Recovery from disordered eating is possible, although it can feel tough at times. While health professionals can view recovery in terms of symptom remission and reduction, this doesn’t capture what it is like for someone who has done the hard work to recover. A recent systematic review pooled research that examined recovery from people’s lived perspectives and what this involved (Wetzler, Hackmann, Peryer et al., 2020). This review comprised 20 studies, with 351 participants with various eating disorder diagnoses in their history. Several key themes emerged as important for recovery:
- Supportive relationships: Receiving support and encouragement from others, and feeling connected to other people. Peer support from people who had recovered also made a difference.
- Hope: This is believing that it is possible to recover and to have a better future. A future not controlled by your eating disorder. This belief can help you push through when the going gets tough.
- Identity: This is discovering who you really are, and what your interests are. And realising that you are not your eating disorder or your weight!
- Meaning and purpose: This involves identifying why your eating disorder developed. It’s also learning that there is more to life than your eating disorder; that you can have a purpose outside of this.
- Empowerment: Regaining control over your life, rather than having it controlled by the eating disorder.
- Self-compassion: Learning how to be kind to yourself. This can involve easing the self-criticism, practising self-care, and becoming aware of your needs and emotions (and honouring these).
Wetzler, S, Hackmann, C, Peryer, G, et al. (2020). A framework to conceptualize personal recovery from eating disorders: A systematic review and qualitative meta‐synthesis of perspectives from individuals with lived experience. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 53, 1188– 1203. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23260