Why Recovery is a Risk


“Two seeds lay side by side in the fertile spring soil. The first seed says,‘ I want to grow! I want to send my roots deep into the soil beneath me, and thrust my sprouts through the earth’s crust above me. I want to unfurl my tender buds like banners to announce the arrival of spring. I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the blessing of the morning dew on my petals.’ So she grew. The second seed says, ‘I am afraid. If I send my roots into the ground below, I don’t know what I will encounter in the dark. If I push my way through the hard soil above me, I may damage my delicate sprouts. What if I let my buds open and a snail tries to eat them? If I were to open my blossoms, a small child may pull me from the ground. No, it is much better for me to wait until it is safe.’ So she waited. A yard hen scratching around in the early spring ground for food found the waiting seed and promptly ate it. The moral of the story: those of us who refuse to risk and grow get swallowed up by life (Chicken Soup for the Soul, 1993).

Over 10 million American men and women suffer from some type of eating disorder including,including, but not limited to, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, compulsive overeating, or a combination. Once an eating disorder manifests itself, why is it so difficult to begin the recovery process?

One of the most powerful underlying issues of an eating disorder is fear: of one’s self, of others, and of the world. Fear is intense and overwhelming, and above all, it interferes with the recovery process. So many issues get in the way of becoming healthy. “Recovery from an eating disorder is a huge risk to take,” says Ronda Elsenbrook from The Healthy Weigh. “Recovery means having to face emotional problems and deep underlying issues, which is a very scary, risky thing to do.” Elsenbrook also says that an eating disorder is a coping mechanism, and without it sufferers must learn how to express their emotions and truly identify their feelings. For sufferers of an eating disorder, food and/or exercise is a source of comfort, control, love, and/or a way to numb feelings. The fear involved in letting go of an eating disorder stirs up many questions including:

“What will my life be like without my food and exercise rituals?”
“Will my weight change?”
“Who will I be without my eating disorder?”
“Will I lose control once I let go of my eating disorder?”

Those in recovery are fearful of the answers to these questions because the answers are not what they want to hear. Many of the questions can only be answered with time. For example, “Who will I be without my eating disorder?” The answer to that is: “The potential is unlimited, but only time will tell!”

Facing, understanding, and processing these fears is the beginning and the essence of recovery. The more one can know and understand fears and feelings, the less the eating disorder is needed as an escape. It is also critical to learn to respect and have compassion for the self and to be able to rally against fears. The road to recovery from an eating disorder is complex. It requires patience, time, compassion, and support. If one chooses not to take a risk and grow, the eating disorder will swallow up or take away from one’s life. Every person is different, every body is biologically, genetically, and physically different, and everyone’s recovery is different. The one thing that is the same for all people suffering from eating disorders is that it takes risks and challenges to recover. Take the risk—it is worth it!