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Talk to Others in Recovery

I’m always amazed at the shame that underlies disordered eating and the release that comes from talking about it with others. Alcoholics Anonymous says that our secrets keep us sick, and that is an important truth. Being alone with an eating disorder is hell. Either you feel like a freak or, at best, only slightly abnormal. You know there must be a better way to deal with food, but you can’t seem to figure out what it is.

Talking with people who are still stuck in disorder is a start because you’re at least breaking down your isolation. It can be a relief to realize that other people have more serious eating problems than you have or that they’ve had them for a longer time. It’s liberating to tear down your wall of shame by telling people about your bingeing, purging, or starvation. It can make you feel as if you’ve rejoined humanity. But be careful not to stop with discussing your eating dysfunctions with other disordered eaters. Struggling with others who have eating disorders is fine as long as they’re willing to grow and change. Beware of those who want to commiserate and stay stuck.

You may be scared to talk to “normal” eaters or those who have recovered, fearing their judgment or that they won’t understand your issues. It’s more comfortable to share with like-minded people who are food-challenged, but you need to stretch yourself further to find out how others have recovered. This is the only way to close the gap between your wish to eat “normally” and actually achieving the goal. First, talking to people who’ve been there helps you recognize that putting in the effort is worth it. Second, it opens up a dialogue about how to get from dysregulation to regulation. Third, it gives you hope, and hope is what you will need in constant supply for a very long time—to buoy you up in those moments you think you’re going to drown all the wrongness of your eating.

Most people who’ve recovered from food problems are happy to share their trials and tribulations. Telling their story cements their recovery. It also brings them joy to bring someone else over to their side, the side of health and “normal” eating. It doesn’t matter if your history isn’t just like theirs or if your path to recovery doesn’t look exactly like the one they’ve traveled. Differences don’t matter as much as similarities, because if you want to recover, you will have to go through much of what they went through.

If you want health, you have to surround yourself with healthy people. They’re all around you, and all you need is to take a risk to discover them. Tell just one person a week about your eating problem and you’ll be breaking down your wall of silence and pain.