How to heal from an eating disorder - your questions answered.
*Please note that the answers below are from my personal experience and what I found to support me. I have written it as if a loved one needs guidance from a family member. Names have been changed. ED is abbreviated for Eating disorder.
Do you still have any ED thoughts? Alice is very close to being weight restored but has the same ED thoughts as she had when her weight was at its lowest, I wonder how long it takes for those thoughts to go away?
For me, yes is the short answer. I still have the same thoughts! However, they are very infrequent now.
These thoughts are one reason it can be so challenging to recover from an ED initially (as it was for me. Individuals may experience the same thoughts because when going into an ED (even years before), we learn or tell ourselves different stories that lead to an ED. These thoughts and stories strengthen the neurological pathways in our brains, allow the thoughts to fire more frequently until they become so noisy that an ED may commonly result.
Once an ED is detected and recovery is put in place, an ED sufferer should also work on the mind through rewriting previously created pathways to weaken them. Through affirmations and belief work along with consciously choosing not to buy into previous thoughts, instead, witnessing them as floating clouds. It is very challenging from the start to not buy into previous thoughts; however, over time the thought frequency will lessen. Working with different practitioners may support individuals in detecting unsupportive thought patterns as well as reducing their frequency. A person I saw was Melissa Hage.
The thoughts individuals have will never leave completely- as all one needs to do is trigger an old thought through a similar experience (which can be as simple as picking up a purple pen used during an ED or smelling a similar flower). In these cases, it is best to affirm what is true such as "I am enough" or "I love my body as it is today".
I wonder do you think it's possible for someone with Anorexia once healed to exercise again or do you think it can trigger it again?
Yes they can, 100%. I have been through times when I went to the gym, did home workouts and now, I walk and do yoga. I have learnt to listen to what my body needs which changes at different stages in my life according to my schedule and current stress levels.
During early recovery, slower movement is best such as walks and yoga to support the hormonal and nervous system. Nervous and hormonal imbalances can be seen through absent/irregular periods, low energy, inability to cope with small tasks etc. After the hormones and nervous system is working coherently, I think it is very beneficial to introduce different movement once a week (later twice or more times a week) that is enjoyed (if enjoyed). Keeping movement as a mindful process is also very important as it can be easy for an ED person to disconnect from their bodies and move from a place of fear (thought like, I must move to burn x calories or I must move like x because that is how y moves are signs of fear-based movement). This is not wanted or needed, nor does it support the body's nervous system. It is also important to be mindful of energy expenditure vs intake.
The biggest key to learning to move again is moving slowly, adjusting food, and moving a little more or less until it feels good. Meanwhile, learning to allow an ED person to trust their body again to intuitively eat and listen to post-movement hunger cues and recovery needs. I can't reiterate this enough, trusting self to know what is needed, trusting self to stop moving before fatigue and trusting self to process the foods needed to nourish the body is so fundamental to a strong recovery. This trust takes time to build, just like building a house.
I wondered whether you found school a hindrance to your recovery? And if so what strategies did you use to help you recover while still going to school if you did...
100%, school was a place where I felt very lost, isolated and insecure. Needing to be someone through my body figure made me feel a sense of worthiness, so I pushed my body to extremes. Personally, I was physically recovered (body size, not hormonally or gut health wise) but never mentally recovered during school. I struggled a lot. However, I also didn't have the tools and resources I have now, nor did I allow support from loved ones. If I was still at school, I would have started working with Melissa Hage. She has been my biggest mentor and guide who helped me return home to myself and my body. Melissa supports the body energetically through rewiring the subconscious mind (she utilises over 10 different modalities).
I also think a big starting place for any high schooler is to do what lights them up as an extra activity (hobbies, exploring self gifts and interests)—being surrounded by loved ones and laughing! Allowing self to feel joyous and creating pleasurable memories. Healing and worthiness are about allowing the individual to rediscover who they truly are in a supportive environment where they feel important. This helps to reduce many of the limitations high school beliefs put on teens (such as achieving high grades, being popular, looking like XY & Z and having an X body to be accepted in school).
