Posts Tagged ‘Recovery’

Supporting a Child with an Eating Disorder in Uncertain Times

A mother and daughter sitting on a couch

Uncertainty is still all around us.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to raise questions over our finances, jobs, schools, and, of course, our health and the health of those we love. So much remains unknown.

During this long coronavirus blur, eating disorders have not gone away. Far from it. We may have shut down parts of our lives, but eating disorders have not loosened their grip. For some, the pandemic has only exacerbated issues with food and body. For others, it has introduced them, and for others still, it has complicated the already tough, circuitous process of recovering from an eating disorder.

Navigating a child’s eating disorder as a parent can be painful, confusing, and frustrating in the best of times. It’s demanding and it’s stressful. And in a trying year of tremendous turmoil, loss, and unpredictability? It may feel impossible. How can you support your child when racked with fear and anxiety yourself? How do you encourage healing in a world seemingly still so sick? How do you make any decisions or plans when the future is so unknown?

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Gaining a Life: A Q&A with Emily Formea

Emily Formea

**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, or symptom use. Please use your own discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.

Emily Formea is a writer and coach passionate about eating disorder recovery, food freedom, and self-love. She is the author of Gaining a Life: The Untold Story of My Eating Disorder & Recovery and the host of the To The Girl podcast. To learn more about Emily, visit her website and find her on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Here Emily tells us about her memoir, Gaining a Life, and the gifts of eating disorder recovery to which its title alludes, and shares with us one of her favorite excerpts.

Tell us about Gaining a Life!

I wrote Gaining a Life only four months ago and it has probably been one of the greatest achievements of my life! As someone who recovered from her own eating disorder of 10 years, I wanted to showcase that it was not only possible to recover, but also WORTH it! As a blogger and online influencer around eating disorder recovery, I hear daily how so many people want to desperately recover from their eating disorders! They want to stop struggling with food or their bodies! They want to eat freely and stop thinking about or worrying about their plates, BUT… and it’s always a big ‘but’ because it was the same for me for a decade…. BUT they don’t want to gain weight. They don’t want to have their body change at all! They want to leave their eating disorders behind, but they don’t want to leave their control behind with it. They don’t want to accept that they may gain weight, their bodies may change, that they may not know how long their recovery will last, etc. and that was the exact reason I wrote my book! 

Sure, I gained weight, but I also gained an entire LIFE! My book is split into three parts. The first half of the book is very vulnerable. It’s me detailing my true decade- long struggle with food to you. I wanted my reader to understand how bad I was with food and my body image to make them feel not so alone, to make them realize that if I could recover, so could they! And to make them aware of how my eating disorder affected my ENTIRE life, not just my body or my diet, I wanted the reader to really know about my background to connect us more! Then, moving into the second half of the book, it is all about how I healed! How I did recover, the process, the pain, the abundant joy, etc.! I explain how I chose to live my life off the scales and calorie-counting apps and how THEY can do the same!! The final few pages are actual exercises to help the reader shift their mindset around food, their body, control, perfectionism, and more to make recovery tangible and long-lasting!

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Weighing in on Weigh-ins in Eating Disorder Treatment

A doctor and a patient by a scale

There is likely no topic more on the minds of clients than weight. While the degree of preoccupation with weight varies—some clients admittedly experiencing little to none—weight is a construct that carries extraordinary meaning within and outside of the eating disorder experience. For those with and without these disorders, weight is a common source of concern and is often given disproportionate influence as a vital sign measure.

We live in a society that obsesses over weight. It erroneously conflates weight with health, attaching both social and moral significance to our body size. Weight bias is pervasive, and people who live in larger bodies face discrimination in settings from the workplace to the doctor’s office.

Eating disorders often compound the significance of weight even more. When we have these illnesses, the number on the scale can operate as a definition of who we fundamentally are. Our essential value as a person becomes attached to that numeric value. While we may know rationally that weight should not hold so much power, eating disorders are not rational illnesses. Therefore, the topic of weighing in eating disorder treatment is not simple at all.

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Ask an Expert: Questions About Eating Disorders and Recovery

Two people in conversation

Can you be born with an eating disorder?

While research does show a strong genetic component to these mental illnesses, there is not a single “eating disorder gene” detectable at birth or otherwise. Instead, it is believed that some people are born with a genetic predisposition to eating disorder development. That is, they are born with specific personality and psychological traits that make them particularly vulnerable to developing an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Perfectionism, rigidity, neuroticism, and cautiousness are among the aspects of personality that have been associated with a higher risk of eating disorders. The presence of these traits doesn’t necessarily cause an eating disorder, however; they can and do exist in people without these disorders as well.

There is more to these biopsychosocial illnesses than biology and psychology. A saying used in many illness contexts, “genetics loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger,” is also sometimes used to describe the etiological role of social factors in eating disorders. Sociocultural influences including family, peers, and media interact with genetics in complex ways to trigger the onset of an eating disorder. Though we cannot change the genetic component, we can challenge our culture’s obsession with diet, weight, and appearance to offset these social risk factors.

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“We Can’t Just ‘Quit’ Food”—and Why That’s Okay

A woman in a home kitchen with a plate of food

When eating disorder recovery is compared to substance use recovery, a sharp distinction is often drawn: You can’t quit or give up food, vowing to never touch it again. You can’t cold-turkey it with a pledge of sobriety.

That is to say, the human body doesn’t need alcohol or drugs in the way it needs food. Eating disorder or not, we all need food to survive. It’s one of the few can’t-live-without, most basic human needs. And those recovering from eating disorders need it, too, to heal from their mental illnesses. No matter your restricting, bingeing, or purging history, you do need to eat.

Eating is integral to the process of eating disorder recovery in ways that drinking or using are not part of substance recovery. To assume that recovery would be easier if this were not the case is, of course, an inaccurate oversimplification of the complexity of issues with alcohol and drugs, but the analogy does underscore a reality specific to eating disorder recovery: You face food every day, multiple times per day. You sit in the discomfort of eating a portion right for you, then the discomfort that often follows, then the discomfort that may come with knowing you will do it again. Soon.

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A Letter to College Students and Others in Eating Disorder Recovery

A college student holding books

By Shannon Brault

As we enter the hot summer days where there is still a virus keeping us from having a “normal” summer, some are preparing to (hopefully) be on campus in the fall either starting or continuing their college careers. While there is so much to learn and everyone is experiencing this time differently, there is no doubt that being in recovery from an eating disorder can make these times extra difficult and lonely. 

Starting college (or any new chapter of your life) can also be extra difficult living with or being in recovery from an eating disorder. You could be away from everything you’re used to and feel out of place in this new environment. It may feel easy to fall back into symptom use when you get stressed, lonely, or overwhelmed, but there are things you can do to be proactive and stick to your recovery. 

Starting college or any new chapter of your life can be scary, lonely, and exciting all at once. Whether you’re going to college, starting a new chapter of your life, or continuing life once this virus lifts, here are some things you can do to help aid your recovery. Recovery can be difficult and requires your full attention sometimes. While it can be difficult, it is possible and it is crucial in order for life to be the way it should be, with food as fuel for your body and not an enemy.

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