I was recently referred to a podcast called Finding Our Hunger hosted by Kaila Prins, a woman professionally and personally focused on eating disorder recovery, body positivity and women's wellness in general. Her approach to women's health around body and food is as refreshing as it is profound. Her freedom with herself and the world around her is clear from the opening words of her podcast.
From the few episodes I listened to, I was struck by the vocabulary and use of terms that were much less clinical and very empowering. One phrase she used to describe the path out of an eating disorder or disordered eating is "recovery and discovery." Although the term is simple and straightforward, the language emphasizes the nature of wellness that steps out of the medical model and into the space of living one's life freely and fully. The pathology of eating disorders, still mostly tied to women's role in our culture, continues the age-old tendency to pigeonhole women's struggles as a sign of illness. The term discovery throws off that mantle for something very different.
Recovery is a useful term to describe the process of normalizing eating patterns, the experience of hunger and fullness, body image and changing the punitive thoughts of restrictive eating. When applied to the exploratory nature of learning about one's own thoughts and feelings, likes and dislikes and overall identity, the term recovery implies that this search is a journey related to pathology. Instead, the journey of discovery is a path towards living life more fully and rejecting the pressure from society to overvalue body, weight and food over truly meaningful aspects of our humanity.
I have written extensively about these two parts of treatment but labeled them as different aspects of recovery. A subtle change in terminology can be just enough to differentiate between illness and wellness, between a medial/psychiatric issue and the daily struggle of living life.
Discovery is truly the end result of effective and successful treatment for an eating disorder or disordered eating. The goal is to find out who you are and to live life. And that is a lifelong process and philosophy. It's the bastion of hope to convince people that full recovery is possible.