When many people think about eating disorders, they picture extreme malnutrition, hospitalization, defiance, and years of treatment. Of course, these factors can be a very real part of the struggle for recovery. While sadness and pain are important to work through in your journey, they can easily overshadow an equally as important part of recovery – hope.
Naturally those with an eating disorder (or a loved one) can feel terrified and overwhelmed with the prospect of pursuing a lifestyle change with many dangerous twists and turns along the journey. The truth is that for every struggle, there are countless triumphs.
The catch is: we must remember to look for them.
Humans are naturally about 80% more perceptive of negative stimuli. That means we will tend to recognize more negatives in our lives than positives. Consider this in the context of evolution – as hunters and gatherers humans needed to pay more attention to dangerous stimuli in order to protect themselves. It was more important to notice the upcoming storm or hungry wild animal than a baby’s laughter or a beautiful sunrise.
Now, in a day and age where weather and nature are much less deadly threats, the negative perspective remains. How often do you find yourself focusing on life stressors and forgetting to be grateful? And how do you feel after ruminating on all the problems in your life?
Individuals fighting eating disorders show resilience and courage every day in recovery. It’s not easy to face your biggest fear multiple times every day, plus fight uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms. But survivors wake up every morning and start the fight over again. And eventually they thrive.
As we embark on a new year with countless opportunities for new beginnings, let’s take special time to reflect on the wins, the silver linings, and the meaningful moments that keep our hope for recovery burning bright.
I’ve seen families sacrifice all they have for the hope of healing their child –
- Mothers quit their jobs and staying home to be a full-time support.
- Dads physically carry their daughters to the dinner table because when her treatment team said, “Not eating is not an option,” he took it seriously.
- Families scraping together all they have for the best treatment available.
- A mom gained 40 lbs. just to show her daughter it was okay.
- Communities banding together to organize a fundraiser for an eating disorder treatment scholarship.
- Women who have battled an eating disorder for years finding the miraculous strength to gain weight in pregnancy, putting their baby’s health over even their biggest fear.
- Fathers becoming comfortable openly crying and discussing their daughter’s feminine health.
- Parents giving insurance companies hell for trying to cut down on much needed behavioral health coverage for their child.
On days when it feels like it’s a constant uphill battle, I remind myself that hope is alive for those battling eating disorders. One bite at a time.
Emily Gaber, LPC-IT