Archive for the ‘Relapse’ Category

You can have all the help, support, treatment and therapists but the bottom line about recovery, relapse and healing is this:

To beat anorexia you have to eat

This isn’t the “just eat” type of comment. It is the deep, caring, understanding statement that in the end says “the only way to fully fight back is to eat”.

It means fighting against the voice of anorexia and the deep fears it has created in you – the food rules, the list of forbidden foods, the safe foods, the fat fears, skinny is best rules.

Eating is a normal activity. It is an essential activity for life and health. The mind and body need to be fully nourished for us to perform at our best. Eating is meant to be flexible, intuitive, fun, enjoyable, social, delicious.

Sticking close to the safe food list not only slows or stalls recovery, but it tells the anorexia that it is still in control and winning. Having a strict routine of counting calories, weighing food, using certain bowls and utensils, eating slowly, missing meals is also telling the anorexia it is still in control.

To beat anorexia you have to eat. You have to break down the rules and fears.

The rules and fears aren’t real. I think this is the hardest thing to realise. That other people do not have these rules and fears in their heads. It is the anorexia and only the anorexia that is making up these rules and fears. It distorts your thinking and your perception. It creates denial, smoke screens, irrationality and lies.

The biggest freedoms from anorexia are literally not having the rules, routines, fears and bondage that you live with on a daily basis.

Beginning to eat again is not an easy process. I truly know how hard it is. Sophie had so many rules and fears. It took months and in some cases years for her to confront the fear for each and every food. The fears are not a blanket approach – each food on the forbidden list had it’s own fears. For someone who only had 6 safe foods, Sophie’s forbidden list was formidable. For her it was a matter of finally deciding to choose recovery and be committed to it. It meant facing one new food at a time. Some foods were easier than others. But it did get easier over time. As the anorexia lessened it’s hold, Sophie found trying new foods and adding them to her diet was not as hard. Telling herself constantly that the fears and rules were all false also helped. It’s like reprogramming your mind.

Forever etched in my mind is her look of delight and amazement when trying a strawberry for the first time in years.
It was a truly magical and amazing moment.

Whilst you are confronting the anorexia and learning to eat again, this is where the therapy and support come in. Help to encourage you and let you know you are not having to face this alone. Treatment to help you unravel the hold the anorexia has on your mind. Meal plans to help you learn to eat again.

Do you want to beat anorexia? Claim back you life? Finally have freedom?
Eating = healing

eating = healing

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In the starvation of anorexia, the body undergoes severe stress to stay alive. It shuts down many processes, slows others, simplifies functions etc. It’s goal is to survive and to at all costs protect the brain.

In refeeding the body also undergoes a lot of strain. Some things don’t work the same, like digestion and the rest of the lower digestive tract, how it stores and distributes the nutrition. The body takes longer to build up than it took to break down. The amount and type of nutrition is critical and dependent upon how long the body has been in starvation and the strain put on it.

So when the body starts consuming higher levels of food it doesn’t distribute the nutrition the same. It just puts it all (so to speak) in one spot, as it works out what parts need the most building up and nutrition first. The abdomen becomes the storage place. Hence the rounded tummy. It even has a term given to it – fluffy weight gain or fluffy fat. It means that it won’t stay that way, it is a transitional thing. The fat is not a bad word nor a wrong word, our bodies need fat to live. Only our society and culture has made it a bad word.

Your body isn’t going to metabolise or use food the same way as before. It has to relearn how to do this again, and relearn how to digest the food.

The brain and organs are the body’s first priority –
not your ‘need’ for a flat stomach.

Because anorexia has the whole body image and fat psychology in it, everyone literally ‘freaks’ out about the weight gained and the round tummy. The overwhelming fear of being fat and the body image of the flat stomach creates a major level of conflict. Many relapses happen because of this.

Here’s a truth and new concept to think about:

The fear is false and the tummy will flatten out. TRUTH!

And it won’t happen in a month, a few months or even a year. Your body has almost been destroyed, it takes a long, long time for it to heal and work like it did before. And you can’t tell your body which bits to heal first. Your body knows best and is doing exactly the right things.

