An advertisement, a post on social media, a ‘harmless’ comment, trying on new clothes; these can all hurt and trigger a downward spiral, whatever stage of recovery. The fact that I can still have a meltdown over has shown me that food still scares me. Social situations surrounding food still make me anxious. Spontaneous meals out and freely offered snacks still make me panic. Triggers are different for every sufferer but words hold immense power, for good and for bad. One throwaway comment, self-reflection or media post on a bad day can easily snowball into an avalanche of negative thoughts and I feel like I’ve gone backwards in my recovery.

*Internal screaming* Will there ever be a time when I don’t have a complicated relationship with food? Answer – probably not. Recovery is a lengthy process and on average it takes years to fully recover. For the majority of the time I feel I can eat ‘normally’, but I’ve come to accept that there will always be lapses, particularly during stressful times and festive holidays but it’s how we deal with these that show who’s in control and who holds the power.

(Hint: it’s you.)

Don’t let the nagging thoughts stop you doing anything, because then the eating disorder has won! Don’t miss out on social occasions, holidays, adventures, work experience or job offers out of fear of food; your eating disorder does not have the power to ruin your life experiences, it only has the power you give it.

So what does holding the power look like on a day to day basis? How can we use words and actions for the better? Here are a few ideas to take back the power and feel positive in recovery.

  • Litter your life with constant positive reminders of how great you are. When you see something motivational and helpful in a self-help book, on social media, something someone has said, rather than just taking it for the moment write it down on your phone or on in a notebook. Later you can stick it on a post-it note and put it by your mirror, or just have a list of these encouragements on your phone to look at when you need them.
  • Think – if there wasn’t food/drink involved would I go to this party/social gathering/holiday etc? If the answer is yes, then take courage and challenge yourself to go – you have the power!
  • Follow body positive accounts on social media that promote body positivity, health and body acceptance. Some may have other resources, for example @bodyposipanda has a self-help book Body Positive Power which I found a real inspiration! Be done with accounts that make you feel like a failure for not meeting the unreachable body image standard. You don’t need them.
  • Surround yourself with positive people who build you up and wipe away that negativity. Real friends will understand and support you and love you for who you are inside and out.
  • It may be scary but be honest with people and speak your mind. When talk turns to diets, tell people how utterly useless and unhelpful they are. Share your story and encourage others to love their bodies.
  • Look back on how far you’ve come and be secure in what you’ve learnt about nutrition and your body. You are eating and looking after your body for you and no one else, because you are worth it. Try to think about this when you’re having a tough time.

Surrounding yourself with healing messages is so helpful in recovery. Self-affirming words from others and from yourself can aid your own recovery and change the conversations we have with others, ultimately raising awareness of eating disorders, promoting body positivity and sharing the love of every body no matter what size, shape or colour. Remember to be bold and confident - you hold the power.