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10 Tips For Anyone Recovering From An Eating Disorder

Take it from someone who's been there: it's hard, but it's worth it.

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Hi, my name is Eline, and I've almost fully recovered from my eating disorder.

I struggled with bulimia for the biggest part of my puberty and a large part of my adulthood. In total, it was approximately 6 years. Thankfully, through hard work and a very good therapy program, I'm almost fully recovered. It took me 2 years to come this far, but I'm here now and I'm never going back to the misery of an eating disorder.Through my recovery process, I did a lot of different things to influence my progress. Below, you can find the 10 things that worked best for me. Although I cannot guarantee you that these tips will help you, they may be a nice guideline to get you on track.
Eline Hageman

I struggled with bulimia for the biggest part of my puberty and a large part of my adulthood. In total, it was approximately 6 years. Thankfully, through hard work and a very good therapy program, I'm almost fully recovered. It took me 2 years to come this far, but I'm here now and I'm never going back to the misery of an eating disorder.

Through my recovery process, I did a lot of different things to influence my progress. Below, you can find the 10 things that worked best for me. Although I cannot guarantee you that these tips will help you, they may be a nice guideline to get you on track.

1. Unfollow all healthspo/fitspo/thinspo accounts on Instagram.

Megan Jayne Crabbe / Via instagram.com

At the beginning of my recovery, I found it very comforting to hold on to old habits. I could go to my therapy sessions and talk about loving my body and not having to be thin to be perfect, but I'd still scroll through hundreds of pictures of fitness motivation, meal pictures of unhealthy portions, or "inspirational" posts from girls who had thigh gaps. Let me tell you one thing: this is not healthy for you. For me it was very hard to let go and unfollow every single account, since they had been my life for the past 4 years. But believe me, being confronted with unrealistic ideals and feeding your eating disorder whenever you want to check your social media, is not helping your recovery.

If you do feel the need to be inspired, try body positivity accounts! On Instagram, you can find a lot of accounts that support every body being beautiful, and it really helped me get more in touch with the things I didn't like about myself. I highly recommend following @bodyposipanda!

2. Even "recovery accounts" can be very toxic.

instagram.com / Via instagram.com

It might be hard to believe that following people who go through recovery, just like you are, is a bad thing. However, you need to keep in mind that the people you follow are also in a bad place right now: their opinion on what a healthy meal/snack is, is also influenced by an eating disorder, and you copying their ED behavior is not a good thing. Also, people posting their every meal and progress photo's are still busy with their body and their appearance on a daily basis, and isn't that what you want to get rid off?

You may have found some friends on the internet that post progress or meal pictures. I'm not saying that you should cut off these friendships (I'm all for helping each other and finding support from people in the same situation!), I'm just saying that it may be best for you if you don't spend every minute on your phone looking at pictures of meals, progress and unhealthy behavior. Remember: life is always sugarcoated online, no one is ever as perfect as they are on Instagram.

(NB: I mean people who keep an account especially for their recovery. For accounts that support recovery in a healthy way, like @wearerecovering, I give a big thumbs up!)

3. Treat yourself on a regular basis.

One thing is clear: recovery can make you VERY tired. It is very intense to have to battle something that has become so natural, and abandon all that feels comfortable to you. I remember coming home exhausted from every therapy session, for at least the first year. You need to overthink every move you're going to make: is this helping me with my recovery? Is this a rational thought or a disordered thought? Do I need to eat now? Is it okay if I eat this now? And don't even get me started on recovering while you're also in school/studying/having a job. I could often hear myself thinking: "I don't have time to recover today, I have so many deadlines". Which would lead to either me giving in to my eating disorder, or me being tired from having to juggle studying and healthy behavior.It's time to treat yourself for all the hard work you're doing!I would usually take a night off to read a book, or buy myself something nice like a candle or a face mask. If I felt like I had done something exceptional (e.g. going without binging for a month!), I'd treat myself with a pair of shoes. Oh, and don't think you don't deserve it. Don't let your eating disorder tell you that you don't have the right to be proud of your accomplishments, because that BS. You have every right to be proud and be kind to yourself!
Eline Hageman

