8 Things I Wish I Knew When I Went to an Eating Disorder Treatment Center


By Shannon Kopp 1. You are not a bad sister. Or a bad daughter. Or a bad friend. Or a bad anything. You are sick. You are suffering from a disease that has to do with genetics and brain chemistry and environmental factors and probably something much deeper than what our human minds can comprehend.

Try to bring curiosity, rather than blame, into this moment.

2. The point is not to look like you are changing so that the people you love are happy.

It is to actually change within yourself. And sometimes that requires dropping the act of “perfect patient” and letting your frightened, tender self be seen. Healing does not happen in comfortable places.

3. The night conversations with the other patients will stay with you longer than the therapy sessions. Cherish the wisdom of your sisters, and pray for their recovery in addition to your own. You’re a family now.

4. Some people are going to want you to stay the same. They are not going to understand why you can’t take shots with them. Why you have to get some sleep. Why you need to go to meetings. Why you can’t have just a smoothie for lunch.

Don’t get angry with them. It has taken you so long to accept that you have a disease, and this acceptance is a precious and personal thing. You can’t expect everyone to share it. Remember your recovery is more important than their approval.

5. Just as important as eating the meal, recording the feeling, going to therapy...is awareness. Don’t turn recovery into a to-do list. One beautiful flower carries the same sacredness as an entire field. The more you turn your attention to this one, singular moment, the more healing and peace you will absorb.

6. Forgive yourself. As frequently and as authentically as possible.

7. Try not to take things personally. When you let someone see your inner-light, and they shut their eyes and turn their heads—it doesn’t make the light any less beautiful.

8. Invest in full recovery. Recovery happens on a cellular level, deeper than thought and mental concepts. So forget about going in head-first. Go in soul-first. And then let go.

About the Author: 

New Author Photo copyShannon Kopp is an eating disorder survivor and the best-selling author of Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life (HarperCollins Publishers). She is also the Founder of SoulPaws Recovery Project, a nonprofit offering free animal therapy to those affected by eating disorders, and rescuing animals in need. Shannon’s story has been featured on CNN, NPR, Fox News, Maria Shriver, Huffington Post and more! Stay connected with Shannon on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and at www.shannonkopp.com.