What I Wish That I Learned in Eating Disorder Treatment

Figures of women in Oxford

Figures of women from a museum in Oxford

The past few days have caused me to realize that there are many things that I wish I learned in eating disorder treatment, important aspects of living a normal life with food in it. Without these lessons in treatment, I have struggled greatly to try to adapt to the real world and maintain my recovery.

Now, most of my time in treatment was instructive, healing, and motivating. Health care providers gave me hope with their optimism and constant support. Fellow friends in recovery stood by my side and told me their own stories. Therapy groups taught me to use music, art, CBT, or my faith as a coping skill. Dietitians crafted a meal plan to support my body, lifestyle, and other needs. Acupuncture, yoga, family nights, outings at restaurants – all of the different activities allowed me to heal and explore new aspects of myself that had lay dormant for years.

However, something was still missing. More was needed in my treatment to help me further along in recovery.

I wish that I had learned that food will be scary. Knowing how to manage it will not be easy. There will be months where you can barely eat and others when you cannot stop eating. Both are miserable; I can’t really decide which is worse. They both just stink. Majorly.

I wish that I had learned that other people will not understand. Nor do they need to understand fully. Perhaps not having wheat really is helpful for them, or cutting out sweets causes them less stress. I do not fully understand. However, all I can ask is that people try to respect my food needs while I also give them room to care for themselves.

I wish that I had learned that overeating is hard to stay away from if you struggled with it before, but that does not mean you should return to restricting. No one helped me know what to do after I ate all of my meal plan for the day before supper. How do I adapt when I already ate dessert but someone baked cookies at work and begs me to have one? No therapist told me how to cope in these everyday situations.

I wish that I had learned how not to hurt myself when the first pair of jeans do not fit or how not to compare myself to the thinner girls at school. Not having mirrors was certainly helpful in the short-term treatment stay, but I now hate to see myself in the mirror and do not know how to handle it. How do you take a shower or bathe when the sight disgusts you?

I wish that I had learned what to say when someone commented on my weight. Likewise, how do you stand up for yourself and healthy eating in a world that seems to glorify both dieting and over-eating? What even is normal eating? Is that really a thing? Living in a world where so-called “normal eating” is atypical makes all of my recovery and meal plan seem untrustworthy.

Mostly, I wish that I had learned what to trust. Is it myself, doctors, friends, family, other medical professionals, eating disorder books, bloggers, theologians…the list of who I could turn to for advice seems endless. My eating disorder sometimes seems the simplest. It is certainly loud enough to drown others out with its tempting lies.

How can eating disorder treatment centers implement this information? I have no idea. However, it would certainly have helped me. That being said, recovery certainly does take place mostly outside of intensive care. I just wish that the care I had received would have better warned and prepared me for the difficulties still coming.

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