Eating disorders often present a much more appealing and clear philosophy of the world to young people just starting their lives. For adolescents and young adults afraid of the unknown and the lack of clear guidelines for living, the certainty of the eating disorder rules can be very appealing.
These rules determine how one should feel, the overall goals for the day, how to determine a sense of accomplishment or failure and the best way to move through daily life.
The rules typically entail aiming for certain weight goals, clear rules around food and exercise and a way to decide which personal or profession al events to attend or skip. The eating disorder makes up these rules for one simple, straightforward goal: weight loss.
With this goal in mind, the other more vague goals of life go by the wayside. All other potentially important aspects of living pale in comparison to the concrete and simple goals around food and weight. Life becomes simple, and the philosophy boils down to one measure of success.
Even though eating disorders can seem nonsensical or even vain to many, these illnesses present a lure to young people scared about the uncertainty of life and looking for a way to take away the prospect of having to make decisions in a very confusing world. The eating disorder is an easy out from daily life into a very simple way of life.
The reality of living in the eating disorder world is that young people don’t learn basic life skills: developing friendships and relationships, managing emotions through a normal day or making decisions as an adult.
When entering recovery, people often feel lost without any means to cope when they cannot rely on their eating disorder anymore. The immediacy of relationships, emotions and decisions can quickly feel overwhelming.
Getting better from an eating disorder isn’t only about learning how to eat and manage a healthy body. It also means learning how to face the vagaries of life without a parallel set of rules dictating how to live.
In the end, recovery must focus on living without an eating disorder. It means a crash course in developing coping skills, interpreting internal reactions and stimuli and managing the uncertainty of life as we all must.
It’s a tall order while also learning how to eat and makes the entire process hard. Successful recovery needs to entail the process of learning how to live as much as the process of learning how to eat.