One thing is clear: recovery can make you VERY tired. It is very intense to have to battle something that has become so natural, and abandon all that feels comfortable to you. I remember coming home exhausted from every therapy session, for at least the first year. You need to overthink every move you're going to make: is this helping me with my recovery? Is this a rational thought or a disordered thought? Do I need to eat now? Is it okay if I eat this now? And don't even get me started on recovering while you're also in school/studying/having a job. I could often hear myself thinking: "I don't have time to recover today, I have so many deadlines". Which would lead to either me giving in to my eating disorder, or me being tired from having to juggle studying and healthy behavior.

It's time to treat yourself for all the hard work you're doing!

I would usually take a night off to read a book, or buy myself something nice like a candle or a face mask. If I felt like I had done something exceptional (e.g. going without binging for a month!), I'd treat myself with a pair of shoes.

Oh, and don't think you don't deserve it. Don't let your eating disorder tell you that you don't have the right to be proud of your accomplishments, because that BS. You have every right to be proud and be kind to yourself!

4. Keep reminding people that you're not on a diet.

When you are in recovery, you can temporarily be put on a meal plan or eating list. This can be to learn you to eat healthier portions and build up a solid basis for your new eating habits. The purpose of this, is to change your unhealthy behavior into new healthy habits.However, "a meal plan for learning healthy habits" is more often than desired interpreted as a diet. I can see why: when you tell people you want to start eating healthier, they are likely to assume that you are currently eating too much, and that you want to lose weight (which you probably do, but that's not the point). When you encounter people who think your meal plan or eating list is a diet, don't hesitate to clearly explain the difference. Even if you're not comfortable with telling this person about your food habits or your disorder/recovery situation, you can still tell them that you are not trying to lose weight. Details are in most cases not even necessary!
Via nl.pinterest.com

When you are in recovery, you can temporarily be put on a meal plan or eating list. This can be to learn you to eat healthier portions and build up a solid basis for your new eating habits. The purpose of this, is to change your unhealthy behavior into new healthy habits.

However, "a meal plan for learning healthy habits" is more often than desired interpreted as a diet. I can see why: when you tell people you want to start eating healthier, they are likely to assume that you are currently eating too much, and that you want to lose weight (which you probably do, but that's not the point).

When you encounter people who think your meal plan or eating list is a diet, don't hesitate to clearly explain the difference. Even if you're not comfortable with telling this person about your food habits or your disorder/recovery situation, you can still tell them that you are not trying to lose weight. Details are in most cases not even necessary!

5. Work on things about yourself that are NOT IN ANY WAY weight-related.

If you're in recovery, you probably have a hard time accepting your body. A big factor in that is your weight and how you look. But what about fixing the things that aren't weight-related? Doing that might make you more confident and maybe a bit more comfortable with your body!For me, it was three things: I had brown armpits (from a skin bacteria), an ingrown toe nail, and body acne. These three things weren't caused by my weight or my bad food habits, but by other causes. So I went to a dermatologist for treatments, and had a few pedicures. After fixing these things, I found it easier to love my body: the only thing prohibiting me from loving my body, was my eating disorder. There was no other excuse, I had to recover if I wanted to be happy. Fixing these issues made me feel better about myself, as I gave my body the respect and care it needed.(VERY IMPORTANT: it might not be a good idea to do this at the beginning of your recovery. It's not very easy to sit down and make a list of things that are "wrong" with your body without listing disorder influenced thoughts. Separating facts from believes is very difficult, and I recommend doing this when you're already a bit further towards full recovery. I also advise making a list, and going over it with your therapist/psychologist to double check if what you're listing is healthy.)
Via mommydocs.com

If you're in recovery, you probably have a hard time accepting your body. A big factor in that is your weight and how you look. But what about fixing the things that aren't weight-related? Doing that might make you more confident and maybe a bit more comfortable with your body!

