NEDA Week 2014: Five Reasons to Embrace Recovery
February 24, 2014


Welcome to NEDA Week 2014. This is a week long observance, organized by the National Eating Disorders Association, aims to spread awareness, debunk myths, and create support around the issue of eating disorders. It’s a vital initiative, not only for those of us who have had eating disorders/disordered eating, but for anyone who wants to better understand these incredibly prevalent illnesses. One of the biggest misconceptions about eating disorders is that they only apply to a small and extreme number of cases. Nothing could be further from the truth. A couple of notable statistics:

  • Nearly 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life
  • The incidence of bulimia in women ages 10-39 tripled between 1988 and 1993
  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
  • Nearly 3% of the American population suffers from Binge Eating Disorder (BED) at some point. Of them, approximately 60% are female and 40% are male
  • 57% of people with BED never receive treatment, although BED is the most common type of eating disorder

For more facts and figures, you can check out NEDA’s collection of infographics here.

It’s easy to read statistics like these and feel discouraged, but NEDA week always gives me a renewed sense of hope. I see awareness building, creative efforts to combat the media factors that fuel disordered eating, and (this is really good news) more acknowledgment that there is no one particular size, shape, or experience that defines an ED. Only a decade ago, it seemed as though EDs were associated primarily with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Today, I see tremendous efforts to enhance public understanding of BED and eating disorders not as specified (EDNOS). This more comprehensive viewpoint can only be to the good.

This week, as in years past, I’ll be taking a break from business as usual and focusing on EDs in my posts. If this isn’t your jam, please feel no pressure to read on. I realize that EDs aren’t a topic of interest to all of my readers, and that’s OK. In about five days, it’ll be back to business as usual with recipes, weekend reading, and some fun recaps of my trip to LA this week. For those readers who are interested, I hope that you’ll take something positive away from these posts, and perhaps even share your point of view in the comments. Everyone in this community is here to listen. If you’re struggling with an ED/recovery, but you’d rather not read on, that’s fine, too. It can be triggering to focus on these topics, and that’s the last thing I want.

NEDA week is devoted to creating awareness about the the experience of having an ED, but it’s also about celebrating recovery, and recovery is what I’d like to talk about tonight. I’m often asked by readers and clients where the motivation to recover comes from. When the patterns and rituals and rhythms of an ED feel so comfortable–when they seem, however deceptively, to give meaning and order to our lives–how do we find it in ourselves to sail into the uncharted waters of recovery? How do we venture someplace new, when it feels so tempting to stay where we are? I have some thoughts. Keep in mind that I’m not a treatment professional, nor can I speak for any experience but my own.

I’ve had three major ED bouts: one as a young teen, one during college, one in my early twenties. It was my final attempt at recovery that stuck; in the past, I’d always gone through the motions of recovery (embodied primarily in gaining weight) in order to deflect others’ alarm. Because I wasn’t approaching recovery with a genuine desire to heal, I still struggled with food in between the periods that I identify as “disordered”: I’d restrict, overeat when the exhaustion from restricting got to be too much, or find some way to obsess about food/exercise. My final relapse finally gave me the motivation I needed to commit to the recovery process. Here are some of the realizations that helped to push me forward. Perhaps they’ll be helpful to you, too.

1. Recovery can save your life.

I guess this is the most obvious reason to pursue recovery: eating disorders are life threatening. It’s true literally, and I think it’s also true on a figurative level, if we define “life” as a whole, rich, and robust existence, rather than the often narrow experience of an ED.

The problem is that it’s possible for us to rationalize, deny, or ignore how physically vulnerable EDs make us. I had hallmark symptoms of EDs (amenorrhea, frequent cold, hair loss) during two of my bouts, but I also had a certain image in my mind of what a really sick person looked like, and she wasn’t me. I was too energetic, I thought (ignoring how tired I often felt), too engaged in my life (ignoring the many nights I’d say no to friends because I didn’t want to have to eat in a restaurant, order a drink, skip a workout), and–most important–not thin enough. I was in denial about how underweight I was, but I also assumed, mistakenly, that only the most extreme kind of emaciation posed any physical risk. And because I was able to function, it was easy to ignore other signs that something was wrong: the fact that climbing a flight of stairs made me winded and left my heart pounding in my chest, the fact that I huddled on my dorm room radiator between classes to keep warm, the fact that hunger pains often kept me awake at night.

