Being an Active Participant in Life After Eating Disorder Treatment

By Alexa Rivera

Embracing Active Participation During Eating Disorder Recovery

It’s common for those living with eating disorders to feel like they’re stuck or as if life is just happening around them. It can be very easy to live life on autopilot without really thinking about the future, and many people end up living passively instead of leading the direction of their own lives. 

When recovery is the focus of your life it’s easy to see what your next steps might be and how you’re going to achieve them, especially when you have a robust care team guiding you. As your health and wellbeing stabilize and you become further removed from your active eating disorder, you might look elsewhere for inspiration. The deeper into recovery you get, the more you might begin asking yourself: What do I do now? How can you become an active participant in your life? 

Engage in Your Values 

Eating disorders can be isolating illnesses. As you become more entrenched in your eating disorder, you stop engaging in life outside of the disorder because you want to avoid being put into a situation where you might be pressured to eat, or because you don’t have the energy to participate in certain activities like you used to. This causes a disconnect between you and your values, negatively impacting your relationships with loved ones, impacting your ability to work, worsening your academic or athletic performance or preventing you from participating in your hobbies.  

As you go through eating disorder recovery, it’s important to begin engaging in life again. Think about what you value and use that to guide how you re-engage your life: 

  • What is important to me? 
  • What drives me and enriches my life? 
  • What activities bring me joy? 

Set Goals & Intentions  

Goal-setting is a valuable eating disorder recovery tool but can also be used to promote growth in all areas of life. Becoming an active participant in life requires that you acknowledge that you have control over your life’s direction. Things don’t just happen to you but are impacted by the decisions you make. Setting goals is just one part of leading that change and achieving the results you want. 

Goal-setting requires candid reflection and honesty about what aspects of your life are obstructing your progress and asking yourself questions about the decisions you’ve made up until this point: 

  • What do I want my life to look like? 
  • What parts of my life do I want to change? 
  • What is preventing me from achieving the life I want? 
  • Am I standing in the way of my own progress? 

You also want to make sure the goals you’re creating are effective and set you up for success. Focus on a select few goals at a time and make sure that they are realistic, specific, measurable and push your boundaries. Equally important is coping when you’ve failed to achieve a goal, so remember that this is a learning process and there will always be an opportunity to try again. 

Be Mindful & Intentional 

Being an active participant in life requires effort and mindful decision making. You don’t just need to know yourself and your goals, but you need to take actions that help you move the needle on your aspirations. The life you want won’t just create itself, you need to make decisions that mold life into the shape you want.  

This starts with being mindful and intentional by setting time aside, creating new routines or looking for new and interesting opportunities that will lead the changes you want to see in your life. It also means holding yourself accountable when you fail to make decisions that help progress your goals or fail to keep yourself aligned with your values. 

Find Ways to Stay Grounded 

Finding ways to stay grounded are important to engaging with life. They help to create emotional, physical and/or spiritual bridges to your surroundings. Using activities that keep you grounded will give you time to spend with yourself, reevaluate what’s important to you and recharge. Some grounding activities might include: 

  • Yoga or stretching 
  • Running, hiking or nature walks 
  • Meditation or prayer 

Accept That Not Everything is In Your Control 

While an active mindset can be helpful in many instances in your life, it’s also important to acknowledge that there are things that exist and happen outside of your control. Between everyday things like how others choose to behave, to big life events like parents divorcing or the death of a loved one, there are times where an active mindset might lead to unhelpful self-blame.  

In times like this it’s important to recognize that while many things are within your control, not everything is. There are times where you have no control over the outcome, and the only control you have is in how you react to the events around you. Accepting these things as they happen helps you be a part of life by allowing you to accept unfortunate realities instead of working against them in toxic or unproductive ways. 

While not everything is within your control, a lot of things are. As you transition out of an active eating disorder and further into recovery, you may want to look for direction in life outside of treating your eating disorder. Being an active participant in life – both in and outside of eating disorder recovery – helps to keep you engaged and work towards building the life you want. 

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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