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Sustaining lasting eating disorders recovery

Recovery often describes the process of regaining health – whether from surgery, a cold, an addiction or a disease. In these situations, we often focus so much on reaching a state of recovery that we neglect to consider how we will sustain recovery. For people who have suffered from an eating disorder, sustaining recovery is a crucial next step after completing primary eating disorder treatment.

What does it mean to sustain recovery? There are many definitions of the word sustain, I would like to focus on one in particular:
Sustain: to give support or relief to
Reading this definition, I believe that most of us think about giving support and relief to someone else. In the case of eating disorder recovery, sustaining recovery may include giving support or relief to one’s self as well as to others.

Women and men who have been diagnosed with eating disorders often tend to be “people pleasers” with a primary focus on the needs of others. In eating disorders recovery, it is important to not only acknowledge, but make one’s own needs a priority– physically, mentally and spiritually.

What if we looked at this definition and considered the true meaning as being “to give support and relief to myself”? Adopting this philosophy is essential to sustaining recovery from an eating disorder and can be done in a number of ways:

  • Seek additional therapeutic support. Seeking professional support is one way to commit to this concept of meeting your own needs. The need for additional support through a treatment team (including an individual therapist, family therapist, nutritionist, and physician), support groups, outpatient therapy or an intensive treatment program does not indicate failure; it underscores an ongoing commitment to sustaining recovery. Many treatment centers offer a recovery-focused community through alumni programming such as groups, events, education, online services, and ongoing communications and outreach. Shannon Braasch, Alumni Coordinator at Eating Recovery Center states, “Sustaining recovery is a life-long commitment. At Eating Recovery Center and our Partner Programs, our goal is to support that commitment by offering our alumni multiple resources to provide on-going support. I’ve personally witnessed what a significant impact this approach makes on fostering lasting recovery.”
  • Develop a strong support network. A strong network of supportive friends, family and colleagues can be very helpful to those in recovery from an eating disorder. It’s important to surround yourself with others who have received education on how to best provide you with the support you need to sustain your recovery.
  • Identify values and pursue valued life directions. Values serve a number of purposes including as a compass in our lives. They can also help individuals with eating disorders understand why change is necessary and then pursue that change, even when it feels difficult. Taking time to connect with values and align thoughts and actions with valued life direction can help sustain recovery, even in times of stress or challenges.

Eating Recovery Center values the continued growth of relationships with our alumni and commits to creating opportunities for them to voice what they need to sustain recovery. As a result of this, Eating Recovery Center recently launched a video showcasing alumni discussing recovery. Their messages offer encouragement and hope to anyone suffering from an eating disorder. I encourage you to take a moment to watch and listen to these powerful stories. The hope is that these videos will provide inspiration and motivation for women and men struggling with an eating disorder or struggling to sustain lasting recovery.

I leave you with this: Sustaining recovery is about giving support and relief to yourself as well as to others. Seek additional support, surround yourself with a recovery focused community, stay in touch with your values, and be a “voice of recovery”.

How do you give support to yourself and your recovery on a daily basis? How do you give support to others to help sustain their recovery? Please leave a comment below.