Some ED cases do cause immediate physical symptoms and/or health deterioration. But even if you don’t experience something urgent, it’s important to remember that, sooner or later, disordered eating is likely to have a significant impact on your health. Consequences of disordered eating can include digestive distress (IBS, constipation, heartburn), hormonal imbalances, osteopenia or osteoperosis, electrolyte imbalance, muscle loss, and metabolic disruption. It may take quite some time for these kinds of symptoms to emerge, but the risk is real. By choosing to seek treatment for your ED, you can help to protect your body from any further damage, and correct whatever impact the disorder has already had.

Yesterday, Heather mentioned in the comments section that there is a new book examining the relationship between nutrient adequacy and recovery. It’s worth mentioning, while we’re on that topic, that nearly all kinds of eating disorders leave one susceptible to significant nutrient gaps or deficiencies. Recovery, especially if it includes nutrient dense foods, gives us the chance to restore some of these losses. Anyone who has been through the process can attest to how good it feels to be truly nourished after any period of imbalanced or restrictive eating.

2. Recovery can give you freedom.

Don’t get me wrong: recovery demands a lot of work. But my worst day of recovery was still less of a struggle than the best day of my eating disorder. Looking back on those days now, I’m amazed at the sheer effort it all demanded: the obsessive planning, the calorie counting, the macronutrient pie charts, the kitchen scale. All those hours I spent on the elliptical machine. It was such an undertaking, this highly disciplined existence.

Recovery gave me a break from the energy expenditure. It wasn’t immediate, and at the beginning the challenges of recovery eclipsed the advantages. As the process moved forward, though, I started to notice that my life had become so much more…spacious. Suddenly there was room for entertainment, for hobbies, for friends. I didn’t have to devote free evenings to meal planning, or give every lunch break to exercise, or lose entire days to the dismay I’d feel if I hadn’t liked the number on my scale that morning.

When you’re first presented with the recovery process, it’s easy to see it all as a tremendous sacrifice: you’re being asked to give up habits and customs that have become desperately important, whether they deserve to be or not. But what feels like a loss at first is really a tremendous gain in time, energy, and freedom.

3. Recovery can turn your relationship with food into something beautiful.

If you’d told me a decade ago that I’d ever define myself as someone who loves food–a “foodie,” even–I wouldn’t have believed you. I wouldn’t have wanted to have believed you; at the time, I associated enthusiasm for eating with loss of self control, with a messiness that terrified me. I’d loved food tremendously as a kid and had an enormous appetite for which I was often teased. I knew this, deep down–that I’m a person with big appetites–and part of me always feared that if I gave into my hunger at all, I’d go crashing headlong into a pit of abandon from which I’d never emerge.

To cope with this fear, I went about stripping food of its meaning and beauty. I embraced the idea that food was fuel alone, and I ate foods that were as plain as possible as if to prove my point. I looked at food and tried to see protein, carb, and fat, rather than a pleasing sensory experience. I rejected the notion that food could have cultural or social meaning. (Sidenote: remnants of this mentality crept into early blog posts, and my reader/friend Elizabeth very gently helped me to identify it and change it–thanks, Elizabeth.)

One of the most wonderful parts of my recovery has been the opportunity to invest food with meaning once again. Eating is not merely an act of fueling or survival: it is emotional, it is conscious, and it is really important to me. I’m not a dispassionate eater, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Veganism has played a pivotal role in this transformation because it places my food choices in a broader context that includes ethical and environmental concerns, and it gives me an avenue to contribute to the world around me.


4. Recovery can be a gift to the people you love.

I hesitated about this one, since I believe that recovery is first and foremost an act of self-care and self-preservation. Part of the reason I think that my early recovery attempts weren’t lasting was that I was driven primarily by the desire to assuage others’ worries. But if we can accept that recovery has to come from within, I think it’s also OK to say that your loved ones are likely to share joyously in your recovery, and that it’s a beautiful part of the process.

My friends have always handled my food struggles gracefully. They made their concern clear without backing me into a corner or making me feel confronted. For all of their subtlety, however, I know that my behaviors were often a source of frustration or concern. It makes me happy to know that I no longer cause them distress, and I take pleasure in the pride they’ve expressed (also with subtlety) in my progress.

