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  • Dina Cohen

Will I Ever Recover?

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

If you've asked yourself this question, rest assured. You aren't the first.

I've heard it many times, and for good reason.

Recovery is hard, hard, hard. It is normal to question whether there's a purpose to all this tiresome work.

It is normal to wonder whether your brain will ever quiet down, whether the urges will ever disappear, and whether you'll ever really be able to feel relaxed around food and comfortable in your body.

It is normal to doubt that today's reality can ever change.

It can absolutely change, though. I know this not only because of the precious people in my life who are fully recovered, but also thanks to the statistics on eating disorder recovery. Research indicates that with treatment, the majority of people with eating disorders do recover. They enjoy a variety of food again, maintain healthy weights, and can fully participate in relationships and careers. Many of them say they are stronger and more insightful people due to their experience of having and recovering from an eating disorder.

Does being recovered mean never having a disordered thought or urge? I don't think so. Especially considering this great big diet soup we all live in, it wouldn't be weird for a recovered person - or any person - to have a thought or urge to use a disordered behavior. Thinking, "I really want to lose some weight" doesn't mean you've relapsed. Considering binge eating after a day in which you felt totally emotionally rattled doesn't mean you're back in your eating disorder. A thought is just a thought. It's what you do about it that matters.

If you act on your negative thoughts by beginning to use disordered behaviors again, that can eventually lead to a relapse. But if you recognize that having a thought doesn't mean you need to use a disordered behavior, you will be ok. On the contrary, that thought can give you valuable information. If you notice that you've started getting more obsessive about your food or more critical of your body, that can be a signal that you're feeling overwhelmed in life or down about yourself. If you're noticing more urges to use disordered behaviors, it can meant that you're experiencing some big emotions that need some attention.

Someone without an eating disorder history might have other indicators that they're not doing so great. For you, thoughts about food and body might just be your emotional hazard light. It means you need to pay attention to what's going on inside, use healthy ways to cope, and get some extra help if needed. The thoughts and urges can be helpful! Over time, as you continue to use healthy strategies to navigate your emotions successfully, you may find that your brain skips the step of sending you a disordered thought. You might realize that you are feeling anxious without first thinking about skipping your snack. You might notice you are experiencing resentment without reaching for seconds when you aren't hungry. You might recognize that you're feeling inadequate without having body-checked first.

Recovery means feeling the full range of your emotions. It means facing the scary stuff head-on and knowing that you can handle it. No wonder it takes some time to get there! But there is an end to this road. And I believe it exists for you too.

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