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Recover = Cover Again

To re-cover means literally to go back over developmental ground that is lost to an eating disorder, especially if yours began in adolescence or young adulthood. In the normal course of maturing through your teens and early 20s, your work is to develop internal resources and practice effective interpersonal skills to be more independent, take risks, rebound from mistakes and failures, think for yourself, and make meaning of your life. Through dysfunctional eating, however, your emotional and social growth gets stunted as you substitute focusing on food for feeling and experiencing life.

If you developed an eating problem in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, you’ll need to go back and acquire the life skills you missed the first time around. Don’t feel badly—no one reaches adulthood fully formed emotionally or socially. Everyone has to go back and re-cover what they missed. The point is to identify the gaps and not hesitate to fill them in now.

Consider what skills you might not have learned because of eating (or other) problems, and how you’re affected by their absence today. Here are some areas in which you might have personal/emotional deficits: making/keeping commitments, experiencing emotions, time management, finding meaning in life, decision-making, self-motivation, goal-setting, bearing pain, self-soothing, regulating feelings, effective self-care, self-discipline, risk-taking, self-trust, relaxing, taking responsibility for yourself, self-reflection. You may also lack social/interpersonal skills in areas such as: depending on others, trusting people, sharing, being a team member, delegating, expressing emotions effectively, being assertive, tolerating intimacy, maintaining healthy boundaries, interdependence, saying yes and no comfortably, being accountable to others, balancing alone and people time, taking criticism, receiving praise, and being empathic.

Once you’ve identified your gaps, it’s time to get out there and learn whatever you missed. Forget about shame that you’re starting late, regrets that you didn’t begin sooner, and hopelessness that you’ll never learn. Now and the future are what count! Start by taking time every day to practice self reflection. Read self-help books, attend personal growth workshops, join a support group or group therapy, become a chat room member, begin individual, couples or family therapy. And don’t stop until you’re satisfied that the ground you lost is fully re-covered. As you grow emotionally, you’ll be amazed that your eating problems will gradually decrease because you’ve begun to acquire essential tools for living well. Think of going back as the only way to move forward!