5. Recovery will allow you to enrich the world around you.

One of the most destructive consequences of disordered eating is an ever more diminished sense of self. When my ED was at its worst, I became divorced from the passions that had always sustained me in the past: music, art, friendship, books. During that period and for quite a while after, it was so hard for me to accept that my true worth might reside in something other than numbers, goals, or rituals.

This has proven to be the most sustained challenge of ongoing recovery for me (I’ve written about it here and here). But with each year that goes by, it feels more intuitive for me to wrap my identity around my character, my intentions, and my passions, rather than my former capacity for self-denial. The great thing about this shift is that it compels me to channel my effort into new pursuits. I’m more excited than I ever have been about activism, volunteer work, and exploring new relationships. I could never have directed that energy outward when I was unwell; what energy I had was funneled into the rituals of the disorder.

No matter who you are or what phase of recovery you’re in, remember that you have countless gifts to offer the world around you. Know that recovery will create space for you to move your energy around in exhilarating ways. I know it’s a hard concept to accept at the start of the recovery process. But it’s true.

Before I wrap this up, I should make a very important point: most people cannot simply talk themselves into recovery. I’ve listed some of the things that have motivated me along the way, but I couldn’t have recovered without therapy, as well as the support of loved ones. If you’re struggling right now, know that it’s normal to feel that you need outside resources in order to recover. If you need some ideas, you can check out the NEDA website. You don’t have to experience this process alone. You can think about the points I’ve just made as a source of ongoing inspiration, but they aren’t a substitute for other kinds of care.

Recovery, to quote a dedicated and insightful CR reader, is “anything but a linear process.” No matter what phase you find yourself in, there are always challenges and detours and bumps in the road. But in the end, the things that recovery will give you are so much more abundant than the challenges it will ask you to face. Not a single day goes by that I don’t feel grateful for recovery and indebted to the people who have encouraged me along the way. As this week begins, I wish you all the faith, strength, and support you need to consider or continue the process.

I’d love to hear from readers what other realizations or ideas or developments have served as meaningful sources of motivation. Happy Sunday/Monday, everyone.


Categories: Food and Healing

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  1. Thanks for putting this out there, lady. I’ve not yet had the courage to talk about my decade long struggle with disordered eating (I’ve been in recovery for almost four years) (!!!!!) but #4 was a big one for me. I met Thom during one of my biggest struggles with food and, eventually, made the decision to get better because I loved him and thought he deserved me at my best.

  2. Gena, I’m in love with this. The harmonious ideas that finally overcoming an eating disorder allows you to embrace AND enrich the world around you could not be more true. Thank you for all your bravery – I could not be more inspired!

    Sidenote: I’m still grateful for the opportunity to have posted in this series last year. It’s a really wonderful thing – so many kudos!

  3. Yes, you are bright and beautiful.
    Thank you for putting this forth to the world.
    Yes, The worst is when I feel diminished in my capacity to contribute.
    And in the next post, you mention a modicum of ambivalence over point 4. But I think this is underacknowledged. I have lost friends through this–many friends. And in periods of recovery I’ve had people share their relief from night times wondering if this would be the night I passed away. That’s a duress to put people under…Since most of us so much want to give, it’s good to know what it is that we’re giving, and to be conscious about it.
    But god-oh-god it is so hard, especially when you get to the point of not being able to digest anything well…

  4. Thank you for this beautiful piece, Gena. Although I want so badly for these things to be motivating enough for me to get over this beast that is bulimia, I have not been able to. This addiction to food and bingeing is relentless through the years of therapy I’ve been in. Although the anorexic tendencies and obsession about weight and food is where it all began for me over 10 years ago, it’s the out of control, often 12 hour days of bingeing and purging that has made my life a living hell for the past 8 years. I truly feel like I’ve tried everything and am so hopeless at this point. I’ve truly worked through all of the emotional issues there are to address, yet still this unfathomable compulsion to eat eat eat all day everyday still stays with me despite eating healthily and balanced meals. Despite this, I truly value your blog, words, and hope for those with eating disorders. You are such a bright light and beautiful spirit.

  5. What a GORGEOUS and honest peace. your words resonate so much with me and i was incredibly inspired by the way you discuss your recovery with reverence and no shame. Thank you! Its support like yours that keeps me inspired about the beauty of recovery, veganism, and community.

