Written by Meg McCabe, CCI Recovery Coach
Over twelve years ago I was surrounded by loving friends and family, but I had never felt so alone. I was keeping my eating disorder a secret from everyone who mattered to me. I would spend my days using behaviors and obsessing over food. The number on the scale was what gave me permission to have a good day or demand a horrendous day. It took me years to muster up the courage to even vaguely mutter the words “eating disorder” to my mom, who then was able to get me a specialized therapist.
Eventually, I recovered in my own messy way. But it was a lonely road. Hiding my eating disorder and my recovery process from those around me made me feel like there was an invisible brick wall stopping me from showing up authentically in the world.
Since then, I’ve learnt that community is an essential part to recovery. In fact, feelings of disconnection are typically one of the many root causes of an eating disorder. This means that choosing connection (over disconnection) brings healing.
Here are seven reasons why you should seek community in eating disorder recovery:
1. You’re the average of all the people you surround yourself with
When you spend your days surrounded by folks who are consumed by weight loss and dieting, there’s a higher risk that their unhealthy relationship with food will continue to trigger you or harm your recovery process. When you join a recovery-focused, anti-diet community, it is easier to break away to take on a recovery-oriented mindset. You’ll have people around you who celebrate your wins, encourage you to challenge yourself and embrace body acceptance. Surrounding yourself with folks who can strengthen your ‘healthy self’ will increase your chances of reaching full recovery. It will also be a lot easier to block out the noise diet culture all around you.
2. Reaching out to a community is a coping skill
We’ve all had those moments in recovery where the urge to use a behavior takes over. Eating disorder behaviors are maladaptive coping mechanisms that people use to cope with difficult emotions. Instead of leaning on eating disorder behaviors for a fleeting form of relief, recovery requires you to “put your eating disorder out of a job” by reaching out for help. Engaging within a community that encourages you, listens and can relate is a healthy way to get your need for connection met. Just communicating with someone who understands can immediately transform a painful moment into a better one.
3. It provides a sense of belonging and validation
When you have an eating disorder it can feel like you don’t fit in. When you surround yourself with other people who have eating disorders, you are finally part of a community where belonging becomes easier. You are no longer hiding. You are no longer misunderstood. In fact, you become part of a judgment free space that understands what you’re going through. In fact, hearing the stories of others and their feedback can provide validation that you are in fact sick enough and worthy enough to seek the help you need. After getting to know people in the community, you also start to genuinely care for each other, and it transforms from “I can do this” to “we can do this together.”
4. It’s the perfect adjunct to treatment
Often, it’s easy to focus on recovery during appointments with your treatment team. But there’s often a struggle to stay motivated and on track during the time between those appointments. Joining a recovery community is the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to staying motivated, accountable and focused. When you are a part of a recovery focused-community, you open yourself up to receiving even more support and adding more structure to your recovery journey.
5. It’s a way to help others and strengthen your ‘healthy self’
As someone who has been through recovery, I know how difficult it can be to tap into self-compassion. Sometimes, the best way to access our ‘healthy self’ in recovery is to be that compassionate, supportive and encouraging voice to other people first. When you join a recovery-focused community, you are given plenty of opportunities to build your ‘healthy self’ by supporting other members. Helping others is also a positive coping skill, as it takes your mind off your own fears and anxieties and helps you reconnect with the positive feelings that come with helping other people. Let’s face it, helping others, whether that be by sharing your story, sharing feedback, listening, problem solving or sending cute cat videos, feels truly rewarding.
6. It breaks a pattern of secrecy and/or isolation
Disconnection is one of the many risk factors associated with eating disorders. Feeling misunderstood, constantly using behaviors and avoiding social events where food is involved only continue to pull us further and further away from those around us. When you become a part of an eating disorder recovery community, everyone knows why you’re there. You don’t have to explain your story or educate anyone on how eating disorders work. Everyone already gets it. You have a safe place to go that’s free from diet culture and has specific guidelines to keep the community safe.
7. It makes recovery fun
While it’s unrealistic to say recovery is fun all the time (it’s not, it’s IS really hard), surrounding yourself with new friends who all have the same shared goal, is fun. Humans crave connection, joy and “normalcy”. The beautiful part about community is that it’s a blend of people with various backgrounds and personalities. In any community, you don’t only talk about recovery, you talk about things that make you you; like your love for Taylor Swift or Harry Potter, or your pet bunny. You are exposed to new ideas and perspectives, and can share positive moments despite going through difficult times. Community is an easy way to weave in feelings of light-heartedness, silliness and connection to make your recovery process a bit brighter.
If you are looking for an eating disorder recovery community that's virtual, safe, and professional, The Recovery Collective is opening its doors to new members for a brief time starting September 20th. I encourage you to join the Fall 2022 enrollment group, along with the 80+ current members from all over the world. When you do, our Peer Mentors will reach out to welcome you and support your transition into our community.
And, another exciting part of The Recovery Collective is that Talia (Founder of TCN) hosts private Nourish and Learn sessions each month with our group. During these sessions, you have the option to watch or cook a new recipe with Talia, and ask her any recovery or nutrition questions on your mind. It’s always an informative and fun session!
Please check out our website to sign up for the waiting list. You’ll be notified when doors open on September 20th. Myself and Talia would love to see you there!!
P.s. Meg has contributed another blog to the learning hub - Supporting Someone with an Eating Disorder
Check it out!
Meg is a CCI certified eating disorder recovery coach and founder of The Recovery Collective. She recovered from her own eating disorder in her 20's and is passionate about helping women heal their relationships with food, their bodies and themselves. Meg supports women to transform from survivor to recovered warrior. For more information about Meg's services and recovery coaching, please head to www.meg-mccabe.com and follow her on instagram at @meg_mccabe & the_recoverycollective
Talia Cecchele Nutrition is a team of registered dietitians that specialise in eating disorders, disordered eating, gut health and sports nutrition. We aim to bring balance back to nutrition, help you to break free from food rules and find food freedom. We offer virtual consultations and group programs so whether you are based in London, the United Kingdom or around the world we would love to support you. To enquire about a private consultation please fill out a contact form.
London Dietitian. London Eating Disorder Dietitian. Eating Disorder Dietitian