The Blog

How Undereating Is F*cking Up Your Recovery

If my life has taught me anything then it is this: Doesn't matter what we are recovering from, all recovery is just a bridge. The start of the bridge is a destination we find ourselves that we don't want to be in. The end of it is the place where we will feel normal again.

If my life has taught me anything then it is this: Doesn't matter what we are recovering from, all recovery is just a bridge. The start of the bridge is a destination we find ourselves that we don't want to be in. The end of it is the place where we will feel normal again.

It's always preceded by change. Sometimes this change is trauma. Sometimes it is loss. The recovery can be a physical recovery from illness or accident. An emotional recovery from addiction or an eating disorder. It honestly doesn't matter.

We all still must cross the same bridge.

The problem is that this bridge has no signs telling us which way to go. It's usually covered in fog so we can't see the end, Or notice if we end up going back in the wrong direction. It's rarely a straight line. There is no Sat Nav. When we fall on this bridge, (and we do, all of us) then the ones who stand more times than they fall will be okay. They will reach the end. But those who choose to stay fallen, or don't realise their feet are no longer on solid ground? They will stay on that Bridge of Recovery indefinitely.

I don't believe that once a person chooses not to be stuck any more that they can ever go back to a state that is not Recovery. I don't believe anyone who puts at least one foot on the bridge can ever go back to a life of refusing to try. It's an ongoing journey that you cannot undo and cannot un -know.

Recovery from anything is a scary process at first. Because most of us either have no clue how to go about it, or we take bad advice from so-called experts. Recovery is not supposed to be hard. It's not supposed to be testing. But once we decided that it is? Then we became entrenched in the idea that it is going to involve a lot of pain and reap very small rewards.

Which is a bit sh*t.

And if we can't go backwards to the land of No Recovery? But we don't believe we have it in us to get to where we want to be? The end of the Bridge? Then stalling is our next best game plan.

People in Recovery are experts at two things: stalling and isolation. Anything that can either slow the world down so that we can cope with it, or block the world out so we do not have to participate in or see it are the ideal goals. And one method every single person in Recovery from anything uses without realising it is Undereating.

People in physical recovery use undereating because along with physical illness and sudden trauma comes a total loss of appetite. I personally did not feel hungry for nine years. Not once. And I didn't even realise it. People with eating disorders stop acknowledging hunger signals so they may feel hunger but their brain stops being receptive to the signals and cannot interpret them. And for people who are overcoming addiction? It's actually a combination of both.

I did eat because I knew I was supposed to. But rarely full meals. And definitely small amounts spread out throughout the day, when I felt like i was about to keel over if I didn't. I was always sick and always tired. It was so confusing to me. Except if I went home. With hindsight that's because my mum would force me to eat regular meals. And when after nine years my appetite did finally kick back in? I instantly got well. Instantly realised it was the one thing holding me back all these years.

When we undereat we are able to control so many factors. Our energy levels can stay low enough for us to not to have to see people socially. People who undereat tend to have awful immune systems, so it seems logical to be afraid of mixing with others, letting them prepare our food, or eating out anywhere. We seem justified in our decision to not choose a job that involves people, or even work at all in some cases. Undereating is a huge payoff for anyone who feels they want to stay exactly where they are and progress no further.

And really? There's only one question that anyone in any type of Recovery needs to ask themselves to check whether they are using undereating as a tool to isolate or remain unwell:

Can I act spontaneously?

If a friend calls, can I pick up my keys and just go see them? If work calls unexpectedly, could I go where they tell me to right now? If someone asks me to go exercise with them? Would I be able to right this second? Or go on a date? Or for a walk? If I had to leave the house and stay out for the next five hours-would I be able to just take off this second and go?

If the answer is YES? Then you aren't undereating, and you are on that Bridge of Recovery, heading towards the end. If the answer is NO? Then you are undereating. And your task is to figure out a way you can rectify this right now and start to move forward.

Because we must move forward. We have to. It's heartbreaking to see people stuck in a place they refuse to leave out of fear. Because the fear of fear itself is always far worse than any physical form it may take. And a life without the freedom of spontaneity is no life at all. As anyone who has been there will tell you.

Please keep putting one foot in front of the other. Please keep trusting you will reach your destination. Please keep searching for answers and asking for help from those have stood where you stand.

Please stand up more times than you fall.