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Recovery can be different for each person. Some may fully recover and never struggle with anorexia again. For others, recovery can mean that although the thoughts are still there, you can control them and thrive despite them, through using coping strategies and knowledge developed during treatment. ‘Thoughts can just be thoughts’, without having to act on them.
Recovery from anorexia is a tough journey, and it is difficult to recover without support. It is important to get the right treatment and help to recover. Speaking to a member of your family, a teacher or your GP can be the first step, and the sooner you can get help, the better. Finding a healthy way to express your thoughts (e.g. through talking, writing or creative activities) can be a helpful way to cope.
Some useful suggestions during recovery include:
Keep busy and use distractions after meal times. Things that keep your hands busy can be especially helpful – for example, crossword or puzzle books, jigsaws, board games, knitting or drawing.
Find some activities that you enjoy to use as self-care – for example:
A warm bath
Listening to music you enjoy
A gentle walk
Spend time with family members and healthy friends
Set small goals to challenge yourself to break the eating disordered rules or rituals
Try to separate the “eating disorder” thoughts from “your” thoughts. This can help to identify the unhelpful eating disordered thoughts and to challenge them, through statements such as: “No food is good or bad”; “Eating is not a choice, it is not about deserving. Everybody has to eat.”
Make sure you get enough sleep and allow your body to rest.
It is common for it to take up to a few years for full “brain recovery” to occur. Research supports that full recovery can only occur with full weight restoration maintained over a significant length of time. At a healthy weight and with support to maintain this and cope psychologically, many find that the eating disorder thoughts lessen.
Although recovery is difficult at times, life with an eating disorder is more difficult and more dangerous. It is important to remember that recovery is possible.