We recently asked people in recovery from an eating disorder to share their thoughts about the illness. We hope these insights from those who have “been there” help if you’re seeking answers and understanding. A big thanks to everyone who contributed to this post and to all the supportive friends and family out there.
These are personal perspectives; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.
Talking about my feelings instead of repressing them.
Learning how to take time to figure out what emotions I am feeling instead of trying to hide them.
Group therapy. I was able to make connections via contributions made by someone who is in the same hole as me but who isn’t me directly. At my sickest, I couldn’t look at myself physically or in my mind. Relating with others was much easier to help let my walls down, even if only by a little at first.
Inpatient treatment helped me the most. Being surrounded by individuals struggling made e feel like less of a freak. I felt safe, cared for, understood, and supported.
For me it was Nutrition. Learning about how food worked in my body. I didn’t trust food very much, I thought it was going to hurt me. Learning the science behind how certain food works in my body helped me trust it again.
You get what you put into it. Each level of care has taught me something different, and the parts that stand out most happened when I made the choice to go all in and give recovery everything I had – even on the days when I didn’t have much to give.
Group therapy helped a lot. There was a meal for us on those nights and we would sit down together and set an intention for the meal. It was hard at first, but it got easier and became a very useful tool post-therapy.
Probably IDP even though it was really hard.
The constant exposure therapy and having therapists talk us through the hardest meals.
Yoga plus therapy allowed for intense work, and healing, of my mind and body connection.
Honestly, reading. I was never in a treatment program – which was probably a mistake – but I lived in the feminism and women’s studies sections of my library once I’d acknowledged my disordered behaviors, and reading about women’s histories and cultures from all around the world gave amazing perspective. The worst part (to me) about an eating disorder is that it shuts out so much of your world – you’re narrowing your body, and you’re also narrowing your focus. All you can think about is food, your body, eating. So by reading a lot and remembering that there was a kaleidoscope of human experience and so many different ways to be alive, it was like “oh yeah – I have way more things that deserve my time, energy, money, and attention than trying to lose three more pounds.”
Accountability and just DBT in general.
Working on my fear of food and being okay being me.
The group environment and the structure.
Individual therapy and art therapy
I think what helped me the most was not going through it alone. Before I started treatment, I felt really isolated and not normal. I thought I was one of very few who struggled with an eating disorder. Once I started treatment, though, I realized that this is something that many people live with, whether diagnosed or not. It helped tremendously to go through treatment with others because they can understand what you’re going through and can be a huge support in your journey as well.
A combination of the group therapy with a group who really gets it! And being paired with the most excellent therapist to suit my issues and working through some really hard issues.
Yoga…PTSD intensive 12 weeks inpatient
Nutrition counseling. I was able to set tangible goals there.
I view food very differently. I appreciate it more, and I see its value in providing nutrients rather than providing relief from sadness.
Community with understanding people.
Practicing thought acknowledgment and stopping. I am able to better acknowledge my thoughts and feelings, accept them, and move on from them without using food.
To be completely honest, I have no idea what part of treatment was the most helpful. I think talk therapy after FBT helped me a lot because I could learn what I was feeling and how to describe it to help other support people understand what was/is going on in my mind.
Group therapy was one of the most helpful things in treatment. Knowing that I wasn’t alone and that there were other people out there who understood what I was going through was a beautiful gift.
Residential- the 24-hour support & alternative therapies (art, music, massage, etc).
24/7 support and accountability
Finding other ways to define myself.
Group therapy. I’ve met many good friends.
Recognizing emotions before they get out of control and unmanageable.
Being able to relate with the other residents.
Group therapy, recreation therapy, and psychotherapy. Learning facts and science about eating disorders helped me so very much. Finding recreational activities, such as art or music, also help so much with staying present, enjoying life, and expressing yourself.
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