This Is What It’s Really Like To Recover From An Eating Disorder

I remember the first time I ever heard the words ‘eating disorder’ – it was in some tween magazine, reporting on Mary-Kate Olsen having anorexia. I remember looking at the photos of my favourite childhood actor and struggling to understand how this beautiful young woman had suddenly become unrecognisably thin.

The sad truth is that eating disorders are common among women, with some experts predicting that up to 10 percent of women will at some stage face an eating disorder of some kind. While eating disorders seem to be all around us, women who have never faced an eating disorder may struggle to understand what it’s actually like to recover from a food related illness.

For Annalise Gregan, the mastermind behind the popular vegan food Instagram account @earthyanna, the journey to recovery from her eating disorder has been long and hard, with many slips along the way and many lessons learned. We spoke to Annalise to find out what it’s really like to recover from an eating disorder – in summary, it’s hard. But there is hope.

What was it like when you first discovered you had an eating disorder? 

“I don’t remember an exact moment when I knew I had an eating disorder, but I know that it was a long time between knowing something was wrong and knowing I needed to change. Eating disorders are usually a way to cope or control things, when the sufferer feels out of control in other areas of life. I knew that I was obsessed with what I did and didn’t eat, but that was my way of controlling my environment and distracting myself from overwhelming emotions, that I didn’t know how to deal with. The moment of realising I had to change came when I noticed my eating disorder was taking more from my life than it was serving me.”

How did your life change when you realised you had an eating disorder? 

“I guess this realisation changed my life more than ever because it meant I had to actually start dealing with my emotions and begin to fight through life rather than taking the easy option and focusing on food and other disordered behaviours and thoughts.”

What has been the hardest thing about recovering from your eating disorder? 

“Hands down the hardest thing is choosing recovery. It’s not a one off choice. You have to choose it every single day and every single meal. The eating disorder never takes a break from the mind of the sufferer, so their recovery self can never take a break either. When things are hard and all you want to do is give in to the disorder, you have to fight your entire being and chose recovery. Its absolutely exhausting and discouraging, often it feels like you make one step forward and two backwards, but you still have to continue fighting. It’s tough, but there comes moments along the way where you realise just how much progress you’ve made and it makes it all worth it. Remembering you are doing this for a better life, not a worse life, is the key.”

What would be your top advice for others who are recovering from an eating disorder? 

“KEEP GOING! Honestly, it is going to be worth it in the end. You are doing this to make your life better, even though it probably will feel worse for a while. Realise what you want in life. I’m sure its not to live like this forever, but if you don’t make changes then nothing changes. You didn’t choose the illness but you can choose to fight it.”

What advice would you give to women who are supporting a friend or family member through an eating disorder? 

“Remain their friend/family member and don’t try to turn into a doctor, dietitian, therapist or anything else like that! Ensure that they have a good medical and psychological team around them to help and then leave it to the professionals. Don’t try to fix them, because there isn’t a lot that you can do if they don’t want it to happen – just love them.”

For more of Annalise, vegan food inspiration, and her recovery, check out her Instagram account @earthyanna.

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