Recovery is not a linear experience. There will be low points, and there will be high points. In fact, the whole point of recovery is to experience those highs and lows but at a much more toned-down degree.
My experience with recovery was a particularly long one. As I mentioned before, I struggled with eating disorders for almost ten years. To be honest, trying to find the right care for me was a bit frustrating. At the end of my sophomore year in college, I tried reaching out to an eating disorder center on campus. After sitting in a windowless room for three hours and waiting for two weeks for a phone call giving me my results, all they told me was that I needed to go somewhere else to pursue treatment because they didn’t have room.
Now, this was a pretty worst-case-scenario situation. But, do be warned that some places can only do consultations to refer you elsewhere (unfortunately a lot of campus healths on college campuses). To avoid having to sit through a consultation, then be referred, then sit through another consultation, call and ask if they are currently accepting clients first. If they are, you shouldn’t have to be referred somewhere else. It can’t hurt to double-check that you can be treated there following your consultation.
I did learn from that consultation that they recommended I enroll in Intense Outpatient Treatment (IOP–description in a section below) given my symptoms, so I reached out to a private eating disorder treatment facility called The Renfrew Center. I did have to go through a short consultation there, but it was much more enjoyable and I was able to get started right away.
Once I finished IOP, I knew I should still regularly meet with a therapist at least once per week. I tried to knock it all out by contacting about five therapists over the phone to see if they were accepting patients and if I could schedule a consultation. Sure enough, I thankfully had options. I had another phone call with those available therapists and determined which one I felt I aligned with the best. Spoiler alert: the one I ended up choosing is still my therapist almost four years later :)
Mindset is key to having an effective recovery. It may sound cheesy, but this was a huge thing I noticed among the others in my program as well as myself. Sure, it might stink to be there and face your fears, but how else do you expect to improve? It’s hard, but you have to trust the process. Recovery is an investment in yourself that will pay off for the rest of your life. I still think about the things I learned at The Renfrew Center on a daily basis!
If you’ve read these blogs this week and you think you may be struggling with an eating disorder, I strongly encourage you to reach out to a professional. It may take 1, 2, or 3 different dietitians or therapists to find the one you really like and connect with. Try not to let that discourage you. Some may not be accepting new clients, some may not accept your particular insurance, some may just not vibe with, and that’s okay! It’s worth the pursuit and it will pay off.
Building your team:
Treatment serves you best when you’re on a team. The ideal “roster” for healing your relationship with food would be: a registered dietitian, a therapist, your physician, and perhaps most important, your support system of friends and family. Leaning on one on its own is fine, leaning on two is great, leaning on three is even better, and working together with all four is the best. You know what they say…teamwork makes dream work!
To show this, I made a lil’ graphic for y’all:
Resources to recruit your “team”:
This website is a great resource for the best eating disorder recovery centers in each state in the United States. NEDA and The Original Intuitive Eating Pros also list professionals that specialize in disordered eating in each state.
You could also check out ZocDoc which is an easy app on your phone that you can plug in your information for insurance and available dates, and it’ll give you a list of providers that are available.
You can also reach out to me; I keep a spreadsheet of therapists/dietitians who are actively accepting clients that I try to update regularly. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to offer counseling sessions that you can book through my website, I just need to confirm with the legal stuff/my credentials. Keep an eye out!
Levels of care:
There are four main levels of eating disorder treatment:
Outpatient*: typically once per week; patient lives at home full-time (usually just a therapy session)
Intense Outpatient: 2 to 3 sessions per week of at least 3 hours per session (usually one meal eaten at the facility)
Partial Hospitalization: 5 sessions per week of around 6 to 8 hours per session (usually two meals eaten at the facility)
Inpatient/Residential: the patient lives at the eating disorder/medical facility for 24-hour supervision
*outpatient treatment does not have to be through an eating disorder recovery center like the other forms of treatment
I always find it easier to remember things from a bulleted list so here are some key takeaways from this week:
- Someone said this to me before I started treatment: “When you’re old and wrinkly, don’t you think that you’ll look back and regret all the time you wasted worrying about a stupid number on a scale?!”
- People won’t like or dislike you based on your weight. If they do, those aren’t good people to be around anyway!
- Look at food as something you are in a relationship with: if it’s toxic, break up with it and start over! Having a healthy relationship with food is the goal. This means enjoying each other’s presence, recognizing each other’s beauty, and not letting it be controlling over you.
- Recovery takes a lot of strength and probably isn’t going to be easy the first time around, but it’s always worth it. You are stronger than you think. Find a support system (friends, family members, teachers, co-workers, etc.) to hold you accountable.
- Fill your social media feed with body-positive/body-neutral influencers. Unfollow anyone that tells you to diet or lose weight to feel better. Here are some I like to follow (besides my own hehe):
-the #IntuitiveEating hashtag
- @evelyntribole– author of Intuitive Eating which everyone should also read!
*NOTE: the term 'nutritionist' does not require any qualifications…you’re much better off listening to dietitians who went to 3+ years of graduate school
Write these on your mirror, in your planner, on your fridge, whatever. We’ve got this, together. I promise, life is so much better without food controlling it.