A Key To My Recovery: Educating Myself

20 Jan, 2020

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that require intensive, evidence-based treatments delivered by a range of trained professionals. However, there are many other pursuits and activities that some people may find helpful. This blog is part of our series, A Key To My Recovery, which provides a direct reflection of the unique experiences of the author and may not be the experience of everyone. Always seek out professional advice for you.

In this blog, Sophie Smith talks about some of the resources that helped her on the path to recovery.

I’ve been in recovery from my eating disorder for almost two years now. Looking back, one of the most essential parts for me has been educating myself about eating disorders, Intuitive Eating and the Health at Every Size paradigm.

Learning about these things gave me the confidence to trust my body and the process without (most but not all!) the anxiety that often comes with recovery. Whilst this may sound daunting at first, don’t worry you don’t need to get a PhD in eating disorders!

Most of the learning I have done has come from easily accessible books and podcasts. But firstly, let’s outline some of the important concepts for my recovery.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating is an approach pioneered by two American eating disorder dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in the 1990s. Tribole and Resch published the book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works in 1995 and have updated in twice since, most recently in 2012. Basically, Intuitive Eating is all about learning to recognise and respond to your hunger and fullness cues in a way that is satisfying and delicious! The Intuitive Eating approach contains 10 principles which guide you through reconnecting with and repairing your relationship with food.

The most important part of embracing Intuitive Eating is learning to ‘reject the diet mentality’ as Tribole and Resch put it. This means unlearning the incorrect and dangerous myths society has taught us about food, weight and our health. Things like ‘gluten is bad for you’ or ‘I must count my calories, so I don’t eat too much’. For me, this principle was one of the hardest but most valuable parts of my recovery. It allowed me to start relying on internal signals to guide my eating rather than the time of day or my own food rules.

What is Health at Every Size?

The basic premise of Health at Every Size (often called the non-diet approach or HAES for short), as written in Linda Bacon’s Book, Health at Every Size: The surprising truth about your weight, is “that well-being and healthy habits are more important than any number on the scale”. HAES is a weight-neutral approach that applies to practically every aspect of life. It’s about recognising that people are meant to live in bodies of all different sizes and our natural weight range is not something we can control. This goes against a lot of what most of us are brought up to believe. We’re taught from a young age that thin people must be healthy whereas fat people must be unhealthy. The reality is that you can never tell anything about a person or their health just by looking at them.

The HAES approach teaches us that weight and health not related in the ways we may believe and in fact, social determinants of health influence our wellbeing much more than any factors within our control like nutrition and exercise. I remember being completely mind blown when I read Health at Every Size, it was presenting me with ideas so polar opposite to everything driving my eating disorder. This made me initially hesitant to accept the HAES philosophy and shift my beliefs. But over time as I read more books, listened to podcasts and interacted with people passionate about Intuitive Eating and HAES, I too fully embraced this movement.

Discovering Resources and Community

After being exposed to the Intuitive Eating and HAES concepts I then gradually sought out and discovered some amazing people and resources within the non-diet eating disorder community. I found inspiring Instagram accounts of non-diet psychologists, dietitians and activists, subscribed to podcasts, watched TED talks, read books and joined a supportive eating disorder recovery forum. Along with formal treatment from my psychologist and dietitian, I’ve learnt so much about not only myself and where my eating disorder came from but also the wider diet culture we live in that is fertile ground for the development of eating disorders. I honestly don’t think I could have recovered so strongly without the amount of discovery and learning I have done over the last two years. I would really encourage anyone in recovery to explore some of the resources below as a great starting point.


Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Health at Every Size: The surprising truth about your weight by Linda Bacon