Using Science to Empower my ‘Healthy Self’
I have been an avid learner for as long as I can remember. Learning excites me and I feel more confident when I am educating myself. This is especially true in the sciences. I have collected books on the human body since I was younger and have gravitated towards science when signing up for classes. Little did I know, this could be applied to recovery. When I learned that the two things I was passionate about could team up, it would create the most fantastic “mutation” in my mindset.
“When I started reading Eight Keys to Recovery (2017) by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb, I discovered the concept of the ‘healthy self’ versus the ‘eating disorder self’ and read that eventually the healthy self could be so strong that the ‘eating disorder self’ is not needed anymore.”
At first I was bewildered and doubtful that this could be true. That was until I learned about neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity explained that the neural pathways in my brain could be rewired, which empowered me to start wiring my healthy self. I realized that the more I took actions towards my recovery, the stronger the recovery pathways would become and I could biologically create my “healthy self.” This is not saying it happens overnight. It takes choosing recovery actively multiple times per day and reminding myself of my motivations. As predictable as it might seem, the pathways are becoming stronger and I found myself choosing recovery more naturally the more I took actions towards it.
“Neuroplasticity really indicates that every decision is a step towards your recovery or your eating disorder on a cellular basis: every action reinforces the old pathways or the new pathways. This has inspired me to be as vigilant as possible as I know that I cannot let the old pathways get stronger again in my recovery.”
Neuroplasticity was not the only way I used science to empower my “healthy self.” I took the knowledge of nutrition on the brain and used it to not only show grace to myself, but I also used it to motivate myself to eat. I used to think recovery could happen without nourishment until I devoured (pun intended) information on the Minnesota Starvation Study (1950)-I was only able to comprehend this information after I did some opposite action and followed my meal plan in treatment-I learned that men who did not even have Eating Disorders developed the same obsession over food and had the same impaired thinking and mentally instability when malnourished. This helped me realize not only how much I was damaging my body, but also allowed me to show grace to myself because the way I acted when I was in my ED was because my body and brain were malnourished.
The Minnesota study (1950) delves into it further and discusses that although the refeeding process is excruciatingly difficult, that the men were able to mentally and emotionally stabilize in the long run. I used this information to continue to choose to nourish my body because I knew that if I did, I would see better results in the long run. As I know from my love of reputable science, it did not steer me wrong. Many weeks after starting to nourish my body, I can think more clearly, rationally, and am overall happier with my life, regardless of my body size. The overall message of this was that my ED lied to me all along and surrendering control with the scientific research allowed me to debunk all that my ED was screaming at me.
“The most important scientific ‘discovery’ was how beneficial food is for me and that it is okay to eat more in recovery and it is completely biologically necessary. I can allow my dietitian and my resurfacing cues to dictate what I need and not my Eating Disorder as that is not backed up by science.”
Therefore, I used this especially to motivate myself to always follow my meal plan as it was created by a scientist (in a way) to help me. My ED might not like it, but my “healthy self” knows it can trust science. I finally grasped that the body knows what it’s doing and loves nourishment and took this piece of data and used it to arm against my Eating Disorder. Every time now that my ED gets loud again, I can just remember that science is backed up by facts, not my ED.
“I have trusted science my entire life, whereas my ED has constantly lied to me and created false promises that have yielded negative results. Therefore, I am going to continue to let science be a support in my recovery journey.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lucie W.
Lucie is 19 years old and is from Virginia Beach, VA. She recently began writing in the recovery community and has discovered a passion for writing about her recovery experience, as writing has been essential to her recovery. In her free time, she enjoys walking her dogs, listening to music, and reading nonfiction. She will attend Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA in the Spring. She hopes to one day work in the Eating Disorder field as a doctor or a dietitian.
Costin, Carolyn, and Gwen Schubert. Grabb. 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder . W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.
Keys, A., Brozek, J., Henschel, A., Mickelsen, O. & Taylor, H. L. (1950) The Biology of Human Starvation I–II University of Minnesota Press Minneapolis, MN.