And, remember... They are enough, they are loving, they are kind, they are special just the way they are and have many gifts and talents that we all love to see.
Did you find any particular practitioner more helpful to your recovery? If so who and why did you find them helpful?
I've seen many! From Nutritionists to dietitians, naturopaths, Chinese doctors, hypnotherapists and more! My number one recommendation is that a person recovering from an ED should see someone they TRUST. This is the biggest key to recovery - despite their qualifications. I then recommend seeing someone for mental and emotional health before physical health (if weight isn't too low). The reason is that learning to trust and enjoy food, self, and life is more important than physical recovery. Once one learns to trust and enjoy food, self and life, then they will have a desire on their own will to want physical recovery. At this point, seeing a practitioner such as a Nutritionist may support.
This desire for an individual to want physical recovery will lead to long-lasting physical recovery. Short term recovery can be achieved physically, however, the emotional and mental bodies of an individual may cause conflict to lasting results if not supported.
For me, I love Annie Merideth who works with flower essences. These flower essences work very subtly to support the emotional body. They began making minor shifts in my healing journey early on, such as reducing my anxiety and burnout. Later, I worked with Melisa Hage to support my subconscious mind and release many contributors to my ED, such as limiting beliefs, bullying experiences I had, the pain I interrupted from my parents and even inherited traumas. I love and still use these two ladies occasionally - not for my past ED but mainly as mentors to support me in any other big things I want to work through or achieve.
You mentioned parasites in your story. Was this from something in particular? Was it before anorexia? Rachael has had issues with worms for many years and I often wondered if there was any link to her eating disorder....🤔
I am not sure if I had parasites prior to my ED... I did have many signs (bloating/gas), however, this was never something of concern that mum looked into when I was younger.
After anorexia, I had many parasites! The worst my practitioner had ever seen. I tried so many different approaches to get rid of them - however, some parasites like to linger around... not cool. I do like this Parasite protocol.
From an energetic point of view, ED is about self-rejection, so much so that ED sufferers believe they are not worthy of living. When this is the case, an ED PERSON becomes the perfect host for parasites. They also have a compromised gut and immune system, which gives a parasite (ie from our food/water) a better chance of survival.
Which particular food did you find helped the most with your recovery?
I'm hesitant to give out specific foods as we are all so different. The biggest key here is allowing anyone going through ED to eat what they trust and very gently introduce new foods they can learn to trust to increase variety. If there are no intolerances or allergies I recommend eating all food types.
Wholesome nuts and seeds, beautiful coconut yogurts, eggs, avocado, root vegetables such as sweet potato and pumpkin and wholesome grains such as rice, quinoa and buckwheat are all super yummy and supportive of the body's health and vitality! And, the mouth-watering sweet potatoes and maple syrup brownies too (if this food is trusted).
Also, ensuring three balanced main meals with 1 to 3 snacks is supportive - never restrict requests for second and allow them to dish up/pack some meals without micromanaging to increase their dependence. This also shows them that you trust them, which builds trust between you both.
Today, I can't get enough avocado, tahini, oats and sweet potato!!! Ahaha! Plus, I love my DNS drink for an increase of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and antioxidants to help my mind and body function optimally to make more integral decisions to support my mind and body (roll-on effect). Also, as I was malnourished for so long, it ensures my body gets what I need for my nervous and hormonal systems.
One last word.
And, remember, each ED recovery looks different because each individual has different needs and desires based on their upbring and the way the ED plays out. While movement may be a key enjoyment for one, this may not bother another. While a certain eating pattern may support one, it may not support another. While one may battle with endless thoughts, thoughts may go unheard and unnoticed in another. While one may have supportive parents another may not. And, while the community may support one, one may still feel alone.
While one learns to love food and her body instantly, another can take years and years. Both are perfect as both individuals are already whole, worthy and complete. She/he is enough, she/he is so loved and lovable and she/he is needed in our world.
The goal in recovery is to support one to remember their wholeness and allow them to embody their wholeness again - because we need their light, love, and joy, and all they have to offer this world.
Let's create a safe and open space to connect below, I would love to hear your thoughts on this blog post with our comments below along with your experience.