Why Eating Disorder Relapse is NOT A Failure
I think that recovering from after 17 years of an anorexia-bulimia-binge eating-yoyo dieting life, I am qualified to share my truth on the absolute madness and difficulties of eating disorders. Although I am not a medical doctor and cannot diagnose, treat or advise on any conditions whatsoever, I also believe that through years of studying nutrition, fitness, health, yoga, mindset & doing some pretty heavy self work and transformation, that I can and will be starting to open up about my journey more in order to inspire and help so many other humans like me who too have been in the place of feeling stuck and sometimes totally defeated by their patterns around food, their bodies and so much more.
I was hospitalised for my eating disorder twice around 6 years ago now but I would say that only in the last 18 months have I actually recovered. There’s another time for my story, maybe a podcast perhaps, but now is not the time. This post is about relapse.
A few weeks back, I fell back into complete restriction and purging after each meal I ate (1 a day). I have SO many tools, tactics and really ability to work with the beliefs and patterns that come up for me if I ever experience those old thoughts and voices coming back. However, before I could even catch it, I was on my back again, staring at the ceiling and wondering what the fuck had happened for the last 2 weeks or so. It’s SO crazy that after nearly dying from eating disorders, after doing 3 years of therapy, after doing shit tons of self work, reading ever-friggin-book, listening to every podcast you can on nutrition, ED recovery, why dieting is BS that you can STILL end up back being a victim to these strong tides that just seem to take over, like some sort of eating disorder hypnosis.
The feelings of shame, failure, guilt, fear, powerlessness, you name it, they all come up. Even worse, I felt like I couldn’t share this with anyone. Who was I to be relapsing when everyone thinks I am healthy. I mean, my weight is fine, I look okay, I’m not unwell to look at… I’m even in a position where I’m a friggin healer and yoga teacher… what the fuck is wrong with me?
So there’s the trap. When we relapse, before we know it we are totally back in the cycle of shame, guilt, fear, general other shitness and all our practice, progress and quite frankly for me, self belief and motivation go out of the window.
The hard thing about eating disorder relapse is that without correct fuel and nutrition in the body, our minds are all ready not able to reason as well with those old ED patterns and beliefs. We don’t have the capacity to, and what’s more, because we are not eating, we go further into fight-or-flight anxiety/stress mode and less able to come into calm and start to slow down and really listen. But, because we aren’t slowing down enough we can’t reason or gain the rationale to actually start eating enough to then get the brain fuel and nutrition in to get motivated, to work through the patterns etc etc… can you see how this is a catch 22 catching your tail kinda think? I know right????!!!
It’s even harder when you don’t really have anyone in your immediate support network who really gets it. I mean, my partner knows, my therapist and 1 friend. That’s it. I mean, REALLY know the shameful, dirtiness of my eating disorder is probably not understood by anyone other than my therapist, because nobody has been that intimate with me yet really. So the point is, it feels like when you relapse, you’re standing alone in a big fat puddle of your own doo-doo and you’re not really sure if you can even be arsed to get through it.
The thing about relapsing that I’ve known for a while but not fully embodied is that ever relapse gives me new insight into my own humility and need to embody deeper self Love and nurture. Every relapse gives me HUGE reverence for the complete and utter power of these patterns and beliefs. The thing is, our eating disorders came about because they HAD to. For whatever reason, they developed to serve us and help us survive. Rational or not, the idea of the body giving these patterns up, threatens its actual survival because so far in life, we have used this to survive in whatever situations it was needed.
For me, relapse shows me where those survival instincts are so fast to return, those patterns are so KEEN to keep me safe from whatever external factors are worrying me. Normally, I can keep them at bay with different self love tools and the patterns then sit back, relax and everything softens.
Relapse isn’t a sign that you are weak or you’ve lost control. It’s a sign that your body is doing EXACTLY what is is supposed to do. Keep you alive. Your mind is literally using the beliefs, behaviours and coping mechanisms that have kept is alive so far because it is literally keeping you safe! In fact, it’s a gift… the kind of gift when your cat brings you a dead bird. Not so nice, but an offering nonetheless!
So when our body goes back into that place of relapse, we can thank our bodies for doing their job. We can also get really fucked off with ourselves, feel the guilt, shame, frustration etc. FEEL. IT. ALL. Process it all. Let it all be lived, experienced and embraced.
Relapse reminds us that we can return to self love, we can gain further insight where we didn’t think we could or would. We can bow with respect to those old patterns but also ground into our deeper truths of who we REALLY are and what we REALLY want for ourselves.
Is it truth that we need these patterns to survive now? If so, what’s the fear? What’s the threat?
Is it truth that we should feel guilt and shame for going back into behaviours that kept us safe for so long?
Is it truth that we need to stay in the cycle of self sabotage forever?
Is it truth that our worth is reflected in our body image? If so, who said? Why?
Is it truth that if you eat the world will end? If it feels like it, can you embrace the fear and fucking do it anyway?
Here are some great questions to think about or meditate on.
I am NO expert, but what I DO know is that our relapse is just another chance to heal further, Love ourselves deeper, look for more inspiration and most importantly empower ourselves to choose.
We have the power of choice, it is the greatest gift of free will.
So perhaps we can embrace positive affirmations such as :
Today I choose to nurture myself with all the foods I want
Today I choose to release worry and fear about eating
Today I choose to respect my body and mind for keeping me alive and serving me every step
Today I choose to allow myself freedom to choose
You can make up your own affirmations, write them down, and say them. Takes a few minutes but it helps to use a mantra, like a samurai to cut through those self limiting fears and beliefs.
Each relapse is a chance to love further, to heal more, to really understand where we are and what more we need to step into our highest potential.
Let me know your thoughts, please comment, share if this helped you. I cannot wait to connect with you.