Ask Emma

The most requested answer from my most recent poll about what everyone would like to see more of from my blog was “more advice for those suffering from eating disorders”.

Sounds good to me. So without further ado, here is “Emma’s Top Ten List of Recovery Strategies and Tips”, which is an extremely long title, but there you go.

  1. Think of your body as a “recovery body”. This is easily the most helpful tip I’ve received. When you’re in recovery, it’s easy to notice your weight gain and how it unfortunately decides to distribute itself unevenly in areas that tend to be points of discomfort. It’s so simple to think that your worst fears are being realized. However, there are several very scientific reasons why this occurs. Your body is attempting to undo all the damage you’ve caused it, and its first line of defense is to insulate your organs. And where are these essential pieces of your body located? That’s right, in the abdomen. It’s completely natural and normal. And it will even out in time. I’ve been weight restored for a couple months now, and certain clothing items fit me far differently, and far more correctly, now than they did at first.
  2. Remind yourself that recovery is not forever. When you’re in the thick of recovering from an eating disorder, whatever it may be, it’s easy to feel like your bloated and distended body and strict adherence to a meal plan is never going to end. But it will. I promise. Just keep pushing yourself, and remember that this is only a temporary moment in the grand scheme of your life. You have so much living still to do.
  3. Try fear foods. Am I insane? No. This probably sounds like the scariest thing ever. But guess what? Those foods will never be things you’re okay with eating unless you do the work and actually eat them. I can’t tell you how many foods I’ve now grown accustomed to eating simply by virtue of constant repetition. There were certain food groups that you couldn’t get me to eat anything from at all. But now I not only stick to my meal plan, I’m working on incorporating more fear foods into my diet. For example, my dietitian and I decided that Thursdays will be “pasta day”, Fridays will be “pizza day”, and I have to eat food I have not prepared at least once a week. This is in an effort to desensitize me to things I’m scared of eating. It does happen. Fake it till you make it really does work.
  4. Have an accountability partner. Believe me, if I didn’t, I would be giving into behaviors left, right, and center. My dietitian and I have established a routine where I have to send her a picture of my lunch and dinner, the two places where I was most liable to give in and restrict, to prove that I’m getting in all my exchanges. This isn’t to say that I couldn’t just put things on a plate and not eat them, but something about the concept of being honest just strikes a chord with me. I don’t want to be deceptive and sneaky again. When I was really wrapped up in my eating disorder, I lied to people all the time. What’s the good in that? There isn’t any.
  5. Utilize supports. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the role my friends and family have played in my recovery. If it wasn’t for them, plain and simple, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. They have motivated me when nothing else can and been my shoulder to cry on or my open arms offering a hug whenever I need it. They have been there to inspire me and remind me that this too shall pass. The eating disorder community really is incredible. I’ve met so many amazing people by virtue of having been in treatment and have formed some relationships I know will last forever.
  6. Avoid triggering situations. This one is a little bit of a “duh, of course” one, but still important nonetheless. If you know that seeing people doing something in particular or being around a certain group or food or situation makes you feel like giving into behaviors, don’t try it yet. Stay away until you start to become more comfortable with where you are in your recovery.
  7. Do your research. Research has really been my second saving grace. I can’t tell you the number of times I spent lying awake at night reading stories of recovery and scientific studies that demonstrated that not only was what I was going through completely normal and to be expected, but it wasn’t permanent, either. Learn about why your body is undergoing the changes it is. Learn about what to expect from recovery so that you’re not caught off guard by all the curveballs it likes to throw your way.
  8. Learn about food. For a long time, my eating disorder had me convinced that certain food groups were “bad”. Let’s take fats, for example, because it was so easy for my eating disorder to convince me that fats equaled fat on the body. But fats perform so many more important jobs. They help regulate your hunger and satiety cues. They allow you to absorb essential vitamins and nutrients. They help protect your body. The list goes on and on. Whatever you struggle with, learn about it. It will help you obtain a greater understanding of why what you’re doing is important and necessary.
  9. Trust the professionals. If I had a dollar for each time I scoffed at something a doctor said or refused to believe the words of my team members, I would be extremely rich. Eating disorders naturally try to convince you that you’re fine; that nothing’s wrong. But let me tell you something that’s really important: something is wrong. These people have had countless hours of practice working with people just like you with the sole purpose of helping to heal them and better your life. They are not out to get you. They are not trying to make your life miserable. True, at times, you’ll hate what they ask of you. You’ll feel so disgustingly uncomfortable that you can barely stand it. When times get tough, remember: you do not see yourself clearly. These people can, and they are there to try and open your eyes to all the world has in store for you.
  10. Remind yourself of how special and unique you are. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. So start small. Pick an area of your body or a physical feature or an aspect of your personality, whatever you like, that you are negative about, to focus on. Now stand in front of a mirror, look yourself right in the eyes, and say something positive about that attribute. Repeat this every day until it actually starts to think in. Science has once again demonstrated that this is actually possible. Through the concept of neuroplasticity, you can actually mold your brain differently and create new pathways that lead to healthier ways of thinking.

So there you have it! My top ten list. I hope this helps someone, even if it’s just the tiniest bit. You are beautiful; never forget that. Much love ❤

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