Does Recovery Mean Going Back To The “Pre- Eating Disorder” You?

recover (v.)
c. 1300, “to regain consciousness,” from Anglo-French rekeverer (13c.), Old French recovrer “come back, return; regain health; procure, get again” (11c.)… Meaning “to regain health or strength” is from early 14c.; sense of “to get (anything) back” is first attested mid-14c. –Online Etymology Dictionary

My recovery has been wrought with unpleasant realizations. I remember preparing to discharge from residential treatment and having my dietician tell me to make a list of potential meals to make at home. I thought of my favorite meals from the days before my eating disorder.

Happily, I wrote about dinners I’d make with my family, and those nostalgic “broke college student” meals. These were things I hadn’t been able to have since entering treatment; foods my eating disorder had taken away from me.

I was looking forward to being able to return to those meals that were my “normal”. However, they weren’t normal in my dietitian’s eyes.

I sat in our session, holding back tears as I watched her cross out entire entries, swap items, add additional components to the meals and increase portions. I wanted to scream, “No! Don’t touch those! Those were pre-ED, so they’re fine!”

Out with the old?

In my mind leaving treatment meant being able to go back to the way things used to be before my eating disorder. I was looking forward to returning to my old life.

This brought about a realization that I still struggle to accept – that recovery doesn’t mean going back to the way things were before the eating disorder. Those meals may have been normal for me in high school, but they were no longer normal in recovery.

As a wise friend from my partial hospitalization program once shared these wise words with me,

“If we went back to the way we were before, we’d get eating disorders all over again.”


Becoming new

So recovery isn’t returning to our pre-eating disorder selves, as the etymology suggests. It’s about creating a new healthy self. Those old habits may have been fine in the past, but in recovery you’re becoming a new person. Your old habits may not be healthy for the new person you are becoming.

I’m learning how frightening that notion is, but also how exciting it can be. When I really think about it, I don’t even want to be the pre-eating disorder me anyway. I now have the opportunity to become an even better version of me.

Recovery isn’t chasing after your past self, it’s about transforming into an extraordinary new self.

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1 Comment

  1. says: Ann

    This is SO relevant – I can’t tell you how much this empowered me and resonated in my heart. Thank you for the encouragement and courage to share.

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