Anyone who manages to come back from anorexia has acheived a major feat of discipline and deserves credit for their success, even if it is hard to keep from going back to old ways. There are some things that you can do, and that your friends and family and supporters can do, that make your recovery easier.
Anorexia: The Road To Recovery
First of all, insight is essential. It's hard, but somehow you have to get your mind around the fact that the way you see yourself in the mirror probably is not the way you really are. Anorexia is a psychiatric condition, but it's not "all in your head". People who develop anorexia tend to have a variation of a gene for making a protein that transports the antidepressant brain chemical serotonin that doesn't work for them. Serotonin, it turns out, is tied to appetite. People who don't have this gene eat food, in part, from an unconscious drive to get the nutrients the brain needs to make serotonin. In anorexia, the normal drive to eat doesn't function.
This and other hormonal and metabolic changes affect many systems so that the only way the brain "naturally" makes sense of the situation is to reduce appetite and change body image. However, just as if you had been hit over the head and need treatment, you need help with your basic anorexia. it's not so much in your mind as in your brain, but you can use your mind to keep seeking the help that keeps you well.
Because anorexia is a psychiatric illness, it is usually treated with psychotherapy as part of the recovery plan. Psychotherapy is usually a difficult process, and sometimes people who have anorexia find that family members are not eager to participate. While it's better if they do, the research shows that non-specific therapy, simply showing up to talk with your therapist as often as you have an appointment, helps as much as the more traditional family-based therapy or group therapy. Individual sessions with a cogntive based therapist tend to do more good than talking it out in group, and it's not necessary to understand the trauma that led to the problem to get better, because awful persoal history is just one part of the overall problem. You don't have to get better in every way to get better in the most important way, keeping up your weight.
Obviously, it helps not to spend your afternoons watching Dr. Oz expound his latest weight loss plan and it's better to follow Kim Khardashian than to do a research paper on Twiggy. It's not so important to eat "super healthy food" as it is to eat food. Anything that makes that more complicated stands in the way of progress. It can be OK to exercise, but it's best to exercise for fun, not for fitness. You need to hang on to calories, not to burn them off.
There are no magic diets, super supplements, or exercise plans that keep anorexia in remission. You may need ongoing professional help to acvcep the fact that you are you. You may relapse and have to go back to the hospital. However, the more closely you stay in touch with your doctors and therapists, the nore carefully you make sure you are getting enough calories, fat, and protein, the more precisely you take exactly the medications you are prescribed, no more and no less, the more likely you are to get well and stay well. It may be hard to believe, but fully 50 percent of people who have anorexia eventually get past it and lead happier, more normal, beautiful lives. If you have made it this far, you may be in that 50 percent.
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