3 Essential Steps to My Recovery
By Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, E-RYT-500, C-IAYT
In my more than 20 years of recovery work, I’ve developed a few philosophies along the way that have shaped my healing and allowed me to live fully after an eating disorder. They have also enabled me to be more present to the special people in my life. I share these philosophies with you in the hope they will open new pathways for deep and lasting healing in your life.
1. Respect Recovery as a Lifestyle, not a Side Job
Choosing recovery is a feat of courage, as the effort required is immense. The daily grind of early recovery can feel like an exhausting side job filled with anxiety-producing responsibilities like eating meals and snacks, going to weigh-ins, therapy appointments, dietician appointments, group therapy, and family sessions, plus journaling, keeping food logs, and more. Over time, viewing recovery as a side job—as something “extra”—can cause us to become resentful. The more resentful we become, the less motivated we are to keep up our efforts.
When I look back on my journey, it was the times that I was resentful and lacked motivation that almost always resulted in the threat of returning to treatment because I wasn’t doing the work with integrity. After several of these “close calls,” I chose to kick myself into gear by taking a more genuine and sincere approach to recovery. I did this by adopting the attitude that recovery is my lifestyle, not a side job or something “extra” I must do. With patience, support, and a whole lot of courage, I committed to aligning every choice, behavior, and action I made with recovery values. It wasn’t easy but holding myself accountable in this way helped me get to more steady and stable ground in my healing.
To make recovery a lifestyle, let every choice you make be informed by this question: “Is “x” going to support me in my healing or is it going to work against me?” Get honest with yourself about the people, places, and things in your life that merely help you manage an eating disorder versus those that support you in healthful ways. Choose to avoid the landmines and replace them with things that will empower you and build you up. Respect recovery as a lifestyle.
2. Include Your Body in the Process of Healing Your Mind
I believe that to heal the severe and awful disconnect with our bodies, we must include them in our recovery lifestyle. For me it’s yoga. This practice has been the pathway back to embodiment. Yoga has also put me in touch with my body’s power and strengths as well as learn to honor when I need rest, quiet, and ease.
I recommend finding an activity that allows you to reconnect with your body and a playful spirit. Resist returning to activities that turn on eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. This may mean trying something new or getting creative. Including your body could mean taking a few minutes to breathe and watch your breath or standing with your face to the sun and appreciating its warmth on your skin. Appreciating nature can be a powerful way to relearn how to appreciate yourself.
I understand that being in our bodies is not always easy or pleasant, but I deeply know that with time and persistence, patience and compassion, we can come home to our bodies and feel more at peace in our skin.
3. Find New Language
It is essential that we hardwire in new ways of thinking about ourselves. One very important way to do this is by finding new ways to relate to yourself through language. For example, when I started saying “the eating disorder” instead of “my eating disorder,” I found some much needed space between myself and the diagnosis.
Also, notice how you speak to yourself and others about food and your body. Watch your words. Are they eating disordered or perpetuate negativity? Begin to consciously talk back to the nasty words you say to yourself and strive to model language that supports your own healing and the self-esteem of others.
One key change I have made in my language is by referring to recovery as a “healing path.” I use the words “recovered” and “recovery,” but sometimes those words are confusing or fall short of fully expressing how I feel. “Recovery” can feel like such a mountain and “recovered” can feel like a destination. Healing path allows me to feel more in process and keep an open mind to that process. It also allows me to feel completely human in my right to continue to evolve and grow in all areas of my life.
The steps I shared here have allowed lasting healing for me. Remember, you are the expert of your life and have acquired abundant wisdom throughout your journey. I encourage you to reflect on and fully embrace your own philosophies for recovery. I assure you, they will guide you in beautiful and unexpected ways.
About the Author:
Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, is a certified yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. She is the founder of Yoga for Eating Disorders, creator and host of Real Body Talk, author of Body Mindful Yoga, an international speaker, and mental health advocate. Jennifer provides yoga therapy via online and in person and leads yoga therapy groups at Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia. She also teaches workshops, retreats, and specialized yoga and eating disorder recovery trainings for professionals. Her writing about her personal journey of eating disorder recovery and professional experience as a passionate yoga therapist has appeared in Yoga International, Yoga Journal, Recovery Warriors, and other influential blogs. Jennifer has appeared on Fox29 news and has been featured in the Huffington Post, Real Woman Magazine, SJ Magazine, Medill Reports Chicago, Philly.com, YOGA Magazine, and on several podcasts. To learn more, visit Jennifer’s website and sign up for Nourishing Notes, her monthly newsletter.