23 September 2011

How do you define recovery?

For me recovery is both a journey and an end result, a destination where everything will make sense and I will love myself a bit more.

There have been times when I thought recovery was something different, when I thought recovery was admitting I felt a certain way, or adding a few calories to my daily total. I thought that meant I was recovered. At first I thought the goal posts for recovery changed, but those are little milestones along the journey of recovery. But to know what it’s like to be ‘recovered’ – well, I can’t wait to feel that, because most of my life has been consumed with thoughts, emotions or behaviours surrounding food and body image.

To truly be ‘recovered’ and free from my eating disorder will take time, I know this, but I dream of what this means most nights, and write about how it might feel most days.

Recovery will mean I don’t always need control. It will mean I don’t have to pretend I am more recovered than I am. Because I will be.

It will mean I’ll be able to let someone cook for me, buy me a meal, take me to a restaurant without me needing to choose the menu, the ingredients or time we eat. It will mean I’ll enjoy eating out social without shrinking in my seat when I can’t find something low calorie on the menu or when I can’t work out the calories in food someone has cooked for me. It will be the moment I can order a main off a menu and not two side salads. It will mean I will order a dessert I love and share it with my friends. It will mean truly being excited about birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and parties when normal eaters enjoy food, drinks and cake.

My life won’t revolve around food. I won’t let food consume my thoughts the way it does now. I won’t have to plan my meals, my calories, and my totals days in advance. I will make the choice to stay at a friend’s house, or go shopping at a certain time or have friends over when I want to, not because it fits in with what I planned for lunch or dinner. I won’t have to eat a different meal to my family or carry my ‘safe’ snacks with me. I won’t spend hours wandering around the supermarket, obsessed and scared of the food at the same time. I won’t spend hours picking up packets of food and reading the calories and putting them back down. I’ll be able to make a choice without even looking at the calorie content because I fancy eating something.  I’ll be able to work out when I am hungry and eat and when I am full and stop – I won’t have to stop when Ana tells me I’ve had too much. I won’t spend this much money on food I’m never going to eat, because I’ll be able to eat it without feeling guilty.

Guilt.  When I am recovered I won’t feel guilty for eating foods I love. I won’t feel guilty for craving my favourite foods. I won’t feel guilty for wanting another serving or an extra spoonful of pudding, because I’m hungry.  I won’t feel guilty for not hitting my daily calories, because I won’t count them that precisely. I won’t feel guilty for hitting them either, because Ana will be silenced.

I won’t have a hundred rituals surrounding food and I won’t play mental games every meal time. I won’t time my meals or worry that I am eating too fast or too slow. I won’t have to weigh my food or worry that I haven’t weighed it. Recovery will mean I am free from meal time maths. I’ll be free from adding calories in my head and from ‘researching’ calories whilst I am eating.  I won’t have to distract myself with reading or writing or counting to stop myself adding and I won’t need to keep every meal at the same calories and every snack lower than every meal.

I won’t fill myself up with diet coke, coffee and water to take away hunger or make myself wait for mealtimes my eating disorder wants. I won’t have to have the same ‘safe’ food over, over and over again. Or panic when it’s not available.

Emotionally, recovery will mean I am happy in my own skin. I’ll be able to accept my body and who I am. I won’t be paranoid about what people think of me. I won’t have to triple check that ‘I look okay’ or if something ‘makes me look fat’. I won’t constantly compare myself unfavourably to others. I won’t think I’m the fattest, most ugly or least successful. I won’t worry what people think of me, or how people see me. I won’t constantly worry about what I’ve done wrong, or what I have said, or that I’ve annoyed people. I won’t play situations that didn’t occur over and over in my head. I’ll be able to take a compliment from a boyfriend without thinking he’s lying to me and I will allow myself to feel beautiful when someone tells me they think that I am.

I will stop saying sorry for everything. Sorry. 

I won’t feel so up and down, I won’t be so irritable or snap at people when they haven’t got the food I like in, or they’ve prepared food ‘wrong’. I won’t get so upset about the smallest things or allow my mood to be altered by food and calories. When I am fully recovered I won’t have to make excuses for not going to events, or meeting friends or completing things, because I want will do those things regardless of food and eating. I won’t shy away from social events or spending time with people because of food. I will be the sociable, happy me. 

I’ll remember the things I loved and truly enjoy them again.  I will relax. 

Physically I will look and feel like myself again.  My face won’t look gaunt and my skin will glow. Full recovery will mean my hair will stop falling out and will be full of life and vitality again. I won’t have the daily tears when I brush my hair and it falls out and I won’t have to conceal spots or dark circles under my eyes. My body won’t hate me and I won’t hate my body. My skin will be nourished and plump and my veins won’t throb through my skin. My shoulders won’t be angular or bony and my spine will be protected. My hips, elbow and knees won’t look so skeletal.  I'll be when I don’t get pins and needles in my legs when I sit still or can relax in a bath without my spine and hips banging against the tub. And get out without wanting to pass out.

Recovery will defined when my body is functioning properly, my blood will be fully restored and my immune system will be restored too. My brain will function fully once again and my fitness will be restored. I will have muscular legs again, not bones and skin and I will love my toned figure. I will be able to exercise because I want to and I enjoy it, not because I feel I have to or to avoid feeling guilty when I don’t.  I’ll swim, run and cycle without working out the calories I’ve burnt. The calories won’t be my motivation.

I won’t look in the mirror and see, fat ugly or not good enough. I’ll look in the mirror and simply see myself for what I am. I won’t poke, prod and feel my stomach nor will I tell myself I am fat. I won’t pick clothes to hide my stomach, or feel uncomfortable in clothes that cling. I will wear clothes I love, that make me feel fantastic. When I have restored my weight and recovered I will be able to wear my favourite bras, jeans, dresses and top without them drowning me.  Recovery will be defined physically when I’m not constantly cold, when I can feel the sunlight on my skin and enjoy it.

Recovery will mean all these things are no longer part of my everyday life. Recovery will be full when I am fully living again and my mind is free from food. Recovery is not quick and it's a journey that has many milestones along the way....I am on my way.


  1. Oh my word this resonates so much with me. So glad i found your blog :) Keep on trucking lovely xxx

  2. Wow! I don't think I've found a better definition of recovery. This is definitely how I see being recovered x

  3. Thanks Samantha - I wrote this so long ago - it helps me to re-read and realise I haven't got there yet too xxx

  4. Wow this has made me feel quite emotional. You have described how I feel in so many ways. You deserve recovery and you will get there I'm sure. Keep going. X