Why Eating Disorder Recovery is So Scary
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
This is a shout-out to my brave clients and to all the courageous individuals out there who are doing the monumental work required in eating disorder recovery. To someone without an eating disorder, the difficulty can be mystifying. What is so hard about taking a bite of food if you know that it will help you heal? What is so challenging about writing in a journal instead of choosing to binge? It's just food, after all. What's the big deal?
What people often miss is that what seems like a problem on the outside is usually a solution for the person with an eating disorder. Restriction, binge eating, purging, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors around food are all ways for an individual with an eating disorder to temporarily feel better. And that is why recovering from an eating disorder is so very difficult. In the beginning (and sometimes in the middle too), getting better from an eating disorder actually feels worse. Someone who chooses to recover is actively choosing to temporarily feel worse - and that is why it is such a brave choice.
Dr. Barbara Birsinger compares eating disorder recovery to getting out of a bottle. If you can imagine being stuck inside a bottle, you'll be able to imagine the discomfort of trying to squeeze through the narrow bottle neck in order to get out. Not fun. It can seem particularly unappealing if you feel safe inside that bottle. Why do something uncomfortable if you aren't really sure you want to get out anyway? But once you realize you do want to be free, that there's an entire world outside that bottle, you might begin to consider doing the hard job of getting out. You begin to see that while staying inside the bottle might feel safe, you're actually trapped. Your life has become so small. You know you can do more, be more, and that you belong out in the world. Then you can envision yourself tolerating the tough job ahead, because it won't last forever and your reward will be freedom.
I have never met anyone who regretted recovery. Don't settle for life in a bottle. The world is waiting for you!