Always Be RecoveringFebruary 22, 2020
The Yoga and Body Image Coalition is a 2020 Featured NEDAwareness Week Partner. The following is a YBIC National Eating Disorders Awareness Week post that highlights how the practice of yoga can be an integral component in the effective treatment of and on-going recovery from eating disorders and disordered eating. The shares included are from those who have first-hand experience with disordered eating or from those who are called to share their body acceptance journeys.
Six years ago I did something I never would have imagined myself doing when I was neck deep in my eating disorder, I started my own business. It was a decision that challenged me, forced me into discomfort and tested everything I had learned so far in my recovery. It was also the most liberating decision I would ever make. Days were long, tasks were endless and the unpredictable nature of the endeavor tested my resilience like nothing before.
Flash forward to this past week where I sat quietly in a noisy coffee shop, downloading all of my important documents and media files off of my business website, saving them on an external hard drive in preparation of shutting it all down. Yes, it’s time to move on. And even though it felt bittersweet and thoughts of “what if” swirled in my head, my decision to close my business, just like my decision to start it, landed gently in my heart. Both decisions were authentic to who I was back then and who I’m becoming right now. Both decisions were made with a kind of confidence only possible from years of hard work in recovery; work that I did to reconnect with myself and sink deeper into the person I knew I was without my eating disorder. I wish I would have known early on in my recovery that this confidence and connection, the kind I felt in these moments, was what I was really working for every time I took a bite of a challenge food or decided to take a refreshing walk instead of a run on the treadmill. I wish I could go back and tell myself at the beginning of my recovery that all the fear, discomfort and frustration is not just so I can enjoy eating out at a restaurant but also so that I can become my own best friend and show myself the love I desperately craved from others.
At the start of many a recovery journey, we’re presented with the task of challenging harmful behaviors surrounding food and this is absolutely necessary. It is an eating disorder after all. But if we understand that the eating disorder isn’t really about the food then we must also understand that recovery is also not about food. Over the past 13 years of my eating disorder recovery I’ve come to the understanding that my recovery is no longer based on eating the challenge foods, dumping the scale or banning toxic environments from my life. Yes, I’ve done all these things and continue to do these things, but at some point they became second nature and I was faced with a choice; do I keep going or do I let this recovered life well enough alone? If I decided I was “recovered” the journey was over and I had arrived at my new life and that was that. In my heart, I knew this wasn’t my truth and I knew there was more work to be done. I still felt empty and alone. I still wanted someone to rescue me from me.
In yoga, we learn about having a beginner’s mind and I think having this approach to recovery is essential. Finding new ways to refine and grow my practice on and off the mat is important because it keeps me mindful about my thoughts, feelings and actions. And through this mindfulness yoga also reminds me to replace judgment with curiosity and forgiveness.
Staying curious about myself opens the door to endless growth and in this way I know my work is never complete; recovery is always happening, morphing and challenging myself. For me, my recovery will never end and I will always be refining my relationship with me. I know I will never get it all figured out since the target is forever moving, but I’ve learned to live for the journey and not the destination.
Although working on behaviors surrounding food and movement can be terrifying and distressful, it’s important to remember that these are surface level. Getting stuck on the surface can be easy because overtime they can become comfortable. Don’t get comfortable. Keep digging, keep refining and stay curious because that person, the one who still desperately needs a hug, the one who still longs for forgiveness and compassion, is waiting patiently for you. Always be recovering.
Robyn Baker has worked in the fitness industry for the past 17 years. She holds a BS in Kinesiology and is certified in yoga, Pilates, resistance training and indoor cycling. She’s worked in a variety of fitness environments but finds working with clients who are recovering from eating disorders, body image struggles and chronic pain to be the most rewarding. As a survivor of a decade long battle with anorexia and over exercising, Robyn has first hand experience with how difficult and nuanced the process of recovery can be. She has developed several programs to help others who are working toward healing their relationship with movement and their body and teaches yoga at an outpatient eating disorder treatment center. Robyn is also a community member of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and a contributing author in the book, “Yoga Rising”. You can find her online as a video blog contributor for the mental health website, Libero Magazine as well as her own channel on You Tube where she talks about all things related to eating disorder recovery and exercise. She was also awarded Best 100 Health Coach Blog of 2015 by the Psychology of Eating.