Recovering from an Eating Disorder
The Road to Recovery – Healing from your Eating Disorder
Becoming connected and comfortable with your body, yourself, and your decisions.
The immense journey.
Are you at a point in your life where you really want to be free of your eating disorder? Perhaps it still is a friend to you but your family or friends are insisting that you get help. Whether you have been restricting, bulimic, or compulsively eating, your personal stories have a striking similarity in the real emotional pain you feel. I understand your pain and how difficult it may be to trust that there is a way out. After all, you struggle with trusting your own body so how could you trust others or believe in possibilities? Perhaps you spend so much time trying to be perfect in everyway that you are left feeling exhausted. But of course you can’t quite be perfect enough to satisfy that hungry inner critic that constantly tells you that you are not good enough. So you may be left feeling empty inside. Do you have an over active mind that constantly is analyzing you and your life? Do you believe that people would not like you if they really knew you? Perhaps life seems like an endless struggle that you have been caught up in for so long, you really do not know who you are anymore. So how could you possibly feel happy when you are so afraid of becoming “fat.”
Isn’t it time to break free of the prison you are living in? Wouldn’t it be nice to discover a proven way that will end the war with your body and help you find other ways to cope with life? And how about simply feeling comfortable with your body, your choices, and yourself. Imagine what your life will be like without the huge time commitment that eating disorder behavior demands both mentally and physically. Imagine how it will feel to actually live your life without all those overwhelming emotions. How about a proven way that helps you discover yourself and allows you to live your life? You no longer need to pretend that things are okay when you really feel like screaming inside.
We live in a culture that promotes thinness as a way to obtain popularity, success, and happiness. A culture that encourages girls and young women to view themselves in highly unrealistic and negative ways. Specific factors such as genetic makeup, individual personality traits, family communication and history, and readiness to accept media influence may well determine why you ended up struggling with food and body image while others do not. Whether you started as a means to lose weight or as a means to simply feel better, your eating disorder may be in control of your mind, your body, and your life. In other words, the real you has disappeared.
I do not know when you made the decision to disappear. You may have been young, and at the time, restricting or bingeing and purging may have seemed like a very good idea – perhaps a way to feel more in control of your life or a way to numb out from the overwhelming emotions you felt back then. I do not know when you will make the decision to reclaim yourself and your life. You deserve lots of good things and we both know your eating disorder will never allow that to happen.
Wouldn’t it be nice to genuinely feel comfortable “in your own skin” again? Remember as a very young child how easy it was to eat, move and play. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to feeling comfortable with your body, your emotions, and yourself? You may not know how to feel hope and the possibility for change, but I do, and together we will go on a journey of healing and self-discovery. You will learn new ways to live in the world without your eating disorder. And you will only give up your eating disorder when you are ready.
But wait . . .
“How can I be free of my eating disorder?”
It may be difficult to believe you could return to a life without an eating disorder. This is especially true if you have been engaged in some form of restricting, bingeing/purging or compulsive eating for over a year. Your brain and body are no longer working together. Most of my clients felt the same way as you do and here is what they found as we worked through this together. Sharon (not her real name) came to see me after her college roommate called her parents and told them she had an eating disorder. Her parents were shocked and Sharon was hurt and angry. Although she self-identified as having an eating disorder, it was hard for her to actually accept that it was a problem in her life. After all she had been doing some form of avoiding eating or over eating since she was thirteen. And she was okay, or was she? Sharon struggled with bouts of anxiety and her bingeing and purging seemed to temporarily relieve her anxiety. As we talked, Sharon began to understand that she was using food in an attempt to avoid often overwhelming emotions. Over time she began to trust in herself. She learned new coping skills that gave her alternatives to her old way of bingeing/purging and restricting. The less she engaged in eating disorder behaviors, the clearer her mind became allowing her to make new decisions that supported her desire to heal from her eating disorder. She began to refuse to judge herself in unrealistic ways and instead began to appreciate herself more. Of course this was hard at first because her identity was so caught up in her eating disorder. She really did not know who she was without it. And then there was her relationship with her mother and her desire to please others. It took a while because Sharon felt coerced into therapy by her parent, but over time she made the commitment to herself that she wanted more out of her life. She wanted to feel happy again. She wanted to be free.
“What if I am not ready to give up my eating disorder?”
Many of my clients have felt the same way you do and this is what they found. Until you really understand how restricting, bingeing/purging or compulsive over-eating is both helping you and harming you, it may be difficult to give this behavior up. After all, you probably have been doing it for a long time. There is also a physical/psychological addictive feature that can make it difficult to give up eating disorder behaviors and attitudes. Karen (not her real name) came to me feeling ambivalent about her therapy. At times she wanted to start the process of healing but at other times it just seemed too overwhelming. She was naturally reluctant to give up something that she both identified with and believed she needed. What Karen learned is that by giving up her eating disorder she was actually more in control of her life. She realized that she was living a “small” life often too afraid to interact or engage with other people. Her eating disorder actually helped her avoid her life.
Often people are afraid that by changing their behavior and thinking that they are somehow giving up control. Quite the opposite. When you first started controlling your body by restricting or bingeing and purging, you were trying to gain control in your life. What has happened is that the eating disorder part has taken over. The problem is that left unaltered your eating disorder behaviors could seriously compromise your health or even kill you.
“What if I am ashamed of myself and my behaviors? Besides I have never told anyone about all of it!”
