What exactly is a recovery warrior? And how can you become one?
Think You Can’t Be a Recovery Warrior?
If you’re stuck in the throes of an eating disorder, chances are you’ve doubted your ability to truly recover. I remember sitting in a support group, wishing I could disappear into the cold metal chair as I listened to warrior after warrior share her story. All of the other girls seemed so beautiful, so wise, and so strong. “Not me,” I thought. I am not like them. And I remember reading article after article on Recovery Warriors website thinking “I wish I could be like them.” I thought they were all more resilient, smart, and powerful than I ever was. I listened to stories of triumph wondering what other warriors had that I didn’t. I thought I could never be a recovery warrior.
But I was wrong. If you’d told me six years ago I could become a recovery warrior I would’ve rolled my eyes at you. I never even imagined one day I’d actually work for the platform that helped me gain my life back.
And if you are reading this thinking you can’t become a recovery warrior- you’re wrong too. Maybe you think you’re “too sick” to recover, or that you’ve struggled for “too long” or you’re simply “too far gone.” Or that you just don’t have what it takes because you’ve tried before, only to “fail.”
You Can Become a Recovery Warrior
Guess what? At Recovery Warriors we believe anyone can recover from their eating disorder. We know this is true, because we have seen it happen, time and time again. Regardless of your age, your history, gender, or your disorder…. deep down inside of you there is a recovery warrior. You are strong, and wise, and courageous. Resilient too. And you can access your power now.
11 Ways to Become a Recovery Warrior Now
1. Get Honest With Yourself
This is a hard one sometimes. We often use an eating disorder to distract our minds from the issues that are really underlying our obsessions with food, weight, and body. But when we get really honest with ourselves and examine our current lives, we can start to make much needed changes.
Consider these questions honestly:
- Where has your eating disorder led you so far?
- Has losing weight, focusing on your body, or engaging in disordered behaviors made your life better or more stressful?
- Has your connection to others grown or shrunk as you descended into the eating disorder?
- How about your joy? Has it grown or shrunk?
- And your health?
Getting brutally honest with yourself means recognizing that living in accordance to what your eating disorder wants you to do is NOT in the best interest of YOU.
Yes, your disorder likely developed as a means to cope with whatever life situations you were in. And yes, you have the genetic predisposition to develop an eating disorder. But that does NOT mean you have to spend the rest of your life living in the hell of an eating disorder.
You did not choose to have an eating disorder but you can make a choice to recover. Dig deep and honestly ask yourself if you want to spend the rest of your life in an eating disorder. And if the answer is “no,” commit to putting recovery first.
2. Do The Things You Are Afraid Of
That’s right. Being a recovery warrior does not mean you aren’t afraid. It means you feel your fear, and do the thing you are most terrified of. As long as it is in the best interest of your health.
Do the thing that ignites fear inside your body. Feel the fear and do it anyway. The only way to get over the fears is by facing them, one fear at a time.
3. Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes
Yup. This is another really hard one. But allowing for imperfections and letting go of trying to have your body, food, life, and even recovery look a certain way is a requirement for being a recovery warrior.
A true recovery warrior accepts that perfection doesn’t exist, and opens their heart to the lessons and gifts that come to us with everything we label as a mistake.
4. Take Recovery One Moment at a Time, One Bite at a Time
Early in my recovery, the thought of sitting down to eat three meals a day literally terrified me. I would rather have run into a burning building then focus on all of the food I was going to consume in one day. Even sitting down to a plate piled full of food caused my heart to palpitate and my breath to become shallow. I had to stop thinking about future meals and what might happen if I ate all the food, and instead come back to the current present moment. And focus on taking each meal one moment at a time. One bite a time.
Anytime I felt the anxiety building, I repeated to myself: Come back to right now. I can do this. One bite at a time.
5. Connect with other Recovery Warriors
When we sink into an eating disorder, we close ourselves off from connecting with others. At one point in my disorder, I refused to eat in front of any one else. This meant I steered clear of social activities involving food, I turned down invitations to lunch or dinner, and I avoided parties like the plague. By my senior year of college, the only times I ate I sat crossed legged on the floor of my dorm room, with the door locked, only when I knew my roommate was in class. Isolating myself just made me feel worse and sink deeper into the disorder. It became a vicious cycle.
One of the most healing parts of my recovery has been connecting with other recovery warriors. Whether you attend a local support group, enroll in an online course, or connect with warriors through social media- it is healing when you realize you are not alone in your struggles. Even listening to stories of other warriors on podcasts helps us feel connected. It is empowering and inspiring to witness other warriors stand up to the eating disorder and step back into their authentic selves.
6. Practice Mindful Self Compassion
True recovery warriors understand that part of healing means giving yourself the same respect and kindness you would treat any other person or living creature with. The ed voice can be harsh, cruel, and downright abusive. Consider how you speak to yourself in the mirror or when you face a plate of food. What do you shout at yourself in your head? Now imagine you spoke those same words to an innocent five year old child.
