The Surprising Reason We Resist Eating Disorder Recovery

January 27, 2016 Z Zoccolante

Why would anyone resist eating disorder recovery? Wouldn't eating disorder recovery be better than an active eating disorder? Afterall, when we think about eating disorders, the terms laughing, cheerful, bright, glad, or content don’t make the list. For those of us who’ve been living with our disorder for a while, there’s a helplessness, hopelessness and self-doubt, which kicks us down the stairs of depression with an eating disorder. We’re not stupid. We know we’re missing out on life. Yet fear pokes us with a sharp stick taunting, “What if you never recover? You’ll get fat. You’ll spiral out of control.” Terror of the unknown keeps us frozen in place, or moving with icy limbs. There’s a simple reason we resist eating disorder recovery. Once we hear it, eating disorder recovery won’t be the same.

We Resist Eating Disorder Recovery Because We're Born With Connection Hunger

From the time we’re born to the time we die, we’re in constant relationship with others. Children need safe physical and emotional bonds otherwise their brains and nervous systems don’t develop properly.

Proof of this hunger for connection shows up in the famous Harry Harlow monkey experiment. Baby monkeys were given the choice between a wire mother monkey that had food and a cloth monkey without food. The baby monkeys spent 17-18 hours a day on the cloth monkey, but less than 1 hour a day on the wire monkey.

The same concept holds true for humans. No matter how old we are, we hunger for safe and secure emotional connection. This primary need is filled first by our caregivers and then, in adulthood, by our relationship partner, usually the person we are physically intimate with.

When distress arises in this relationship, our brain goes into panic mode and we react out of fear, anxiety, insecurity, and abandonment.

But Why Do We Resist Eating Disorder Recovery?

At first, our eating disorder is our only secure relationship. We control it. It can't abandon us. But the satiation of the connection hunger filled by the eating disorder is temporary. It will become destructive, and you will lose many things to your eating disorder.

Do you know why you're resisting eating disorder recovery? The answer will surprise you. Then learn a way to stop resisting eating disorder recovery. Read this.

Our relationship with our eating disorder has become our primary relationship. Eating disorders are spoken about like secret, shamed affairs, or like toxic lovers. We’ve entered into an intimate relationship with our disorder. First it courted us, and then began to abuse us.

The reason we resist recovery is because we’ve formed this intimate, dangerous relationship with our disorder. Synonymously, we desire and fear separation from it.

How To Stop Resisting Eating Disorder Recovery

In my life, it felt natural to create a person-like entity that resembled my eating disorder.

This creation helped me through recovery because I was able to see myself as separate from “her.”

If you drew or collaged your disorder, what does it look like? What clothes does it wear? What’s its personality? Does it have a name?

As you think about who the disorder is, you may realize you think of it as male or female, animal or monster, an “it,” or anything in between. There’s no wrong answer.

This exercise helps to separate our eating disorder from the valuable, good, and worthy person that we are, despite our current disorder and struggle.

Regular meetings with a therapist can help navigate the separation from our unhealthy relationship with our eating disorder. Plus, we will learn to form safe and secure connections with friends, loved ones, and ourselves.

You can do this. You can recover from your eating disorder even if you want to quit.

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APA Reference
Zoccolante, Z. (2016, January 27). The Surprising Reason We Resist Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Z Zoccolante

February, 10 2016 at 3:12 pm

I still remember the day my then therapist asked me to imagine my depression sitting on the chair behind her desk. I did. I poked it with my water bottle, I couldn't touch it with my hand though, it totally freaked me out. I couldn't walk anywhere near it either.
Since that day I started having a healthier relationship with myself!
Thank you for this post & for reminding me that I have hypomanias, depressions & the one or other meltdown every now & then, but I am *ME* & I am not my disorders, they are only a small part of the bigger picture.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Z Zoccolante
February, 10 2016 at 9:11 pm

HI Maria. Thank you for sharing that story about the session with your depression sitting in a chair behind your therapist's desk. I'm so glad your therapist had you do an exercise like that. Although it was scary, it helped you see that you are YOU. I love what you said. Yes, despite the diagnosis' we may have, they do not represent the full picture of who we are. They are as you said, things that sit in the room with us, but we are still us and we can have a healthy relationship with ourselves. Thank you. Z :)

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