10 things I’ve learned from eating disorder recovery

I came to eating disorders as a wounded healer, many years ago, after recovering from bulimia nervosa. I then trained as an eating disorder therapist in my twenties and have spent my career supporting others. It remains my passion to this day. Here are 10 things I learned about recovery.


1. It’s more than food

Social media would have you believe that recovery is purely about getting over the fear of foods and 'just eating the doughnut'. Although embracing different foods might be an important part of the journey, a problematic relationship with food is surface coping for much deeper issues.

2. Taking responsibility

For too long, I blamed people in my life and didn't take responsibility for my part. I truly believed that if someone would apologise or if wrongs could be smoothed over and corrected, then all would be well. It's a grief to accept that some relationships just won't be as you would like them to be. It also brings incredible freedom when you learn to accept this.

3. The pleaser

The first half of my life was spent accommodating, masking and appeasing. I thought that I was creating harmony, but it was a fake, accommodating harmony! I completely lost myself in all of this, and then had no idea who I was behind the mask. It's taken me quite a few years to find my identity.

4. Guilt

When you're not used to meeting your own needs and tuning into your emotions, you can feel guilty for doing so. Realise this is 'trauma guilt' or 'childhood guilt' and you can learn to treat yourself with respect and love, as an adult.

5. Mental health resources

I am immensely grateful for the resources, mental health support and information available to us today. Previous generations did not have this knowledge or help and were doing the best they could at the time. It’s vital to hold compassion and acceptance of this.

6. Relationships

Intimate, emotional and high-quality relationships are everything for mental well-being and contentment.

7. Follow your joy

Follow your joy and pursue what genuinely lights you up inside. This is a far superior guide in comparison to what society tells you will make you happy.

8. Self-trust

If you can’t decide on something, get quiet, journal, spend time reflecting and/or talk to a friend who can listen and reflect back to you. Do not talk to every person in your life who has no idea what it's like to be inside your head. This creates intense confusion!

9. Stay in your lane

Just because the world is constantly striving, competing, comparing and chasing, you truly don't have to join in. Get in your own peaceful lane.

10. Diet talk and wellness culture

People will always talk about their boring diets and how much weight they have lost or not. If this happens frequently for you, put some boundaries in place with fellow humans and seek out others who have inspiring conversations instead.

What have you learned on your recovery journey?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Cambridge, CB1
Written by Harriet Frew, MSc; MBACP Accred
Cambridge, CB1

Harriet Frew is a counsellor specialising in eating disorders and body image.
She runs eating disorders and body image training for professionals, supervision and online courses.

Find Harriet on Instagram: @theeatingdisordertherapist_ and listen to The Eating Disorder Therapist Podcast on your favourite platform.

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