It comes down to re-programming your mind.

First, remind yourself do you want to live, be healthy or be very sick and miserable and worse die. The choice is yours when it comes to recovery. If a flat stomach means more than your life and health, then there is a problem.

Second, remind yourself the ‘fluffy weight’ will go. It will redistribute properly, your body will work properly. This isn’t a dream or false wish. IT WILL HAPPEN.  The body will not leave your tummy in it’s rounded state. As it heals it will stop using your abdomen as a storage place and send the food nutrition directly to the correct areas.

Third, the fear in your mind about getting fat and putting on too much weight is false. It’s the anorexia giving you this fear and distortion of reality. It’s controlling your mind and making up fears to control you and stop you recovering.It takes a lot to defuse this fear, anorexia feeds and lives on fears. It takes courage to face the anorexia and say, ‘that’s not true and I don’t believe you’. Time will allow you to learn this one. But know it is possible and can be done.

Fourth, follow your meal plan. This helps by giving constant nutrition to the body and starts to stabilise by it’s consistency and regularity. It helps against binge eating which can also emphasise the fluffy weight.

Fifth, it will all take time. You cannot hurry the recovery process. It simply cannot be done. You also cannot measure your recovering body against someone else’s. Everyone recovers at a different rate – metabolism, muscle, body fat, and your other unique body blueprint. In the end you have to choose. What is your goal, what means most. Health, a life free or close to free from anorexia or do you want to be beholden to sickness, control, fears and no/little freedom.

Learn to relive, heal, find a life again. The more you get involved in your life, the less you will notice the stomach. I watched Sophie do the same things. Watched and walked with her all the same fears and rounded tummy. Her body is now normal with a normal abdomen size. She now knows the fears were never real or true.

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Every moment of every day we have choice whether we are conscious of it or not.


The problem is that you don’t just choose recovery. You have to keep choosing recovery, over and over and over again. You have to make that choice 5-6 times each day. You have to make that choice even when you really don’t want to. It’s not a single choice, and it’s not easy. (ed-bites)

And that sums up recovery totally. Yes, you have to wait for the initial decision that your loved one wants to recover (particularly in adults) and begins the slow and long process of their unique journey. But the reality of recovery is that it is not just a one and only decision.

It is an every day, many times a day decision. You get up in the morning with the best intentions, by lunch time you have ‘chosen’ at least 3 times to recover. Add another few times before bed and you have an idea of what the reality is really like in recovery.

The voice in your head doesn’t let up, it doesn’t go away just because you have made the initial decision to recover. It is in the eating disorders interests to make you stop recovering, so it punishes you all the time.

Recovery is learning to choose ‘life and health’ for every meal, every exercise obsession, every medication, every therapist visit ….

With time it does get easier. I am not just saying that, but like exercising a muscle, choosing recovery over an eating disorder command does become easier. It’s why in the early-mid stages of recovery it’s so exhausting both emotionally and physically, and relapse often happens. You are constantly battling the voice and choosing the path you know will bring you life and health.

Even now, despite being fully recovered, Sophie has to choose every day to eat all meals and make sure it is the right amount. She knows that to skip meals or cut back will lead down the slippery slope. It is a choice she makes when she wakes. The voice is rarely in her head these days, however she requires constant awareness and choice to never let it back in. In time I and she hope she no longer even has to do this. But she will tell you despite all the deliberate choosing and the constant awareness, here and now is far better than where she has been.

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Relapse is not a failure point. It is not a weak point.
It is not the fault of parent/carer or sufferer.

Relapse is very much a normal part of having and recovering from an eating disorder. 

From the outset eating disorders are not like any other illness. There is no definite point of recovery. There is no magic medication or treatment plan. There is no knowing how the illness changes or affects your loved one. No straight path back to health. That is the first point that must be clear to all. The second point is that the huge majority of sufferers will relapse. Third point, the relapses will get longer apart and not as deep. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Because of it’s nature and the way the illness works in the mind there are many ups, downs and u-turns in recovery. Relapse is normal and a part of this. How strong the relapse and how many times relapse happens is just part of the unique journey to recovery. It cannot be predicted.

