The Power of Having a Yay Team in Recovery

yay team. multiple illustrated hands holding each other surrounded by black abstract shapes.

Have you heard of a Yay team?

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Hannah, happy birthday to you…” The singing spun into laughter as the birthday party’s VIP, me, responded with a meltdown of tears. Two-year-old me didn’t like the attention of this group of adults turned my way, so I responded like a busted faucet until the singing halted and I was no longer the focal point. 

Comically, this has been a thread of familiarity growing up, from angst over performing a recorder solo in elementary to asking my mom to not cheer so loud for me in middle school soccer. Admittedly, despite maturing from meltdowns, I continue to subtly despise Happy Birthday singing every January 4th. People celebrating my existence? No thank you – way too awkward. 

Choosing a Yay Team

But as I progressed in my eating disorder journey I realized I have to make proactive decisions toward recovery. Cue my “yay” team, a group of people I text throughout the month with eating disorder victories who respond with encouragement. Sounds almost cheesy, right? Who hires cheerleaders for eating food? 

My eating disorder brain said it was inane, and perhaps you hold similar disdain upon hearing it. However, let’s clarify what this is not:  

  • Cry for attention 
  • Codependency 
  • Selfishness 
  • Acting stuck-up

Rather, the creation of a yay team may reveal the following: 

  • Humility in recognizing your limits
  • Self-care 
  • Giving loved ones an opportunity to support you

If you’ve jumped onto this idea yet (or find yourself less apprehensive), what are the practical steps to consider next? How does it work, just go up to your Aunt Jo and tell her to throw a zoom party every time you eat ice cream? Hmmm, maybe not. (Though if you have an Aunt Jo who throws a party next time you have ice cream, 1000% go for it!) 

Choose wisely

Consider people you’ve shared your eating disorder with or other safe friends who are available. Have they asked how they can help, but you’re not sure? Maybe you have some friends for meal support, but you’re unsure how to include long-distance relationships in your recovery journey. 

After finding your team (1, 5, or 20, whichever will best communicate support) how will you ask? Personally, I wrote a letter to two friends, explaining that I recognize this might sound different, but that I needed encouragement with food challenges. And they were thrilled! Consequently, I texted them every several weeks with progress steps and they respond with exhilarated emojis and pride. 

As minuscule as this may appear, it’s positive reinforcement, right? I now have an extra weapon to combat eating disorder thoughts. If I eat this, I can write it out as one of my victories.

In no way is this a foolproof recovery plan on its own, but paired with other support, I’m finding the recovery journey less lonely. 

Who can you ask to be on your yay team? Or what other suggestions do you have to invite friends onto your recovery journey? I’d love to read your thoughts below! 

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