in another snack. Stop drinking so much water to fill you up. Start fueling yourself with food instead. You’ll feel a bajillion times better.
Now, this is by no means is an extensive list and I urge anyone struggling to seek help from professionals (even if that means just seeing a therapist, as opposed to entering an in-pateint program). But you need to start somewhere. Sometime. What’s wrong with today? When have you had enough? You can do it, I know you can. You will make it out the other side of the dark cave. And let me tell you…There is a fabulous world out there just waiting to see you and ALL that you have to offer
Much love and health,