TRIGGER WARNING: If I could put flashing red lights on this one, I would. Big trigger warning on this post.

No one can make you get better. The battle for recovery is not between you and me. It’s not between your eating disorder and anyone else. The battle you have to fight to get better is inside you. The battle you have to fight is between your healthy self and your eating disorder self.

8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder, Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb, pg 37 (emphasis added).

This quote starts Key 2: Your Healthy Self Will Heal Your Eating Disorder Self. Carolyn said it to Gwen at the beginning of Gwen’s treatment. (Carolyn was Gwen’s therapist). Prior to reading the book, I had never thought about having two selves, one healthy and one eating disordered. I thought being eating disordered was just who I was, I had no idea that I had a healthy self in there too.

This idea that I had two selves was groundbreaking and transformative for my recovery. As I read and started to work through the chapter, I began to recognize my healthy self, and work to make her stronger. I knew Eating Disorder Ali all too well, as she had been dominant for almost my entire life. As Healthy Ali grew stronger, my eating disorder self got smaller and weaker.

Throughout my recovery I have found so many ways to strengthen my healthy self.  Books are a wonderful resource. In addition to 8 KeysThe Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong by Brené Brown have been so helpful. I also loved Magic Lessons podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert.  Working with my therapist, Liz, and being involved in a support group played a big role. And finally being able to reach out to friends, as well as being more open and honest about where I am in recovery, also helped me explore and strengthen my healthy self (more about that in Key 7).

Today, my healthy self is strong and my “dominant self.” Healthy Ali has been working hard for several months now. My eating disorder self is still in there but she doesn’t have much pull.  Honestly, I thought doing the writing assignments in this chapter would be easy because I had already done a lot of the work.

I was wrong. Particularly, about this first writing assignment. I must have started and re-started writing this thank you letter five times. I kept writing to my eating disorder self like there was still room for her to be a apart of my life. I kept thinking she could be my canary in the coal mine, but it didn’t feel right.

The truth is, my healthy self is more than capable of being my canary in the coalmine. Over the last several months, my healthy self has done a very good job of alerting me to when I need to check in and use my anxiety management tools.

It is time to say goodbye to my eating disorder self. Carolyn and Gwen talk about integrating your two selves and I can see how that might make sense for some, but it doesn’t feel right for me. Eating Disorder Ali was a crutch I needed for a very long time, but now that my healthy self has heeled, I don’t need her anymore.

So for me, this key is about saying goodbye to the crutch I don’t need anymore.

Dear Eating Disorder Ali:

You have been my constant (my Penny) for over 30 years but now it is time to let you go. Before you go, I want to tell you the reasons I am thankful that you were a part of my life.

It is hard to remember a time when you weren’t a part of me, helping me manage my feelings.  For whatever reason, I was a really insecure kid and you made me feel not so alone.  When I felt ashamed and embarrassed about who I was, you were there to numb the hurt away.  As I got older and my insecurities and hurt got bigger and more intense, you adapted and gave me ways to escape the crippling insecurity and pain.  I had trouble connecting to people so I connected to you.

I remember when you first introduced me to bulimia.  I felt so special and apart of something so much bigger than my little world. Before I told my Mom about it, I felt like I had this incredible secret.  At the time, I thought what I felt like must be what famous people felt like.  But it didn’t last long.  At first, I enjoyed being able to eat whatever I wanted and lose weight. I had never actually felt thin before. I have a distinct memory from those early days of purging in my upstairs bathroom and noticing that my waist was smaller. People complimented me on how good I looked. I knew those compliments should feel good but you had taken away much of my capacity to feel so I didn’t know how to handle it.

I especially didn’t know how to handle the attention I got from boys. I felt a lot of shame for what I did and what happened to me.  You helped me hide from that shame.  It’s interesting because the thinner I got, the more stuff came up that I needed to hide from. When I started gaining all the weight back you still protected me from the feelings that got too intense.

Thank you for protecting me and giving me someplace to feel okay.  If you hadn’t been there I’m not sure what I would have done.  Some of the only feelings that I could feel back then were very dark and dangerous.  So I guess, in a way, you saved my life.

I suppose that is the role you played in my life.  You saved me from the fact that I did not have the skills to handle the dark and scary feelings I had.  Suicide came to mind at a few points in my life and you were there to give me a safe, numb place to rest and recoup. You kept me alive so I could get to where I am today. For that, I am forever thankful.




  1. Ali!!! Your blog is amazing! I love your writing and I am so touched by your honesty and courage. You are indeed “daring greatly.” I am so inspired by what you are doing. I already loved you but now after reading this I love you even more. Keep up the good work! We need to hear your voice! xoxo Emily

    • roadtorecovered2015

      Thank you so much Emily!! It means so much to me that you took the time to read the blog and leave such a thoughtful and encouraging comment. I hope I can read your stories sometime so I can support your work too!

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