For me, it was three things: I had brown armpits (from a skin bacteria), an ingrown toe nail, and body acne. These three things weren't caused by my weight or my bad food habits, but by other causes. So I went to a dermatologist for treatments, and had a few pedicures. After fixing these things, I found it easier to love my body: the only thing prohibiting me from loving my body, was my eating disorder. There was no other excuse, I had to recover if I wanted to be happy. Fixing these issues made me feel better about myself, as I gave my body the respect and care it needed.

(VERY IMPORTANT: it might not be a good idea to do this at the beginning of your recovery. It's not very easy to sit down and make a list of things that are "wrong" with your body without listing disorder influenced thoughts. Separating facts from believes is very difficult, and I recommend doing this when you're already a bit further towards full recovery. I also advise making a list, and going over it with your therapist/psychologist to double check if what you're listing is healthy.)

6. Communicate with your family and friends.

In the first few months of my recovery, my relationship with my parents drastically changed. I felt like there was so much distance between us, and that I was disappointing them. I started telling them less about my recovery, since I felt that there was no use for them to know more than my superficial state of being "okay".The thing is: I didn't want to talk to anyone about my recovery, because I was ashamed of the situation I was in. I shut down questions from my parents about therapy, my eating habits and my general well-being, because it was hard for me to talk about.What my disorder interpreted as disappointment was actually sadness: my parents were concerned about my well-being, and felt sad about me not letting them know how I was feeling. They felt as if they could have done more to prevent this from happening (which they couldn't, they are amazing), and wanted to help me but felt like they were not included. After talking to them about it, our relationship improved. We made rules about what I would tell them and what they could ask me about, so that we were both comfortable and knew enough.I am very thankful that my parents were so open to me about this, because this helped my recovery a lot. Feeling appreciated and "rooted for" is very encouraging!The big lesson here is: keep the people close to you in the loop, so that they don't have to lie awake worrying about you, but also so that they can help you in a way that is comfortable for you.
Eline Hageman

In the first few months of my recovery, my relationship with my parents drastically changed. I felt like there was so much distance between us, and that I was disappointing them. I started telling them less about my recovery, since I felt that there was no use for them to know more than my superficial state of being "okay".

The thing is: I didn't want to talk to anyone about my recovery, because I was ashamed of the situation I was in. I shut down questions from my parents about therapy, my eating habits and my general well-being, because it was hard for me to talk about.

What my disorder interpreted as disappointment was actually sadness: my parents were concerned about my well-being, and felt sad about me not letting them know how I was feeling. They felt as if they could have done more to prevent this from happening (which they couldn't, they are amazing), and wanted to help me but felt like they were not included. After talking to them about it, our relationship improved. We made rules about what I would tell them and what they could ask me about, so that we were both comfortable and knew enough.

I am very thankful that my parents were so open to me about this, because this helped my recovery a lot. Feeling appreciated and "rooted for" is very encouraging!

The big lesson here is: keep the people close to you in the loop, so that they don't have to lie awake worrying about you, but also so that they can help you in a way that is comfortable for you.

7. Don't be afraid to drop some of your responsibilities.

I was in the first year of university when I started therapy, and it was hard. I had to balance going to class, being in therapy and traveling home every weekend. It made my life even more unbearable than before being in therapy, because (as mentioned in #5) it is very tiring.I had the chance to go into a 10-week recovery program for 3 days a week, but I bailed on it because it would mean that I had to drop some courses. I couldn't convince myself that it was okay to put off university for a while and work on being a happy person, because I felt too obligated to keep going to class.If you have the chance to take off some time from your daily activities (school, studying or your job), do it. You may think that your boss will get mad or that your school will not accept your leave, but these are irrational thoughts. Most universities have special programs and funds for people who need to relieve some workload, and employers are generally happier if you take time off than when you show up to work every day, tired and exhausted.
Student Problems / Via Facebook: StudentProblems

I was in the first year of university when I started therapy, and it was hard. I had to balance going to class, being in therapy and traveling home every weekend. It made my life even more unbearable than before being in therapy, because (as mentioned in #5) it is very tiring.

I had the chance to go into a 10-week recovery program for 3 days a week, but I bailed on it because it would mean that I had to drop some courses. I couldn't convince myself that it was okay to put off university for a while and work on being a happy person, because I felt too obligated to keep going to class.

