If an eating disorder were a living creature I think it would be a weasel (possibly less cute) with countless sneaky tricks it can deploy to distract, confuse, terrify and kill its prey.
Recovering from an eating disorder is being vigilant to all the tricks that the eating disorder can deploy to keep us trapped.
So often I have felt like I’ve been doing really well in recovery, fighting against the illness, food rules, behaviours… only to find that while my back was turned, a new rule or behaviour has popped up.
And then that one needs addressing too!
There are countless occasions in previous recovery attempts that I’ve overcome one eating disordered hurdle, only to find I have unwittingly developed another powerful symptom to overcome.
For example, I might have managed to conquer a bigger breakfast. Proud that this has been achieved, I then look again at the bigger picture and find the yoghurt I’d always had with lunch has suddenly disappeared.
Or, I’m managing to spend all day sitting down, which my movement compulsions would never allow but then the ‘innocent’ evening walk (because I definitely needed that trip to the shops) had become longer and more compulsive.
In the past, I’ve stopped formal ‘sports’ which were dangerous and compelling, replacing it with gentle ‘yoga’ (encouraged by ‘professionals’) just to find this quickly became equally compulsive and socially disabling.
There are also much smaller ways the eating disorder can sneak in – little behaviours or routines, which are effectively ‘innocent’ to an outsider but are the ways the illness helps keep us calm, feeling secure and also keeps us sick.
As we eat more or address the compulsive walking, tiny new rituals can appear e.g. going up and downstairs x number of times, only using certain cutlery, having to cut a sandwich up in a certain way (but we’re eating a sandwich now, so that’s great right….. well yes but….).
Getting through eating disorder recovery intact and overcoming every eating disordered symptom, spotting new ones as they arise and whacking them down is a game of vigilance and sheer exhaustion!
But unless we do play whack a mole in recovery -the chances are that the eating disorder keeps a hold, even if it’s tiny and we don’t win… and we don’t recover.. not fully.
I now work as a professional eating disorder recovery coach. Find out more about my coaching services: www.hellybarnes.com