Friendship plays an important part of continued eating disorder recovery. Isolation can be familiar and life draining.
Wandering through grocery store aisles in a state where you feel invisible, just looking for foods that will be good for a binge, is practice for continued isolation. You feel invisible, but what's happening is that the people in the store seem almost ghostlike. It's not that they don't see you. It's that you don't see them.
When you are on the path to recovery your eating or not eating may be more in harmony with your body needs. But without friendship you may still be wandering through your days, looking for stimulation, not seeing people. You may believe you are as invisible as ever.
Reaching out for friendship is your next step in recovery.
Seek out people who inspire you, people you can learn from.
Discover the joy of moving through life with people who are your teachers and friends.
Discover the joy of being appreciated for what you teach by being your honest and natural self.
An eating disorder can isolate you in a way that you recognize. You remove yourself from other people and spend much time alone in hiding.
But an eating disorder can isolate you in ways that you may not recognize. You may not be able to imagine an authentic friendship.
If your companions suffer from eating disorders or addictions of any kind and are not committed to recovery, then your eating disorder is still isolating you from a world of health and opportunity. Someone active in their dysfunction will support you in living the same way. If that's happening to you, then you place yourself in a bubble and keep a life of health and freedom out.
How to find your friendships
Who inspires you?
Who lives in a way that you admire?
Who is doing what you wish you could do?
Who makes you think of things that open your imagination?
Maybe you know them.
Maybe you hear about them in the news.
Maybe you read about them in books, or perhaps they have written the books.
Maybe they are painters or musicans or teachers or CEO's.
Maybe they seem to remain calm in adversity and rather than fight, seem to always look for peaceful solutions.
Or maybe they are not famous or reknown in any way, but seem to have happy families and a good relationship with their husbands in long term marriages.
Maybe they laugh a lot and have friends they enjoy.
Maybe their grown children take delight in visiting them.
If you are haunted by your eating disorder you might only recognize these people through envy. If you are envious that means you want what they have and probably have little or no idea of how to get it. Well, there's nothing wrong in wanting something. It's time to let yourself want friendship and even let yourself have friendship.
Your envy is helpful if you recognize it as a signal that you see something, like a potential friendship, that you'd like to have for yourself. Once you have that awareness you can pay attention to what is required of you to bring it into your life. Envy may well be the mother of inspiration.
Your challenge is to break out of the eating disorder bubble that prevents friendship, and put yourself in environments where you are more close to people you wish were your friends.
You can begin gently by staying home and reading their books and articles or watching their films.
You can go out and view their art.
You can be more daring and take a class from them - in person is best.
If they are in the news, you can write them - more than once. If they are near your life somehow, you can invite them to lunch or tea or to join you in doing something you think they would enjoy.
Another angle is to have a learning experience in something they represent and later contact them with your new learning as a bridge. In other words, if you believe you have nothing in common with them, give yourself an experience that gives you something in common. Start building your friendship before you know them. Take a class, volunteer, visit a place. Then contact them with a question or a thought.
To heal and recover from an eating disorder you need to grow beyond your present limitations. Allowing friendship in your life is part of that.
Eating disorder recovery is not about stopping the behavior. It's not about control. It's about regeneration. It's about reviving your natural development as a human being, a process that need never end for as long as you live. You can find a way to join in on the fun of living well and with people around you who are living well too. Friendship brings unexpected joy.
What kind of people do you wish were your friends? Perhaps you already know someone you admire and wish were your friend. Do you?
*Marlo Thomas and Gloria Steinem
Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD and adult development.
She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, UT. Author of Book:Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder
Appointments are virtual.
For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at