  6. I think I might print this and stick it in the scrapbook I am making with my nutritionist and therapist. Thank you Gena. I hope you know how much love and gratitude for having you (virtually) in my life and for all of your words of wisdom and support. Hugs.

    • how much love and gratitude I have for you and for having you virtually in my life
      *proof read hannah!*

  7. Gena – thanks so much for posting this. I find this particularly helpful and insightful at this time as I am struggling through recovery myself. I wish I could just “flick a switch” and be recovered already. It’s such a long process and daunting at times. It has a lot of ups & downs and it is really nice knowing others have gone through similar experiences and I’m not alone in the fight.
    It’s still tempting at times to just give up, but those days are farther and fewer between, and posts like this and people like you make it easier.

  8. Beautifully written, Gena, as always. I’m looking very forward to some new Green Recovery posts. I recently went back to eating a vegan diet. As you may or may not know, I’ve been an on-and-off vegan for years. I’m realizing now that it’s more of a mind-body connection for me than anything else, and I feel most in-tune with myself when I eat vegan. It’s amazing how my disordered thoughts (I’m at a healthy place now, but those thoughts will undoubtedly come and go forever) seem to fade into the background when I shift my food focus onto veganism, instead of onto calories or fat content or what have you.

    I really see the meaning behind “Green Recovery” now. I used to think that recovering by going vegan was just a way for people to hold onto a restrictive diet, but it’s actually the opposite. It gives passion and a sense of purpose to food. It helps people who have an unfriendly relationship with eating learn to love it, and feel GOOD about loving it. Eating disorders are such a touchy subject. I’m definitely one of those people who rolls my eyes when every little topic seems to get its own national week, but NEDA week is such a wonderful thing. People know more about eating disorders now than ever before, but there are still so many eyes that need opening. I like to think I’m rather educated on eating disorders, having read a lot about them over the years and having suffered myself, but even my jaw drops at some of the statistics from NEDA. It’s a very important week for society, and I don’t say things like that lightly. Thank you for your dedication to educating people on eating disorders. They’re more prevalent (and a lot more harrowing) than the average person realizes.

  9. That was a brilliant post, Gena. As someone who has bulemic tendencies when off of a plant based diet, I can relate to this post. I am so happy there is a week set aside for awareness. I only hope more people with EDs discover a green lifestyle and find your blog as well as others. It definitely saved me and I am forever greatful.

  10. I found your page on FB yesterday evening and immediately look for your website and read all what I was able… I’m so glad to have discovered it! I’m from Italy. I suffered of anorexia for 4 years in my mid teens and then jumped into BED right after… I’m still on recovery right now in my early 40s… I’m thin, I’m a strong person, I’m determined and nobody has seen how much I’ve suffered for all my life. Only my family knows how difficult and painful each day was for me and has given my support to find they way out. But now I go straight forward on my recovery process, step by step… It’s so hard to leave that way of living (I know only that one!!), but I think that now that I can admit I’m a foodie and I enjoy food and all what it means, I need “only” to give up with control and start to live my new life…. I can’t see the End right now, but I’m sure it’s not that far…or at least I hope!

    • Hang in there, Corinne – step by step, day by day, celebrating the smallest of victories along the way is the way to go. Please know that you are not alone – many of us diagnosed in our pre-teens/teens, have experienced residual difficulties and unexpected setbacks through the years. Wishing you the very best in getting to a more peaceful place. Take good care.

  11. Wonderful post as usual, Gena! Agreed that this needs to be shared, I really feel for the current generation with so much more media pressure it seems than when I was in high school and went through my own eating disorder.

  12. Beautiful, Gena. Here are some of mine… a mix of motivations for recovery and motivations for maintaining a healthy relationship with food and with my body.
    1. Fear of severe health consequences. I realized my body was telling my unequivocally that it was not OK. I was scared about seriously damaging my health and brain/intellect. Motivation to maintain: a healthy, regulated blood sugar for good health and mood, EFAs for brain health and mood, and so much more.
    2. Moving from secrecy to intimacy. At the time I was proud of my ability to keep epic efforts hidden. But it was a coping mechanism that filled the place of real intellectual and emotional intimacy, and the joys of really being known by other people.
    3. Enjoying food without crazy psychological agony. I’ve always enjoyed food, but it’s so nice to feel happy that I am eating food while I’m enjoying it.
    4. Feeling like I can be a good example to others of being healthy and being realistic and compassionate with myself.
    5. Demonstrating that it’s not either-or. Not either thin or happy. Not food or self-esteem. Not all the food or none of the food. Not good-weight bad-weight. I’m still working on this one, but enjoying the challenge of uncovering how I construct and maintain those equations myself, and can write new ones with some effort.
    6. Your blog. No seriously. Finding a community that celebrates recovery and does not enable disordered thinking brings positive social value to recovery.