Re-entering a treatment centre or hospital again, is not a failure point either. If that is what it takes to keep your loved one safe, then that is what happens. It is not a bad thing or a shameful thing to go back into treatment. It is about keeping them safe until they are ready to have another go at recovery.

The brain for sufferers doesn’t begin to even breathe or start to function until correct BMI weight is gained. The longer correct weight is maintained, the more the brain will improve and the separation from the eating disorder can occur. It is a 6 month minimum of correct weight to achieve the beginnings of this. You need at least a year of correct stable weight to really start the forward progress of recovery of both mind and body. These 6-12 months means that no relapse happens in between either, otherwise you extend the period of time needed to repair. So you can see how difficult and long the process is just to begin to repair brain and body.

All parents/carers stay on tenter hooks during this time. One day at a time towards victory. There are many down turns and then picking up the pace again. As long as the down turns are not viewed as defeat. It is part of the essential lessons and learning of how to learn to push away the eating disorder. It is learning why it is your ‘safe zone’ and what things trigger the need for the safe zone. It is essential these points are learned, and often relapse is the only way to learn them.

The reason for this almost repeat post of some time ago, is the parents I have met who are terrified or shamed that their son or daughter can’t get well. That they should be further along and not relapsing, or worse looking like they may need in-patient treatment again. It is what it is in the end and you can’t fight against it or change it. Accepting the path recovery takes, means the less emotional baggage you carry.

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define normalAs the mother of two high functioning asperger children, I found the diagnosis of ‘normal’ for children so narrow and so unforgiving. Many mothers have found this across the board in many areas. The diagnosis of what is normal shrinks and it appears that most of us sit on the outside of ‘normal’.

Eating disorders is another area that normal gets confused. It is actually easier to say what IS NOT normal. The reason for this is that many industries tell us that it is normal to be thin, normal to exist on so many calories, normal to diet, normal to be underweight. The eating disorder itself distorts true normal anyway. Denial or rewriting normal is what the eating disorder will do – it skews your whole perception of normal.

I thought that instead of listing what is normal behaviour I would make a clear list of what is not normal. Stop the denial, stop the perverting of truth so you can start to hopefully see just how the eating disorder is controlling you.


  • to exist on 1200 or less calories a day
  • to have a food/weight diary that is minute in detail that you are obsessed about filling in (a recovery food diary is different to this)
  • to have rules about food
  • to have strict routines, utensils or plates to eat food
  • to want to isolate yourself when it is meal time
  • to weight yourself every day (or more)
  • to feel guilty if you don’t exercise to the extreme each day
  • to feel guilty  (or worse) if you ate food
  • to have a list of good and bad foods
  • to have fears of certain foods
  • to feel fat, worthless, ugly, useless, stupid if you eat
  • to have a very real fear of weight gain
  • to feel depressed or worthless to the point of wanting to disappear
  • to think the only way to happiness is to be thin
  • to think that your thighs shouldn’t touch
  • to think your ribs (hips or collarbones) should clearly show through your skin
  • to restrict liquids (this is so dangerous – seriously)
  • to suddenly be vegetarian, lactose/gluten intolerant, vegan when there is no diagnosis or life commitment
  • to be cold all the time
  • to be in pain, weak, tired, dizzy or have heart palpitations
  • to think recovery means you are eating a tiny amount of  food not starving completely
  • to be addicted or obsessed with any kind of behaviour that consumes you all the time
  • to be intensely black and white (or rigid) in your thinking and approach to all areas of life (including food)

Got more…. Send them to me. I know the list can be added to.

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eating disorder voiceYou have two voices in your head at the moment. One is saying ‘you don’t need that food’, ‘you are fat’, you are so ugly, worthless, useless, stupid….’. The other voice is saying ‘you should eat that food’, ‘food is your medicine’, ‘you deserve to live’.

One sounds like a devil who hates you. The other sounds like an angel you loves you.