It takes a great deal of courage to open up and let it out. Talking about your eating disorder also makes it more real. This is the first step on the road to recovery. Most people feel exactly like you do and this is what they found to be true working with me. Your emotional safety and comfort is my utmost concern. I will never ask you to talk about anything you are uncomfortable speaking about. We will work together on your time frame. I will help you gain a new perspective to understand yourself and your behaviors which will help erase feelings of shame and self-blame. You will find it much easier to talk about painful or shame-based concerns without overwhelming emotion. We will find a way, together, to get through your emotional pain.
“I just discovered my daughter may have an eating disorder. I feel guilty and angry that this is happening. I really do not know where to turn or what to do.”
You are not alone in your feelings. Many of the parents I work with feel exactly like you do and this is what they discovered as we worked together. Due to the secretive nature of eating disorders, most parents are unaware that their child/adolescent is engaging in these behaviors or attitudes. You live in a culture that promotes thinness at any cost and your daughter has become an expert in this way of thinking. Jennifer (not her real name) was 14 when I first met her. She had been bingeing on food and restricting for over a year without her parent’s knowledge. How had this happened? Jennifer appeared to have it all – good friends, good grades, and a good family. Yet she had become entrapped in a secret life that over time increasingly isolated and controlled her. Her parents naturally wanted to help her, yet at times felt so frustrated and helpless that instead of helping they tended to become angry and more controlling. By participating in therapy, they learned new ways to talk that focused on supporting and encouraging their daughter. They learned how to step out of problem solving long enough for Jennifer to feel listened to and encouraged. This allowed their daughter to own her recovery – the first step to breaking free of an eating disorder. It is important to get help from the professionals so you can be a valuable resource for your teen’s recovery. She needs your support and encouragement and you also need support to understand how to navigate through this process.
“I really want to start therapy but I am afraid it will cost too much.”
I understand your concerns. Many of my previous clients have felt the same way.
Therapy can be expensive and often individuals use insurance, take out loans, or have family or friends that help defray the costs. Therapy is a personal decision to invest in yourself and your future. When you are in throws of an eating disorder your life can be at risk. Your emotional and mental health is compromised. Purpose and meaning are replaced by a drive for thinness at any cost. When you add up the years and the losses, you may find that maintaining your eating disorder turns out to be much more expensive than treatment.
Those individuals who have made the decision to invest in themselves have found that the positive changes they were able to make in therapy greatly outweigh the cost. Almost all of my clients state that therapy has made a huge difference in their ability to live a richer, fuller, happier life. They have been able to remove obstacles that had prevented them from living the lives they wanted. What is the price of happiness, increased self-confidence and the ability to genuinely love yourself? My clients usually fill out a survey when our work is completed, and it asks them if they felt that therapy was worth the money. Their answers to this question routinely include “absolutely,” “of course it was,” “It is well worth the money,” and “priceless.”
“How do I know that you are the right professional for me to work with? After all there are a lot of therapists out there.”
I understand the importance of finding the right professional. Read the articles on this site and subscribe to my newsletter so you can get a feel for whether I am a good “fit” for you. If you’re interested in getting help sooner, then contact me for a full session introductory meeting. At the end of this meeting, if you feel “right” about what I say and offer then I will charge you my regular fee. If, for any reason, you do not feel our work together will be helpful then you owe me nothing. I also offer a free 20 minute phone consultation to answer your questions. Finding the best therapist for you is very important. Research has shown the most powerful predictor of success in counseling is the “fit” between the counselor and client.
I believe it is important to “walk the talk.” I grew up in a loving family that struggled with issues of loss, shame and unresolved grief. My parents did not always understand me or my siblings. Needless to say I spent many years working through my personal and relationship issues so that I could live a life I believe in. I did the work necessary in my own life to be able to teach women how to achieve complete acceptance and comfort in their lives. My professional credentials include:
- I hold a Ph.D. in Psychology (2000).
- I hold a M.A. in Psychology (1982).
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Washington State.
- Clinical Member, American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy.
- Professional Member, The National Eating Disorders Association.
- Professional Member, The National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).
- Writing credits include:
- “A Phenomenological Psychological Analysis of Multiple Experiences of Bulimia,” Doctoral Dissertation, 2000.
- “The Acquisition of Bulimia: Childhood Experience,” The Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, Volume 35. No. 1, 2004.
- Registered Play Therapist, The Association for Play Therapy.
- I have 26 years experience working with adults, teens & children.
It is a privilege and an honor to sit with people and hear their stories. I am accepting and understanding and can be more direct when it is needed. I genuinely enjoy people and love the work I do.
“When is a good time to start?”
It is a good time to start therapy when you feel ready to engage in the process. Sometimes we know because our loved ones want us to get help. Other times, we are just tired of living life with an eating disorder as our best friend. Sometimes we just need another person to talk with to decide if therapy is right. And sometimes we just need to do it. The most important thing is to recognize the seriousness of an eating disorder in your life and to trust that part of you that honors who you are.
Here are self-discoveries from women I have helped on their personal journeys of healing. They have given permission for their words to be shared with you.
- “It really took me by surprise . . . I never thought I would be the type of person to have an eating disorder. I thought it only happened to other girls.”
- “Bingeing and purging became the only thing I wanted to do . . . It was like I had to do it or I was an awful person. It was only later when I was able to interrupt this cycle that I came to know myself and what I really wanted in my life.”
- “It took me a long time to realize how invisible I had become.”
I will teach you how to be comfortable and happy with yourself, your body, your decisions, and your life. After all, you deserve it!