If you have the chance to take off some time from your daily activities (school, studying or your job), do it. You may think that your boss will get mad or that your school will not accept your leave, but these are irrational thoughts. Most universities have special programs and funds for people who need to relieve some workload, and employers are generally happier if you take time off than when you show up to work every day, tired and exhausted.

8. Get rid of all your disorder-related things.

Eline Hageman / Via instagram.com

This might seem like an obvious one, but this step is often skipped out of fear of letting go. I found myself making up excuses for not throwing away old diet plans: "I don't need them anymore, but I might need them in my healthy life someday". Which is complete and utter BS. This was just me sabotaging myself and preventing progress in my recovery, because I couldn't let go of the person I'd become and the comfortable relationship with my disorder. At that point in time it felt easier to just stick to what I knew, instead of trying to get better and going through the pain that is recovery.

And yes, I cried when I threw it all away. I cried when I threw my food diaries in a campfire, when I removed my weight tracking app on my phone, and when I sold my diet books. It was hard, because it meant that I was giving up comfort and made myself vulnerable. But it was also liberating: without these triggering things being present in my life, I found it easier to focus on therapy and on what I was learning.

Whether it's laxatives, food diaries, an app on your phone, or thinspo pictures hanging around in your room: throw it away. Holding on to this stuff is like an open invitation for your eating disorder to come back into your life. A personal tip: if it's paper, burn it. This makes it even more permanent, and you cannot get it out of the trash if you feel sad or weak.

9. Follow the advice your therapist gives you (even if you don't want to), and be honest with them.

One of the first things my therapist told me to do, is drink more water. I told her I'd try, and I'd come back every week telling her that I tried and that I succeeded. But she would always see right through me: I was lying to her. To be more specific, my eating disorder was lying to her. I didn't want to drink water back then, because I was convinced that it would make me look bloated and fat. This resulted in dehydration and some serious body damage. She just couldn't convince me that it was okay for me to drink water, whatever she tried.One day my therapist told me, "I can't help you if you won't cooperate. I'm not the one who is going to do this recovery for you: you're doing it, I'm just helping". Which basically meant: just do it. So I started regularly drinking water, and I hated it. I cried so much, I felt fat and I hated my body even more. But after a while, all my health issues went away and I felt so much better. In the long run I discovered that drinking water didn't influence my weight as much as I thought it would, and I stuck to it.So, to quote Shia LeBeouf: JUST DO IT. Whether it's drinking water, eating certain foods, changing your portion size or giving up bad behavior: do it. Even if it feels bad and you're crying every time you have to do it, it's in your best interest to listen to your therapist. They are trained to help you, so they tell you much smarter things than your disorder ever will. In the long run, it's worth it.
Via nl.pinterest.com

One of the first things my therapist told me to do, is drink more water. I told her I'd try, and I'd come back every week telling her that I tried and that I succeeded. But she would always see right through me: I was lying to her. To be more specific, my eating disorder was lying to her. I didn't want to drink water back then, because I was convinced that it would make me look bloated and fat. This resulted in dehydration and some serious body damage. She just couldn't convince me that it was okay for me to drink water, whatever she tried.

One day my therapist told me, "I can't help you if you won't cooperate. I'm not the one who is going to do this recovery for you: you're doing it, I'm just helping". Which basically meant: just do it. So I started regularly drinking water, and I hated it. I cried so much, I felt fat and I hated my body even more. But after a while, all my health issues went away and I felt so much better. In the long run I discovered that drinking water didn't influence my weight as much as I thought it would, and I stuck to it.

So, to quote Shia LeBeouf: JUST DO IT. Whether it's drinking water, eating certain foods, changing your portion size or giving up bad behavior: do it. Even if it feels bad and you're crying every time you have to do it, it's in your best interest to listen to your therapist. They are trained to help you, so they tell you much smarter things than your disorder ever will. In the long run, it's worth it.

