Personal Reflection: The Uncharted Territory of Quasi Eating Disorder Recovery
The following eating disorder post is a personal account by Boston University student Juliya Hsiang. At Walden, we are proud to support the next generation of eating disorder recovery professionals by including occasional student blog submissions.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “quasi” is used to show that something is almost, but not completely, the thing described¹. In reference to eating disorder recovery, quasi-recovery is a point in recovery where you may have had physical restoration (includes weight restoration and/or absence of physical health complications); however, you may have not fully reached mental restoration by still holding onto some parts of the eating disorder. To the outside world, you may appear to be “fine.” However, there may still be internal restrictions that prevent you from living a life in freedom from ED. While eating disorder recovery is not an identical process for everybody, this quasi-state can appear differently from person to person.
Therefore, it is important to acknowledge there are many diverse experiences, perspectives, and contributing factors at play. These may include, but are not limited to, financial circumstances, life events, cultural influences, among others. This stage of recovery can be a conflicting reality, where physical restoration may be mistaken for an absence of residual mental or emotional challenges with food, body image, and/or movement. To someone who isn’t familiar with eating disorders, it may look to them that the person is recovered, but that may not be the case.
Duality of cultures
As an Asian American, I have found myself living in this duality of different cultures. Pressured to simultaneously fit the mold of both identities, I succumbed to what seemed to be the universal, yet harmful, standard of beauty that has been historically rooted in Eurocentric, thin ideals.
Food plays an integral role in Asian culture, so much so that it almost becomes a love language. I As social pressures amplified in my teen years as they generally do, I unfortunately was affected by the risk factors that outweighed the protective factors in developing an eating disorder. I saw my eating disorder as a solution to feel accepted- not only within culture but also within the long-distance running community that I found myself in throughout middle and high school. It was a problem that would later manifest in disordered behaviors. Even though I appeared to be at a relatively average weight to the outside world, I suffered in the shadows for many years.
Eating Disorder Recovery: Round One
My first experience of eating disorder recovery was during college and focused on restoring my physical health. Although my healthcare providers at the time did their job by helping me reach a healthier physical state, my mental health was not aligned with my physical health.
I was released from treatment with mismatched physical and mental recovery states. It was conflicting to constantly feel at odds with the mentality that seemed to circle back to the idea that I was not sick enough to continue seeking treatment. Since I was physically healthy, I genuinely thought that it excused me from having to do any further work in recovery.
Long Term Eating Disorder Recovery
It was not until I started graduate school that I had an honest conversation with a counselor who helped me realize that I still harbored cognitive distortions about food and body image. In other words, I had not fully rewired my brain to a place where I could experience freedom and flexibility with food and my relationship with my body.
I became comfortable with quasi eating disorder recovery, accepting that this will be as good as it gets. However, through working with my support team, I realized that I both deserved and could achieve more emotional reconciliation with food and body acceptance. During these initial stages of counseling the second time around, I felt challenged because I had spent so long pushing recovery to the peripheral and not addressing the underlying thoughts and emotions. However, the constant exposure challenges helped me build confidence and autonomy in implementing healthier behaviors in place of long-standing eating disorder behaviors.
A Work in Progress
While others may dismiss the presence of an eating disorder due to the absence of physical health complications, this does not change the fact that your body is deserving of fuel and compassion. Recovery can ebb and flow in so many ways, and it is important to note that no two recovery journeys are the same.
This just happened to be my personal journey.
There is no universal way to navigate healing, since each person’s overall needs are uniquely diverse. My encouragement to those who may identify with being in this quasi-state is to attune to your own aspirations that you have without your eating disorder and seek trustworthy forms of support that you connect with well. It can be scary and uncomfortable in many ways, but it can also be seen as an opportunity to reclaim the narrative of your own life.
Every meal is an opportunity to work toward recovery. I am rooting for you across the table.
Juliya Hsiang is an Ohio native and recent graduate from Boston University’s Master of Nutrition Science Program. She recently began a full-time research position at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and has future aspirations to attain both a PhD in Nutrition-related program and the RDN credential. Her research interests include eating disorders, maternal and infancy nutrition, and nutrition epidemiology. Outside of work and school, Juliya enjoys reading, playing and listening to music, cooking new recipes, running in nature, and writing.