Lived Experience..in ED Recovery.

Lived experience is one of the most valuable assets to recovery.

You can read about eating disorders in as many text books as you like and on some level you will understand them. Cognitively you may get it, but unless you’ve walked in the path it’s difficult to “really get it”

When you have lived that experience, You get it on a whole other level. People in recovery “get it’ on a level that reaches them to their core.

This makes people with lived experience such important allies in a person’s recovery journey and can be crucial alongside treatment.

I will never be able to express the gratitude I feel for my therapist, I know she saved my life, literally. Therapy was huge in my starting recovery and breaking free from the ED. But the most transformative part in my own recovery has been through connecting with those who have lived it.

At all stages of my recovery lived experience has been influential and important in my own growth.

Reading blogs, listening to podcasts/vlogs and following pro-recovery accounts on social media has really assisted me in the process.

There’s a deep level of trust that develops, knowing that others who have fully recovered, or are in a strong place in recovery helps us to feel connected, validated and most importantly gives us HOPE.

I reflect on the times I listened to people like Jessica Flint, Tabitha Farrar, Mia Findley and Millie Thomas sharing their stories, their wisdom and experience and aspiring to reach many of the milestones in recovery. Believing through sheer faith in their stories that recovery IS POSSIBLE for everyone. Even in some of my darkest moments in the throes of the ED or difficult moments in recovery, trusting what those who have lived and come through the other side has felt comforting and at most motivating.

Connecting with others in recovery seemed terrifying to me when I first started. If I had have been offered group therapy or any form of treatment that meant connecting to others, I would have ran a mile. In fact, I did. I was so ashamed of my eating disorder and terrified my “sordid secret” would become common knowledge. But through listening to others, joining platforms or groups a lot of this shame began to disappear, because there was nothing in this community that was judged, hadn’t been felt, said or done before. I started to see I was NOT ALONE, that there were millions of us who have experienced eating disorders.

A common theme I began to understand was the level of shame we all suffered. The more I read stories, listened and talked the more the shame began to dissipate.

Things I felt I could never share with another living person, suddenly felt like no big deal in the recovery community. The nuances that we believe are so shameful and not to be brought out into the light of day, are everyday struggles we share and is part of non-judgemental wonderful conversations. They say shame is fuelled by secrecy, I believe this is so true.

Following other’s journeys enabled me to find my own voice. I refuse to be ashamed of something that has made me who I am and helping me to connect with my true self.

I used to say I wanted to recover to the person I was before the eating disorder. I no longer wish this, because recovery has made me someone else, someone bigger than I was ( pun intended), but the level of growth that comes from choosing to recover & surviving an eating disorder is such that I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m becoming more connected with myself with every recovery orientated decision and becoming aligned with who I want to be. I’m grateful to those who were brave enough to share their experiences, that motivated my own recovery and helped me keep faith.

People recovering from eating disorders have to do this in a world that still challenges many of the beliefs we have to unlearn and to be able to recover in this society is so hard. For some this society can be incredibly cruel and the more people who share their struggle, experience the better this will be one day, especially for those who cannot find their voice. Lived experience is becoming a much bigger part of recovery, with the ever increasing resources available, recovery coaches becoming mainstream and peer mentorships, this can only be a good thing alongside traditional recovery. These people have experienced the struggles, the up’s downs and navigated their way out and are so valuable in helping others do the same, with compassion and sensitivity that is as authentic as it can get.

I’ll share some resources that have been so imperative to my own recovery below.

  1. https://www.recoverywarriors.com/ From blogs, to podcasts and online community platforms such as the “Courage Club” this has been huge in my recovery. Jessica Flint is fully recovered from her eating disorder and has now founded a recovery community that has reached thousands of people in recovery. This has introduced me to some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met.
  2. https://www.instagram.com/lindseyhallwrites/?hl=en Lindsey Hall has herself recovered from anorexia and she shares incredible insights
  3. https://tabithafarrar.com/ Tabitha is a recovery coach, who has fully recovered from her eating disorder. She’s very direct in what she believes recovery is, but she has shared some amazing blogs, podcasts and now mostly posts video content on youtube. I followed her avidly when I first started recovery. She posts about things from “extreme hunger, weight gain, and neural rewiring”
  4. https://www.instagram.com/millietnz/?hl=en & https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/end-eating-disorders/id1534539219 End Eating disorder recovery Podcast.
  5. https://www.beyondbodycoach.com/ Mia Findley- is an Australia based recovery coach, who has fully recovered. She posts videos and podcasts with her experiences.
  6. http://maintenancephase.com/ This is a great podcast that promotes HAES, diversity and is anti-diet
  7. https://www.instagram.com/drheatherirobundamd/?hl=en

Protecting Yourself from Harm in Recovery..