10. Remember why you want to recover, and don't give up.

This is my most important tip. In dark times it can be hard to keep holding on to the recovery progress you make, and doing things for the long run feels like a waste of time if you don't immediately get something out of it. But trust me, it is important to keep in mind why you started recovery.For me, it was because I felt like I could collapse any minute. From the minute I woke up til nighttime when I'd fall asleep, I felt weak, as if I was about to faint. I also started losing my friends, since I couldn't join them on food-related activities. But my main reason was that I was unhappy: I suffered from a serious depression, and my life felt useless. When I had a relatively good day, there was one rational thought that appeared in my mind: "maybe I need to get some help". Luckily I acted on that thought and called my doctor. I later regretted doing that as my disorder was telling me that looking for help made me even more weak, but I pushed through.I made a list of all the reasons that made me want to recover, and all the reasons why I initially asked for help. My list is mostly based on my love for my family and friends, and my poor health. Later, I scraped some irrational reasons from that list (one of them being "if I recover, I can go back to dieting but no one will tell me that it's bad for me anymore"). This list is my most priced possession, as it always reminds me to keep going.
Eline Hageman

This is my most important tip. In dark times it can be hard to keep holding on to the recovery progress you make, and doing things for the long run feels like a waste of time if you don't immediately get something out of it. But trust me, it is important to keep in mind why you started recovery.

For me, it was because I felt like I could collapse any minute. From the minute I woke up til nighttime when I'd fall asleep, I felt weak, as if I was about to faint. I also started losing my friends, since I couldn't join them on food-related activities. But my main reason was that I was unhappy: I suffered from a serious depression, and my life felt useless. When I had a relatively good day, there was one rational thought that appeared in my mind: "maybe I need to get some help". Luckily I acted on that thought and called my doctor. I later regretted doing that as my disorder was telling me that looking for help made me even more weak, but I pushed through.

I made a list of all the reasons that made me want to recover, and all the reasons why I initially asked for help. My list is mostly based on my love for my family and friends, and my poor health. Later, I scraped some irrational reasons from that list (one of them being "if I recover, I can go back to dieting but no one will tell me that it's bad for me anymore"). This list is my most priced possession, as it always reminds me to keep going.

One final note: you're so worth the recovery, and you're so worth it to feel happy and loved. Your body is beautiful, and you should never feel ashamed of it. Celebrate your beauty, and live life to the fullest!

This is my favorite picture of me.When I wanted to be bold and challenge my disorder, I did a lingerie photoshoot. It was for a small lingerie store, and I (and 49 other women of different body shapes and sizes) would be features on the front of the store. I was so nervous and I hated myself for applying when I stood on set, but in the end it was the best experience I ever had.I decided to post a picture of the shoot on Instagram, with the caption "Body positivity is key". Within 2 hours, it became my most popular post ever, and I got a ton of positive reactions about how beautiful I am and how much people loved me. It was such a memorable moment for me, because for the first time in forever I felt loved and supported. People look at me in a whole other way than I look at me.So I printed out the most important messages and comments I got, and framed them in a nice picture frame. It is hanging above my bed, and I look to it with pride and love every night before I go to bed.I am loved, I am beautiful, and I am recovered.
Eline Hageman

This is my favorite picture of me.

When I wanted to be bold and challenge my disorder, I did a lingerie photoshoot. It was for a small lingerie store, and I (and 49 other women of different body shapes and sizes) would be features on the front of the store. I was so nervous and I hated myself for applying when I stood on set, but in the end it was the best experience I ever had.

I decided to post a picture of the shoot on Instagram, with the caption "Body positivity is key". Within 2 hours, it became my most popular post ever, and I got a ton of positive reactions about how beautiful I am and how much people loved me. It was such a memorable moment for me, because for the first time in forever I felt loved and supported. People look at me in a whole other way than I look at me.

So I printed out the most important messages and comments I got, and framed them in a nice picture frame. It is hanging above my bed, and I look to it with pride and love every night before I go to bed.

I am loved, I am beautiful, and I am recovered.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, please consider contacting your physician or a therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist. For more information on eating disorders, go to https://www.aedweb.org.

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