When you're on the recovery road from Anorexia Nervosa, you have accepted you have a problem and are willing to change. You think that this is the most challenging part admitting you have a problem, whether it's to other people or simply just to yourself and accepting that you have to change your ways.
However, no one actually tells you, or you may never even think about the struggles that come afterwards, what is actually the most complex part – the recovery process itself.
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Touching all the bases of anorexia recovery
It can be long, slow, difficult, heartbreaking, draining – everything you never really think of. It's hard, but the reality is, if you are strong enough to survive not eating repeatedly and over-exercising, then you are strong enough to eat and get through this. No matter how long it takes.
Exercise, if you have over-exercised during your anorexia, can be one of the hardest things to stop because it's become a daily ritual, a habit that you don't want to stop. Some individuals who suffer from anorexia exercise purely to eat; if they don't, they will continue to starve themselves that day.
The problem with over-exercising/ being a compulsive exerciser is that it can lead to many more medical conditions such as joint, neck or back pain. Your muscles will become weaker, which can develop into osteopenia/osteoporosis, bruising injures, and heart issues, just to name a few.
Of course, like anything habit wise, it is hard to break; however, once you do, you need to stick to it. Whether it's a tough exercise regime you have, or you do several hours a day walking. By cutting this out of your routine, it may feel like you're losing control or that you are forbidden to do it; unfortunately, this is one of the vital steps in recovery.
Trying to stop exercising is a difficult phase in recovery; however, certain things like; yoga/movement therapy can help relax and improve your body and gardening something simple can keep your mind stimulated and you are still moving your body at the same time, just not to the extreme that your body has previously been pushed at.
In recovery, it is all about changing your daily patterns and what you feel comes so ‘natural’ to you and taking each day as it comes.
Then there's the food; this is also quite difficult as your anorexic thoughts are telling you to do something completely different, and that's the voice you've been listening to for so long.
It is all about moderation, eating a healthy balanced diet and slowly incorporating food into your daily life again.
When eating food again, several things can be done, advice from a nutritional therapist, looking for healthy balanced meals, creating a food plan that includes small snacks. It’s important not to dive right into foods that could make you feel bad, such as crisps, chocolate as these aren’t nutritional.
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It is often complicated for an anorexic individual to accept weight gain
The fear of gaining and accepting weight gain is a very long and emotional journey. Once the weight gain starts, the individual can feel that they are huge and fat, because they have spent so much time trying to get their 'perfect weight'. They start to look at their bodies and analyse themselves all over and believe they have gained so much by eating something like a biscuit, and in reality, they are precisely the same as before.
Speaking as someone who has been through anorexia, trying to cope with weight gain is a challenge, but a worthwhile one at that.
Coping mechanisms can be things like:
- Writing in a journal of why you want to recover.
- Using positive affirmation and speaking only good things to yourself.
- In order to survive and love life again, you need to eat.
- Be realistic and remember that your body needs nutrition and deserves food.
- Avoid equipment like scales and tape measures.
- Always speak to someone, whether it's a family, friend or therapist.
- Eat meals that will make you feel healthy and good such as vegetables, fruit, and fats.
- Remember being bloated and fat are two very different things.
Over time perseverance, support and taking each day as it comes can be key to your recovery.
For more information on anorexia as well as relevant organisations that help people recover from the condition see this page.