I Am Not an Eating Disorder Savior

September 26, 2023 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Here's an inside look at the first line of my latest journal entry: "I am an eating disorder survivor. I am not an eating disorder savior." In other words, I have no power to rescue anyone else from a harmful relationship with food, exercise, or body image. No matter how desperately I want to be of help and service, I cannot force another person to embrace their healing journey. I can cheer them on toward recovery, but I will never be able to control their actions or decisions. Nor should I even attempt to hijack that responsibility in the first place. It doesn't belong to me. But if I already know that I am not an eating disorder savior, why do I still need a reminder? The short answer is that I always think I can manage this self-proclaimed role—until I can't.

Why I Need to Remember I Am Not an Eating Disorder Savior

About a month ago, I received a phone call from someone I am extremely close to. I have known this person my entire life, and I can be fiercely protective of her. So when she confessed the startling news that she has been in therapy for an eating disorder, it took every ounce of composure and restraint for me not to rattle off my 10-step outline for eating disorder recovery. Call it overzealous arrogance or foolish naïveté, but since I have years of experience with eating disorder treatment, I often assume this qualifies me to spur others on to healing.

Of course, it never works because each recovery path is unique, and there's no exact formula for guaranteed success. However, in all my eagerness to help, I tend to overlook the blatant truth that I am not an eating disorder savior. Not only are these efforts clumsy and futile, but I have also come to learn they're not even what others expect or need from me. This person who called me to talk about her issues with food restriction and exercise compulsion was not looking for solutions. She wanted someone to listen and empathize. While clutching the phone to my ear, I realized that my role was nothing more than to be her safe place. She is not my project to cure—she is a human to love and encourage. As for the recovery piece, I have my own healing to focus on.

How I Remind Myself I Am Not an Eating Disorder Savior

The following video is restricted to 18 and older on Youtube only because it includes eating disorder information.

Does the temptation to assume the role of an eating disorder savior resonate with you? What are some effective strategies you have to push back against this savior complex? I would love to hear your insights in the comment section below.   

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2023, September 26). I Am Not an Eating Disorder Savior, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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