  13. It’s amazing to me how well you are able to articulate the emotions and afflictions of eating disorders. All of these reasons really resonated with me, especially the first and fourth ones. I have to continually remind myself that eating disorders can cause health issues that may not manifest themselves until I am older, and it is in no way worth it to resume old habits. Plus, I honestly don’t think I am capable of mustering up the sheer energy it takes to do so; it has taken me some time in recovery to realize how consuming eating disorders really are – patterns of restriction and excessive exercise not only wore down my physical body but also exhausted me mentally. Also, about the fourth reason, embracing recovery made me a whole lot nicer to be around, which definitely improved the relationships I neglected to maintain while struggling with my eating disorder. Nevertheless, I think I’ve come a long way since just last year. Your blog has been a great inspiration to keep making strides, so thank you, Gena.

  14. I’m really looking forward to tuning in this week. I’ve always admired you for your integrity towards this topic. Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences with such honesty and openness.

  15. Gena,
    Your post is a beautiful, thoughtfully written article and I am so grateful that you share your insight, the lessons you have learned and your observations with your readers. Your brave and courageous words are an inspiration to someone who is very near and dear to me and I am so appreciative of all you give to others.
    Be well,

  16. Gena – per usual, you are in my head and put it into words completely. What a poignant, touching & incredibly genuine article. I resonate with all of them, but especially #2, 3 & 4. Especially #3. Thank you for your bravery, your honesty & your passion. You are an inspiration.

  17. I think I mentioned this to you before, but this is my tenth anniversary of struggling with these issues. At least, at this point, I can appreciate some of the “recovery” aspects, although others I’d rather not, like my bum. 🙂 But I paint and draw and study and have fun in a way I did only before I had an ED, and that’s something.

    • Amanda, just as we know that it’s important not to assess our accomplishments only in the context of a present moment, its also important not to evaluate your recovery simply based upon where you are today vs. where you want to be. You also have to consider how far you’ve come from when things were at their worst — how hard earned and how profound each mental shift, step forward, and triumph has been. In ten years you’ve come a really, really long way, and in another ten (or two) you’ll have come even farther. As with so many things in life, the process is ultimately more interesting and in many ways more meaningful than the goal. I’m super proud of you. XO

  18. I am an addict in every definition of the word. I got clean in 2010, but once I took the drugs and alcohol out of the picture, I looked for something else to control and change the way I feel. I started obsessing about food and exercise and made poor decisions in both areas. I didn’t see it as part if my addiction until much later.

    It took me a long time to change the way I viewed food, but once I did I was able to enjoy it so much more. It was no longer the enemy and I am so grateful that I am aware of my destructive patterns before so that I can avoid slipping into them again. Thanks for this article and keep reaching out to others. It’s so important.

    • It is so important, Erin, and you have my thanks and admiration for your honesty and capacity to share what you’ve learned. Congrats on your ongoing recovery.

  19. Thanks again Gena, you keep me motivated.
    I actually hardly ever comment on anything but this time I thought I must say how much I appreciate your writings about eating disorders.

  20. Fantastic post as I knew it would be Gena. I agree with everyone else that I wish this kind of information and insight was shared more publicly. I have no doubt that it would be of great help to so many- after all, who doesn’t know someone, either directly or indirectly, who’s struggling with an eating disorder? And for those sufferers you are a great source of inspiration.

    All of your “reasons” resonate with me in one way or another but I’m still uncertain what it was which eventually propelled me forwards into recovery.

    1. Feeling “well” was something which halted my recovery for years. I convinced myself that I was physically fine as I was so used to feeling how I did, despite still being severely underweight. It was only bone scans revealing osteoporosis which made me realize that I wasn’t in such good physical condition as I thought.. Even this didn’t seem to help motivate me, probably because something going on in the inside is easy to ignore..?

    2. This is an interesting one. I don’t know if this is the case for others but I was so terrified of that freedom. I felt I needed those activities to fill what seemed like the empty void of life. Giving up those ED activities was especially hard initially since I was out of the habit of spending time with friends or doing hobbies and so there literally was a “gap” in my life which I had to learn to fill with meaningful things again. Of course, now I completely embrace that space which has become freed up and filled with fun, learning and love!

    3. Yes! Recovery has definitely done this for me and like you veganism has played a significant role in helping here too.

    4. Another big yes. I agree with you entirely that recovery does definitely have to be for yourself and not for others but it was torture to see what my eating disorder did to those who loved me. It was devastating for my parents and my relationship with my father especially, it drove my brothers away and left my friends unsure where they stood or how to help me. I felt I lost a lot of trust with my eating disorder and this has taken time to rebuild but is so so worth it. For one I’m so grateful that my family don’t have to worry about me like they did before and they can carry on with their own lives.

    5. Completely. I hate that people with EDs always seem to have so much to give the world but all their talents and passion are stifled. Escaping from the narrow confines of anorexia has allowed me to discover my true self, my passions and interests and acknowledge that I might have something I can offer to the world. Beyond wider activism or “great achievements” I can accept that I’m someone worthy of love and affection and able to give that in turn myself.

    Thank you again for your beautiful writing Gena. I’m going to go and re-read your post on “rebuilding a sense of distinctiveness after recovery”, still one of my favourite pieces of yours 🙂

    • Ah, Emma, I am so grateful for this comment! Thanks for sharing so much with CR readers. I can relate to a lot of what you describe — I, too, didn’t really have a wake up call till the osteopenia diagnosis. And I think this statement is remarkable:

      “Beyond wider activism or “great achievements” I can accept that I’m someone worthy of love and affection and able to give that in turn myself.”

      This has been on my mind a lot lately, and like you I’m trying to see myself as someone who is worthy of love and acceptance, regardless of achievements, accomplishments, body shape, or any other measurement of my own value. I so appreciate your thoughts.

      xo <3

      • Thanks for your response Gena. I didn’t quite realize how much I’d written. Got a little carried away 😉
        That last one is tough, and especially interesting given that ED sufferers are very often “high-achievers” in the academic or sporting sense. I think that the sense of satisfaction sufferers often get from losing weight or controlling their bodies/food intake is very much connected to the need to feel like we’re “accomplishing” something. A lower number on the scale equates to “success” somehow.
        It takes time to undo those well-ingrained beliefs that our personal value derives from such “accomplishments”. Not that academic success etc. are bad things, but they are probably less important than we might think.

  21. Another year, another impactful contribution to the public dialogue on this illness – never more urgent, but often just as riddled with shame for sufferers as ever.

    I especially appreciate and want to echo your point re. the need for a muti-pronged approach to treatment, including professional therapy, and the need to be vigilant in managing the disease on a day to day basis; personally, I liken my own journey to that of others with addictive illnesses, or in the physical realm, diabetes, and tend to refrain from using the term recovery; rather, I view my situation to be more of a management issue so as not to lose sight of tendencies that reside deep within.

    Much respect for your consistent leadership and advocacy on this non-sexy disease; and on a personal note, much love for your personal friendship and support, my dear most eloquent friend.

    • The addiction metaphor resonates with me quite a bit, as does the idea of management. For me, the essence of recovery is not so much the process of meeting a goal, but rather, developing an ever stronger, ever more sensitive and self-aware set of coping mechanisms and cognitive skills that help me to move forward and remain relapse free.

      All of that love and admiration is being sent directly back to you, my friend, along with profound gratitude for all that you contribute to this blog and my own personal outlook. Xoxo

  22. Thanks for a great piece, Gena. As obvious as it is, your first point is what’s most important to me at this point in my journey. When I relapse, my vision becomes myopic and I lose sight of my physical well being. Instead, I concentrate on the dangerous end goals of lightness and thinness. It’s important to always be cognizant of the very real health risks I may endure down the road. This morning I was thinking about the fact that, when I sit down to a meal, I’m always making a compassionate choice for animals. But what about me? I have to care enough about my own health and happiness to realize that I deserve compassion, too.

    I’m so excited to read more of your thoughts this week. xo

    • Oh Molly, I wish #1 were obvious! It took me over a decade to take the risk of my ED seriously, to prioritize my long-term health over the short term thrill of hunger and lightness. It was anything but straightforward. Kudos to you for working on it.

  23. This is fantastic as always Gena! When I’d read in the past of people going 10+ with eating disorders I never really imagined how it could last that long. A lot of people assume all you have to do is gain the weight back and then you are healthy. The awful thing is that recovery is so much more than the food, it’s the emotional/mental issues behind the disorder. The health services really need to invest in a more robust recovery treatment process. Speaking from experience it is more of a conveyor belt of gain weight and go.
    I think the way that everything is now a lot of ‘recovered’ people are falling into other eating disorders – all the ‘iifym’ and calorie tracking in general. I myself am guilty of this and finally trying to escape this entrapment!
    I also agree with Ashley’s comment above – “Recovery can be a gift to the people you love” – is so true. The trauma it can cause is horrific!

    Anyway I don’t want to babble on – just thought I’d commend you on this post Gena!

    • Sophie,

      I totally agree that there needs to be a more holistic and comprehensive approach to recovery. And yes — restoration of weight is usually a part of it (that was an important piece for me), but it’s hardly the whole story. There has to be a renewal of the spirit, too, and (in my experience) a new approach to food and nourishment.

      Thanks for commenting! I have no idea what IIFYM is — do I want to know?


      • I agree completely! I think that people need to learn, as you say, food is a nourishing thing and not just calories.

        ‘IIFYM’ is ‘if it fits your macros’ – people eating anything as long as it fits their allotted macronutrients to get their desired physiques. Generally figure/bikini competitions. I’ve noticed a disturbing movement towards this lifestyle. It’s an almost seductive manipulation of food to make one feel one isn’t disordered or restricted – yet completely is – and get the ‘perfect’ body (whatever that is!).

        I personally feel like every day (7 years on) I’m learning more and more about my recovery. It really is such a journey! I’ve always tried to find positives from this experience, and I do think they can be found. For one, I know there is more to me than my image. I also know how I want to nourish my body in a compassionate way (veganism). That is one of the reasons I love your blog – I feel that you are voicing this positive, nourishing and compassionate lifestyle.


        • Ah, got it.

          It is totally a journey — I’m always surprised by the new realizations I have, or the new phases I move into, even when I thought the work was all behind me.

          It means a lot to me that the blog and Green Recovery resonate, of course, and that the idea of compassion (to the self, to animals) has been a part of your journey. Love your comments, always! XO

  24. Of all your great points, I think the “Recovery can be a gift to the people you love” sticks out the most to me. Especially now that I’m a mother, I can’t imagine how much worry I’d have if my daughter had an eating disorder like I did. The impact goes far beyond the person struggling, and — being someone who had an ED AND had friends/ family who struggled — it involves the heart and energy of everyone involved.

    • Thanks so much for sharing, Ashley. As I said, I was a little conflicted about that point, but I’m glad it’s resonating. I’m certain that your perspective as someone who has had an ED will ultimately prove valuable to you as a mom, encouraging you to help your daughter foster a meaningful relationship with food. <3

  25. This NEEDS to get shared. Great writing up on such a personal topic, thank you it means a lot to me as I have friends who are really struggling.

    • Gwen, thanks so much. I hope that you can find something helpful on this blog to share with your friends, and I will send them good thoughts.

  26. As a college student who suffered through a relapse last quarter I really admire the strength you demonstrate on your blog by openly sharing about your ED and recovery process. Sometimes I feel people outside the world of treatment centers won’t understand necessarily the hardships and struggles that occur in recovery, but I always feel a connection with your posts.
    Thank you for this wonderful post, the previous posts, and for being an advocate/Role Model for ED recovery.

    • Katharine,

      Thanks so much for sharing. It means a lot to me. College can be a deeply challenging time for recovery, and I hope that this blog gives you a sense of community and support. Congrats on your self-awareness, congrats on confronting your relapse, and I wish you all the best as you continue to move forward.


  27. As usual, your elegant + spot-on writing on this topic has brought me to tears. Thank you for doing this every year, for shining the light for so many people, and for being so courageous in sharing your story over and over again. I truly believe talking about issues removes their power to incite shame or fear or embarrassment and hope one day I have the courage to share my story.


    • Ah, Kait. Thank you so much for reading and for processing. I believe that the day will come when you are ready to share, and whenever it does, I’d love to listen, respond, and perhaps help you to get your story out there. <3