Accepting When I Lack Control in Eating Disorder Recovery

November 30, 2023 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

I realize now that I need to accept a lack of control in my eating disorder recovery. My battle with anorexia was never just about caloric restriction or exercise compulsion. Those behaviors were surface-level indicators of a more complex issue underneath. The main fear that drove my illness had nothing to do with food itself—on the contrary, I longed for nourishment and sustenance. My source of terror was a loss of control.

When life seemed too chaotic to manage or even make sense of, I found solace (however fleeting) in at least being able to dominate myself. But I have a much different outlook now. As I continue on this healing journey, it becomes increasingly obvious to me that eating disorder recovery means accepting when I lack control.  

Why Accepting When I Lack Control Matters in Eating Disorder Recovery

When I was a patient in residential treatment about 15 years ago, I learned a mantra from my therapist, which is commonly known as The Serenity Prayer:

"Grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change whatever I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

With another holiday season on the horizon, I find myself returning to those simple but poignant words. The Serenity Prayer reassures me that, although I lack control over some of the interactions and situations I might encounter this time of year, the circumstances are not untenable.

For instance, I cannot guarantee whether my relatives will discuss calories at the dinner table or complain about all the "holiday pounds" they're afraid to gain. But I can control how I will respond if those conversations occur. I dictate my own thoughts and actions. I can allow someone else's comments to influence my behavior, or I can walk away from the discussion to protect my mental health. I can use the environment around me to justify harmful choices, or I can stand firm in my commitment to nurture healing and wholeness.    

My interpretation of eating disorder recovery means accepting when I lack control, and this has freed me to focus on what is mine to either carry or release. I am responsible for the decisions I make—how I treat others, how I care for myself, how I spend my time, how I show up for what I believe in, and how I move through this world. Not much else falls under my personal jurisdiction, but I am learning to accept that life is messy and often uncontrollable. 

How I Practice Accepting When I Lack Control in Eating Disorder Recovery

This video is restricted to those over 18 by YouTube policy because it has content related to eating disorders.

Does accepting a lack of control resonate with your own experience in eating disorder recovery? How do you practice this level of acceptance, both in the holiday season and the normal rhythms of life? Please share your insights in the comment section below.

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2023, November 30). Accepting When I Lack Control in Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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