Recovery Does Not Mean Compromise

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Recovery from an eating disorder is a fantastic thing. A long, arduous, torturous, fantastic thing. It is painful and it is terrifying and it is tedious, but it is the most rewarding thing anyone with an eating disorder will ever do, because it gives you your life back. It gives you back your freedom, and it gives you back your health. However, all too frequently I am seeing what looks like compromise in those who claim to be recovered from an eating disorder.

I want to state right now that the recovery journey in itself does often entail some compromise as we navigate our way from disordered to healthy. It does frequently mean swapping things in and out, finding that with challenging one behaviour another pops up more strongly, transferring fixations and focus from one thing to the next, and other such struggles as we learn how to overcome our sickness. That is perfectly okay. That is part of the journey. It is part of managing the initial trauma of recovery. But there comes a certain point where you have to challenge how you are recovering, and you have to move on from compromising with your eating disorder. There comes a certain point where you have to be aware of all those things listed above, and start to do something about it, because although at the start recovery may include it, recovery cannot be about compromise. Recovery has to be about getting rid of the disordered habits, not switching them up for more socially acceptable ones and calling it healthy.

I get it: it is easy to fool the world and it is easy to fool yourself that eating “clean”/detoxing/eating only “healthy” foods/being vegan/going Paleo/etc and going hard at the gym/training for marathons/attending multiple aerobics classes/etc is living a recovered life, but those sneaking eating disorder lies and manipulations only prevent you from living the life that you deserve to live: one free from the shackles of your eating disorder. We as a society can praise the woman who “recovered” from anorexia nervosa and became a bodybuilder all we like, but it doesn’t change the fact that she still has an eating disorder. We can applaud that man who went from having bulimia nervosa to being a fitness instructor whose muscles ripple and glisten in the sunlight, but that doesn’t alter the fact that he has just switched up one eating disorder for another. We can use the woman who “beat” her eating disorder and now stocks her kitchen with protein shakes, quinoa, and lentils, and exercises an hour every day as inspiration, but that doesn’t change the fact that her life is still dominated by rules and routines and fear.

Recovery means breaking free of that suffocating cage. It means tearing down the walls that keep you from dedicating your time and energy to your passions, hobbies, interests, and relationships. It means not worrying about your calorie or macro intake. It means engaging in physical activity that you actually enjoy when you want, not in a fixed, rigid routine. It means resting whenever, but especially when you are sick, tired, or having any intrusive eating disorder thoughts, however small (because being recovered does not mean being cured). It means throwing off the shackles of guilt and anxiety by challenging and overcoming every negative, controlling eating disordered thought and behaviour. You know what they are. Push away the convincing eating disorder voice, and listen to your gut. Do you feel free? Think about the life that you want to lead. Is this it?


4 thoughts on “Recovery Does Not Mean Compromise

  1. afishthatlearnttofly

    Love this post ❤ As a vegan in recovery (NOT "plant-based", I follow the entire lifestyle for ethical reasons), it is difficult to think that I perhaps obtained this lifestyle in an initially very disordered way. However, the wrong choices can sometimes still lead us to the right places, even if not in the way we first expected xx


    1. kdchat

      An excellent reminder, and one that I need to be more mindful of, as the “healthy” rules I’ve set myself are probably a direct correlation to ED


      1. afishthatlearnttofly

        It can be difficult to know where to draw the line between “disordered” and “healthy”, and I believe that the boundaries are different for everyone. For instance, I know that going to my dance classes twice a week and teaching for 4 hours on a Saturday is normal for me, because dance is a lifelong passion which brings me joy and pleasure. Similarly, working long and laborious hours at the stables with horses is life-enriching for me and provides meaning for life; therefore, it is not a disordered decision. On the other hand, if I decided to go for a run once a week, knowing it would upset my chronic illnesses, or stretch for half an hour every evening to improve my flexibility, I would know that that was ED-led. It’s the same with food: setting limits such as “I must eat 5 portions of fruit and veg each day” is fine – so long as I am not neglecting other food groups or denying myself what I crave in order to achieve this. I know where my limits are though, and counting calories, setting a calorie limit, weighing food, etc, is not a good sign AT ALL.


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