How to Survive Recovery in a World Obsessed with Health & Appearance

image of the back of a woman wearing a pale pink dress, standing in marsh in front of water, for article on how to survive recovery

The world is not made for people to survive in recovery from an eating disorder. It’s a bold statement that I believe is the truth. Having the knowledge of this truth can shield a person in recovery from triggers and temptations that can lead him/her down a slippery slope into a relapse. I’ve adopted three phrases that completely changed my thought process from the body and health conscious world around me. I want to share them with you.

3 Tips to Survive Recovery in a World Where Health and Appearance Are a Cultural Obsession

1. That is not for me

I am a mom of two young children, and every time we go to the store the battle will arise of the gimmies. They get the “I wants!”  If we are at Target, it is “I want a toy!” When we’re at the grocery store, it is “I want candy!” I adopted a phrase that seemed to work well with my 3 and 4 year old: That is not for you. The simple, yet profound statement was quite powerful with my children. And they stopped asking after I would declare that is not for you.

When I was in treatment, I was faced with the challenge of changing all my eating disorder actions, behaviors, and beliefs. And it was not an easy task. At one point, when we were on a restaurant outing practicing eating in real world situations, I looked at the menu and saw the calories listed next to the meal I was about to order. My ED brain freaked out and wanted to go back into restriction and compensation mode. But I heard my own mom voice speaking to me- that is not for you.

The world has become obsessed with calories and ingredients of foods we consume, and a person cannot go anywhere without being bombarded with information. But those numbers are not for me. I have adopted this phrase for myself and I strongly suggest that all of the recovery warriors say it often.

Use your wise mind and powerfully state to yourself- that is not for me.

2. Healthy is relative

Not only is the world obsessed with calories, but the world is fixated on fitness and only consuming food that’s “good” for you. I struggled with restriction of only eating “clean” foods (like a delicious cookie is dirty?) and keeping a strict workout/running routine that kept me sick and preoccupied in ED thoughts for a long, long time. The time and the energy that my eating disorder robbed from me was immense.

When I began recovery, I had to adopt the belief that healthy is relative because the world was telling me what I was doing was “healthy”, but it was killing me.

I had to accept that clean eating may be healthy for some, but it was not healthy for me. I had to accept that working out and running may be healthy for some, but it was not healthy for me.

When I stand in line at a work function or kid’s birthday party getting food, I cannot let the conversations and restrictions of the people around me affect what I put on my plate or allow in my body. Healthy is relative. In recovery, a person has to have a wise mind on what is healthy for them in that moment. My colleague may feel the need to pass on a certain type of food. But if my ED used to restrict me from eating it, I need to prove ED wrong and eat that food proudly. Regardless on what society deems at “healthy”.

3. Put on your recovery blinders

Be who you are today- it is a seemingly simple concept that many people (including myself) have trouble grasping.

Where you are in your recovery is unique to you. No one situation or person can define another.

So trying to fit into someone else’s mold is detrimental to growth and moving forward.

I was told in treatment, “put on your recovery blinders”. This phrase still resonates with me in my walk through recovery. I cannot be successful while continuing to look around me and allow others to determine my path. Nor can I allow other’s progress or failures in life and recovery effect the road I am on.

Each person is uniquely wonderful, and each road to recovery looks different.

Just because I am not where I want to be in the moment does not mean I am not moving forward. Baby steps are still steps.

In my recovery, I’ve learned I have to focus on my own goals and my own path to continue to be successful and learn to love me as I am today, in this moment- because who I am is always enough.

So are you.

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  1. says: Boyce

    Wow, thank you for writing this. Recovery can feel so impossible sometimes in our society– some nights I can’t get to the mute button fast enough when diet commericials and “clean” eating shows come on out of nowhere. It’s like ED is always lurking around the corner, always ready to strike. I’m so excited to use your phrases in these tough situations. Thanks again!

  2. You are so welcome! I truly hope we can help wake up society to the danger that is our skewed views of healthy- There is no one box that any one of us can fit into, and we have to protect our own health and well being! Well wished to you, Boyce!

  3. says: claudia

    Great article and defintality advice I will take on board. It feels like a constant battle against society to fight against the ED voice, so thanks for this 🙂

  4. says: Brooke Heberling

    Thank you, Claudia! It is sites like Recovery Warriors that help break that cookie cutter mold that society forces upon us daily. Proud to be a part of it!

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