It’s not a pretty picture, is it? The thing is, being mean, harsh, and abrasive to ourselves only harms us in the end. It doesn’t motivate us to take care of ourselves, it only feeds the eating disorder.
When we begin to notice and then change the way we speak to ourselves, we can start to treat ourselves more kindly. We can let go of hating ourselves and begin to think about what our bodies and souls actually need and deserve.
7. Get to Know Yourself
When I was deep in the disorder, I feared I was nothing but an empty shell. After obsessing over my body for decades, I worried I didn’t even have an identity below the food shit. Oh how I was wrong.
Getting to know yourself is one of the most amazing parts of recovery.
Learning to explore my likes, interests, hobbies, and preferences is exciting and life affirming. Giving myself permission to try new things and letting go of the need to do everything perfectly has opened me up to so many new experiences. Digging into the what matters most to me, my values, my quirks, and my pleasures helps me understand that I am so much more than just a person who struggles with food.
I am a quirky, artistic, and spiritual woman who loves children, connecting with others, learning, and writing. Reconnecting to my wise self, I understand that art is one of my favorite ways to be in the present moment and to express my soul. I have taken up so many new interests and hobbies since choosing recovery. From Taekwondo to playing the psaltry (look it up if you’ve never heard of it), I fill my time with so much more than food and calories.
Yes, letting go of an eating disorder is terrifying (see #2) but it also opens up space to rediscover who your authentic self truly is.
8. Use Your Voice
Recovery warriors speak their truth. They don’t shrink just because they have a differing opinion. And they don’t hold their tongue because they fear what others may think of them.
While being kind and compassionate, a recovery warrior uses their voice when compelled to speak their truth.
Some warriors use writing to share their voice. Others do so through art, music, or dance. The way you use your voice is unique to you. The important thing is that you explore various ways until you find what feels good to your soul.
9. Prioritize Yourself and Your Needs
A recovery warrior learns to accept the truth that we all have needs we deserve to have met. Even though it feels foreign at first, you can begin to identify what you and your body truly need, and then prioritize meeting these needs.
It’s like the old adage about the airplane. If the plane is going down, you have to secure your own oxygen mask before you can help anyone else. The same is true for your needs in your life. It is up to you to identify what you need and take steps to meet these needs. And if you want to be of use to the world, you must first learn to take care of yourself. When I am sinking into my ed and denying my own needs, I am not able to be a present mother, wife, friend, or employee. We are taught (especially as women) that we should martyr and put ourselves last.
But by ignoring our own needs we not only harm ourselves, we also have less to give to the world.
Another trap we often fall into is hoping others will somehow figure out what we need and then give it to us. Personally I blame Hollywood and the false narratives we are fed from the media. True love doesn’t mean someone psychically intuits what you need and then automatically gives it to you. No, true love is feeling safe enough to ask for what we need. And when we truly love ourselves, it means we take ownership of getting our needs met.
10. Never Give Up
Please notice I have not said anywhere on this list that a recovery warrior never makes mistakes, falls down, or “messes up.” (Again see #3 above). A recovery warrior (along with every other human being on the planet) WILL make mistakes. She will fall down, get scrapes and bruises. We will all be hurt and let down, and hurt and let down others.
What makes us recovery warriors is the fact that after we fall down, we stand back up again.
Maybe you struggled with a relapse, perhaps you fell back on old behaviors. Or you momentarily forgot your worth and began beating yourself up again.
It is okay. Recognize what happened. Consider it with curiosity instead of judgement (see #6), learn from it (see #3), and get back up.
I already know that you are fully capable of doing this. Living with an eating disorder takes a tremendous amount of focus and effort. Ignoring your body’s signals and committing to and sticking with rigid rules takes resolve. The key here is simply using this force of determination in a way that honors and takes care of you instead of using it to self destruct.
11. Tell Diet Culture to F#?! Off
Yes, it is true that our society is obsessed with being thin. And it has confused health and weight, mistakenly thinking you can’t be healthy without being thin. But as a recovery warrior, you must do your own research. Read the books, listen to the podcasts, check out the research, and decide for yourself. The scientific evidence is clear- bodies are meant to come in diverse shapes and sizes and it is possible to be healthy at various weights.
Rejecting diet culture not only propels your recovery forward. It’s also a way to stand up to oppression in our society. This is a social justice issue.
A recovery warrior understands in their core that all human beings are worthy of love and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. No matter their race, their gender, their age, their religion, or their weight.
I have met so many people struggling with eating disorders. While each person and journey is unique- I have observed commonalities. The women and men I’ve met with EDs have been some of the most sensitive, kind, caring, bright, creative, and powerful people I’ve ever known. When they are able to step into their power and claim their place as recovery warrior, they not only change their own lives. But they also make this world a better place.