Eating Disorders, Stories

Lessons in Eating Disorder Recovery: Humbling the Self

In the process of recovering from eating disorders, one learns many lessons. Among those is facing one’s weaknesses, and acknowledging the uglier sides of one’s self. This is not the same as the bullying lies of the eating disordered voices, and distinguishing the two is perhaps the key difference between being stuck in the illness, and making progress in recovery.

For example, an eating-disordered criticism would sound something like this:

“You haven’t ran properly in a few months now. You’ve lost all your fitness, and muscle tone. Serves you right. You’re nothing but a lazy, worthless wannabe who will never make it as a real athlete. You dream about inspiring people to live happy, healthy lives but look at you. Pathetic. Weak. Letting an infection get the better of you so easily.”

That voice is bullying. It is destructive. It is hurtful. It serves absolutely no purpose except to crush one’s soul.

Recognising one’s weakness is quite another thing. For one, it’s sounds a lot more objective.

“You want to know why you’re feeling so bad? Because you’re still comparing yourself to when you were at peak fitness two years ago. Back when you could run 100km a week. Back when you were placing in your age-group category in trail races across the country. It’s not a fair comparison to make when you’re currently not only struggling with eating disorders, but have also been sick with a bacterial infection that saw you hospitalised FIVE times in two months. You feel terrible because you’re too proud to accept that you’re not as good as you once were. You feel lousy, and ashamed, because you secretly dream of becoming the best in everything you try to do, and when it doesn’t happen, you hate yourself. Good enough is never good enough for you because of arrogance.”

Yes. The Ninja Turtle will admit it. Her greatest shortcomings are pride and arrogance, which is also the fuel for her intense self-loathing. It is also why like many others with eating disorders, she often chooses to suffer in silence, rather than ask for help when she needs it. She is too proud, for she is afraid to look weak.

So now that the Ninja Turtle has seen her faults as they are, she’s hoping to move forward in recovery, and hopefully life in general.

Firstly, she’s going to accept that “good enough is good enough”.


Don’t compete with anyone. This includes the “imaginary perfect version of yourself” and “that glorious version of yourself you used to be”.

Secondly, she’s going to stop rejecting help when it is offered, and maybe even start asking for it when she needs it, because it’s OK to be imperfect. It’s OK to be weak and vulnerable sometimes. It’s certainly OK to say “hey I’m really sick and need a helping hand.”

Which brings her to the crux of the matter. Many people who have loved ones, friends or family, suffering from eating disorders and often they want to help, but frequently are at a loss as to how they can. It’s not easy to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, for one.

But for those who do, it’s also not easy because frequently, people don’t know what they can say or do to make the situation better. Often, well-meaning advice, or actions driven by love and good intentions get misconstrued, and before you know it, the whole situation blows up into another argument or a fight.

As each eating disorder sufferer’s story is different, each recovery path will also be as unique as its individual. The Ninja Turtle cannot speak for others, but she’s come to identify what she wants and needs the most in her recovery.


Unhelpful To Recovery

Pity. The Ninja Turtle does not want pity. Pity comes from a place of superiority and the least helpful thing to someone’s recovery is another condescending voice.

Unsolicited advice. The Ninja Turtle appreciates that aromatherapy, cupping, Reiki, sophrology, acupuncture/intermittent fasting/praying/Paleo,vegan, [insert ingredient here]-free, some other special diet/meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, aquagym, [certain type of exercise]/deep breathing in cycles of 16 on certain days of a waxing moon in Libra rising or whatever may have completely changed your life. Congratulations! But it’s OK, the Ninja Turtle is working with medical professionals and in time, she will figure out something that will work for her.

Unsolicited advice of another type. Telling the Ninja Turtle that maybe she should not eat so much vegetables and fruits, maybe she should not eat so much in general, maybe she should not use so many spices,, maybe she should not [a million other things she hears daily] does terrifying things to her psyche. It says:

  1. She’s being observed when she eats.
  2. She’s being judged for it.


What the Turtle Would Like

Compassion. It’s not easy trying to understand the difficulties of an eating disorder, and that’s OK. The Ninja Turtle doesn’t need you to understand 100%. What she would like however, is a little compassion. It’s not easy to get through the day on most days, and more so when one is in great physical pain.

Patience. “Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.” If the Ninja Turtle got a penny for each time she’s heard that phrase, she’d be a millionaire. Poor GodzillaPin, understandably, is getting rather weary of the illness, and Papa Turtle posed the question last year “When do you think you’ll be recovered from your disease? Do you think by 2018?” To which she could only reply “well Pa, unlike strategic business plans, recovery from an illness doesn’t come with a 5-year forecast”. Healing takes time. Broken bones take time to heal. Broken souls need time to recover, too.

Forgiveness. The Ninja Turtle is greatly flawed as a human being. She will say and do things that are not so nice, that are hurtful, that may seem callous, that are downright awful at times. Please understand that ultimately, she’s not trying to be malicious. She’s just quick to lose her temper, and is incredibly proud and arrogant. So if it’s too hard to understand 100% what the eating disorder is all about, at least understand that the Ninja Turtle never meant to upset those who’re trying to love and support her. She is sorry. Please accept her apology for all past transgressions, and please forgive her for her present shortcomings.


And to all fellow eating disorder sufferers…


2 thoughts on “Lessons in Eating Disorder Recovery: Humbling the Self

  1. Mandy Maidment-Hodges says:

    Thanks a lot Jo. I always appreciate getting your blogs. Keep it up girl💐 Love your work 💕

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. ‘she’s going to accept that “good enough is good enough”’. so glad i found your blog. i have started a blog on my journey through recovery of anorexia as well, and i am so grateful i stumbled upon your words. they ring true, always. 💙

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