Having a plan of action helped my client to see that she was no longer a helpless child, but
a young woman with the ability to make choices. She did not have to fall back on self-destructive coping mechanisms of binging and purging. She could choose a more effective
way to deal with uncomfortable feelings.
From a clinician's point of view, is it better to get the weight gain over as quickly as possible, like ripping a band-aid off a wound or preferable to gain at a slower pace? I now believe that there is no one answer. Just as I learned to relinquish the rigidity of the anorexia, I am now more flexible in my thinking about treatment. There is no one right path to recovery.
Almost no recovery from an eating disorder occurs without periods of regression. As much as the sufferer wants to be free of her obsessions about eating and starving, she does not remember how to navigate life without her illness.
An anorexic who loses weight by restricting her food feels superior to and has a higher status than one who loses weight by purging. Anorexia sufferers often feel they are higher in status than bulimics. Starving oneself and restricting ones food implies more self-control; and a sense of control is characteristic of those with anorexia and bulimia.
The more my life was ruled by the illness, the more I clung to it for dear life - even while it was eating me alive. It became my entire life, replacing meaningful relationships and a fulfilling career.
Even when I was clearly malnourished and my clothes were hanging off of me, people would look at me and say, "I wish I could have some of what you have." I also heard, "Tell me your
secret (i.e. for staying slim)." Both of these comments implied that starving myself was a choice and a trait they wished to emulate.