The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Column: Why eating disorder recovery never truly ends

Maya Oclassen

Editor’s Note: This story contains content warning of eating disorders.

Can one fully recover from an eating disorder? In the initial phases of my anorexia nervosa recovery, if asked this question, I might have reluctantly answered yes, fueled by hopeful optimism. However, it would have been a lie.

Six years later, my answer remains a lie. 

As we enter the 37th annual Eating Disorder Awareness Week, a campaign aimed at educating the public on eating disorders, I’m reminded of the importance of keeping the conversation about eating disorders and their lifelong impact relevant. Achieving this goal, however, requires normalizing the perpetual challenges associated with grappling with a mental disorder.

While I’ve come a long way from the skeletal and dead-eyed 16-year-old willing to sacrifice food for a sense of control, the truth is, I still grapple with my eating disorder. Despite no longer actively engaging in harmful behaviors, most days remain a battle for control, manifested through a rigid lack of variety in my meals and a persistent fear of gaining weight.

The transition from recovery to being officially “recovered” in therapy is hazy in my memory. Once I appeared outwardly healthy, conversations shifted away from food and my body, focusing on more pressing matters like preparing for college and other stressors. Soon, my eating disorder became a distant, albeit embarrassing memory, something I avoided discussing for fear of being persistently perceived as sick or a failure.

Whenever my parents or therapist inquired about my recovery progress, I would smile and assure them that I was doing well — healthier and happier. For a while, it was the truth; however, old habits die hard. 

It’s not that I’ve given up on trying to regain the sense of being able to eat whatever I want whenever or breaking free from the strict workout regimen I created for myself. Rather, I cannot rewire myself to forget the worth I put in my weight or the peace I find when all other problems take a back seat to starvation.

No words encapsulate how badly I want to move on with this chapter of my life. However, it feels impossible to actively move toward my desired utopia of not caring about how I look or what I eat when I’ve been conditioned to think that I’m no longer sick because I’m at a healthy weight. 

For those who’ve experienced eating disorder recovery or witnessed a loved one’s journey, it’s like building a castle one grain of sand at a time. Naively, when I began recovery, I believed that regaining my health would quiet the voice inside my head urging me to restrict and life would return to how it once was.

Unsurprisingly, time has never rewound itself, and I’ve come to accept that there’s no need to rediscover the person I used to be. Despite learning to live with my eating disorder, I can’t shake the question of whether life encompasses more than the simple act of surviving.

I’m not looking for someone to shoulder the blame for my inability to heal; rather, why nobody discusses the perpetual nature of recovery. While being actively sick was the most isolating experience, ongoing recovery feels almost equally lonely.

Anyone who has faced an eating disorder knows recovery isn’t a linear path, yet I wish someone had told me it never truly ends.

I long to confidently state that in a few years, I’ll have moved on from my eating disorder, but that would be untrue. The battle doesn’t truly end. Yet, something beautiful emerges from consistently choosing to live instead of letting the disorder win.If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call or text 1 (866) 662-1235 to reach the National Eating Disorder help line or go to for additional resources.

More to Discover