Recover Not For “Them” But For Yourself!

Recovery starts with being honest with yourself

Zeynep Demirelli


What is the difference between someone who has a good relationship with food and someone who has a bad relationship with food? What differentiates a healthy behavior from an unhealthy one?


As an observer, how can we tell healthy exercising apart from obsessive exercising to burn calories? We can’t. How do you know when someone goes vegan for weight loss or for health concerns and ethical reasons? You don’t. An unhealthy behavior can easily disguise itself as healthy. When I first got obsessed with losing weight, I told my friends it was to be healthy; not because I felt unlovable and worthless. I know a few vegans who lied to themselves saying that it was for animals. But their intention was to lose weight through the avoidance of animal based products. I used to have eggs in the morning to eat little to no carbs but a lot of people thought it was because I just loved eggs so much. It was because I wanted to lose weight by eating low-carb. I used to tell everyone I was exercising 6 times a week because of how much fun I had. I didn’t. I was exercising because I was obsessed with losing weight, not because I had that much fun. Because of that, everybody praised me for how dedicated I was, so many people told me that I ‘‘took good care’’ of my body. In short, no one could know what was going on at the time because nobody knew what my intentions were when engaging in all those behaviors.

I am also aware that most of the time eating disorders are totally visible for an outsider, especially if their case is severe. You can recognize them almost immediately. But here, I am particularly talking about individuals with mild symptoms or people who are a bit more towards the end of their recovery journey (or the beginning for that matter).

The opposite is also true, a healthy behavior can be interpreted as an unhealthy one.When my relationship with food had reached its all time low, some days I just could not stop binging. There were other days where even if I did not have the urge to binge, I would just eat foods that would trigger a binge anyways. Now I see why I did that: I was punishing myself and my body, as a result of my maladaptive beliefs about myself. I knew how much it would make me suffer mentally after eating fast food for a whole week. The reason was quite straightforward: I was scared to gain weight and it would increase the number on the scale (which is not weight gain but mostly retained water from sodium consumption, but try telling that to someone who is deep in their disorder). I felt worthless so I treated myself as if I was. Now that I have worked on the schema or at least learned how to manage it, I do not want to punish myself nor my body. This translates to less fast food consumption compared to before; because I realized if I eat fast food for 4 days straight, I simply feel lethargic and sluggish. So now, I eat more food that fulfill me and satisfy me. I guess for my family that looked like I avoided fast food because I was scared to eat it. My mom even (mis)used the word ‘anorexic’ a few times, when describing my behavior.

This is why it is so important that you are willing to do the work with your therapist, that you are motivated to fight those disordered urges. Only you know why you choose to have the same breakfast over and over again. Nobody can know what goes through your mind when you are walking to the gym. You are the only person who knows why you chose to skip that snack. Technically, you can make it seem like you have recovered. You can make your parents believe you are eating at every meal time. You can convince your friends that you are no longer purging. Your therapist may believe you when you say you no longer have bad body image days. You can even trick diagnostic tests!

The thing is, you would only be doing yourself dirty. Because recovery starts with being honest with yourself. These people want you to recover and feel better, but they cannot do the work for you nor know if you are feeling better. Do not do anyone any ‘‘favors’’. Recover not for them but for yourself. For sure, they love you so much and they hate to see you suffer but that is not enough. You should too love yourself enough to say ‘‘This is it, enough is enough!’’.