Who is who? Why is it a battlefield in your mind, why are these damned voices fighting it out in your head? It exhausts you, confuses you, irritates you, and all you want to do is hide.

The devil is the eating disorder. It invades you head, invades you life. It will say anything to keep you in it’s hold and anything to destroy you. It is only intent upon it’s own life and it’s own desires.

The angel is you. Remember you?? After being silenced by the eating disorder, your voice is becoming stronger again. It is fighting FOR you. It is remind you that you are more than the eating disorder and you have a right to eat and a right to live.

This is the voice you listen to. THE ONLY VOICE. This voice affirms you, is keeping you safe and trying to fight back against the eating disorder. It is the one voice you can believe and follow. This voice whispers that your support team is right. It tells you it is good to eat. This voice reminds of your dreams, your hopes.

Recovery is learning listen to the right voice.

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This post although specifically related to dads from Healthy Place, is just plain great for both parents, and whether your child is a son or daughter.


1. Listen to girls. I focus on what is really important–what my daughter thinks, believes, feels, dreams and does –rather than how she looks. I have a profound influence on how my daughter views herself. When I value my daughter for her true self, I give her confidence to use her talents in the world.

2. Encourage my daughter’s strength and celebrate her savvy. I help her learn to recognize, resist and overcome barriers. I help her develop her strengths to achieve her goals, help other people and help herself. I help her be what Girls Incorporated calls Strong, Smart and Bold!

3. Respect her uniqueness, Urge her to love her body and who she is. I tell and show my daughter that I love her for who she is and see her as a whole person, capable of anything. My daughter is likely to choose a life partner who acts like me and has my values. So, I treat her and those she loves with respect. Remember 1) growing girls need to eat often and healthy; 2) fad dieting doesn’t work, and 3) she has her body for what it can do, not how it looks. Advertisers spend billions to convince my daughter she doesn’t look “right.” I won’t buy into it.

4. Get her playing sports and being physically active. Start young to play catch, tag, jump rope, basketball, Frisbee, hockey, soccer, or just take walks…. you name it! I help her learn the great things her body can do. Physically active girls are less likely to get pregnant, drop out of school, or put up with abuse. The most physically active girls have fathers who are active with them!

5. Get involved in my daughter’s school. I volunteer, chaperone, read to her class. I ask questions, like: Does her school use media literacy and body image awareness programs? Does it tolerate sexual harassment of boys or girls? Do more boys take advanced math and science classes and if so, why? (California teacher Doug Kirkpatrick’s girl students didn’t seem interested in science, so he changed his methods and their participation soared!) Are at least half the student leaders girls?

6. Get involved in my daughter’s activities. I volunteer to drive, coach, direct a play, teach a class – anything! I demand equality. Texas mortgage officer and volunteer basketball coach Dave Chapman was so appalled by the gym his 9-year-old daughter’s team had to use, he fought to open the modern “boy’s” gym to the girls’ team. He succeeded. Dads make a difference!

7. Help make the world better for girls. This world holds dangers for our daughters. But over-protection doesn’t work, and it tells my daughter that I don’t trust her! Instead, I work with other parents to demand an end to violence against females, media sexualization of girls, pornography, advertisers making billions feeding on our daughters’ insecurities, and all “boys are better than girls” attitudes.

8. Take my daughter to work with me. I participate in April’s Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work® Day and make sure my business participates. I show her how I pay bills and manage money. My daughter will have a job and pay rent some day, so I will introduce her to the world of work and finances!

9. Support positive alternative media for girls. Our family watches programs family that portray smart savvy girls. We get healthy girl-edited magazines like New Moon and visit online girl-run “‘zines” and websites. I won’t just condemn what’s bad; I’ll also support and use media that support my daughter!

10. Learn from other fathers. Together, we fathers have reams of experience, expertise and encouragement to share  – so let’s learn from each other. I use tools like the newsletter Daughters: For Parents of Girls (www.daughters.com). I put my influence to work  – for example, Dads and Daughters protests have stopped negative ads. It works when we work together!


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