What Does “Recovered” Really Mean?

Eating Disorder Recovery

The other day, a co-worker and I were having a conversation and somehow we ended up on the topic of me having an eating disorder. Anytime this comes up in conversation I find myself saying something along the lines of:


“A really long time ago I had a little bit of an eating disorder”

“Back when I was really young I had an eating disorder”

“A while ago, I kind of had an eating disorder-ish type thing”


I minimize it. I act like it was so far in the past I can’t even relate to it. I recognize that I talk about it in such a way because I don’t look like I have an eating disorder; therefore I’m ashamed to identify as having one. {I know you can’t tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at them, but that’s what my disordered brain tells me.}


Well, when I mentioned my “past” eating disorder to this particular co-worker they said, “Really? Wow, I would’ve never guessed.” And, something along the lines of {lightheartedly spoken} “You’re always snacking around here.”


I laughed it off and said “I know, right!?” But, inside I was crushed. I went to the bathroom and cried. In that moment my fears over opening up were justified. I was triggered into thinking I look fat, made a mental note not to eat at work anymore, started to plan what exercises I would do when I got home, and promised myself I had to lose weight.


Generally speaking, I do consider myself recovered from my eating disorder. Yet, clearly, the aforementioned thinking pattern is disordered. So I started to question, “Am I recovered? Can anyone ever really recover from their disorder?”


Then, I asked myself an even more important question. “What does ‘recovered’ even mean?”


It could mean restoring a goal weight, no longer engaging in binging or purging, or learning to exercise in a healthy way. To others it could mean posting pictures on social media accentuating their “flaws.” Some may see it as practicing self-care on a daily basis or talking openly about their personal struggle(s).


What became apparent is that “recovered” can look differently to everyone.


I concluded that being recovered isn’t as “black and white” as I’ve made it out to be. To me, recovery is a process. It is a journey; sometimes a lifelong one. I determined that I am recovered in some ways from my disorder, and that I’m still struggling in other ways. I don’t identify as being fully recovered, or in the thick of my disorder. I’m somewhere in between on my imperfect “recovery journey.”

I’ve made a lot of progress over the years!

I’m recovered from:

– Counting calories

– Skipping meals

– Restricting calories

– Exercising to make up for calories consumed

– Exercising when I’m injured

– Weighing myself {multiple times} daily

– Purging

– Reading tabloids on a daily basis


I also have progress that still needs to be made!

I’m still working on:

– Accepting / Loving my body

– Guilt associated with eating certain foods, or “over eating”

– Intuitive eating

– Body checking

– Fear associated with “getting fat”

– Seeing my worth as independent from looks

– Owning my past struggles and victories

– Being compassionate with myself

– Comparing my body to others


When our experience doesn’t fall within the stereotypical manifestation, or generally accepted presentation, it can be difficult to identify where we fit in; if we fit in. We may begin to minimize our illness; dismiss our struggles. I know I have the tendency to do this.


I need to keep reminding myself, and would love to extend this reminder to each of you: there is no right or wrong way to struggle with or experience something. Everyone’s battle is unique, and equally important!


Has anyone else struggled with the “gray area” of recovery? How is recovery defined for you? Would love to hear from you!





2 Comment

  1. As I was reading this, I kept unconsciously nodding my head because I can totally relate and it read really true to me. I struggled with a severe ED for 12 years. After the first four years, I started to go into phases of recovery, but then I would relapse, a few months or a few years would pass, and then I’d try again. I now consider myself fully recovered. What helped me was becoming a vegan. When my food choices stopped being all about me and my body issues and what I thought about the girl in the mirror, I found peace and true recovery. I wish you the best with your true recovery!

  2. Courtney says: Reply

    Thank you for sharing; I am so happy to hear that you have found peace! The path toward recovery can certainly be a challenging one, so I always love to hear from those who have gone through it. Sending health, healing and happiness your way!!

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