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Self-Care During Eating Disorder Recovery

Choosing to recover from an eating disorder is not an easy decision. For so long, you’ve spent your time and energy trying to change the body you’re in so that your appearance would match society’s standards for size and weight. It can be hard to remind yourself that you are worthy of trust, acceptance, compassion, nourishment, and love - especially from within. Eating disorders often attack your self-esteem and rely heavily on rigid behavior patterns, so there usually isn’t a lot of space leftover for kindness or self-care. However, there is room for kindness and self-love in recovery — if we take the time to practice it.


Set Boundaries with Others


Self-care is not all about bubble baths, face masks, and journaling. Prioritizing your needs during eating disorder recovery might look like saying “no” to your loved ones, too. Setting boundaries can be really difficult, but it’s important that you practice putting yourself first. You can communicate (as kindly or as assertively as you need to) with the people around you that you won’t tolerate talk about diet culture, body shaming, or the promotion of disordered eating behaviors.


Try Not to Focus on Perfection


Folks with eating disorders often struggle with perfectionism and control. Healing is not a linear process. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you continue to choose recovery and health. Transferring hyperfixation from your intake to self-care habits can be harmful. Rather than trying to plan rigid activities, remind yourself that self-care is about meeting your needs. It doesn’t have to be pretty or elaborate. It’s normal to have doubts, anxiety, and challenges related to putting yourself first. All that matters is that you are making an effort to choose life and recovery over your eating disorder every day.


Practice Self-Compassion


Transitioning from actively harming your body to taking care of yourself is a challenging step. It’s going to take time and conscious effort to take action towards self-love. Your brain may try to convince you that you aren’t worthy of food, rest, or health, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t forget that your life is valuable, and recovery is the only way to treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated. Be patient, kind, and forgiving with yourself; you’re capable of achieving the level of self-care that your mind, body, and soul need.


Step Out of Your Comfort Zone


Believe it or not, eating disorder behaviors like restricting, binging, purging, and overexercising become your comfort zone after a while. When you begin recovery, you have to step out of the perspective you’ve grown attached to - the one where you aren’t enough or don’t deserve proper nourishment or care - and into a mindset that prioritizes the things that make you feel whole. If your eating disorder is reinforced by certain people, environments, or behaviors, it’s time to cut those things out of your life. No matter how comfortable you’ve gotten in your routine or relationships with others, it’s important to understand that your recovery is the key to health and happiness. Shame and guilt may appear as you begin fulfilling your needs and making changes to practice self-care, but over time you’ll understand that you’re the best version of yourself when you are your own biggest fan.


This quote from Amalia Lee’s Redefining Healthy truly encapsulates the importance of pushing through the hard parts of recovery:


“The moments where recovery feels the most painful are often the ones you are making the most progress, because it indicates you are actively challenging your demons. Keep on pushing forward even when the eating disorder voice screams at you. Things tend to scream when they are dying."


Lean into the discomfort of change. Embrace your healing. Be kind to your body, take care of your needs, and forgive yourself, past, present, and future.


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