Protecting your recovery can be like developing a super power. It’s also incredibly important when we are surrounded by potential triggers every where.

If we are in recovery from an eating disorder, we need to learn to reject diet culture, which is really difficult when it infiltrates every part of our society.

I recently came across a blog, where the author was promoting a weight loss regimen, whilst sharing their own ED Recovery.

 That tells me two things, firstly it is not something helpful to my recovery, secondly the writer very likely still holds a lot of internalised implicit biases around weight and fear of weight gain and unlikely recovered.

 The intention of this post is to highlight the importance of being aware of  the content you chose to follow and your motives behind it.

People have the right to write/ talk about whatever they like. However, it can be really damaging to a person who is trying to heal from an eating disorder to follow accounts like that. You have a choice regarding the content you chose to follow or not.

My thoughts are and they may be unpopular, YOU CANNOT recover from a restrictive eating disorder whilst still actively attempting to pursue a smaller body. Believe me you cannot. It took me long enough to come to terms with this. You might get the idea of “I could go on x diet, lose this much and I would be ok”. Take it from me you will not. It is a relapse waiting to happen. That is how my last real relapse happened. All it really tells you, if you get those thoughts there’s still work to be done on neural re-wiring. It gets easier. I get these thought from time to time, “If I could just lose X amount I will be happy” this is my eating disorder voice and one that I know cannot be trusted. A size, or shape will never change how I value myself, I am so much more than a measurement but this is not what my eating disorder believes, it will make me buy into the notion that my worth is solely based on a number. This is not happiness.

I cannot diet ever. ever. ever. Choosing to go on a diet when you have a history of an eating disorder is like saying a person who has recovered from substance or alcohol abuse can have the occasional drink. You would not say this. Dieting is our drug. We cannot safely dabble.

In recovery the focus should be on challenging our fear of weight gain, body image, learning about the health at every size movement. Dieting becomes less appealing. I’m not saying you won’t get those thoughts. However your brain will learn that you don’t place all of your value on a number and it’s not something we’re interested in. If the concept of Health at Every Size (HAES) is new to you, I encourage you to explore some of the resources I’ve shared at the bottom. However, a very brief summary of HAES; the basic premise supports people in implementing health practices for the purpose of overall well being rather than the focus on weight control. There are some key values to HAES, it encourages people to eat intuitively, accepting of body diversity shape and sizes and that health is about much more than weight. This is a very simplified explanation.

I do not believe a person can endorse weight loss and be fully recovered themselves, because the aim of eating disorder recovery is to unlearn your fear of weight gain, to rewire implicit fat bias/ fat phobia. Therefore by promoting weight-loss on an eating disorder recovery site is an oxymoron. It does not have a place in recovery. I personally do not follow accounts whereby the premise is promoting weight loss or any form of diet culture based content.

If you are trying to recover from dieting, disordered eating or an eating disorder it is your responsibility to not allow this to trigger you. Therefore avoiding unhelpful information such as “losing weight” in eating disorder recovery might be the easiest way.

My last real relapse came from thinking “I can safely diet”

How I deal with these thoughts now; I challenge myself with the following questions:

Why do you want to diet, what are you actually trying to do? What are you lacking in an area. (It’s usually self care and self compassion for me).

Why do you feel the need to change your body- can you learn to accept your body at any shape size and understand a number on the scale has no bearing to who you are as a person or your health?

But, I find sites like this are dangerous in the ED recovery community, they do not realise the potential harm they could have. This particular individual has a large following. Many of the followers suffer with binge eating and the blog is the last thing a person experiencing such should be taking notes from. Dieting no matter how you look at it is restriction. Restriction is no friend to bingeing in fact restriction causes bingeing.

I recently shared this checklist on my social media- it serves as a way to protect myself and maintain healthy boundaries.

Resources: