It’s a big question, but often people in recovery ask it: what will it mean to be fully recovered?
Before you read my own experiences of being in remission from a restrictive eating disorder, you might want to read my post: Am I Still Disordered? which can help give you some idea as to if you still have things to work on in your recovery.
Being fully recovered will mean different things to different people, but this post is about what it means to me and how I think it should be for people when they are in remission from their eating disorders.
For me, remission means that I eat what I want, when I want, and I don’t worry about that making me gain weight – and it doesn’t. I maintain my weight by following my hunger cues and cravings. I trust my body and I eat what I want to eat. I never make excuses not to eat something that I want to eat, and I don’t ever choose food based on calories or macros.
For me, remission means that I accept my body as it is. I don’t love it, but I don’t loathe it any more or have the intense desire to change it. I have accepted it as it is, and always try to see it in a positive light. Some days I am unable to feel positively about my body, but I accept that I will have bad days and then put my mind and thoughts to better use.
For me, remission means that I can enjoy being active, but I know it won’t have any effect on my weight or shape, and my reasons for doing it are not linked to my body. I do not engage in exercise that I do not enjoy because that would be disordered. I engage with physical activity that I find genuinely enjoyable and any health benefits come secondary to me having fun. For me, exercise has got to be something I look forward to doing, enjoy participating in, and feel good about after. At no point must I feel like I am forcing myself to do it. This means that for me I tend to do physical activity when other people are involved. I don’t see exercise as exercise – I see the activities I do that are physical as just another of my hobbies.
For me, remission means that I do not resort to eating disorder habits when angry, stressed, or upset. It means treating myself, relaxing, talking to other people, and doing things that I enjoy to make myself feel better.
For me, remission means that I don’t second guess myself when it comes to food. I don’t think about becoming “healthier”. Food isn’t so important to me any more – except for the fact that I now really enjoy it instead of feeling anxious and guilty! I am now myself and not my eating disorder. I am a woman who is interested in feminism, psychology, writing, reading, social politics, blogging, watching movies ad TV series, seeing friends, art, baking, swimming, badminton, and helping others in their journey towards recovery. I have energy and I put that energy towards my passions. I am now focussed on the things I enjoy and the things that are important to me, and my eating disorder does not play a part in my life any more.
For me, remission means that I am now able to do whatever I want to do, without being limited by anxiety towards food. I eat lunch at the pub with my friends, and go for evening drinks with them. I can go out to restaurants and end up eating a bit too much (as in, can’t stand up for half an hour because you are so full because you just had to have a dessert because it looked too good not to get it) and not think anything of it. I can go out for coffee and cake and sandwiches and picnics and eat whatever my mum has cooked for dinner without worrying about what is in it. I can lie in bed all day and not feel lazy. I can go for a stroll and not worry that I’m walking too slowly, because my reason for walking is not burning calories any more – it’s because I am enjoying the countryside or getting from A to B, or taking a walk with my brother.
My body is now not particularly important to me, in so far as it doesn’t take up much of my head space. I am eternally grateful to my body for keeping me alive, and for healing me when I decided to work with it rather than against it. I am thankful that I am strong, and healthy, and I am thankful that I am able to be me again – the real me that I am supposed to be, rather than someone taken over by an eating disorder. I do not body check, and I am not distracted by how my body looks. I live life, and rarely think about how my body looks like doing it.
There are always traps that you can fall into when you are in remission. Remission does not mean that your eating disorder is gone entirely. Occasionally, you may come across something that triggers the little ED voice to pipe up. In remission, I have found that I don’t have that many triggers any more, but there are some that still remain. When the ED voice pipes up, I tell it in a very bored manner to shut up and go away, and I never act on it. When it gets ignored, it slinks back into hiding in a dusty corner somewhere in my mind. Usually, I do the exact opposite of what it is telling me to do, just to show it how much it is not going to affect me. It generally does a vanishing act then.
In remission, my eating disorder has no impact on what I do in my life, and how I do it. I am now a functioning, healthy, energy-balanced woman, living out her life in relative peace from the eating disorder’s voice. It has no place in the life that I have made for myself by fighting the eating disorder and winning. I now do things freely. I enjoy my hobbies, I work hard at my passions, and I have a full time job doing something that is extremely important to me. I have healthy relationships, eat well, and take care of myself. The life that I now have is full of me being me, and that’s what remission is all about.