Originally written for and published on Recovery Warriors.
Whether you’re at the beginning of your eating disorder recovery journey, have been trying to recover for a while or have “fully” recovered – there are traps and pitfalls which you must be careful to avoid.
Relapses are very real and very, very dangerous if unmanaged, and that’s why it’s crucial to ensure that you’re dedicating yourself fully to your recovery.
To achieve a full recovery, here are 8 things that you need to let go of (and what to embrace instead):
1. LET GO OF: Tools that encourage your sickness.
INSTEAD EMBRACE: Tools that encourage you to focus on your wellness.
Scales, food scales, tape measures, calorie trackers… you know what you have to do! If you’re holding onto items that serve as the basis for obsession over your weight or measurements, these items have no place in your recovery journey.
I mean it. Not even in the back of the cupboard where you can be tempted by them during tough moments of your recovery.
Getting rid of them is a crucial step – both for removing the physical temptation and for setting your mental intentions that you’re committed to recovering. Once you’ve cleared that space in your life, replace those old items with new, positive tools (like journals to help you work through your feelings and therapy cards ).
2. LET GO OF: Clothes that fit your sick body but not your healthy body.
INSTEAD EMBRACE: A wardrobe that makes you feel good about yourself – right here and right now.
You might have certain clothing that fit your sick body that you really love, that was expensive or that made you feel good… and although you might be hesitant to let go of that clothing, ultimately hanging onto it is only going to prove triggering. Ask yourself what’s more important: a pretty dress in your wardrobe or health and happiness and life?
Take your time as you clean out your closet – it seems like a simple act but the psychological symbolism is profound. You’re literally making space for a new mindset and healthier body. If you feel upset or afraid as you clean out old clothes, that’s okay (and totally normal)! Work through those feelings and come to a place of acceptance with your decision.
3. LET GO OF: Toxic friendships.
INSTEAD EMBRACE: Relationships that encourage health and happiness.
This is one of the hardest steps as it may include removing certain people from your life that you’ve been close with… but it needs to be done. If a friend in your life has been encouraging of your disorder, not supportive of your recovery, is fixated on dieting/their own weight or is struggling with issues that are triggering your own, it’s crucial to assess how that friendship is impacting your recovery journey. Is it holding you back? If so, you’ll need to make a tough decision.
If you do decide to distance yourself from someone, the best way to go about it is to be frank but gentle with them. Tell them, “This is absolutely nothing personal and it’s a decision that I’ve had a heavy heart over, but I’m going through some complex emotions right now with my recovery and it’s important to my progress that I focus on myself right now – so I’m going to distance myself for a while. I hope you can understand.”
If they care about you (which as a friend, they should!) then they will want to be supportive of your health and happiness. With room cleared in your life, you can focus on cultivating new relationships that give you a fresh start with people who don’t trigger your negative thoughts.
4. LET GO OF: Your comfort zone.
INSTEAD EMBRACE: The possibility of a healthy and happy future free of ED!
In many ways, your ED can become like your security blanket. You closely identify with it, you see it as part of yourself and it’s this secret little world that you have full perceived control over. When recovery gets hard or scary, it can be so tempting to turn back into the arms of your ED for comfort but trust me when I say this, you have to fight that!
Your comfort zone might feel “safe” – but it’s far from it. Keep the vision of a healthy, happy you at the forefront of your mind during your recovery, and use that as a catalyst to work past those times where your ED seems like a better option (it never is).
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5. LET GO OF: Mementos and souvenirs from your disorder.
INSTEAD EMBRACE: Positive affirmations and reminders of your recovery victories.
If you’ve got old photos or journal entries or letters from the darkest parts of your struggle that you feel compelled to keep or look at… try and look at them objectively. Is keeping those objects triggering, or will it form part of a catalyst for a potential relapse? If so, consider throwing them out. Keep your eyes forward and don’t look back to the past for comfort – you’re not going that way!
Instead, replace those mementos with positive new ones – affirmation cards, positive notes to yourself, journal entries detailing your recovery victories that you can remind yourself of when things feel difficult.
6. LET GO OF: Fear and hesitation.
INSTEAD EMBRACE: Boldness – even in the face of uncertainty.
Recovery is scary. And as much as I’d love to stand here and tell you that it’s easy… it’s really not. It takes confidence and courage and bravery, and there are going to be times where you’re afraid. That’s okay. That’s totally normal. The important thing is not to actively try and prevent yourself from being afraid, but to accept when you do feel fear then use your positive motivation as a way to push past it.
Feeling fear doesn’t make you weak and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re going to fail. You can handle this, but you have to keep going.
7. LET GO OF: Memberships, accounts and followings.
INSTEAD EMBRACE: A positive social media presence.
Perhaps during your disorder you were a member of pro-ana sites… perhaps you’re following a lot of fitspo accounts on Tumblr or maybe you have an Instagram dashboard filled with accounts that trigger you. It’s time to let go of those! Deactivate, unfollow, block… the time is now to move toward inspiration for health and happiness, not sickness!
Instead, fill your life with accounts that motivate and inspire you on your recovery journey.
8. LET GO OF: Secrecy.
INSTEAD EMBRACE: Support.
Your ED tells you that it’s your little secret; that you’re safest when you hold onto it and that you can’t tell anyone what really goes on… but that little, secretive and judgemental voice is going to actively stop you from recovering.
Because secrecy doesn’t yield recovery, only more struggles. You need to let go of that, as scary as it is. And although it might feel like a loss of control, secrecy has control over you (not the other way around). It’s time to take back that power!
Instead, choose to seek out support. Talk to a therapist who can give you a private, safe space to explore and unpack the thoughts that you’re having, so that you can find positive and healthy ways to cope with those thoughts and progress through your recovery journey.
And remember, at any stage of your recovery journey if you feel like things are getting too difficult for you to manage, or if you’re not sure what steps to take next or if you feel like you’re falling back into some really negative patterns that could jeopardise your progress – please reach out for help.
I cannot stress that enough.You are important, loved and worthy of help. And there is help available for you! Please click here to view a list of resources in your area or alternatively, please feel free to message me on Facebook and I can refer you to some resources and help.