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I’ve been speaking a lot lately about acceptance. Yes, in recovery, there MUST be some degree of acceptance of a lot of things. For example, you need to accept that other people may not understand the eating disorder and all its complexities. You need to accept that some people in your life are unwilling or unable to change in ways that you need or want them to. You must accept that certain relationships need to change or be extinguished in order for you to be healthy. You need to accept that avoidance and shutting down are ineffective coping mechanisms and will keep you sick. You need to accept that your voice is a necessity, not an option. You need to accept that life beyond your eating disorder will be complicated, challenging, scary, very imperfect, and yet rewarding.  You need to accept that your eating disorder will never be the ticket to happiness, joy, peace, or satisfaction, no matter how hard you try, or how long you have it. You need to accept that your illness is just that. It is an illness, not a lifestyle, not something to hang on to, not something that brings you genuine control, strength, escape, distraction, or self-worth.  It temporarily reduces anxiety, but causes more anxiety and distress in the long run. Acceptance of these things does not mean “giving up.” The Oxford dictionary defines acceptance as “willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.”

Additionally, you need to accept that through recovery, your eating will not be perfect.  Your eating may “feel” out of control at times. You may eat more at a meal than you had “planned” to. You may eat when you aren’t hungry, just because the food is placed in front of you. You may also, at times, have less of an appetite. You may be voracious at times. You may get overfull at times. Your eating may be imbalanced. It may be chaotic and messy at times, and more structured at others.  It may not always make sense. Through recovery, you need to accept that food IS enjoyable. It is a gift to yourself to truly, deeply, passionately savor food. There’s also no “one size fits all” way of eating. Your eating will continue to evolve over time, depending on age, circumstances, medical issues, etc. You must accept that your eating will be trial and error, an experiment of sorts. You must accept and TRUST that this “recovery” way of eating will be significantly better for you that the way you relate to food while you have an eating disorder. The focus of your day may NOT be significantly on your eating, and that’s ok.

Through recovery, your body will not be “perfect.” Your body is not designed to be “perfect”, an arbitrary label, and it will not be “perfect” as a result of recovering from an eating disorder. It may have bumps here and there. It may have cellulite. Your thighs may be bigger than you had thought. Your belly may be softer than you’d like. Your arms, back, butt, and chest may not be the picture that you had envisioned they’d be. Your set point may, or may not, be what you wished it would be. You must accept that there is wisdom in your body to take care of you. You must also accept that you are NOT just a collection of body parts. You are comprised of billions of cells (heart cells, brain cells, liver and kidney cells, hair cells, eye cells, muscle cells, etc)  that need to be nourished to thrive. You have a soul that needs to be nourished. You must accept that taking GOOD care of your body is significantly better and more rewarding than enduring the abuse that your eating disorder imposes on it. You must accept that in order to be ok with the imperfections in your body and in yourself, you must remove the negative attention you pay to it’s appearance, you must stay positive about your body and the process of change, stop the self-criticism, focus on your strengths, and FEED your passions, interests, relationships, and all things in addition to your body. Self-acceptance is the ability to love yourself unconditionally, no matter what flaws and traits exist.

Acceptance and Self-Acceptance = Freedom

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